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Writing, Publishing and Presenting

7 Mantras for Pain-free Thesis Writing

You’ve spent a few years optimising your experiments and gathering data, and with good planning “The easier way to write a PhD thesis” it’s all come together and you’re ready to start writing it up. This is the last big challenge in getting your PhD finished, but it’s the part which can feel the most…

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Clean-up or Fraud? How to Avoid Photoshopping Your Way Into Disgrace

Thanks to the power of digital imaging software, faking data is a lot easier than doing real science. Clearly the honest majority of us would never deliberately distort the scientific record, but is it possible to stumble into trouble through sheer ignorance? Quite possibly. The line between innocent enhancement and deliberate fraud can be blurry…

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Make Your Manuscripts More Readable in 5 minutes per Day

We scientists are all so focused on getting our work published that many of us seem to forget something very important; that publication is just the beginning. After publication is when our manuscripts really have to do their essential work of communicating our science to our peers. If no-one reads the manuscript, we might as…

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How to Format Your Manuscript

Understanding how to format your manuscript is an important skill for researchers and getting it right will make your PI very happy – they’ll spend less time proofreading and editing the document for you and it might just help get your manuscript through to peer review faster.   When writing up your results for a…

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Can You Describe Your Research in 30 Seconds? 60?

As scientists, we become engrossed in our own scientific world. We focus on graduating, publishing a paper, or writing that grant application. Our labs, quite literally, become our world. Which is why we all know the glazed looks in the eyes of non-scientific people who had the misfortune of asking us what we do. As…

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Be Your Own Editor – and watch out for speed bumps!

There’s no author who can’t benefit from an editor, or two, or ten.  But first, an author needs to do everything they can to make the manuscript as good as they possibly can.  You want your editor(s) to concentrate on what you’ve written, without the distraction of stupid stuff that you were just too lazy…

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You Shall Go To The Conference

So my PhD hasn’t been easy but whose has? And if it wasn’t for some supportive colleagues and some great advice I wouldn’t be where I am today, or where I was last year!  I found out about a great conference from a colleague, and their enthusiasm got me really interested when all I wanted…

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Eight Steps to a Well-Written Manuscript

You’ve done the experiments, gathered the data, interpreted the results, and now you’ve got something important to share with the scientific community. Congratulations! You’re writing a scientific paper. Once you’ve decided on which journal to submit your paper, you can get the guidelines from that journal. All that’s left is to write the paper. Your…

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Writing Your First (or next) Paper: Part IV

This is the final installment in a four part series on writing your first paper. For the first part in the series, click here, for the second part, click here, and for the third, click here. After what has potentially (likely?) been years of data collection and a month or two of writing, re-writing, wailing and gnashing of teeth,…

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Writing Your First (or next) Paper: Part III

This is part three of a four part series on writing your first paper. For the first part in the series, click here, for the second part, click here. Once you have written the first draft and handed it off to your mentor, the editing process begins. Depending on the personalities involved, this could be a…

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Writing Your First (or next) Paper: Part II

This is part two of a four part series on writing your first paper. For the first part in the series, click here. You have been pounding away at your project, probably for a year… or two… or three… Anyhow, you now have a collection of figures that seem to tell quite a nice story,…

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Writing Your First (or next) Paper: Part I

Most of us learn the art of writing papers on the job, often a painful process. In this four-part series, I’ll run you through my step-by-step approach to writing papers and, hopefully, help make the process of writing your first (or next) paper, a bit easier. As always, if you have any alternative advice or…

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How to Create an Effective PowerPoint Presentation

Presenting your work is a fantastic opportunity to get feedback on your project, demonstrate the significance of your results, and make the connections that will enhance your future career. And yet, how many incomprehensible lab meetings have we all sat through? How many seminars have you attended that left you feeling more confused than inspired?…

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Open Access Publishing Is Not Perfect, Yet

No-one would disagree with the goals of open access publishing: free access to scientific literature for all. If you work in an institution or small company that can’t afford to pay journal subscription fees you’ll know the problems that lack of access can cause. But publishing costs money, and someone has to pay those costs.…

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How to Become a World Class Speaker

Really great presentation skills. Some people in science seem to have them, and some don’t. I am one of the don’ts. Sure, I can get up in front of people and talk when needed, but it won’t be a polished performance by any means. I can get my message across but my delivery is not…

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Read Papers? I’d Rather Watch a Video.

As a scientist in academia or industry, you spend a large portion of your time looking up and reading research papers. What if instead of printing out piles of papers and taking them home to read all weekend, you could click on a video and visualize the experiments and results by the actual researchers doing…

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Powerpoint: Lose the bullets

Powerpoint is a double-edged sword. There’s no doubt it makes putting together a presentation easier. Those who worked with slides, overhead projector films and the like in the years B.P. (Before Powerpoint) will testify to that. But Powerpoint’s ease of use also makes it easy to abuse, and bullet points are the most abused feature…

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Why Have Journal Club?

Relating to my recent comments on seminars, a beginning grad student or undergrad researcher might wonder why journal club is such a good thing. Or you might not be wondering, since the benefits are more or less the same: digesting, discussing and analyzing research findings. But whether or not you realize the benefits of journal…

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Stop and Enjoy the Seminars

Continuing in the same frame of mind as my last post, What Comes After Grad School, I was thinking about something that Alex said: It reminds me of a bit of advice given to a fellow postdoc by Dr. Richard Hynes – try to attend every seminar. I would also add that in my comparatively…

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Quickly Boost Your Writing Skills

Reports, grant applications, theses, manuscripts, essays, patent applications, your Nobel Prize acceptance speech. As a scientist, there are so many things you have to write. And writing them well is important. Writing clearly and with structure allows you to get your message across and avoiding grammatical errors stops you looking stupid in front of your…

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Science Writing: Selling Your Research

Browsing around on the Nature Network blogs, I came across one interesting discussion from a couple weeks ago that few researchers actually spend much time thinking about (I think). Martin asked, “I was wondering how much, if at all, the quality of the writing of a submitted paper is considered in the peer review process?”…

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10 Tips for Better Presentations

I have been at a conference today and don’t have too much time to write this, so this will be a quick article. After watching lots of speakers of varying competence, I thought that it would be good to outline some tips for great presentations. Speaking is an integral part of a scientist’s job, and…

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