Approaching writing as a project

Today, I attended the Journal article writing course offered by UoB’s People and Organisational Development (POD) and facilitated by Dr Sandy Williams from Scriptoria.  If you are a member of UoB staff (including PGRs who teach), then you can register to attend this course yourself or rest assured that what I learned will trickle down to enhance the PGR development workshops on writing (Starting to write for your PhD, Writing clearly and concisely, Structuring your thesis) and through this blog!

One key point that I wanted to pick up on immediately was Sandy’s emphasis on managing the process of writing a journal article as a project, with only a part of that project being to draft the manuscript itself.  This chimed with me following recent conversations I’ve had with PGRs on the Introduction to Managing your Research Project module (which I deliver as part of the PGCARMS programme) and the fact that the most read article on this blog (with 589 views!) relates to project management.

If you are hoping to submit a manuscript for publication (or complete any other writing project), then proper planning can help you focus on the end goal and make sure you get there.  This is especially true if you are collaborating with others on your manuscript, or hoping to receive feedback/comment from your supervisor/critical friends.  Here are some steps you can take to increase the chances of successfully completing your manuscript.

  1. Decide on what your manuscript is going to be about.  Be clear about the research questions or hypotheses you are intending to address, and the outcomes/conclusions you will present.  It may help you to articulate these on paper and pin them to your noticeboard as a quick-reference reminder!
  2. Decide which journal you will send your manuscript to.  Journal article manuscripts are frequently rejected by journals because the content of the manuscript lies outside their area of interest – all journals have information about their aims, scope and audience on their webpages (example), so there’s no excuse not to check that your research will be of interest to the journal you’ve selected.  You’re making this decision now because all journals have a number of requirements for manuscripts (which may include, for example, word limit, article structure, number of figures/tables, referencing style) and it’s important to tailor your writing to fit these requirements right from the beginning of the project.  Read the instructions for authors.
  3. Work out a realistic timescale for your manuscript.  You might find it helpful to prepare a Gantt chart.  If you are collaborating with co-authors, agree the timetable with them at this stage.  If you are hoping for feedback from others during your project, drop them a note to let them know when to expect your draft(s) – they can then indicate how quickly they might be able to get back to you, or let you know if they are intending to be on a beach somewhere hot for two weeks at just that key point in your project…
  4. Finally, start drafting your manuscript!

If you would like to know more about managing a research project, there is an online Canvas module.

What have your experiences of completing a manuscript been, as main or co-author?  What planning techniques did you use to make sure the manuscript was completed within a reasonable time-frame?





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Helen Kara

Writing and research

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