Should I write this up?

For me, it takes about a year to write a paper —- if I am lucky. And that is just to first submission to a journal. After that, god knows how long it will take to make in into print. Sure, I can write a first draft in a few weeks. But that first draft will have lots of holes, be poorly written, and be full of problems. It will take many seminar presentations, conferences, and rewrites before it is a polished piece.

So I am a bit nervous about starting out a new paper. My papers rarely end up the way that I planned them. Once I get going, I find out what the paper is really about. Usually the paper starts short, grows, and then shortens back up as I finally figure out the real point.

My rule is that I do not start a new paper until an old one is accepted, or close to being accepted. Like many people, I keep an ideas file although it is not really necessary. Ideas are easy. Papers are hard.

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3 responses to “Should I write this up?

  1. I think a generally good decision rule is:

    1) Finish any revise & resubmits that are sitting on the desk

    2) Work on any papers that are in process (i.e. not yet completed and submitted). Sometimes a paper with a co-author might not be done, but your part is.

    3) If (1) and (2) are done, go ahead and start the new piece if it’s “worthwhile”.

    And yes, it always takes more time and effort that you’d think. Even a “little” piece can end up a major time suck.

    I made the mistake of agreeing to work on a project with a former colleague and a former grad student. I thought, “It’s not that interesting, but it is in my area, and should be a quick publication”.


    It ended up taking over 2 1/2 years to get published AFTER THE FIRST SUBMISSION. We had to go through 3 rounds before finally getting rejected at one journal (each requiring new analysis) and two at a second before it finally got published.

  2. 2 1/2 years does not sound so bad. I’ve had worse epsecially if you consider the multiple journal thing.

    The hard part for me is that there are so many things to figure out—and that is the fun part of the job. But you cannot do them all.

    And most people with PhDs want to work on ’em all.

  3. Luckily, I was working with coauthors whe were kicking my butt to get it off my desk and back under revisiion. Still, even with that, it was 2 1/2 years and multiple revisions for a “third-tier” publication.

    And yes, having a scut puppy (or three) makes the research life so much easier.

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