w. stenson: manuscript writing

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  • 1. Manuscript Writing William F. Stenson M.D. Professor of Medicine Division of Gastroenterology Washington University School of Medicine

2. How do you write a scientific paper? 3. Hey, Old Guy, how can I be published and funded while coming in late, leaving early and spending the interim drinking coffee? 4. Importance of Scientific Writing

  • Writing is generally undervalued
  • Writing is not given sufficient priority either in time or effort
  • Effective writing has more to do with logical thinking than with style

5. Before You Write 6. The time to think about writing is when you design the study

  • When you design the study you should have some idea of how it would appear in print, in particular how the figures would appear
  • A paper with good data almost writes itself

7. Study Design

  • The study should be designed to answer a specific and easily articulated question
  • Each experiment should be easily related to the question addressed by the study

8. Think about each experiment in terms of how it would fit in a paper

  • After the experiment make a figure such as would appear in a paper
  • Think about which figure would appear next in a paper

9. Constant Reassessment If you constantly review where you are andthink What more do I need to make a paper you will avoid three big problems: *Not knowing when to stop *Doing studies that are not going to fit into any paper*Ending up with portions of three papers but not all of any one paper 10. Decisions

  • Analyze your study to determine what decisions you made (what model to use, what methods to use, time points, concentrations)
  • It is better to do this analysis when you are designing the study
  • Identify those decisions that may need to be explained/justified
  • Use sentences that begin We chose to do________ because_______

11. Old Technology, New Technology There is a temptation to use the technology you are familiar with rather than the technology that is appropriate to answer the question at hand . 12. How Much is Enough?

  • You can always do more, you can always do less
  • Look at other papers in the journal of interest to see the scope of the studies
  • Try to define the scope of the study before you start

13. Writing 14. Starting to write

  • Start by developing the figures
  • Then do the figure legends

15. Title

  • Does your title summarize the main point of your paper?

16. The importance of the abstract, figures and figure legends

  • The editor/reviewer should be able to evaluate the paper based on the abstract, the figures and the figure legends alone

17. Abstract

  • Does the abstract have a single sentence that clearly defines the fundamental question being addressed in the study?
  • Is all the information in the abstract consistent with the information in the rest of the paper?
  • Have you stated your main conclusion?
  • Does the conclusion relate to the fundamental question?

18. Introduction

  • Have you reviewed the relevant literature in your introduction?
  • Is the significance of your study clear from the introduction?
  • Have you stated the specific purpose of your paper at the end of your introduction?

19. Materials and Methods

  • Have you described all selection criteria in your methods?
  • Have you described all the methods you used?

20. Results

  • Is the result section logically organized?
  • Do you use transition sentences?
  • Do you explain your decisions?
  • Have you presented your findings in one place only?
  • Have you omitted all interpretation of the data?

21. Transition sentences

  • Having demonstrated ______, we next sought to determine __________using the ______method.This experiment demonstrated ____________ .These studies indicate ________________.

22. Decisions

  • Analyze your study to determine what decisions you made (what model to use, what methods to use, time points, concentrations)
  • It is better to do this analysis when you are designing the study
  • Identify those decisions that may need to be explained/justified
  • Use sentences that begin We chose to do________ because_______

23. Discussion

  • Is the answer to the study question presented at the beginning of the Discussion?
  • Have you explained the meaning and significance of your results rather than merely repeating them?

24. The Review Process 25. How one reviewer reviews

  • Reads abstract
  • Examines figures and figure legends
  • Reads the rest of the manuscript to answer questions created by the review of the abstract, figures and figure legends

26. Questions Reviewers Ask

  • Who cares? Is there an important question addressed?
  • How does this fit in with previous work?
  • Does the experimental design fit the question?
  • Does the data mean what the investigator says it means?
  • If I were doing this study would I have done it differently?
  • Are there other experiments I would have done? Did the investigator do them and not tell us?

27. The review, potential responses

  • Accept
  • Happy Reject
  • Willing Reject
  • Priority Reject

28. Reasons for Rejection

  • The research does not address an important question
  • The results do not make a discernible point
  • The results are not novel
  • Problems with experimental design
  • Problems with the quality of the data

29. Replying to Reviewers

  • Remember your goal is to be published not to demonstrate that you are smarter than the reviewers
  • The editors letter should spell out the minimum that you need to do in terms of additional studies
  • You should respond to every comment even if you dont do everything requested

30. How do you get published and funded?

  • Learn to focus
  • Learn to finish
  • Attempt to keep up technologically
  • Learn the system
  • Learn to write

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