Planning Your Paper
Once you and your supervisor have identified an area of your research that could form the basis of an academic paper, you need to start thinking about what its content will be and how that content will be structured.
Right now you may not be too sure as to what will be expected from your paper, so a good place to start is by looking at other papers that have been published recently in your discipline. This will give you a clearer picture of how your paper should look as well as helping you identify any conventions specific to your discipline.
From looking at what others have done, you should be able to go on and plan a structure for your own paper. Although requirements can vary by discipline and there is no such thing as a standard paper, the following is a broadly typical structure:
|Start||Main Body of Paper||Finish|
Try putting your own draft paper structure together making sure to follow any conventions specific to your discipline that you have identified.
You can now take your draft paper structure and use it to help plan the content of your paper. Take each of the sections of your structure in turn and break them down - thinking about what you will write for each one. A good way of doing this is to list the various sub-sections that each of your top-level sections will have. If you find it useful, you can break these down still further and map out the main ideas that each sub-section will cover.
Your Work Plan
You should now have a much clearer picture of the "what" and "how" for writing your paper - what is still missing is the "when". The next stage in your planning process is to create a work schedule that sets out when you will start and finish each section of your paper plan.
There are two key limits to your writing plan - the maximum word limit and the deadline for submissions. Most journals will have a website with advice for contributors and generally advice on both word limits and submission deadlines will be available there. Spend some time thinking about how long each section of your paper might be so that you do not exceed this total word limit. Again, looking at other published papers should give you some ideas as to how long typically each section should be.
You also need to be realistic as to how much time you have available and how much writing you can expect to complete in that time. Two things need to be emphasised:
- You do not need to write your paper in order from start to finish: getting started with your writing is much less difficult if you start with the most straightforward parts first.
- Allow enough time before your paper is due for submission for your supervisor to read and comment on it and for you to make any changes they might suggest.
Remember that if you look at the timings for each section of your paper and find that doing everything you want to is impossible before your expected submission date, your plan may well be unrealistic. Go back to your plan and see if there are any parts which may be overambitious.
Once you have the plan for your paper ready, share it with your supervisor and make sure that they are happy with your proposed approach.