Tips and Tricks for Writing a Scientific Manuscript for Beginners

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If this is your first-ish time writing a scientific manuscript, you’re probably a little frazzled. We get it. There’s a lot that goes into pre-research, grant and funding proposals, doing the research, and now … writing it all up in a way that your audience will be happy with.

But which audience? There’s the publisher, the funder, the reader, your colleagues, the researcher who will try to replicate your experiment, sometimes the professor … the list goes on and on. So when it comes to putting your thoughts down on paper, it’s not as easy as it appears when you first approach it. That’s why a scientific manuscript has a logical format that it is organized into that pleases most of your audiences. You can never please everyone, of course!

The scientific methodology you use depends on the scientific community you work with. For the most part, there’s a standard format that makes the process streamlined, if not easy. You aren’t the first person to tackle this challenge, and these tips will make writing a scientific manuscript a little less daunting.

Tricks to Start With Your Mindset

Before you do anything else, you must be in the right frame of mind to work on this manuscript. If you’re not, you’ll need to get there, or you’ll sit in front of the computer spinning your wheels, writing content that will be deleted later when you’re in a better mindset. Or, you’ll stare at the screen and get frustrated, which never helped anyone put together an academic paper.

If you’re simply procrastinating because you just don’t want to do it, it becomes a mind-over-matter approach. Use techniques like the Pomodoro method to convince your brain to work for short periods. Start with 25 minutes on, then a 10-minute break. The trick is that for those 25 minutes, you have to put your phone in the other room and turn it off. 

Don’t let anyone or anything be a distraction. Give yourself a straight 25 minutes in a quiet environment to unload your research-based thoughts, with the promise that you’ll get to do whatever is in the back of your mind after the timer goes off. You’ll be amazed at how productive one can be when one is being timed.

But if you’re trying and you can’t get distractions out of your mind, quit trying to focus on one thing when there are dozens of others clamoring for your attention. Set a ten-minute timer and write everything in your mind on a piece of paper. Then, agree with yourself to deal with it after you finish a few paragraphs (set your own goal). Or, if you can’t seem to wake up, take a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood, and come back refreshed and ready to write.

Tips to Follow When Putting Yours Together

OK, you won the battle of mind over matter, and now you want to know the best way to write your manuscript. Most of the time in life, you’ll start at the very beginning. In an academic manuscript, that’s the very worst place to start. Instead, use this structure to approach your writing, and you’ll find all the parts fit together easier:

●      Recognize your audience so that you know where you’ll need to tweak your writing. Will you need to write in APA? MLA? Use average vocabulary or high-expertise jargon? Include infographics? If you’re writing for a journal, have a physical print-out of the journal’s author requirements so that you can check them off as you complete them.

●      Start with the Methods section. You just finished the experiment, so it’s already fresh in your mind. The Methods section explains what you did from start to finish.

●      Write the Intro. Since you’ve just reviewed everything, the Intro should be simple. Some researchers write this before they’ve finished their experiment, and add in the final touches at the end.

●      Move on to the Results. You’re touching on them in the Intro without going into detail. Since your mind is already there, it’s easier to segue into the Results, then the Discussion and Conclusion.

●      Put everything together in order, make sure it flows, then sum it all up in your Abstract.

Reread the paper for logistical errors, flow, and comprehension as a finishing touch. Then, go back over it to ensure you haven’t made any grammatical, spelling, or mechanical errors.

If you approach the manuscript this way, you’ll find it less intimidating than you initially expected. There’s a reason why so many researchers, like those on Impactio, America’s number one scientific networking platform, publish their findings. If it were too complicated for someone of your education and intelligence, we wouldn’t have nearly as many academic manuscripts to use as references.

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