Overcoming The “Freeze Effect” Part III

Matter your lightsaber size does not. How you use it will
–- Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Keep it simple for the reader; your own thoughts and ideas and statistics and theoretical ponderings can meander, but when you publish, simplicity and clarity always win out! Publishing an academic paper is simply not a junior high or high school essay test, where answers are memorized and expected to be regurgitated in a lined “blue book.”  Similar to Strunk and White (1979) [1918], your writing will prove most effective, when it is “used” efficiently!

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell
- Strunk and White, 1918

I will never forget the words of my graduate school mentor.  She wrote largely on a blank 4 x 6 index card, in all capital letters in black ink. She handed me the card in silence and told me to tape it to my computer; she then returned to working away at her own computer. I am quite certain she has never sat on her hands. The card read: 2) “LESS IS MORE.”

Stay tuned for Episode III: Using “The Force” for traditional peer review, Cureus differences are emerging…

 

Overcoming the “Freeze Effect” Part II

“Matter your lightsaber size does not. How you use it will”
–Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

There may be several possible interpretations of Yoda’s adage; likewise, there are several possible interpretations of everything you are writing or are about to write!

Consider the following interpretation so that we may apply the quote to publishing:

How you use it.  Craft your manuscript as you would have others craft a manuscript for you.  Your thoughts are incredibly powerful!  And negative or worry-thoughts often lead to avoidance behaviors.  Therefore, if you worry about the size or length of your paper before you begin, you will very likely not begin!

Tell your story and do so in a way that others will learn something and not be distracted by fluff.  Make sure the goals and aims/hypotheses are clear from the “get-go”; and remind yourself as you write that every single section of the paper is meant to support those initially detailed hypotheses.  If you lose track of your principal aims, then there is no way a reader or reviewer can keep track of them.

Think about your paper as a story.  Your manuscript IS telling a story…a story of those aims you so clearly outlined; a story with a beginning, middle and an end.  Draw in your reader the same way you were drawn to pursue those goals and aims in the first place!

Write your aims/hypotheses clearly at the beginning of each section. You can always delete them afterwards, but this will make it implicit to yourself why you are writing each section. This in turn builds confidence and confidence bolsters momentum. Forward momentum pretty much negates the “freeze effect”!

Keep reading… Episode II, Part 3

 

Let It Go: Overcoming the “Freeze Effect” Part I

“Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking cross the floor; put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out that door.” – Abominable Snow Monster, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

“You never will get where you’re going if you never get up on your feet.”  If you are planning to publish, then you are also planning to have others read your work. The only option, therefore, is to “LET IT GO.” (Use the coping/adaptive phrase that works for you; examples are: “Put one foot in front of the other,” “Just Do It,” “Baby Steps”). And Yoda adds insight:

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” – Yoda, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Allow the world to read your paper.  And yes, “world” includes reviewers of the journal to which you have submitted your manuscript; know that, there will likely be changes to make.

  • In the “traditional” peer review system, some people will think your ideas are great, some will be indifferent, others will disagree entirely with the rationale for and methods of your work, and others yet will tirelessly try to convince you that everything you wrote was a complete waste of time.  This system is getting a major overhaul with the Cureus peer review process in which reviewers can no longer “kill” a paper, but rather are incented to help the author publish their best work.  Why? Because reviewers are also rated.
  • If you can spark a debate, consider it a major feat!  Copernicus was fearful to publish his heliocentric theory for fear of criticism from the masses supporting Aristotelian physics and Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the universe.  Grateful we are that he let go of the fear to publish and allowed the world to debate and ultimately learn! Is that not the goal of an academician? Not only to learn but also to allow others to learn in the process.
  • And grateful we are that Cureus is providing a platform for research to be unleashed rapidly and globally, without the associated fear which causes many scientists to remain in “freeze” mode way too long.

Why spend so much time wondering in advance, and trying to “fix” in advance?  Find out what the reviewers have to say AFTER you submit.

Keep reading… Episode II, Part 2

Questions? Comments? Email: rachel.pollock@cureus.com

Journal Publishers Facing A Shake-Up

The economics of medical publishing are broken and the industry is about to enter a period of radical transformation. The drum is beating louder and louder for scientific journals published with publically funded tax dollars to be freely available to clinicians and patients alike. In most cases, authors of medical papers have no idea how much money is being made off their free labor and their effort to advance medicine while advancing their career. The jig is up.

“There is a widespread feeling that the journal publishers who have mediated this exchange for the past century or more are becoming an impediment to it.”

The final line of a recent article from The Economist sums things up best:

“A revolution, then, has begun. Technology permits it; researchers and politicians want it. If scientific publishers are not trembling in their boots, they should be.”

Read the entire post entitled: Brought to book; Academic journals face a radical shake-up.

Do or Do Not. There is No Try.

“When all is said and done, the processes of Cureus.com makes peer reviewed scientific publishing easier than ever. Therefore, get to work, publish your ideas and experiences, and change the world!”
– Adler, J.R., 2012

So, you want to publish a paper? I shall call upon the wisdom of the great Jedi-Master, Yoda, for “getting started.”

Yoda’s impregnated kernels of thought, spread across 6 “big screen” Episodes of Star Wars, 3 additional books, and approaching 3 decades of Cinematic terminology, are an ideal tool for shedding light on:

  • The goals and “feelings” of a new publisher (Episodes I and II).
  • The ups and downs inevitably experienced during the “present” system of peer review (Episode III).
  • The reality of an experienced publisher and utility in asking for help (Episode IV).
  • The overarching objectives of Cureus in “changing everything” (Episode V).

And seriously, who hasn’t tried to emulate Yoda’s voice at some point in his/her life (I am really hoping at least one reader nodded in agreement)?

“No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
– Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

Publish a paper AND change the world? Some might consider this a daunting task.  Alas, anything is possible.

Starting to Publish:

“Some physicians literally sit on their hands and data for a lifetime.”
– Adler, J.R., 2012

Step 1: GET OFF OF YOUR HANDS… and use them to type!
Some novice publishers become so focused on the end product, that they literally do nothing. Such “freeze” response is evolutionarily associated with the natural “fight or flight” survival instinct.  When “fight or flight” doesn’t seem like the best option, our autonomic nervous system plays “freeze” instead; we become “deer caught in the headlights” or “scared stiff.” When we’re facing a big time actual or perceived threat the “freeze response” might be the survival mechanism we choose as a final effort at self preservation.  Punching our mentors or collaborators (fight), or sprinting down the street in our pajamas (flight) doesn’t quite seem like the optimal course of action for the new publisher.

The following are a few examples of things that might cause a new publisher to sit and stare at the computer screen for hours, rather than getting those ideas out in the world where they belong!

There can be “grand scale concerns” including any of the following:

  • My paper will never be good enough to publish
  • I can’t write as well as X, Y, or Z, so why even try?
  • My statistics aren’t strong enough
  • I don’t have enough references
  • I’ll never get a tenured-track position at X University
  • X, Y, and Z already have 10 published papers, and I don’t have any

Notice all of the examples above are negative, all-or-nothing, or catastrophic thinking.  Words like “never” or “can’t” or “don’t,” particularly when they are self-targeted, are bound to create behaviors such as avoidance (including procrastination or designing a new paper or study). Or these can be “small scale concerns” which may include over-engagement in the minutiae (a different type of avoidance):

  • repeatedly performing the most sophisticated statistics possible
  • citing and reviewing every attainable source remotely relevant to the paper in the introduction
  • becoming over-analytical and self-critical of potential study limitations.

The bottom line is this:  You already conducted the study. Learn from your experiences and move forward. The limitations section grants you the opportunity to discuss the wisdom you have gained, grants an opportunity to explain what you have learned from the most recent study and how much this particular study will inform the future work of your own and others (and we will discuss the discussion section, too, in a later post).

For now, be humble and be willing to recognize where you might have been able to make your study stronger in some way.  But be grateful for this opportunity rather than approach it with dread.  No one wants to be stuck in the past.  No one wants to be “stuck” at anytime, anywhere, PERIOD! In the current peer review process, a reviewer will be plenty willing to thoroughly critique (OK, “criticize”) your entire paper for you (and yes, Yoda has some wisdom to impart about the “traditional” peer review process of a journal, too)!

These are YOUR innovative ideas, your creative design and there are no answers, even in the results section. There are only “findings” in the results section.  Allow your paper to lead to more questions, and insomuch, the forward movement and evolution of your research interests. Let it go!

“You will find only what you bring in.”
– Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

So, bring it in! Let the reviewers have at it. Be brave and press “send”…what’s the worst that can happen?

Stay tuned for Episode II: Let It Go: How to overcome the “freeze effect”

Questions? Comments?
Email: rachel.pollock@cureus.com