My Process

Before becoming an Assistant Professor, I wrote drafts of publications if I was the first author of the work. In my new role, the responsibility for writing drafts will shift to my students, and I will provide feedback and help edit their work for submission.
A publication has the following general sections: Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Discussion, and Conclusion. Additionally, there are also images, figures, and graphs that are included. To write a draft, I started with the Results section while simultaneously working on the Methods section. I'd follow with the Conclusions section, then the Introduction, and finally the Abstract.

Preparing to Write

Prior to beginning a draft, there is a pre-work process. I make sure that all my files are organized, and that I understand the story I'm about to tell. I also have my images, graphs, tables, etc. prepared so that they can help tell the story. I also select the journal I will be submitting to so that I can familiarize myself with the format. Some journals also provide Word and LaTEX templates for authors. I find it easier to use Word, but LaTEX (although not necessary) provides better formatting.


For the Results section, I will start by reviewing the data with the help of an access assistant and write a list of observations and the narrative I want to tell. This helps me to prepare the outline, then I work paragraph by paragraph to tell the story. While writing this section, it is difficult for me to reference specific data points, so I use 'xxx' as a placeholder. This information in added in later by an access assistant, who also refines the grammar and fixes any typos. I also refine images, figures, or graphs as needed that I use to tell the story.
I typically write the Methods section as I write the Results section. This is one of the easier parts of the process because I know what I did and how I did it. Additionally, I maintain a library of references for the different programs that I use, which makes the process of inserting references easier for the access assistant.
Once I've told my story in the Results section, I move onto the Conclusion. I make sure that all the trends I've observed are clear in my mind before writing. Although it's not particularly intricate, it is important to make sure that I use some background information to put my work into context of the larger picture.
I find the Introduction section to be the most difficult because of the need to review the available literature and understand what is in each paper. In graduate school it was common to skim papers, but sometimes that isn't an option and it can feel overwhelming. To start, I come up with a general outline of what should be in the introduction based on the knowledge I have from the literature. I don't draft as much of this section on my own because I usually need an access assistant to help with the literature review.


The last step of the process is submission. As a post-doc, I was responsible for submitting manuscripts. I used ACS Paragon, but the system wasn't easy to navigate, even with VoiceOver. In the end, I needed help with submitting. I hope that this process becomes more accessible in the future.