When I was a graduate student, I joined a research project in a plasma physics laboratory. I initially thought research was all about doing experiments and analyzing data. Slowly, it dawned on me that research involves many other aspects, but I struggled to understand how they fit together.
After my studies, I gravitated toward a career in scientific communication. I joined the AuthorAID team in 2011.
A couple of months ago, I was inspired to write an article to speak to my younger self: knowing what I do today, what would I say to the confused research scholar I once was?
This article—titled Ten Tips for Research Scholars Aiming for Their First Significant Publication—was recently published in the journal Science Editor.
Here are the ten tips:
- Leadership: Take the initiative to play a leading role in a project or an aspect of a project—something substantial enough to result in a publication.
- Teamwork: If you will be collaborating with others, you need to arrive at a consensus as regards the research questions, publication goals, and authorship—all should be addressed at an early stage of the project.
- Timeline: Use a planning tool such as a Gantt chart to map the stages of the research, and don't set unrealistic deadlines.
- Support: Look for collegial support and mentorship. Wellness support is also important to help you avoid or deal with issues such as burnout.
- Ethics: Understand the many dimensions of Responsible Conduct of Research and adhere to them as you do your research and write your paper.
- Reading: To carry out meaningful research, you should extensively read scientific papers (while being aware that it can take some work to understand them).
- Focus: Keep your research questions in clear view at all times as you go about your research and writing.
- Writing: Writing the paper should be an integral part of the research endeavor. Don't wait to complete your research before you start writing.
- Visuals: Tables and figures often punch above their weight in relation to the associated words and paragraphs in a scientific paper. Learn how to design them well.
- Peer review: Reviewers' comments can induce a variety of emotions, but keep calm and focus on how to act in response to the objective content of the comments.
In the Science Editor article, I describe each tip in more detail. I also cite resources for further reading. If you are a research scholar in a scientific discipline, perhaps the article might be useful to you. The full text is available on the Science Editor website.
Ravi Murugesan's first significant publication was in the Journal of Applied Physics. He is a member of the AuthorAID team and an INASP Associate.