Writing a good paper introduction
Having just spent seven weeks on a grand trip to New Zealand and Australia, I have been privileged to read, or be consulted on, many young scholars’ manuscripts.
Today I want to address a common problem I observed that I call ” Guess the topic of my paper “!!! A senior colleague of mine, now nearly retired, suggests that every paper begins with “the thesis of my paper is . . . . “. This is a play on words that makes a point, one should not have to guess what the paper is about after the first paragraph.
Bill Kinney suggests that all positivist accounting research should be planned using variants of his three paragraph approach. The three paragraphs should address:
- What is the problem or issue that I am attempting to address in this paper?
- Why is it important that the problem is addressed? Or whom are you attempting to inform with the findings of your research into the problem? ( this makes ” gaps in literature” NOT a reason for writing a paper as a gap is not a person you are informing).
- How are you addressing the problem? ( the methods you will employ and why they are appropriate)
Finally, when writing the results of a project up there is one more paragraph to add.
- What did you find and how does it inform us about the problem or issue you intended to address?
At the end of the four to five page introduction, all of this should have been explicitly covered (and NOT much more or you are writing the paper in the introduction)!
The need for consistent editor engagement
As we expand our editor set ever wider to deal with manuscript volume and diversity, we as a community need to better understand the role of the manuscript editor. I will return to this topic from time to time but today I deal with one issue: editor engagement in the process.
First, the editor is not merely a scribe that summarizes the review comments. The editor must be engaged with the manuscript and the reviews. (This is problematic where private journals randomly assign papers to editors, but all association journals attempt to assign based on editor expertise).
The engagement on the first round, and likely others, should include
- Careful reading of manuscript by the editor PRIOR to reading the detailed reviews. In earlier days I would recommend prior to reading reviewer recommendation but Editorial management software makes that nearly impossible to do.
- Editor reading of reviews with care in light of reading manuscript.
- Editor consideration if there is a potential path that could lead to publication. If not, and if giving a revise a resubmit on the first round, ensure you convey the speculative nature of the revision (I.e. outcome risk remains as high as an initial submission).
- Finally, write a decision letter that reflects what needs to be done that lays out potential choices for authors in light of the editor’s and the reviewers analysis.
Second, and above all, remember – the editor is not merely a scribe for the reviewers but an active participant in the process. For those being asked to be editors, ensure you are comfortable with this engagement, at least in principle, before agreeing to such a role! For if you are not comfortable, then you as an editor, the reviewers you enlist and most of all the authors will suffer excessively during what is already a rigorous process!!!
Another crafty class
Finished my version of the craft of accounting at UNSW late last week! Great set of junior faculty and HDR’s (I.e. PHD students)!
The “skipping meals” test of devotion and passion to research gave many of them food for thought! That test is are you so engrossed in your research work that you skip meals without realizing it! Then you are passionate about your research topic.
Just to show that old dogs can learn old tricks, this week I had that experience with a much younger co-author. We were so engrossed in planning our research that lunch moved well into afternoon coffee break time before we realized it!
That’s the passion that most readers of this blog live for.
From Sydney, G’day mate!