Some tips on how to write a paper (EGU 2018)

The following points summarize some tips that were provided during the short course ‘How to write (and publish) a scientific paper in Hydrology’ held at the 2018 EGU General Assembly in Vienna. The tips are based on the input from the expert panel consisting of Hannah Cloke (University of Reading), Giuliano Di Baldassarre (Uppsala University), Ciaran Harman (Johns Hopkins University) and Margaret Shanafield (Flinders University).

  • Chronology of a paper: each paper takes a different amount of time to write. Write early, write often, share your incomplete work early, sharpen the message, look for the important message and highlight that!
  • Before drafting your paper: Pick one graph that contains your key message and explain your entire paper idea only using that graph. This helps to develop a clear message!
  • Collaborate with people, share your work often and early to get feedback
  • On minimum publishable units: Split your work into more than one paper if you have more than one main story to tell but ensure your paper stands on its own; good stories get lost when the paper is too long.
  • Before writing: To write well you have to read well; look for structure in well written papers and use their structure as a template; write with your audience in mind: think of the community you want to share your work with, pick journal accordingly (a good indicator of which journal to submit to is by checking which journals you cite most in your work); clearly state what novel contribution you make to the specific community.
  • Drafting your paper: Your key message must be ‘visible’ throughout your paper (especially in the title, introduction and conclusion); use a logical and clear structure; make sure your writing is clear; carefully design your figures, figure captions are crucial, use the content of figures to explain your work; split results and discussion and resist the urge to combine them; openly discuss the shortcomings of your work (in the discussion part).
  • On co-authorship: as a rule of thumb if you’ve done two out of three following you are eligible for co-authorship: 1) help write the paper, 2) secure funding, 3) doing the work (think of methodology, do the actual work…). Generally, be rather inclusive than exclusive.
  • Before submitting: Cover letters are important — explain to the editor why your work fits well to your chosen journal.
  • After the publication: Publicize your work, email your paper to colleagues, tweet about it; be confident and believe that your work is important!
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