Acedemic writing workshop | Week 3

Acedemic writing workshop lectured by Steven Wallace.

Also see the blog in his techinical writing editor company:

Useful aspects for researchers

  • Support teams: writing group / journal clubs / review groups to keep you moving
    • Make somebody else review your paper and screen obvious errors or ambiguities
  • Copetition (making “good” enemies) forces you move forward
  • Politics: relationships / connections between people

Care about reviewer’s feelings

Declaring scientific problems are your enemies, not the researchers.

Because reviwers are often chosen based on the citation, DO NOT cite offensively (e.g. The previous study is utterly wrong / stupid / has problems / defects) and be careful when you are cirticizing other’s work.

Instead, say you were extending other’s work to solve a different problem not yet solved.

Suggesting a reviewer / non-reviewer

If the editor gives you this option to choose a reviewer / non-reviewer, that’s even better for acceptance.

Suggest those as reviewers

  • You are extending thier work for a different problem
  • Good relations

Suggest those as non-reviewers

  • Competitors studying exactly the same problem
  • You hate this researcher or this researcher hates you

How to respond to reviewer and editor comments

Important things to know

  • Everyone gets criticized by reviewers. Their comments are useful for your paper.
  • If it’s a revision request, you have a 50-50 chance of acceptance at this statge. It’s your last chance to get your paper right.
  • Minor revisions take about one week. Major ones take about one month.

The reply letter

  • Thank them. Even when the reply is harsh, do not atteck them.
  • Numeber all comments and respond respectively.
  • Use different fonts for reviews and your reply. Mark changes of your work.
  • Show that you’re doing your best.
  • You don’t have to do eveything they ask, but reply to all their comments. Do not argue unless you have very good reason(s) e.g. conflicting comments from the two reviewers.
    • I added this to strenghen my argument.
    • I could not add extra word to adhere to the word limit.
    • The comments are interesting, but it is beyond the scope of my research right now.
    • Thank you for giving me the opprotunity to clarify, …
  • Three letters
    • Reviewer 1 : Reply and changes for reviewer 1
    • Reviewer 2 : Reply and changes for reviewer 2
    • Editor: Reviewer 1 + Reviewer 2 changed listed separatedly.

How to revise

  • Start with small changes in order to not to be overwhelmed.
  • Do not responsed too much and add too much stuff.

Revise citations

  • You don’t have to find too many citations in the first submission. The reviewers will suggest more proper ones for you.
  • Only add a brief setence about the requested citations. You don’t ave to know all the content other than the abstract section except for the following (you’ll need to tell them the difference between your work and the citations'):
    • Doing the same research as yours
    • Source may contradict your results

Revise terms

By default, just change rather than argu. If you find this term is crucial, find a supporting reference to strengthen your argument.

Revise to be shorter

Often the request from the editor and may contradict those from the reviewer. You may need to cut your paper to a minimum (which is painful) to meet the editor’s demand. Some negotiations and back and forth emails may be needed.

Cut your papers

Mostly in the introduction part w.r.t. citations. AKA others work.

  • Quotes -> A summary for multiple papers
  • Lengthy words -> direct words
  • Long summaries from other research

Only cite for

  • context
  • keywords (term, definition)
  • concepts
  • knowledge gaps

How to deal with rejection and resubmission

Don’t give up and don’t be sad

  • 8 out of 9 papers are rejected, even for Novel prize papers. (e.g. citric acid cycle)
  • 62% of published papers had been rejected at least once.
  • 50% of rejected papers published within 2 years

Reply from the journal

  • Rejected: see the section above.
  • Conditional rejection: it is up to you. Is doing a major revision worth the effort?
  • Minor revisions: the best you can get, a quick fix within a weak should get you paper published.
  • Major revisions: 50-50 chance of acceptance.

Find hot topics

Do not waste your time on dead / dying topics (e.g. no references for 5-10 years)

Where are hot topics?

  • Mentioned in editor’s letters / top tier journals
  • Controversies / unresolved topics
  • Cross-overs (multidisciplinary topics)
  • Conferences

What to do after rejection

  • Some small fix based on reviewer’s comments and send to another journal. It should take less than one month. And you should eliminate the traces of rejection(s).
  • If your paper are rejected over 3 times, consider a major revision
  • Reply of conditional rejection (need major revision to get a chance) is the most tricky.

How to eliminate the traces of rejection(s)

  • Clear document properties (last modified time, Word properties)
  • Add new references to look new and reorder your citations to refresh reviewers.
  • Remove or move back citations of undesirable referees (Remember you could add them back in the revision process?)

Waiting the response and wish the best of luck

  • Quick rejection(< 1 week): do not bother them and submit to another journal
  • Typical rejection (~ 2 weeks): Thank you and move on
  • More than 2 months: send a polite email to the editor inquire the status of your paper
  • More than 3 months without reply: send a polite email to every staff in the journal to see what is going on
  • More than 6 months without reply: Sedn a email to withdraw your paper first (to avoid double submission) and submit to another journal.

How to write an abstract

An abstract = a minipaper. And everyone looks at your abstract before reads your full paper.

  • Motivation (Background): why this problem matters
  • Mission (Objective)
  • Conduct (Methods)
  • Success (Results): what did you find
  • Impact (Discussion): could your research help others