“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

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