After a career in the industry, I started to work in research as a graduate student/research assistant, and I am learning to adjust my working and thinking style. That process is a little painful, but I also enjoy broadening my perspective. I am genuinely thankful to work in a great team with bright and friendly people. Everyone is younger than me, including the Head of the department. I can imagine writing a dissertation someday if I find an interesting topic. The thing that puzzles me most is the process of writing papers. My Head of the department and two colleagues that have more experience seem to be especially good at it. While I seem to be good (or very good? I get good feedback.) at writing sections of papers that I get assigned, the initial idea-finding and structuring work elude me completely. I listen to these guys talking about paper structures on topics I am familiar with, and it is as if they speak in another language. So I decided to play on "easy mode" and structure a paper that I had planned to be the lead author on in the classical approach, following the steps:
- This is the problem.
- This is how I show it's a problem.
- This is how I solve the problem.
- This is how I show that I solved the problem.
And be done with it. So I called a meeting with my colleagues and the Head of the department and presented it (poorly). In the same session, my experienced colleague presented his paper idea and had already picked a conference with a date and deadline and a Call for Papers. And not only that. The Head of the department went off and looked for stories to tell around my topic and how to use it in connection with historical data that we got and how that would distinguish us in the eyes of reviewers and that it would be best to present practical, applicable research results to go with it. Now he is much better at this game than I (and everyone else in the room), and his advice is excellent. But I also feel pretty overwhelmed and discouraged. I intended to keep it simple and not overextend myself on my first try, and he raised the bar and expectations by a factor of three. I bet he didn't even notice because it comes to him as quickly as breathing.
My wife, who is also a professor, says I should not give up and not be discouraged.
So I want to know:
- How do I learn that way of thinking?
- What are the questions I need to ask myself?
- Are there checklists or so online?
- How can I avoid burning out on my first paper?
- What do I miss?