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I'm nearing the end on a manuscript and will be submitting it to my advisor any-day for her feedback. She is a co-author. My question: Is it OK to ask my advisor to contribute more to the paper (other than just critiquing)? If so, how does one go about doing this without insulting their mentor/boss?

To be clear, the paper is in overall good shape. There are a few paragraphs that need some attention. But instead of her just critiquing the paper ("this paragraph needs more interpretation") or ("add more examples from the literature") (<- I'm paraphrasing ;), is it ok to ask her to contribute actual sentences and interpretation?

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    Did she contribute for the earlier stages of the research (even if just advice or suggestions)? – T. Verron Dec 18 '14 at 15:15
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    If you need to ask for this, why is she a coauthor? – Tobias Kildetoft Dec 18 '14 at 15:33
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    @TobiasKildetoft As has been mentioned on this site before, in some fields, the PI is listed as an author simply because they were the ones who found the money to do the research. – Mad Jack Dec 18 '14 at 15:58
  • How many people have worked on the paper? Not strictly relevant, but just curious. – Faheem Mitha Dec 18 '14 at 16:03
  • @FaheemMitha as fas as the actual paper itself is concerned, I have written it in it's entirety. However, others have contributed to experimental design, analysis, field work, etc. – SoilSciGuy Dec 18 '14 at 17:01
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Is it OK to ask my advisor to contribute more to the paper (other than just critiquing)?

Yes, I think so.

If so, how does one go about doing this without insulting their mentor/boss?

When I was in similar situations in the past, I asked my advisor specific questions about what it was that I needed help on, but I did not necessarily try to sugarcoat the request or anything like that. For instance, if a paragraph needed rewording, I would email my advisor something like "Paragraph Y seems a little wonky to me. While I work on Section X some more, can you come up with a better explanation for Paragraph Y?"

I found that the success rate of the above varied depending on how busy my advisor was. My advisor seemed to "get better" (from my perspective :) ) the more times I asked for specific help. Also, I wasn't afraid to speak up when my advisor offered general tips rather than the specific help/contribution I was after: I would reply and ask again. If on multiple iterations I did not get what I was looking for, I would piece together what they did give me and work with that. That's life.

As a side note, I personally found that trying to word emails etc. just so to avoid coming off as "insulting" etc. required too much effort on my part for little/no gain (you don't even really know if your "properly" worded emails come off the wrong way, so what's the point?). In the end, I came to the conclusion that my advisor and I were two adults working on a research project together. I like to think that our advisor/advisee relationship could be described as direct and respectful, and I think that should be the goal.

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