Shriya Deshmukh is a fifth-year MD-PhD student at McGill University. Her PhD research is in experimental medicine and centers on uncovering epigenetic mechanisms driving the development of pediatric high-grade gliomas and neurodevelopmental syndromes. Prior to medical school, Shriya completed a bachelor of science in neuroscience from the University of Toronto.
Articles remain the currency of scientific knowledge transfer. Done right, producing a scientific paper should reflect an iterative process of generating and engaging with data to derive insights central to research questions, as well as clearly communicating key findings to the scientific community. Engaging in a rigorous peer-review process should strengthen research quality. In this chapter, I share my observations on effectively developing projects to culminate successfully in scientific papers. It is especially important for MD-PhD students to learn how to efficiently translate their work into publications within the graduate timespan. I hope this chapter demystifies the process and helps budding physician-scientists embark on successful projects and papers!
Build Your Paper One Step at a Time
Writing a publication can be likened to building a house: the plans first need to be prepared, followed by laying the foundations, establishing service connections, constructing the framework for walls and floor, followed by finishing touches, and finally, renovations. Throughout, there needs to be effective communication and coordination between the invested parties (owner, architect, builders, etc.) to ensure that the final product is to everybody’s satisfaction.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Create an outline with an experimental plan early and update regularly.
Good organization is half the battle won when writing a paper.
Aim for clarity in the figures presented and corresponding text.
Communicate openly and clearly with your team to prevent interpersonal conflicts.
Edit, edit, and edit again!
At the beginning of graduate studies, you will want to establish a strong foundation in the subject of your project by performing a comprehensive review of the scientific literature. Do not neglect to read old papers that may not be available in a digital format and are consequently more difficult to acquire. Taking the time to understand the historical context of your project is important, and you may be surprised by the clinical insights and hypotheses in these papers that are relevant to your project. During this process, you may want to write a review article that will enable you to familiarize yourself with the research domain while gaining experience writing and publishing a paper.
2. Create an outline (early!)
Preparing the plans involves making a draft or outline of the proposed paper early in the process. This may seem impossible: How can you write an outline without knowing the results of your experiments? In fact, the process of writing a simple introduction and articulating central research questions, hypotheses, ...