The ‘So What?’ Question

Continuing my previous post on editing, here are some useful tips for writing stronger papers provided by Theresea MacPhail, a digital editor for a science journal.

I’d like you to pause a moment from your daily diligence — grinding out future articles and book chapters — and think about those of us who work as editors and manuscript reviewers. And I’d like to ask a big favor — one that will benefit us and you. Before you send in that manuscript, take a second look at that draft you’ve polished three or four times and ask yourself the following question: What is my main argument here?

Theresa MacPhail goes on to suggest three signs that you do not have a central argument:

  • You can’t answer the “So what?” question.
  • Your introduction and conclusion don’t mesh.
  • Your colleagues can’t explain your main argument.

The last point is important. Having a colleague explain your main argument can go a long way in exposing your blindspots and strengthening your argument. Another benefit in having a colleague (or family member or friend) read your paper is to assist in ‘polishing up’ the text. A paper that is poorly written has greater risk in being rejected outright.

Source: The ‘So What?’ Question | ChronicleVitae

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Should Journals Be Responsible for Reproducibility?

As the incoming editor of College & Undergraduate Libraries, I find myself asking similar questions regarding many of the papers that I edit. The editors of the American Journal of Political Science outlines their concerns in this article in Inside Higher Education. 

Our goal is to establish a standard for the information that must be made available about the research that appears in our journal. By requiring scholars to provide access to their data and conducting our own replications on those data, we confirm the rigor of, and promote public confidence in, the studies we publish. As one of the top journals in the discipline, we hope to create state-of-the-art standards that others in the field will aim to adopt.

The editors discuss their expereinces and offer suggestions for those journals interested in pursuing reproducibility and  transparency.

Source: Should Journals Be Responsible for Reproducibility? | Rethinking Research