One of the most difficult parts of academic writing is getting the manuscript organized. I have authored or co-authored over a hundred papers and I STILL have difficulty figuring out what to include in methods and results, or how to connect my findings to the broader research literature. I have written posts on writing before that acknowledge this difficulty and offer some suggestions:
- How to Review A Manuscript
- How to Write A Manuscript
- How (and When) to Write the Background Section of a Manuscript
I recommend reading these blog posts to get a more in-depth sense of my step-by-step approach to writing for academic journals. My two most important first steps are: 1) Choosing a journal; and 2) Deconstructing similar articles in the target journal to get a sense of structure. Once you have done that (and read those blog posts if you are unsure how), writing your paper is simply a matter of dropping your study into the article framework you will have created.
To make the task a little bit easier, my student (Patricia Jaimes) and I created a spreadsheet that encourages writing of the manuscript in a logical way, rather than following the typical format of most journals. If you have read my other posts about writing, you will know that I think the Introduction is the VERY LAST piece of the paper you should write – perhaps in tandem with the Discussion, but certainly at the end and after Methods and Results are complete.
Above is a screenshot of the spreadsheet (which you can download at the end of this blog) that you would use for drafting a paper. This template is intended to be modified to fit the journal you are targeting. Here’s how the template works:
- The template contains up to four research questions and a range of lengths for different sections. EVERY JOURNAL IS DIFFERENT.
- Based on your analysis of your target journal, adjust the Template for Drafting Papers. This modification might be a bullet point indicating, for example, number of paragraphs needed in each section.
- Type bullet points or entire paragraphs into the Template for Drafting Paper sheet.
- Cells in yellow can be completed at any time.
- Cells containing numbers (1-4) and in colors (blue, purple, orange, green) should be completed as sets. Each number (or color) represents one research question and related methods/results.
- When you are ready to move to a program designed for writing (e.g., WORD), copy and paste COLUMN B in the Template Reordered! sheet.
- Voila – organized writing!
Ready to give it a try?
Feel free to use, disseminate, modify, and otherwise enjoy this spreadsheet.