What to do – it’s over 30 °C outside, and it has been that way for the past two weeks or so. Not the best weather for getting work done (I admit, I work best in winter, but then again, who doesn’t?), but alas, I attended a writing course – yes, yet another, but this time on writing journal articles. This course was part of the Leuphana University Lüneburg’s PhD student training, and was taught by Dr Isabell May.
What do I think about this?
As said quite a few times before, I appreciate these kind of courses a lot, and think that they’re very important in any PhD programme. Why? That’s easy – a lot in academia may work through ‘learning by doing’, but I think that focused efforts on helping young academics, such as PhD students, can prevent quite a few pitfalls and obstacles.
Just like this course. It was open to all PhD students of the university, natural and social scientists alike. This led to disciplinary strains at times because of differences in conventions, but all in all, the advice I got was very valuable. So, what did I learn? Here are what I would like to call the ‘three top tips’:
Know Your Journal: Don’t start writing your article before you know the journal you want to publish it in (or maybe two to three journals). What do the articles normally look like? What kind of stylistic elements do they use? How would your work fit in there? Do not start before you know all this because this will increase your chances to get accepted quite a bit.
Use The Hour Glass Model: Imagine an hour glass, with its broad top and bottom, and its slim middle. This is what a good journal article could look like. Start broad in the introduction by getting from a wide question to your specific topic. Then get slimmer and slimmer, going from the literature review to results, and then get broader again in the discussion and conclusions part. This structure focuses on your specific findings, but also leaves room for showing how these findings fit in the broader academic debate.
Structure Your Sections: Do not only structure article as a whole, but also the sub-sections. Whether it’s the methods section or the results section, if there is a lot going on, sub-headings can work wonders. The reader gets a quick overview of your work even when just skimming the paper, and this could be a definite plus in a world where people have a lot to read,.
These are only three tips out of many, many more, but I believe these are very valuable. Whoever is interested in learning more, here’s the website that accompanied the course: http://writingajournalarticle.wordpress.com. Quite a lot of things to read, but it’s definitely worth it when a journal article is coming up.
All in all, I learned a lot in this course. With these things, it’s more about becoming aware of things than anything else – what are the conventions in my discipline? How do other authors structure their articles? And, most important, what can I learn from this and apply to my own work? So, I would definitely recommend to any PhD student to look for a course like this.