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Scientific writing and editing: a plan and one piece of advice

A key step in the scientific process is the publication of results in scientific journals. The effect this can have is that the results can be replicated, built upon or (ahem) ignored. Crucially, such publications can also be career-defining - publications count for job prospects and grants.

In that respect, it is a good plan to get the writing right. A well-written paper, published in a good quality peer-reviewed journal, can have a real impact in terms of citations, moving a particular area forward and possibly even real-world changes. Conversely, ideas and data that might be world beating but poorly written and presented, might never see daylight in the form of publication.

This is where a working knowledge of scientific writing can really help. There are various concepts and ideas that can be mastered that will result in better writing and crucially, reader engagement. In particular, mastering these concepts will help you become a better writer, and dare I propose, make the writing process even enjoyable.

One piece of advice (for now): practice

For the moment though, I have one piece of advice that I hope will benefit as many people as possible. And it is worth keeping this thought with you as we move forward.

The key to becoming a better writer is to practice. Even if you are not at the stage of actually writing anything formally, practice. Summarise a paper, keep a diary or write out a plan for experiments putting them in the context of your research area - do anything to practice writing.

Also, you need to start practicing editing. Offer to edit your friends and colleagues content as soon as you can. Make suggestions that you think would be useful and always keep it polite.

The plan

Over the next few weeks and months, I will be posting a series of articles in the blog that will start to point you in the direction towards becoming a better writer in the sciences. The techniques, tips and concepts will all be bite sized and you can use them along side your actual writing projects.

I have a roadmap and a plan and hopefully you will see this emerge in the coming period. If you have suggestions along the way, do get in contact with me and I will do my best to help.

I also hope to start offering individual help in the coming months. For the time being though, I want to concentrate on developing these resources in the hope that they can benefit as many people as soon as possible.

Key points

  • The key to becoming a better writer is to practice
  • Offer editing help to colleagues and friends
  • Keep checking back here for new tips and tricks