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Suppose that a PhD student is writing a paper by themself. A person who is an expert in the area offers to read the paper and give feedback. The expert explicitly mentions he is fine with getting unpolished paper for feedback. When should the student send the draft for feedback. Specifically, is it better to get it relatively polished before sending it, or should I send it earlier? Or when it is completely finished? The expert is only going to read it and give advice once, so it's not possible to do multiple iterations.

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  • Is this the first time you're writing something for publication?
    – user133933
    Mar 22, 2021 at 17:31
  • No, I have published a few papers before. Mar 22, 2021 at 17:55
  • I would send a polished paper -- to the best of your ability. I've offered such help before. However, the student's level was way too low, so I said no after receiving the paper. Mar 23, 2021 at 9:44

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The answer is really "it depends".

What kind of feedback do you need? If you're worried about the overall structure and the correctness of the results, sooner is better, but don't make your reader struggle with fragmentary work. Make your best guesses, write a draft, and provide marginal questions ("do I need more detail here?", "should this section be omitted, or merged with an earlier one?").

If you're comfortable with your second or fourth draft and want just polishing, send the paper when you think you are nearly finished.

If you know the potential reader well enough you might ask what kind of feedback they are willing to provide.

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  • Also a good idea to ask how much time they're able to spend - it's always harder to read a very rough draft than something that's nearly ready to go out.
    – user133933
    Mar 22, 2021 at 18:25

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