Workshop: Workshop on tips for improving journal papers: Note from the trainer

Workshop on tips for improving journal papers: Note from the trainer

This write-up has been authored by the trainer, Gui Su. Through this write up, she summarizes the key takeaways of the 1 hour session on tips for improving journal papers. This was held for DXY, China. (DXY is a very popular forum for physicians in China)

Note from the trainer:

The Saturday was hot and humid, a typical summer day in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province in Central China. Neither the uncomfortable weather nor the early time on a Saturday morning quenched the enthusiasm of those graduate students and junior investigators. I was standing at the podium and looking at 150 attendees who were expecting solutions for their unpublished data and manuscripts. Their young faces reminded me the time when I was a graduate student in China and I was also struggling with a manuscript. Time flies and now I came back to China after studying and working in the University of Wisconsin Madison for 17 years. At that moment, I felt that I had so much to share with these young students about research and writing scientific manuscripts.


A reasonable research plan is one of the critical factors that determine whether the future scientific manuscript can be successfully published. I started my seminar by discussing how to prepare a reasonable research plan. In addition to time and money, I believe a good research direction, a novel hypothesis, and good research approaches should also be considered when preparing a research plan. Sufficient literature review is the key to a good research direction and a novel hypothesis. I illustrated several examples to explain how a bad research plan could adversely influence the quality of data and ultimately lead to the rejection of a manuscript.

The second part of my talk was focused on how to effectively write a manuscript. Everyone seems to have some general idea about what to write in each section. However, there are key things in each section that are frequently overlooked by inexperienced writers. Instead of writing each section of a manuscript in the order it appears in the manuscript, I suggest starting at the method and materials section since it is relatively easier to write that part than the rest of a manuscript. The most important principle to write an introduction is to dynamically connect background overview with the purpose of a study. For a result section, emphasizing novel findings in data and presenting data in a way to mostly facilitate the understanding of readers should always be kept in a writer’s mind. In a discussion, a writer should make every effort to avoid repeat results and introduction plainly and should include creative explanations for results.

By the end of my talk, the audience asked lots of questions about their research, particularly about experimental design. One hour seemed to pass so fast. There were still lots of raising hands among the audience when the next speaker had to start. It was an amazing experience for me to share my experience in research and writing with Chinese students and junior investigators.