We're a little crazy, about science!

Day 152: Improving my writing


One of the outcomes of my recent meeting with my PI (my main one), is that I am going to be actively working on my writing. While I do this to improve my writing, this is far more informal than the writing I would be doing for a confrence or journal paper (both of which I’ve written). That isn’t to say that I cannot improve, there’s always room for improvement and I could use a LOT of improvement.

The task I was given was a biweekly critical review of a paper of my choosing. So for today I think I will go over what that means. I also think it’s important to talk a bit more about my research and what I will be reviewing (roughly). It’s also important to go over what exactly a critical review paper means in this context.

My first review is “due” this Monday, so I will be posting it here as well. A critical review works somewhat different from a paper. It’s short, in this case one page or less and includes a brief introduction and methods section which will take roughly two paragraphs. The last two paragraphs will be either something I found interesting about the paper (most likely the case for the first few at least), or things that I would do differently, expand on, or things the authors may have missed or overlooked.

Now that we know what the review paper will look like, let’s talk about my research. I’m working on spinal cord injury and understanding what that does to the spinal cord circuitry. I love this work, I really do. Did you know that since the early 80’s the average years of life after a spinal cord injury hasn’t improved? I want to change that and these review papers will help with that goal.

You may be wondering how this will help. By doing a biweekly review paper I will have the chance to learn the names and groups of people doing similar work. I will read about how they are trying to solve the problems, and more importantly it let’s me keep track of the state of the art in the field. It’s an ambitious project that was given to me, but learning how to write well is important when it comes to research.

Semi-unrelated, but since my surgery, I went into the lab yesterday and helped with an experiment. It turns out that a labmate was the volunteer for that session, which was unexpected, but I managed. I’m still in a little bit of pain, not taking pain meds or anything, but I’ll live. Today and tomorrow I’m going to reread my writing and edit it, first drafts are always awful (all my blog posts are first drafts, so take that as you will). Overall, it will need some work to be semi-polished for Monday I don’t expect it to be perfect, but I do expect to improve on my abilities over time.



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