The Push to Publish: Entry 1
Since May of this year, I have been slowly working on a manuscript to submit to a scientific journal, as my first attempt to publish my own work via the peer review process. I am hoping to provide periodic updates of the process, so that others who are considering or also looking to publish for the first time can have an idea of what to look out for. This first post will be an update on what has happened so far, which is up to the revisions of the first draft.
Laying the Foundation
When my Hollings research began in 2017, the highest goal that we set was a publication of the research, so from day one we had the mindset of ‘going the extra mile’ for the sake of quality. Later we discovered that we could continue this research through an undergraduate honors thesis at Ohio University, giving us more time and resources to push the project as far as we could. Looking back, the thesis option was a great decision that gave us an extra six months to analyze the data and explore some extra routes. It also gave me time to do a full thesis to use as the base for a publication. By the time the thesis was finished, everyone on the project supported the push to publish and felt the work we did was impactful, so off we went!
Since I had never written a manuscript before, I knew there was going to be a decent learning curve ahead, even after writing a thesis. One resource that was a tremendous help getting started was Eloquent Science by David Schultz, which outlines the process and formats for writing and submitting a manuscript along with a host of other products.
The first thing I wanted to do was solidify roles for all authors that everyone could agree upon, so I created an outline which showed what everyone’s proposed roles would be. Since I knew all authors would all be in different states by this fall, structure and communication would be important through every phase of the process. After some further searching, we agreed on where we wanted to submit to, what figures we wanted to include, and so the writing began.
Down the ‘Write’ Path
Writing is not an exciting process (it still requires much attention and planning however, even after writing a thesis), but for the sake of time, the short version is that we decided on a ‘traditional’ format, with
Since I had been primary investor on the project, I decided to do almost all of the initial writing. Once I had written a section, I sent a copy to the other authors for comments and suggestions. After all sections were written and revised the first time, they were combined into my official first draft of the material. As humorously described by Schultz, this was my ‘hit-by-bus moment’, so that was a small victory. One thing to note, it’s strongly advised to create your figures and tables BEFORE writing. Letting these pieces guide the writing, especially in the results section, allows the piece to flow and reinforce the analysis and conclusions that follow.
With a full document prepared, revisions were most definitely needed by the other authors. Making the transition to this type of writing was far different than what I was used to, and it definitely showed on my revisions. Some of the biggest comments were a lack of clarity and holding a continuous vision between sections, along with how the results were presented in connection to our conclusions. Several figures also had to be remade for our selected case studies. While extensive revisions with grad school beginning soon was certainly not my first choice, I would much rather have those necessary and detailed revisions happen now. If they didn’t happen now, they would likely happen at the hands of an editor and the risk of rejection.
This now brings us to the present, with the first round of revisions continuing. The process has slowed considerably as of recent, with classes and my masters research beginning this fall semester at Oklahoma, but the hope is to have a full document submitted early in 2019.