I am a PhD student works in theory of computer science. I am worried about the timing, I have taken in writing a one paper.In last semester, I have few ideas, I told those idea to my supervisor then he suggested me to write the paper. I have spent almost six months on writing this paper which involves correcting the solutions, idea's etc multiple times. In short I have spent one year on a problem( including identification and solving ). I am worried about the time it take to write a paper. I am wondering, Is it possible to write a research paper in a less time or it comes with experience. Please suggest some idea in order to save the time in the writing phase. I have asked my supervisor about this, he told me to be organised and plan the things in a better way. He also suggested me to write the things in flow means whenever start writing a paper write a page at one time.

I have tried few things on my own, whenever I write I keep a top researcher's paper infront of me and see how they phrase the sentence's.

Note that this was my first time, when i have written a paper completely.

Question : Advice on writing a research paper in a less time

  • 14
    Hmmm. You have just learned to swim and are wondering why you aren't swimming like an Olympic athlete yet. Relax. Practice. OTOH, some things just take time - especially the research behind the paper.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 13:04
  • 1
    Are you talking about the time to write the paper or the time to get the research results you want to put in the paper? How long did it take you after the one year identification and solving to actually write the paper?
    – lalala
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 14:07

5 Answers 5


I think this question is highly dependent on your personal writing and working style. I can give some suggestions, but some of them will not be a good fit for some people, and I may not list many suggestions that work well for others simply because they do not work for me (or have not occured to me).

  1. You may not need to write one paper faster if you can work on multiple papers concurrently. If you start four projects and it takes you a year to write a paper for each project, then you are releasing a paper on average every three months even if in practice all four papers took a year. This works especially well when you have coauthors since there can be a lot of time spent waiting for feedback or work to be done by others, which you can spend working on another paper.

  2. One of the smartest and most prolific people I know has been rumored to tell his graduate students "just write it". I take this to mean "get a rough draft on paper quickly even if it is an ugly rough draft." Even if you have a lot of editing to do, things will become easier going from a draft rather than a blank page.

  3. Time off can be just as important as time on. The mind is a truly remarkable thing, and in my experience, it works on a multitude of problems subconsciously. After I write an outline or a rough draft of a section or a paper, I don't try to edit and polish it immediately. Instead, it can be better to set the project down for a few weeks and work on other things or get caught up in your every day life. If one returns to a paper with fresh eyes, they are going to do a lot more quality work in less time than if they try to think, write, and edit all in a short time span.

  4. Find a place to work that works for you. Everyone is different here. Some people need absolute silence to the point where they wear earplugs in a quiet space. Personally, I thrive in relatively loud, chaotic places such as busy coffee shops. I can get into the groove much easier there than say a library or my office, so I use this when I am trying to write.

These are the only tips I can think of right now. If I think of any other tips, I may add to this list later.

  • 3
    This may or may not be helpful, but I apply #2 as my software development technique and it's super effective. Can well imagine it would work for writing prose. Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 4:59

I think there is a strategy here:

Please suggest some idea in order to save the time in the writing phase. I have asked my supervisor about this, he told me to be organised and plan the things in a better way. He also suggested me to write the things in flow means whenever start writing a paper write a page at one time.

Don't divide the project into a "do the work" phase and a "writing phase". While you are solving your problem, write about it a little bit every day. That will both clarify the work and provide a draft of the final paper.

Consider looking at the book Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day. It discusses that writing strategy and others and may help you figure out what works best for you.

(I know I'm not supposed to use this forum to advertise my wife's book, and this answer may be deleted by the moderators, but the book is inexpensive and it might be just what you need so I will take the chance.)

  • Plus, it is a good book with solid advice, so on topic.
    – ako
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 22:38
  • Adding this, Writing Science by Joshua Schimel is also very critical. Organizing your time for article becomes easier after you comprehend the key points of every section and overall flow of an academic paper.
    – user91300
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 19:08

Use your inbuilt and forgotten ability to explain your topic

Most of us find it very easy to tell our colleagues about our work, if it is in an informal short-notice environment. Bump into someone getting coffee, and if they say, "What are you up to?", and you will likely instantly respond with, "Oh, you know that X happens? Well, we've found out why. It's because Y!".

If they enquire, "What makes you so sure?", you will say, "We got some Z, and did A, B and C, and found D. This means E. So then we did ... etc."

Typically they will say, "OK I suppose I believe it, but couldn't it still be P or Q?" And you would reply, "Yes, but P isn't likely because ..., and Q probably contributes only in a small way because of ...".

I am a Professor of Cardiology, so this is how it goes in Medicine, but it is likely to be similar in all academic writing.

Somehow, though, when we come to writing it down we are paralysed

Beat this paralysis by actually doing the interaction described above. Or even just imagining it. That's the main thrust of the paper. Once you have that in your head, set about the paper like this:

1. Write the Abstract first

In fact write the last line of the Abstract's Conclusion first

In situation W, X is largely caused by Y. Then precede this with whatever else your paper concludes.

Then write the Abstract's Intro

X, commonly found in W, is important because .... Its cause has been unclear. In this study we tested whether X is caused by Y, Y2, Y3 ..., using ....methods.

Then write the rest of the Abstract

All the key methods and results. Within the word limit (e.g. 250 words total for Abstract). You will come up with lots of stuff that doesn't fit. Don't worry: push them down to the end of the document because they will go into the main Results section.

2. Write the Results, and any associated Figures/Tables, next

Go through the Abstract's Results, and each statement you wrote there, write in fuller detail here, bringing in all the things that you didn't have space for.

3. Now write the Intro/Background of the paper

Only start writing it now, not before, otherwise you will fill it with general stuff about your topic. If you only write it now, you will focus it much better on "Why we are bothering to do this research." You don't have to review the whole topic. Only talk about the problems that you will solve in this paper.

4. Now write the Discussion of the paper

Keep it short. It won't end up short, but if you always try to keep it short, you will help prevent bloat.

In this study we found 1, 2, 3.

Then a section on finding 1. If you differ from other workers in your results, speculate on why. Ditto for 2 and 3.

Then discuss any implications for practical use.

Next, the Study Limitations section of the Discussion

What would people (puny ignorant fools!) immediately think was wrong with your reasoning? Put those ideas here, and then say why those doubts are unfounded. Then include any genuine weaknesses you can think of.

Finally, the Discussion's Conclusion

Reiterate the Abstract's conclusion, perhaps allowing yourself more words. In the Abstract, your conclusion had to seem like a valid conclusion from the information you presented in the Abstract itself. In the Discussion Conclusion, you can now draw upon all the results and all the reasoning in the Discussion, so you might be able to be more specific.


You now have your first draft.


Find someone who has 10 minutes to spare. I suggest reading out the paper to them, watching their expression on their face. When they look puzzled, make a note on the paper. Do not give an on-the-spot explanation. You won't be there to do that when Reviewers or ultimate Readers of the paper are going through this experience.

If they become totally confused and disinterested at any stage, abandon the reading at that point. Otherwise continue reading to the bitter end.

Now go away and edit the paper to avoid that person being puzzled at those points.

Come back and try on the same person or different people. You need to (start with!) a lot of friends. Don't worry, you can do the same favour for them in return.

When you have got the paper to a stage which allows it to be read without causing bemusement/crying on behalf of the listener, try giving it on paper to people. Again, don't ask them to send written comments back. Watch them while they read it.

Check their understanding by taking the paper away from them and asking them to describe what it said. Don't give them hints.


Once people seem to be able to read it and understand it, you are done! Time to submit, and let the Journal's Reviewers read it and send their thoughts.


First, check how your fellow phd students are performing. Writing one paper per year is likely a decent pace. Second, don't work in isolation, share intermediate results. With your supervisor obviously, but also to people you work with or could potentially work with. Not everyone will give you feedback immediately, but research drafts don't go straight to the bin either. Third, you need to come up with some deadline, when you should send your paper for publication. If you're not sure how to do this yourself, your supervisor will help you, just let them know that you have something that you want to publish.


In addition to the other advice offered, as far as organization, your advisor may have been talking about creating an annotated bibliography and outlining.

For each of your sources and studies, list the citation reference at the top, a 1-2 sentence evaluation of whether the source is valuable or not and why, then, list all the quotes which you found relevant. (Quotes are not required, but they make copying, pasting, and citing source information very easy.)

From that, (after you have created your general idea for a thesis) you can create an outline based on your evidence and fill in opening, closing, and evaluative sentences around each of your findings/points/evidence.

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