How to write a research paper

Tips on how to write a paper for an academic journal

A. Substance

  1. 1. Beware of the “straw man” argument
  2. 2. Never say, “No one has ever looked at this, so I did…”
  3. 3. Never say, “this is interesting”
  4. 4. Never talk at the level of methods in your introduction (e.g., variables, measures, factors)
  5. 5. Do not write papers for academics; better to write for your grandmother
  6. 6. Introductions are the hardest to write: inverted triangle model: funnel
  7. 7. Your study should be totally motivated from your introduction
  8. 8. Avoid using the expression, “Research has found” or “studies have shown” (if you delete this, the sentence sounds much better)

B. Style

  1. 1. It is a fallacy that you should leave some obvious things wrong or incomplete in the paper so as to give the reviewer/reader something to criticize
  2. 2. Most people accept or reject a paper in the first 5 pages and then look for evidence in a confirmatory manner
  3. 3. Use active voice!
  4. 4. Edit! Edit! Edit! (e.g., cut all phrases such as, “in order to”; cut all boilerplate sentences (e.g., “in today’s society”)

C. Chapter-writing

  1. 1. Seize most opportunities to write chapters (let profs know you are happy to do most of work/editing/lit review, etc.)
  2. 2. In general, do not write about details of studies/empirical work
  3. 3. Develop a framework, model and write around that model

D. Submissions

  1. 1. Theory or empirical?
  2. 2. Premier or specialized?

E. Responding to:

  1. 1. Out and out rejections
  2. 2. Discouraging revise and resubmits
  3. 3. Encouraging revise and resubmits

F. Action items for you to take now

  1. 1. Write down every idea you have in a logbook or journal
  2. 2. Write every paper with the intention/expectation it will be published
  3. 3. Ask other people to read and comment upon your work (in return, you should do the same)
  4. 4. When you ask someone to read/comment or they ask you, ask for the date at which it will be no longer useful for them/you
  5. 5. Think in terms of always having 1 paper under review at all times
  6. 6. Think in terms of always working on at least 1 empirical (data) paper and at least one theory/conceptual paper at all times