Thursday, December 15, 2011

Productivity in writing, and otherwise

I just read a wonderful post by writer Rachel Aaron (whom I haven't read anything by) about how she boosted her writing from 2000 words per day to over 10000. Yes, that is right, the equivalent of two articles per day. However, she is a novelist, not a scientist. What she suggests is that if you just try to make sure you have three things in place before you actually start writing, you can be much more productive.

Those things are:

  1. Know what you are going to write.
  2. Track how much you are writing.
  3. Get excited about what you are writing.
Sounds pretty straight forward. Number one is easy, there is a way you are supposed to write your articles. It is known as the IMRAD-format:
A well kept secret
Each of the sections have fairly well established patterns. Like the introduction:
Sentence describing a public ill. Sentence tying said ill to something vaguely connected with present study. Sentence about how present study is novel and interesting. 
New paragraph describing the actual background of the study. 
A paragraph describing what has actually been done. 
Final paragraph stating the aim and hypothesis of the study in a way that fits with the conclusion without giving it away.
The second point is more difficult. The end result of a day's writing may be a section of an article, say the abstract, that is 250 words. But in actuality you have probably written more like 1000 words, and thrown most of them away. So, given the word-limits of scientific articles, how do you track how much work you get done?

The third point is easy the first time, but then you re-write, submit, get refused, re-write, submit, get a revision, re-write, re-submit, get refused, rewrite... At some point here you aren't so excited anymore, and that is when you pick a bottom-line journal and submit one last time suggesting your best friends as reviewers.

 The strategy is also applicable to lab-work, teaching  and many other things.

  1. Know what you are going to do in the lab.
  2. Track how much you are getting done.
  3. Get excited about the work you do.
Anyway, I think her post is more well-written. You should read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment