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Brainstorming a first draft

This part of the process works best with paper and pencil

This part of the process works best with paper and pencil

One way to start writing your article is by brainstorming an outline of the paper.

What is the story you want to tell? I’m going to use a recent paper I co-wrote ( to help you understand what I mean.

The brainstorming for this paper went something like this:

  • We only need to use the hydrophobic part of the hydrophobic subtraction model
  • We tried different clustering methods and compared them to a global model
  • LTS was good but we could only do a few compounds
  • The other good methods were LLD, LCT, and LSDI.
  • We checked whether it was just the chosen descriptors
  • We can computationally predict retention times - big idea to wow them at the end

You can see here that I haven’t used special academic language, and I haven’t added a lot of information. I’ve just given myself something to work with.

This sort of brainstorm allows you to know where you’re going with the paper, and gives you ideas of what you need to include. I think it’s a good idea to write the results and discussion parts of the paper first and then later write the introduction (I’ll write another blog post about how to write the introduction soon). The abstract should be written last.

Remember that your paper is a story. Even though it is written in more stilted academic language than your everyday children’s story, it still needs to engage its readers and be interesting. You need to think about what message you want your readers to receive. 

Ask yourself some questions:

  • What is the main point of the paper? 
  • What do you want the reader to take away from reading the paper?
  • What information do they need in order to understand the significance of what you have done?

The other thing you can add to your brainstorming is pictures. Which graphs or tables will you use to make your story clearer?

Once you have completed your brainstorming you will be able to lay out a plan of paragraphs, and after that you will be able to fill in each paragraph, just like colouring in.

You can always adjust things later, but I find that a brief outline like this really helps me get started.

Ruth Amos3 Comments