Guideline Fourteen | Enhance the writing skills of you mentees early on

14. Enhance the writing skills of you mentees early on

"Given the vital role of publications and grants in any scientific career, learning to write effectively is an essential key to career advancement. Therefore, I try diligently to instil the basics of clear scientific writing. After an extended discussion with the student of the results to be shown in a paper, I nearly always let him/her prepare the first draft and then begin the reiterative revision process, using ‘track changes’ to show what has been done."

"Emily trains people in writing skills by making them write papers then assisting them to rewrite them several times rather than rewriting them herself." 

All too often we start training our young scientist how to write scientifically too late. The major writing activity being when they start to write up the thesis. In reality, they should be so practised by then that writing becomes second nature to them. Early on, groups of students could be given the task of writing a review. A good strategy, which also enhances critical ability, is to present them with a manuscript they have not seen with either the abstract, introduction or discussion omitted and getting them to write their version which can then be compared with the original. With respect to papers, the student should always write the first draft no matter how much we want to get their great results published. Use of track changes in MsWord makes our suggestions very informative. The more writing we give students to do the more we burden ourselves but that is part of the contract. A positive comment on all the mentors was that they gave feedback on written work very quickly. Hard to do but essential.

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