When I finally published 3 research papers they asked:
“How did you go about it?”
“Could you teach me how to write a paper?”
The only answer I have is:
START SOMEWHERE AND DONT GIVE UP!
I don’t have a Ph.D. or even a commendable MSc.
But I had research projects that I had helped complete. There was the data, and no one had time to write it into a paper. I remembered the efforts of the students who had done the research and the value of the results itself and decided: The world needs to know about this. I asked for permission to write a paper and it was granted. No one probably trusted me to do it. But I loved writing and wanted to try scientific writing.
Not knowing exactly where to start, and not having anyone to guide me, I joined a course on Coursera on “How to write and publish a scientific paper”. Then I picked up a second hand APA Publication Manual- and read it twice through.
Then I started to write paper 1. Once it was done, I was pleased with myself and sent it to my guide (A). I never got a reply. I sent it again, estimating the time that was polite to resend the mail. I still didn’t get a reply. I sent it to an Indian journal, which rejected it straight.
Then I gave up.
With a spark of enthusiasm, I started on paper 2. Once completed, I sent it to another set of guides (B and C). It sat in one of their inboxes for 8 months- despite monthly reminders. The other one never saw it. I took the courage to ask if I could send it to a journal anyway- they agreed.
The first time it got rejected after 4 months. The reviewers left a few friendly comments though, which were encouraging. After picking up my reigns and making corrections, I sent it again. This time it came back with questions and queries 10 pages long; my answers to them were 15 pages long. I did it anyway. But it took a lot of courage.
And then it got rejected.
In the meanwhile, I was working on paper 3. I had little hopes that it would get published since it was guide A again. But I wrote it because I was learning so much through writing papers. Besides, I felt that I was getting better at this. It did not meet the scientific requirements of the first journal I sent it to and was rejected.
While browsing the internet, I came across a journal which looked compatible with paper 2. There was nothing to lose and I decided to give it one last shot. It came back (after a few months) with a new set of queries and corrections. I had done it before and been disappointed, I really did not want the process repeated. But I did, I’m not sure what made me- maybe it was all the effort and time spent on the paper already. I pushed myself, gathered all my self-will and replied.
It got accepted, with minor revisions and then published- 2 years after I had written it.
That gave me enough momentum to send paper 3 to a pretty good journal. I didn’t wait for the guide or the student who said she couldn’t find time for 3 months to sign and scan the author agreement. They send it after 3 months with pages and pages of corrections. Once I made the corrections I sent it back. This went back and forth 4 times before it was accepted.
By now 3 years had passed since I started writing my first paper.
The fourth paper I wrote got accepted immediately with minor revisions, to one of the best journals in my field.
What did I learn from my experience?
- I learned to trust my skills and abilities. I always felt before that my work wasn’t good enough and depended on others for validation. I wasted a lot of time in that, and realize now that I did not need it.
- I learned that no one has to teach you– you just need the motivation to learn. There are so many resources available which are free and so helpful.
- I learned to be patient. I learned not to check the journal updates every day. I learned to get on with life while waiting.
- I learned that hard work pays off– This is to all my colleagues who frowned when I didn’t join in the midday gossip sessions and typed away.
- I learned not to back down and give up. Your efforts are worth the results, it is just a matter of time.
- If you feel discouraged- Treat yourself with chocolate ( or pizza or whatever you like), pick yourself back up and give it just one last try.
- It’s never too late to learn. I thought I was well past my time of learning, but that is never true.
- Learning never ends. I thought once I had written 3 papers, I would be the master of writing. Nothing could be further from the truth! I am still learning with every sentence I write. I am currently doing this amazing course called “Writing in the Sciences.” I have so much left to learn!
And guess what- currently I’m writing paper 5 and 6, and I’m not going to stop!