When should the writing of a scientific paper start?
Some will say that the writing process starts when you’ve acquired good results, and others may think that it is when you are about to reach a milestone in your career such as a thesis advisory committee meeting or a bid for a promotion. Those are both very good answers, but in my opinion, the writing process starts before you have conducted your very first experiment or collected any data.
That is because the first step in the writing process is organizing your thoughts. Understanding what it is that you are looking for and why. If you are lucky enough to have been involved in the writing of a grant proposal, you have a very good overview of your project. Writing a grant proposal forces us to phrase, first to ourselves and then to the funding entity, our study question. We then have to explain the types of data we will attempt to gather and how we will proceed from one stage of the project to the next based on what we find. Whether you were or were not involved in a grant proposal submission, it is a good exercise to create a flow chart in which you can organize the thinking behind your project to yourself.
You can form your own, or use this example:
When you are clear on what it is that you are doing and what it all means, the technical task of writing becomes much easier and faster. In coming posts, I will share examples of mechanisms that can streamline the writing for you and significantly reduce the writing workload.