Sunday, December 19, 2010

The most difficult stage of the writing process: what to include?

here are many things I love about being a scientist—doing research, whether it be in the field or the laboratory is just plain fun. Processing the data after gathering it can also be much fun as it is transformed into useful information and patterns start to emerge. However, my least favourite part of any research project is deciding what parts to share with the world in the form of a published paper. Why? Because I suffer from two conflicting tendencies—on the one hand I suffer from Too Much Information Syndrome, where I want to share with the reader *everything* I tried in the course of research and painstaking details about the manner in which some of the avenues of investigation failed to work and exactly why others were more effective. But on the other hand, I also suffer from the tendency to want to cut things too short—to neglect to mention the background information that I understand which is crucial for really grasping what it is that I have done and why it is significant. Somewhere between these two extremes lies the happy middle ground that leads to a published paper. Once I've managed to get past that somewhat daunting decision of what information to include, and what to leave out, the rest of the paper writing becomes a joy once again. It can be fun to craft the perfect sentence which conveys, in the most eloquent manner, the complex concepts that underpin the investigation. I enjoy the editing and revision portion of the process nearly as much as the data-gathering. Therefore, wish me luck as I go through all of the data generated (and still being generated) in my (nearly) 1.5 years as a post-doc (final experiment to be analyzed for the first time on Monday and Tuesday!) and try to determine what parts to share with the world, so that I may move on to the more fun parts of transforming the first draft of the prose into eloquence.

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