writer’s block? let the conpher team help you back on track…

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Everyone gets stuck from time to time. You may be preparing your article for submission, but your to-do-list is reaching out and pulling you in! Faced with pulling together your research and started to write, but nothing flows….? Each member of the conpher team has been in your shoes and we are here to help you through. So here goes….


Before launching into your article, can you target the key message of your paper? Can you articulate the key discovery or accomplishment in a single sentence? Then, you are ready to write your article.

Create a skeleton of your article first. Lay out the necessary sections and in note form build structure around each “joint” of the article. If you have figures, arrange them in a logical order to support your hypothesis statement. Notably, this order may or may not be the order in which you collected the data. By performing this step, it should become obvious if you’re missing data.

Make sure your “skeleton” structure follows the guidelines set out by the journal you are submitting to. For example: Some journals integrate the methods section in between the introduction and the results; other journals place the methods section at the end of the article. Depending on the location of the methods section, the contents of the results and discussion section may vary slightly. So be aware of the requirements of your preferred journal.

Set a writing schedule.

Pick a time when you’re likely to be mentally acute – and guard that time against any appointments or meetings. Put it in your calendar so colleagues can see you are busy.

Find the best location to write.

Maybe it is your office, maybe at home, maybe at your favourite coffee shop? “You need to find the environment and circumstance where you write best, and when you find that, embrace it,” says Pritzker, who is also a professor of psychology at Saybrook University.

Avoid Procrastination

Keep a notepad by your side if your mind wanders to normal day chores or ideas. It is better to jot them down, and by doing so clears your mind from wandering and enables you to quickly refocus your concentration back on your paper.

Accept that criticism happens.

Accept from the very beginning that criticism and rejection are inevitable at some point in your career.
Protect yourself from that fear of failure by sharing your drafts with trusted peers or an advisor you communicate with easily.

Remember, no piece of writing is perfect, so don’t let that get in the way of your writing. Research by Simon Sherry, PhD, of Dalhousie University in Canada, and colleagues, found that psychology professors whose answers indicated they were more perfectionistic published less often and in journals of lesser impact (Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 2010).

Do not start by writing the abstract.

Logically, it makes sense to start a paper with the abstract, or, at least, the introduction. Don’t. You will more often than not end up telling a completely different story than the one you thought you were going to tell. If you start with the introduction, by the time everything else is written, you will likely have to rewrite both sections.

Start with the Methods section, describe your processes in detail. Then the Results and Discussion Section(s) which will form the majority of your paper. Having laid out all your figures, a good place to start is to write a few paragraphs about each figure, explaining he result, the relevance of the result to your hypothesis statement and the relevance to the field.

Write the Conclusion.

Your conclusion should summarize everything you have already written. Emphasize the most important findings from your study and restate why they matter. State what you learned and end with the most important thing you want the reader to take away from the paper-again, your vision statement. From the conclusion, a reader should be able to understand the gist of your whole study, including your results and their significance.

Now Write the Introduction.

The introduction gives a “helicopter” view of your research: it defines the problem in the context of a larger field; it reviews what other research groups have done to move forward on the problem; and it lays out your hypothesis, which may include your expectations about what the study will contribute to the body of knowledge.

Assemble References.

The first thing that any new writer should do is pick a good electronic reference manager. There are many free ones available, but often research groups have a favourite one. Editing will be easier if everyone is using the same manager.

Write the abstract.

10–20 sentences, it should describe the importance of the field, the challenge that your research addresses, how your research solves the challenge, and its potential future impact. It should include any key quantitative metrics. And remember, abstracts are included in search engine results.

The title.

The title should capture the essence of the paper. Become a “reader” for a minute – what phrase or keywords would you type into a search engine? Make sure those words are included in your title.


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