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I'm doing a PhD in chemistry in a small group of 1 postdoc and 3 other PhDs.

When it comes to writing a manuscript, our advisor leaves for us only marginal part of the work to write such as formulas, derivations and appendices.

Is it common to have this kind of process in such a small group?

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    Across the world, when it comes to group dynamics and processes, there's nothing really common. Are you PhDs non-native English speakers at an early career stage? Your advisor might think that you're not yet ready to write the most important parts of a manuscript. Are you close to a deadline? Your advisor might think that there's not enough time left for you to write a decent manuscript. Is your advisor inexperienced or apprehensive? This can also explain such a behaviour. Jul 7, 2018 at 16:58
  • How "young" is the PI? In my experience this is usually the case in small groups with relatively new PIs.
    – user64845
    Jul 7, 2018 at 19:17
  • All members are non-english speakers. The advisor is very experienced and has maybe more papers than our ages summed.
    – rbw
    Jul 7, 2018 at 19:42
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    How is you english, and your colleagues' ? Can you write fluently, with close to perfect grammar and a style that not much different from that of an experienced native author? Some profs care about style, others just don't. Problem is, you don't just learn good style by practising. You need a good writing class. Your advisor should be happy to support that, by paying it if he has the money, or at least giving you half a day off per week to do the course.
    – Karl
    Jul 7, 2018 at 20:44

1 Answer 1

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There is no universal process for writing papers.

Some faculty members don't touch a manuscript until the student has written a draft. Others are intensively involved in the planning process before the paper writing process starts. Still others largely write most of the paper themselves. It really is a function of the individual advisor's tendencies.

However, I think the optimal use of everyone's time and expertise—and to improve the student's development, since the student will ultimately have to write her own papers someday, is to follow a strategy of "taking the training wheels off" over time. For a first paper, the advisor should be very intensely involved throughout the process of organizing and writing. As the student gains experience and learns to work more independently, less and less direct involvement and input from the advisor occurs—although some involvement at the planning and writing stages is best. For the last papers the student writes, she should be the primary driver of the process.

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