Telling Your Story The Craft of Scientific Writing.

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    25-Dec-2015

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  • Slide 1
  • Telling Your Story The Craft of Scientific Writing
  • Slide 2
  • Overview A. Scientific writing as storytelling B. Some general tips for writers C. Constructing the skeleton D. Fleshing it out: Major sections of a scientific report E. Responding to Reviews F. Just for the fun of it
  • Slide 3
  • A. Scientific Writing as Storytelling When writing almost anything for publication, you are telling a story
  • Slide 4
  • Outline There is a clear, predictable structure to scientific articles Introduction and literature review Methods Results Discussion but it doesnt have to be boring!
  • Slide 5
  • Write a scientific report like a detective story There is a predictable structure: Cover (Title and Abstract) Pose the mystery (Introduction) Lay out the plot (Methods) Denouement (Results) Closure (Discussion)
  • Slide 6
  • Pieces of the Story: The Readers Questions Title and abstract: Should I read this? Introduction: Why should I care? Methods: What did you do? Results: What did you find? Discussion: What does it mean?
  • Slide 7
  • Structuring for the Reader Write from an outline Headers and sideheads Orienting language We will first... and then... Transitional language Next.. Now.. In contrast,.. Nevertheless Summaries
  • Slide 8
  • B. Some General Tips for Writers
  • Slide 9
  • Be Clear About your Audience A literature review on alcohol blackouts would be written quite differently if the audience were: Substance abuse counselors Neuroscientists studying memory Psychiatrists A lay audience (popular press) School counselors
  • Slide 10
  • Choose Your Target Journal Look at your own bibliography Audience and circulation Editorial mission and scope Normal length/format of articles ISI impact factor Peer-review process Review and publication lag Embargo policy
  • Slide 11
  • Tips for Writers Set aside dedicated cooking time Protect that time Always have three pots on the stove Follow a recipe (outline)
  • Slide 12
  • Group Support for Writing Regularly scheduled Consultation group (senior mentor present) Mutual support group with accountability Study hall Extraverts: Resist the temptation to chat
  • Slide 13
  • Behavioral Self-Management Target: Set clear and achievable goals Chunk into doable pieces Track: Keep records of progress Commit: Social accountability Comfort: Environment you need and like Stay on task analogy of test anxiety mental time off task avoid temptations to read the mail or email, answer the phone, chat Persist: Beware the rule violation effect
  • Slide 14
  • Slide 15
  • The Blank Page / Screen Outline Pick a piece Just do it write! Edit later P.S. Writing gets easier, faster, and more fun with practice and feedback
  • Slide 16
  • In Initial Drafts.. Go for good enough Perfect is the enemy of good (and of productivity and tenure, too) Youll have to revise it anyhow Start from an outline Get words on the page Then edit Have colleagues read and critique Revise and send it off
  • Slide 17
  • C. Constructing the Skeleton
  • Slide 18
  • Construct an Outline Overall structure major sections Structure within sections What are the pieces? Write them on cards Move them around to create a logical flow Put them in groups Construct headers and subheaders
  • Slide 19
  • Alcohol Blackouts: A Review The Pieces Dose-response relationship is it automatic? Convergence with clinical SUD symptoms Relation to neuropsych impairment Changing threshold age and tolerance Clinical description; subtypes Storage or retrieval problem? Prevalence of blackouts Individual differences, predictors Alcohols acute effects on memory
  • Slide 20
  • Alcohol Blackouts: A Review A Logical Flow 1. Clinical description; subtypes 2. Prevalence of blackouts 3. Convergence with clinical SUD symptoms 4. Dose- response is it automatic? 5. Changing threshold age and tolerance 5. Alcohols acute effects on memory 7. Storage or retrieval problem? 8. Individual differences, predictors 9. Relation to neuropsych impairment
  • Slide 21
  • Alcohol Blackouts: A Review 1. The Phenomenon Clinical description, subtypes Prevalence Diagnostic significance (relation to other Sx) 2. Blackouts and Blood Alcohol Level Dose-response relationship Changing threshold for blackout (relation to age, tolerance, etc.)
  • Slide 22
  • Alcohol Blackouts: A Review 3. Etiology Acute effects of alcohol on memory Storage or retrieval problem? Individual differences, predictors Link to alcohol-related neuropsychological impairment 4. Clinical Significance The meaning of blackouts
  • Slide 23
  • D. Fleshing it Out Major Sections of a Scientific Report
  • Slide 24
  • Title and Abstract The most important part of an article or proposal not an afterthought What are the essential pieces? Draw the reader in Say enough, but dont give too much away
  • Slide 25
  • Introduction: The Mystery Pose a puzzle, a question Trace the background the theory, research, practical problems etc. leading up to the doorstep of your study Establish the significance of the question The introduction funnel
  • Slide 26
  • Opening Lines Charles Dickens Marley was dead, to begin with. - A Christmas Carol It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. - A Tale of Two Cities
  • Slide 27
  • Opening Lines from Scientific Reports Dont Have to Be Boring How effective is alcoholism treatment? Journal of Studies on Alcohol 62:211-220, 2001 Motivational interviewing began in a barber shop in Norway. Addictive Behaviors 21:835-842, 1996 At midnight the old man, unable to sleep, stares uneasily into the darkness beyond his bedroom window. Can Personality Change? APA, 1994
  • Slide 28
  • Methods: The Plot Provide a clear, logical flow Move through procedures in the order that a participant encounters them Use a checklist (e.g., CONSORT criteria) Have someone unfamiliar with your research read it for clarity
  • Slide 29
  • Methods: The Pieces of a Plot InterventionistsBaseline assessment Consent procedure HypothesesTreatments / conditions Eligibility criteria Source population & recruitment Training and fidelity control Randomization procedure Data analysis plan ScreeningFollow-up assessment
  • Slide 30
  • Methods: The Flow of a Plot (Clinical Trial) 1. Source population & recruitment 2. Screening3. Eligibility criteria 4. Consent procedure 5.Randomization procedure 6. Baseline assessment 7. Treatments / conditions 8.Interventionists9. Training and fidelity control 10. Follow-up assessment 11. Hypotheses12. Data analysis plan
  • Slide 31
  • Results: The Mystery Solved Logical sequence of presentation Analyses should match specific aims and/or hypotheses Give some interpretation of meaning (e.g., direction of relationship) in results narrative I didnt find anything!
  • Slide 32
  • Laying Out the Clues: Sample Results Section (Clinical Trial) 1. Sample characteristics 2. Distributional characteristics of DVs 3. Baseline DVs & equivalence of groups 4. Treatment adherence and fidelity 5. Time effects (whole sample) 6. Treatment effects 7. Clinical significance classifications 8. Therapist effects 9. Predictors of outcome
  • Slide 33
  • Closure: The Discussion Sandwich Summarize and contextualize important findings (dont repeat results) Caveats (e.g., study limitations) Implications What the findings may mean Implications for practice Implications for research
  • Slide 34
  • References Use bibliographic software (e.g. EndNote) Find and enter the reference only once never look for it again The software automatically formats your references to the journal When you resubmit to another journal with a different referencing format, a push of a button does it for you Start now! Its a small learning curve, and youll waste that amount of time in referencing just two articles
  • Slide 35
  • E. Responding to Reviews
  • Slide 36
  • Receiving Your Reviews Take a deep breath, then read the letter right away. Dont take it personally! You are not defending your human worth. Dont get too attached to your own words Get right to it Prompt revising and resubmitting is a secret of success
  • Slide 37
  • Editors Responses Four Good Outcomes Accepted without revision (p