"I feel privileged to be privy to your unpublished cutting-edge research."
Meet Sunaina Singh, PhD holder, published author, and passionate communicator. After her graduation in crop science from Punjab Agricultural University, India, Sunaina went on to pursue a Master’s degree in plant genetic resources at the Indian Agricultural Institute, New Delhi, where she analyzed the genetic diversity of Indian mango germplasm using molecular markers for her Master’s thesis. She then followed up her work with a PhD to delve deeper into the geographic and genetic differentiation of this popular fruit tree.
Can you tell us how you decided to enter the field of academic publishing?
I have been on the editorial boards of school and college magazines. In addition, in the course of my academic journey, I often helped my fellow students in editing their papers and theses. Etymology and taxonomy fascinate me, and at some point, I realized that wrongly spelled taxa bothered me as much as misspelled words did! My love for editing took root around then, I guess!
When deciding on my career after my PhD, I dabbled in postdoctoral research and teaching. I then got married and relocated to a new city. However, as I applied for research positions in Mumbai, I felt that my true calling was somewhere else. My journey with Editage, Cactus Communications, reinforced the fact that I wanted a career that was “away from the bench,” so to speak.
You are part of Life Sciences team at Editage. How has this experience influenced your approach towards writing, editing, and publishing a manuscript?
My association with Editage began as a full-time editor following which I continued my association with the company as a freelance academic editor. During my 1 year as an in-house editor and almost 2 years as a freelance editor with the Life Sciences team, I have learnt a lot about maintaining consistency, using correct or preferred scientific representation, and aspects that peer reviewers criticize or commend in a manuscript.
You are a published author. Based on your own experience, what should an author focus on in order to write a good/well-structured manuscript?
A good manuscript is crisp and conveys the message without beating about the bush. It should engage the reader easily. According to acclaimed science writer Carl Zimmer, “You should be able to state your story in ten words or less. If you can’t, you don’t know what you’re writing about yet.” When setting out to write an article, think critically. Ask the right questions, figure out how to answer them, and then do your best at trying to communicate them clearly. The introduction should provide a road map for the journey the reader will embark on, and the end of the story should look towards the future. In addition to coherent, well-flowing text, clear images and tables that capture the essence of the research are pivotal.
As an author, how did you go about selecting journals for the papers you published? Could you provide any journal selection tips for our authors?
I got my papers published while I was still a student. I have to admit that I even experienced rejection by some very high-impact journals. However, with a lot of encouragement and guidance from my thesis advisor and co-authors, I pursued the submission process diligently, and my papers were eventually accepted in journals in which my study was more relevant. I feel that it is important to keep in touch with trends that journals are following. In the current age of social networking, it is a good idea to track updates of journals via platforms like Twitter.
Would you like to share any memorable experience you’ve had with a client?
The first time a client got back to me informing me that he was very happy with my editing and that the manuscript I edited for him had been accepted for publication in a journal of his choice, I felt truly honored and valued. It is an immense delight to have clients specifically request my services.
How do you spend your time when you’re not helping authors get published? You resume mentions teaching. That sounds interesting. Tell us something about that.
Yes, I briefly taught at Mumbai University in 2010. I conducted lectures in Molecular Biology for postgraduate students of Life Sciences. However, even before that, I was passionate about teaching and guiding students while I was pursuing my PhD. I was also involved in a training program “DNA Fingerprinting and Conserving Crop Germplasm” conducted at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, New Delhi, wherein I took practical classes to demonstrate laboratory skills.
My other interests include reading and gardening. I love word puzzles and crosswords. Although my husband’s profession is altogether different, he shares my passion for words. In fact, we often lock horns on matters that are lexical and syntactical!
A few words for our clients…
I feel privileged to be privy to your unpublished cutting-edge research. When editing your manuscripts, I try to enhance them to the best of my ability, because I know that the successful communication of your valuable findings is the best reward for your conscientious, painstaking research. I congratulate you on the significant contribution you are making to life science research.
I would like to mention that I often come across hackneyed narrative and clichéd phrases in the papers I edit. Exposure to good scientific writing can help avoid this and provide opportunities to pick up diverse ways of expressing and discussing your findings. For this, I recommend reading not only journals pertaining to your field but also science magazines for the general public, and anthologies and compendia like The Best American Science Writing series. Consider including books by good science writers like Bill Bryson, David Quammen, and Richard Dawkins as leisure reading. Incorporating regular reading in your routine will strengthen your writing skills.
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