Paper Review: Kallestinova (2011). How to write your first research paper

· β˜• 5 min read · ✍️ Hoontaek Lee
  • #2020
  • #Paper Review
  • #Research
  • Intro

    Kallestinova E. D. (2011). How to write your first research paper. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 84(3), 181–190.

    Confused by now with encountering the start of a new research, I read this paper to seek for avenues. The author, Elena D. Kallestinova, provided some pragmatic rules with the relevant explanation. Rather than procastinating, it might be more helpful for my writing to dive directly into my data, models, and codes. However, I believe that keeping advices from this paper in mind would also guide me to sifting my ideas and finishing the draft.

    Create regular time blocks for writing

    • Writing sessions (writing exercises) are essential to be a productive author
    • Arrange 1- to 2-hour blocks in your daily work schedule as non-cancellable appointments
    • For many people, mornings are more productive (+ one can feel a sense of accomplishment during the rest of the day)

    Create a detailed outline

    • An outline will form a structure of your paper; it will help generate ideas and formulate hypotheses.

      1. What is the topic of my paper?

      2. Why is this topic important?

      3. How could I formulate my hypothesis?

      4. What are my results (include visuals)?

      5. What is my major finding?

      • Introduction
        1. Why is your research important?
        2. What is known about the topic?
        3. What are your hypotheses?
        4. What are your objectives?
      • Materials and Methods
        1. What materials did you use?
        2. Who were the subjects of your study?
        3. What was the design of your research?
        4. What procedure did you follow?
      • Results
        1. What are your most significant results?
        2. What are your supporting results?
      • Discussion and Conclusions
        1. What are the studie’s major findings?
        2. What is the significance/implication of the results?
    • After setting an outline, discuss the ideas with your colleagues and mentor: Getting feedback during early stages of your draft can save a lot of time.

    • Have a list of journal priorities: For resubmitting quickly.

    M&R: describe concisely

    • When you create the first draft, do not edit it: succumbing to the temptation of choosing a better word will slow down the progress.

    Methods and materials

    • If possible, you had better provide the literature reference in which the same methodology is described well.
      • Ex) Stem cells were isolated, according to Johnson et al. (2020)
    • Maintain the same voice (active/passive) throughout a paragraph, or the malpractice will distract the readers.
    • You should ask as much feedbacks from your colleagues as possible.


    • Write objectively, orderly, and logically: If people are interested in your paper, they are interested in your results.
    • Write selectively in order to provide the essential points to the readers
    • Distinguish your results from your results: Should not repeat the data, but rather highlight the most important point.
    • Do not clutter your draft with wordiness (or verbosity): Beware of Adverbial intensifiers (clearly, quite, basically, really, and so forth) and nominalizations (provide an argument –> argue).

    Introduction: spotlight the novelty of the work

    • Re-read your Methods and Results and adjust your outline to match your research focus

      • Move 1. Establish a research territory
        • Show that the field of study is important, cental, interesting, and problematic.
        • Review the previous studies
      • Move 2. Find a niche
        • Indicate a gap or extend the previous knowledge
      • Move 3. Occupy the niche
        • State purposes of your study
        • List research questions or hypotheses
        • Announce principle findings
        • State the value of your study
        • Indicate the structure of your paper
    • Be straightforward to interest readers.

    Discussion: in a humble, but convincing tone

    • The purpose is

      • to place your findings in the research context
      • to explain in the meaning and importance of the findings, without appearing arrogant, condescending, or patronizing.
      • Move 1. major findings
        • State the study’s major findings
        • Explain the meaning and importance of your finding
        • Consider alternative explanations of the findings
      • Move 2. Research context
        • Compare and contrast your findings with those of other published results
        • Explain any unexpected findings and discrepancies
        • State the limitations, weaknesses, and assumptions of your study
      • Move 3. Closing the paper
        • Summarize the answers to the research questions
        • Indicate the importance of the work by stating applications, recommendations, and implications
    • Move 1, 2 mirror the structure of introduction: general to specific (Introduction) vs. specific to general (discussion)

    • How to start?

      • State major findings (our findings demonstrate…, in this study, we have shown that…, our results suggest…, and so forth)
      • Be proactive by commenting on the alternative explanations: this will present you as a thoughtful and considerate scientist.
    • Specify the scope of the study, acknowledge the limitations, but try to suggest feasible explanations.

    • Finish with a concluding paragraph (take-home message) if the journal does not demand a conclusion section.


    • Do not stop: the first drafts are usually a mess
    • Macrostructure (check the outline) and microstructure (individual words and grammar)
    • Do not revise at once: c. five pages at a time and take a break
    • Read the paper aloud: find where you stumble
    • Know your idiosyncrasies: focus on your common errors
    • Share your writing: get as much feedbacks as possible, even from non-specialists in your field
    • Set a deadline: creating 5 to 7 drafts is a norm in the sciences, but you may be hard to stop revising

    Further readings

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    Hoontaek Lee
    Hoontaek Lee
    Tree-Forest-Climate Researcher

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