prewrit



Ready to publish?

Take a careful look at all of your results. Are they sufficiently complete to form the basis of a paper? Are there any obvious gaps in the data? Determine;

1. the key findings
2. the supporting evidence.

Organize the results into a logical order that builds towards and supports the key findings.It can be helpful to print out all of your results and spread them out on a desk, and then shuffle them around until you have an effective progression of argument.
But DO NOT just organize your results in chronological order.

Before you start writing anything, it can be helpful to write a “thesis statement”. This may be 1-3 sentences that states the question you addressed, the key findings, and the most important point(s) of your paper.

This may be difficult, but it is a very important step towards determining the focus of the paper.

If you cannot do this it may not yet be time to publish.

This brief thesis statement is an important point of reference during the writing process. You should refer to it regularly to make sure everything you write helps to support the main point(s) of the study.

Once the thesis statement is written, you have already achieved one of the hardest parts of writing a paper; clearly expressing the major points of the study.

The thesis statement may be used almost unchanged in the Introduction and the Abstract.

Click here to see some example thesis statements

After winning the Nobel prize for medicine in 1987, Susumu Tonegawa wrote to all his colleagues in Japan telling them to: “learn English”.

He thought that the ability to think in English had made a great difference to his work.

You should try from the beginning to use English; write the thesis statement in English.

Constant referral to this English summary of the paper will help you to start to think and construct your arguments in English.

Take your notes in English as you write each section (you could even keep your lab notes in English – this would force you to study a little scientific English every day).

If you can begin to do this, the logical flow of your writing will be clearer, and your English will rapidly reach a new level of fluency.
Note that when only the final version of a paper is translated into English, no matter how good the translator, the flow of ideas, and structure of the arguments are often not scientific English.

During the prewriting period, as you are organising your data and thinking about your results, you should take advantage of one free resource we all have: colleagues.

You should take any opportunity to present your data to colleagues, and get their feedback. Speak at a lab or departmental meeting, try to present a poster at a conference, grab people in the tea room and make them listen to you.

Try hard to get peoples critical suggestions, and use these to improve your paper before you have even started.

It is better to find the weaknesses in your results or arguments now, than after you have submitted the paper.



Selecting a journal


You must select a journal for your paper before you start writing. The journal that you choose will determine the length of your paper, and the audience you will write for, which will in turn affect the major points of the manuscript.

These decisions may be helped by reading carefully what has been recently published on or around your subject matter. Look at the results, the arguments or important issues being raised, and note where these papers are being published.

Before you start writing anything make sure that you have the details of the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals handy for reference. Over 400 journals will accept any manuscript that conforms to these requirements, and if you refer to them as you write, you may save yourself a lot of time at the end of the writing process.

In the Instructions to authors journals often describe the scope of the journal, and in particular areas in which they encourage submission of manuscripts. For example the GenomicsInformation for Authors says:


“Submission of manuscripts describing large-scale maps and annotated sequences, new technologies, and methods and application of gene and genome analysis, including robotic and high-throughput strategies, are encouraged. The editors also encourage submission of manuscripts describing transgenic and gene modification mouse models, especially as they apply to human disease.”