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propsych

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Hi there, I'm currently beginning the process or co-authoring 4 manuscripts with my PI and other RAs and would like to know if anyone has any tips on being efficient and a general "how to" on manuscript writing. I decided to take an extra year before applying to grad school just to work on all of these papers and maybe join another lab, so I really want to get all of this done within the next 6 months or so.

For example: I see that certain labs publish 5 or more papers in a single year (how is this possible? It seems like a very life/time consuming endeavor or maybe this is normal and I'm simply too new at this) with grad students as first authors on a few of them. Are my anticipated submission dates realistic? I have never done this before, and all of a sudden, boom, I'm writing 4. How much time should I allow myself to write? Is there a method or scheduling of writing that you have found helpful? How do you do this and also juggle a job/social life etc? When should I expect them to be accepted/ published? What happens if i write and write and then get rejected from a journal? Can I try submitting somewhere else? Am I biting off more than I can chew "realistically" or is this amount normal? I know I am new to this, but I a quite determined and everyone has to start sometime, right? Please feel free to offer any tips beyond my questions.

Also, how do you decide on a journal to submit to? How do you judge which one is the best fit and has a good chance of accepting you?

Here is a breakdown of the papers and a rough timeline of when I'd like each to be done.

1) 3rd author- almost done, just need to tighten up the intro and discussion sections. Want to submit by mid-Oct. (wouldn't this likely get published in a year or so if accepted?) However, my PI seems to frequently revise and revise, and so it sometimes feels like it will never end. How do you know when you are done or when it is good enough? Couldn't you always just keep adding? Not to mention some journals seem to have a length cut-off so then we may have to cut sections.

2) 3rd author- Manuscript not begun, I will be writing a short portion of the introduction as I have done all of the work on the study before the paper. So this one shouldn't take too much time. I'd like to have this out by December, but it really depends on the 1st and 2nd authors and how fast they want to work on this (any advice on getting things to move along?). I am the one who planned and ran this study, and will likely be 3rd and not 2nd as my colleague seems to really want to be 2nd (and she contributed two dependent variables as well as completed most of the data analysis). Therefore, I have a much smaller writing portion AND less control over how fast this moves along.

3) 2nd author- This is for a study that will run this Fall and is essentially my baby. I have worked on studies previously just to get this one going. We plan to collect data in the fall, analyze in December (ideally) and I'm hoping to submit to a journal by March. This paper has a very rough methods section written (basically my procedure), but how should I go about starting the intro? I currently have this broken down into several "sub-sections" to build up to the gap in the literature my study addresses, so I suppose I can start there. My PI said she would write this but I am not too optimistic and know she would prefer I just give her a rough draft she can work from(which isn't ideal, but I'm willing). I'd like to get everything I can get done during these next few months so that when the data comes in I don't have as much to do. Does this seem like a typical way to do things?

4) 1st author- I'm most nervous about this paper. My PI will not be writing anything here and will only edit/ offer advice (which is huge) but I am concerned about how to start. The data is collected and will be analyzed by November (we have prelim analysis that suggests the direction the results are going in). Should I be writing this introduction first out of all of my papers listed? I'm hoping to have this submitted by February.

5) I have also begun to think about writing a review paper, but I only vaguely understand what this is. If I am correct in my thinking, this would be a paper that is basically a large introduction/lit review section, that finds gaps within the literature, and then suggests studies to be completed in the future. Is this a good idea with my current work-load? My main motivation for this is to earn another 1st authorship (as I think my PI would allow me to be first on a paper like this) before applying for grad school. (I am a bit research mad as my gpa in college was low so I'm trying to make up for it big-time). Should I instead focus on joining another lab that is more aligned with my research interests and begin from the bottom-up again?

Anyway, if this is feasible and makes sense to write, how does one go about this? How do I begin, and what things should I keep in mind when writing this paper? I know the main point is to give people a comprehensive overview of the literature and show areas that need more research in the future. I think my PI wrote something like this a number of years ago, but hey, there's more out there now so this is okay, right?

edit: Oh, I failed to mention that I'll be writing some posters (mostly as 1st author) this fall as well.

Thank you! I appreciate all your input and reading my massive "question". :)
 

Ollie123

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Lots to cover and only have a few minutes, but others will likely chime in too.

I see that certain labs publish 5 or more papers in a single year (how is this possible? It seems like a very life/time consuming endeavor or maybe this is normal and I'm simply too new at this) with grad students as first authors on a few of them.
5 papers a year is solid, but not in any way abnormal. Large and busy labs sometimes produce 20-30. You aren't doing all of it yourself - these are large teams working together. It can certainly be quite time-consuming.

Are my anticipated submission dates realistic?
I don't kn ow, I don't think you listed them. Certainly getting five papers submitted in a year is possible, especially if you aren't leading all of them. Whether it is realistic for you, at this time, we really have no idea of judging.

[QUOTEHow much time should I allow myself to write? [/QUOTE]
Unfortunately, no easy answer. As much time as is needed. I've been at this a while. I've banged out papers in a day or two, I've had others drag on for months.

Is there a method or scheduling of writing that you have found helpful?
None that I have found. I wish I had one. I've tried scheduling writing time, but it invariably gets sucked up by random administrative work or meetings that can "only" happen at that time.

How do you do this and also juggle a job/social life etc?
Well, for many of us it "is" our job, which obviously helps tremendously. If you are adding this on top of full-time work, then yeah - it is going to eat away at other things.

When should I expect them to be accepted/ published?
Depends entirely on the journal. Shortest window I've had is 2 months. Longest was > 2 years.

What happens if i write and write and then get rejected from a journal? Can I try submitting somewhere else?
What happens is nothing. You will be like every other academic, ever. Expect it to get rejected. Multiple times. Mine do. If you never get rejected, it means you are aiming way too low in terms of journal quality. Grow a thick skin now.

Am I biting off more than I can chew "realistically" or is this amount normal?
Given you are only leading one, I think this is extremely ambitious but possibly reasonable depending on exactly what is expected of you, the state of the data/analysis, etc. I would definitely drop the idea of writing a review paper for now, especially given you said you don't even really know how to go about it.

Also, how do you decide on a journal to submit to? How do you judge which one is the best fit and has a good chance of accepting you?
Experience. The PI should be guiding this process.

Other advice:
Its tough to be specific since we aren't in your lab and have no idea how this will work for you. Some key things I would suggest are:
1) Don't try and make it perfect, it won't be. Ever. And even if it is, you'll get a reviewer who isn't perfect and wants you to "fix" it by doing something idiotic and you may do it anyways to appease them.
2) Don't think it needs to be great before getting feedback. I wasted SO much time perfecting things before showing my mentors. Presumably, they want to help. Say its a VERY rough draft. Send them a sloppy outline if need be. This is nothing more frustrating in working with others than waiting months and months to get something and then finding out they made some very big missteps early on and wasted those months.
3) Recognize this is a learning process. Recognize this is a slow, drawn-out process. If even 1-2 of these papers is accepted by the end of the year, that is solid. I usually plan on 1-2 years between when I "start" writing and when an actual acceptance notification is received. 1-2 rounds of revision with 2-3 months in between is probably average. Sometimes its faster. Sometimes its slower.
4) I'll reiterate. Grow a thick skin. Expect to fail. Be pleased when you don't. Anything else is just going to drive you out of the field.
 

propsych

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Unfortunately, no easy answer. As much time as is needed. I've been at this a while. I've banged out papers in a day or two, I've had others drag on for months.

Wow, a day or two?! seems impossible right now ha

5 papers a year is solid, but not in any way abnormal. Large and busy labs sometimes produce 20-30. You aren't doing all of it yourself - these are large teams working together. It can certainly be quite time-consuming.
I see. Makes sense. At the moment my lab is me and like 8 other RAs, so this is a small operation.

What happens is nothing. You will be like every other academic, ever. Expect it to get rejected. Multiple times. Mine do. If you never get rejected, it means you are aiming way too low in terms of journal quality. Grow a thick skin now.
Welp that stinks. Can you submit somewhere else if you get rejected from a very selective journal?

Recognize this is a learning process. Recognize this is a slow, drawn-out process. If even 1-2 of these papers is accepted by the end of the year, that is solid. I usually plan on 1-2 years between when I "start" writing and when an actual acceptance notification is received. 1-2 rounds of revision with 2-3 months in between is probably average. Sometimes its faster. Sometimes its slower.
I'm getting the sense that you are saying, it is doable, and it basically just depends on how much I slave over it during the next few months.

I really appreciate you giving me some perspective. I will definitely readjust my expectations in regards to getting all of these published within the year. Thanks!!
 

psych.meout

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Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems a bit odd that these questions and details haven't been answered by your PI or someone else more senior in your lab, unless you haven't bothered to ask them and they therefore just assume you know or can find out on your own. At the very least, they should answer questions and be involved in the process of crafting and submitting the manuscripts to journals, especially if their name is on them. I certainly wouldn't want my name on something being written and submitted by someone who doesn't entirely know about the process.
 

Therapist4Chnge

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I admittedly jut skimmed your post, but much of what you asked about can be answered by someone who has been through the process a few/more times. I’d definitely lean on your PI and senior ppl in your lab.

Most papers are collaborations and getting assistance from 3-4+ other ppl can really help get a manuscript across the finish line.
 
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Ollie123

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You can definitely resubmit elsewhere. That is a part of the process. We typically end up getting rejected more with our better work just because we aim much higher. If I produce a meaningful-next-step-but-certainly-not-groundbreaking brief report from a survey, I'm not going to bother shopping it around at JAMA/Biological Psychiatry/Nature Neuroscience/whatever, I'm just going to pick a mediocre journal where I think it has a decent chance.

I agree with the above post too that you should definitely be talking with your PI. I'm assuming you are just getting started with the process and a bit nervous, but you should definitely be communicating with others throughout the process. Even as an experienced writer I think it is important, 100x moreso as a novice.
 
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PsyDuck90

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I have nowhere near the experience as Ollie, but in regards to your question of resubmission: I submitted my MA thesis to a journal, and it got rejected the 1st time, out right. It wasn't a journal with a huge IF, but it's pretty decent in my sub field. When it got rejected, I felt horrible because the reviewers tore it apart. My advisor's response was, "If they didn't think it had merit, they wouldn't have spent so much time on their critique." So, I revised, and decided to resubmit to the same journal. They accepted it pending revisions, which I succeeded in doing.

It's a long process, and your self esteem may get hurt in the process, but publishing is about a thick skin, as Ollie put it, and a little bit of perseverance, at least in my limited and novice view.
 

propsych

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Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems a bit odd that these questions and details haven't been answered by your PI or someone else more senior in your lab, unless you haven't bothered to ask them and they therefore just assume you know or can find out on your own. At the very least, they should answer questions and be involved in the process of crafting and submitting the manuscripts to journals, especially if their name is on them. I certainly wouldn't want my name on something being written and submitted by someone who doesn't entirely know about the process.
I admittedly jut skimmed your post, but much of what you asked about can be answered by someone who has been through the process a few/more times. I’d definitely lean on your PI and senior ppl in your lab.

Most papers are collaborations and getting assistance from 3-4+ other ppl can really help get a manuscript across the finish line.

Unfortunately there isn't really anyone above me except for the PI since we don't have any grad students in our lab. While this was good for me in a way because I got a lot of hands on training and get to do a lot of stuff most undergrads didn't get to do, it also means that I have to do a lot of self-teaching. My PI is great, just not much of a hand-holder. I do have a colleague who finished her master's and was in the lab as my supervisor previously, but she hasn't published yet either so I guess I will have to press my PI for more guidance and hopefully get as much info from you awesome people as I can!
 

propsych

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You can definitely resubmit elsewhere. That is a part of the process. We typically end up getting rejected more with our better work just because we aim much higher. If I produce a meaningful-next-step-but-certainly-not-groundbreaking brief report from a survey, I'm not going to bother shopping it around at JAMA/Biological Psychiatry/Nature Neuroscience/whatever, I'm just going to pick a mediocre journal where I think it has a decent chance.

I agree with the above post too that you should definitely be talking with your PI. I'm assuming you are just getting started with the process and a bit nervous, but you should definitely be communicating with others throughout the process. Even as an experienced writer I think it is important, 100x moreso as a novice.

thank you for your input. I suppose part of me feels like I'm going to come off a bit neurotic if I'm constantly talking about our manuscripts and stressing about every detail I am unsure of. I spoke to her a few times previously, however it doesn't seem as "urgent" to my PI as it seems to me, so it feels like the ball is in my court.
 

propsych

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I have nowhere near the experience as Ollie, but in regards to your question of resubmission: I submitted my MA thesis to a journal, and it got rejected the 1st time, out right. It wasn't a journal with a huge IF, but it's pretty decent in my sub field. When it got rejected, I felt horrible because the reviewers tore it apart. My advisor's response was, "If they didn't think it had merit, they wouldn't have spent so much time on their critique." So, I revised, and decided to resubmit to the same journal. They accepted it pending revisions, which I succeeded in doing.

It's a long process, and your self esteem may get hurt in the process, but publishing is about a thick skin, as Ollie put it, and a little bit of perseverance, at least in my limited and novice view.

It seems thick skin is becoming a theme in this post. guess I better adjust my expectations. Thanks!
 
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Suggestions:

1. Read well respected journals in your subfield to get a feel for how good papers are structured. Learn to emulate the good examples (without plagiarizing, of course).

2. Unless you are just looking for a way to pass the time, I would not bother with writing a review. There are a lot of solid books and even helpful journal articles on how to write a review, but the process is usually pretty time consuming, and a review tends to not be viewed as favorably as an empirical paper. It seems like you have your hands full as it is.

3. Check out this book: Write It Up: Practical Strategies for Writing and Publishing Journal Articles
 
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propsych

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Suggestions:

1. Read well respected journals in your subfield to get a feel for how good papers are structured. Learn to emulate the good examples (without plagiarizing, of course).

2. Unless you are just looking for a way to pass the time, I would not bother with writing a review. There are a lot of solid books and even helpful journal articles on how to write a review, but the process is usually pretty time consuming, and a review tends to not be viewed as favorably as an empirical paper. It seems like you have your hands full as it is.


Yes, perhaps a review would be taking on too much. Thanks for the resource and advice!
 
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