Saturday, February 2, 2008

Rewriting my review

I've been putting off working on the review paper I wrote last semester. After doing many other little things today, I finally re-read it with an eye for reorganizing it completely. Herb and I had a brief meeting to talk about it a few weeks ago, and he suggested the reorganization. I agree with his suggestions but I haven't yet figured out how to implement them.

Around the time I was born Herb wrote a very popular review. It is his most cited paper and he attributes its success to "giving people something to do." He structured the paper around essential questions in the field and to what extent they have been answered. Basically, he pointed out lots of opportunities for novel research. He thinks that my paper should be similarly structured for maximum impact.

In its current form, my paper is organized around topics. The difference between topics and questions is a subtle but important one. I need to rearrange my paper so that it focuses on answering the big questions in the field instead of just addressing different topics.

Herb also pointed out a major weakness in my writing: ending every paragraph with a citation. No one has ever told me this before, but when you end every paragraph with a citation it looks as though you aren't saying anything new because you are attributing the whole "thought" to someone else at the end. Most paragraphs should end with some original synthesis. So, when I rewrite my paper I will definitely pay attention to how I end my paragraphs.

I'm planning to send this paper to a smaller, relatively low-impact journal, but it's more widely read than Taxonomically Specific Journal where I originally intended to send it. This is also going to be my term paper for Herb's class so I've got to get it done by this semester (hopefully much sooner). I just hope I can get it published!

1 comment:

EcoGeoFemme said...

Hmm, that's really good advice about not ending with a citation. I've never thought of it or noticed it when I read papers.