Prof. Dr. Thomas Breyer-Mayländer told me once (he was my second supervisor for my masters): the last 5 to 10% of a project can take as much time/effort than the previous 90 to 95%. In each project that I have been involved, since I heard this comment, I remember his wise words. The last fine DETAILS make the difference on a final product, and those are time demanding. Never sub-estimate the last 5-10% of your work with the fine details.
Academic writing is not an exception from the 5-10% rule. Perhaps due to my lack of experience, and therefore of understanding, but the last 5% of my articles have been really time demanding (and a lot of work). I hope to improve with the time, specially because I notice that I can start working with that last 5% in earlier phases of the writing. If I start early then, I hope, the last 5% should be smoother.
Thus, this post is to make explicit what I have learn about making smoother the last 5% on academic writing. Maybe most of the people know about these “tips”, but maybe some others – like me – might benefit to hear these three advices due to lack of experience.
Ah! if I am loosing any tip and someone with more experience read this post, please do not hesitate to suggest! 🙂 we are always learning.
- Tip 1: Wherever you will submit your paper, read the style guidelines from the first day you will start writing.
If you read the style guidelines at the beginning of your writing and you start using the style format at the beginning too, then you do not need to do so much FIXING later. Some conferences and journals have inclusive templates with their styles, use them since day zero.
However, some conferences and journals do not have those templates, but they will offer guidelines or check lists that explain how your article should look like. Read them, and decide how to apply those guidelines since early phases on your writing.
- Tip 2: Reflect upon references and learn to fully use your tool that handles your references.
Once Justus told us, get your Manual of APA. But I did not listen. Oh that was one mistake I did !
Everybody should look the reference writing manual every now and then (ideally to have it), if one wants to be professional in citing. I refer to APA guidelines, because so far is the type of citing that I had used the most. But in any case, check the citing type for your document as early as possible.
To read the citing manual in combination with your tool for handling your references will save you A LOT of time.
Let me explain, I use Zotero, I am very happy with it, but I need to know which fields I need to fill when uploading my reference. Yes, I know Zotero uploads references automatically, but there are fields which must be filled by hand depending the original source. In earlier times I was not careful enough, then with the author, title, and those stuff was good, I though.
Oh surprise! The citing manual (in this case APA) tells you what info you need for a proper citing, and this info must be in the system. Specially if you are using books from other languages, thesis, translations and different material. Inclusive check the books because to upload the data from amazon is not enough!. You must know where your book was published (the state, country) not only the editorial.
Remember you are the boss of your tool (in this case Zotero), no the other way around, then check that it works properly for your advantage.
- Tip 3: Quotes
Please since the first time you type a quote, keep the page number of the quote!!!!!
Zotero supports you on register the page number. I assume other software too. Consequently, you must learn to use your software that handles your references, as most probably, it addresses the most common references’ patters: keep page number, references with and without author, etc, etc….