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While writing an answer to that question, I realized I don't really have a good list of resources that could be useful to first-time authors, like MSc or PhD students who write their first paper. I often direct my own students to these two papers:

I also make sure that they read the journal's editorial policy and authors guidelines.

What are other sources of good information for students and first-time academic authors?

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    Some non-tangible resources are the student's advisor's feedback, and feedback and collaboration with other authors. Certainly, reading lots and lots of papers in his/her field will expose a student to the structure, tone, level of detail, and quality that he or she should be striving for. – Chris Gregg Aug 20 '13 at 10:40

10 Answers 10

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A book or paper on writing is a good introduction but can usually not solve everything. Reading a book does not mean you can reproduce what it teaches, particularly with writing since it is something that needs lots of practise. One problem is that writing is a question of both knowing how to structure the science but also a question of building and formulating the text, the latter being a language issue. So it is usually relatively easy to teach students how the technical side works and provide explanations for why. Teaching students how to be concise and precise is another question and without lots of practise it is quite difficult to get anywhere. During a thesis much of the language issues are ironed out by constant revisions sugested by the advisor. I also point out to all my students that writing is a life-long learning process and thatit is never to late to develop and change your writing.

However, I have some sources I fall back to:

Katz, M.J. From research to manuscript. A guide to scientific writing. Springer

Day, R.A. and Gastel, B., How to write and publish a scientific paper. Cambridge

The Purdue Online Writing Laboratory OWL is also very useful.

For language (English) I have (aside of Strunk & White) found

Glasman-Deal, H. Science research writing for non-native speakers of English

of use.

There are of course lots of books around but all are definitely not good.

A final gem is a short paper on abstracts

Landes, K., A scrutiny of the abstract. Bulletin Of The American Association Of Petroleum Geologists. 50 (9), 1992-1999.

Which provides an excellent description of the abstract.

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Specifically for mathematics, good resources are N. Higham's very comprehensive Handbook of writing for the mathematical sciences and (for non-native speakers) a nice booklet by J. Trzeciak, Writing mathematical papers in English.

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A nice article for writing your first mathematics paper is How to Write Your First Paper by Steven G. Krantz in the December 2007 Notices of the AMS.

  • Unfortunately, Krantz fails to separate the things dictated by common sense from the things dictated by the market forces and bureaucracy, which creates such an ugly impression of the publication process that one may prefer not to publish anything at all. I'm, probably, even more cynical than he but at least I distinguish between what comes from the God and what from the Devil... – fedja Aug 27 '13 at 11:54
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I wish I read this book before writing my first paper: The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking, & Problem Solving. It explains how to better organize and articulate ideas.

Also it is always worth re-reading On Writing Well.

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    +1 for On Writing Well! Although I've read every writing guide I could get my hands on, Zinnser's excellent book remains my favorite for inspiration and guidance. – J. Zimmerman Aug 21 '13 at 0:00
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A blog entry, written by Terence Tao, specific for mathematics but with some points that can be used in other scientific branches:

On writing

Another reference, by Paul Halmos,

How to write mathematics

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Computer Science

For CS, there's a pretty well-written book that addresses the art of writing for a CS conference/journal.

Writing For Computer Science

Justin Zobel

I'm reading through it now, and its really an eye-opener for me - as it quotes examples from actual published papers to illustrate its points, which are quite succinct and easy to incorporate once you've read the book! I would enthusiastically recommend it to any CS grad student!

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Daryl Bem has a short, accessible piece on writing articles (in psychology). He gives concrete examples of good and bad choices in writing, often using the paper itself to illustrate his points.

Writing the Empirical Journal Article

Daryl Bem

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A resource for writing a paper in natural sciences can be

Scientific Writing: My Approach and Irreverent Opinions

Mark Yeager

It has several good resources listed in the bibliography, which I haven't gone through but looks promising!

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How to write an academic paper for the first time?

By reading different papers in your field. Pick one good paper which you know very well, Look how the authors organised their ideas into set of pages. How the contribution flows from one section to another in the paper.

Once you are about to write your first paper, try to list the key messages (i.e. contribution) you want to deliver. Start by writing the key messages as sections in your paper. Fill-in these sections. Read it over and over and ask yourself: is this easily understandable to the reader? should I add additional sections/subsections? can I better organize the paper?

Give yourself one or two days break and then ask yourself the same questions. Hand it to your supervisor. Let him/her comment on it and start again the cycle.

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Your best start is probably either A Manual for Writers or The Elements of Style.

I regularly look into those books. Either to refresh my knowledge or just for the pleasure of reading The Elements of Style.

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    I forgot to mention Clarity in Technical Reporting, which is freely available. Although it is already quite old and was written for a different research area, it is worth reading. I tend to give a copy of it to all my students before they start writing their theses. – rochus Sep 2 '13 at 9:46

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