Writing Techniques


Hello all

I'm just wondering what is the best way of writing more efficiently...do you

1. Search for articles, then read all of them, then only start writing
2. Search, Read, Write at the same time

Do you format your writing nicely whilst you are writing? Do you write reference at the same time whist you are writing? Or do you leave all these after you have finish the main writing?

I often find formatting and writing reference during writing is interrupting the process, not sure if it's good to leave it at last minute.

Please share your experience!


From my own bitter experience:

Read an article, Copy paste the reference, write a short description, method used, main results. Put the article in a category, sometimes I build comparative tables of studies on the same topic. Put articles with similar topics together. I found Notebook from Office very useful for that. Spend more time on important articles that you think they might be the base for something similar you want to do, or skim through articles that you are only interested in taking a specific information (but write down the reference).

After you have read on a specific topic and you think you covered it, re-visit your short notes and write as much as you know on the topic. Leave it aside, read on the next topic. In the beginning you might think that organising takes time , but it makes your life easier when it comes to writing. All information needs to be easily accessible and in the correct place. Keep it tidy, you will need to re-visit everyhting after a long time, you need to be able to find your way around.

Don't: read without keeping notes, read without an aim. Don't spend time on formatting while writing.



That's very helpful, I absolutely agreed with you. I tend to read lots then start designing experiment, which I always forgotten which bits of information are from which papers- will take your advice, don't read without an aim!

I'm just wondering what is this? "Notebook from Office"- is that part of Microsoft office?


Hi, the notebook thing in office is called 'onenote'. If you have a full version of office 2007 or 2010 then it should also have onenote. It's very easy to use and I've found it a great way of organising notes on pretty much everything. In fact I very rarely make notes on paper anymore, mainly because they are often indecipherable and have a tendency to get buried on my desk!

With regards to reading and writing I have a similar approach where I aim to read a selection of papers on that topic and then write as much as I can about it before doing the next one. Then I go through and edit what I wrote before so it is more coherent and to link the different sections together. I would also recommend referencing as you go otherwise it can get confusing later on, especially if you have more than one citation for a certain author in the same year and forget which is which.


It is part of Microsoft Office, and it has folders, in every folder you can create as many subsections you want and in each subsection create as many word documents you want. You may attach pdfs, tables, images. Very good to start literature review.
So, this is how I go back to what I ve read. Otherwise it is very difficult to summarise.

When I want to be more specific I open an excel sheet, so one column Author, Design Experiment, Monitoring Technique, Outcomes etc
And put all the studies and have an overview and I can critically review them, so I can say, Author X and Y, and Z had a bigger sample and agree on that, while Author Z found something else but the different result can be attributed to that difference (different method for example).

Good luck :). You may even include the tables in the Appendix.


I can't comment on the writing notes as you go except to say 'do it' and I wish I had done it more - talk about making things harder than they needed to be :$. However I did keep all my references up to date. I think that's vital and can save you hours in the long term. Remember if you can't find the source for a reference or a quote you will have to drop it and that can be really annoying, not to mention painful.


[quote]Quote From pixie:

Hi, the notebook thing in office is called 'onenote'.

Pixie is right. :)


thanks folks, i found the notebook, never knew there is such thing! it's really good!

I will try to get myself organised as you guys suggested, hope it's too note late :-S


What is the difference between using One Note and Microsoft Word?


Quote From chococake:

What is the difference between using One Note and Microsoft Word?

Nothing really, apart from keeping lots of word documents organised under one category, just google it for images to see the interface.


I'd strongly recommend using either EndNote or Refworks from the start. I used Refworks, and made folders in that, where I could export and drop relevant Literature. You can save it in such a way that it allows you to see the abstracts immediately. It saves hours and hours of time,and also makes you focus on separating your work out into its component parts. My sup had never used it,and couldn't believe what a difference it makes - and he's been a Prof for 20 years! It also means that you can write a chunk, then go into Refworks and put all the references in, in just one hit.

However, it only works properly for journal papers. Books can be a problem. They have to be put in manually.

As for formatting, you don't need to make a whole lot of effort if you create a format style in Word from the start, and just click on whether this is Heading 1 type or Body text or whatever as you write.