The Stages of Writing an Academic Paper

also known as: The main source of procrastination for grad students


This week has been pretty chill in the real (outside grad school) world so I don’t have a ton of pictures to show. Instead I’ll talk about writing an academic paper ya know, since I’m procrastinating on writing an academic paper.


Stage 1:

Image result for joy

Happy in all colors!!!

No really, you’re pretty excited that you finally have enough “good” data to write a paper! Congratulations! You’re super stoked about getting your name out there and you dream of all the fame and glory that comes with the most revolutionary paper that’s highlighted in Nature or Science.

Stage 2:

I have to make how many graphs?/What does this even mean?/Whose idea was this?

This is the stage where you actually start trying to make sense of all the data you meticulously recorded over a period of weeks/months/years. 9/10 times you wonder what possessed you to record the geometry of a specimen when you actually needed the weight of it, and you didn’t record the weight so now you have to go back and do that so your data can make sense.

Rinse and repeat for a while.

Stage 3:

Writing time! It’s time to put words on paper! So exciting!

but not really

Just about every academic paper (STEM related) follows the following general format:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Future Work

While this seems very simple what this actually means is:

  • Summarize 4 months years of work in 250 words (editors laugh maliciously)
  • Lit review! Where you talk about what everyone else has done that’s basically the same thing you did and they already wrote about it and you ‘read’ 40 papers that are cited. Then you go into how your way is better and different from all those others.
  • What did you do and how did you do it? <– This is typically the easiest part of the paper to write
  • GRAPHS, PICTURES, DATA but you can’t explain it yet. Gotta build some suspense by showing everyone your results while not saying what it means
  • Let’s talk about what what is on my graphs. Suspense ends here. This is where your work blows everyone out of the water in some mind-boggling revelation that your data clearly displays.
  • This is what I did, and because x, y, and z effed up, I’m going to pretend that fixing those issues will be my future work.

Basically, if you try to write this in any sensible order, you will be miserable.

This is also the stage where you put off writing the actual paper for as. long. as. possible. while the paper haunts you in your dreams.

Step 4:

You finally finish writing your first draft and send it to your PI and he/she hates it. You go home defeated.

Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you and your PI are happy with the paper and all the edits you have made.

Step 5:

Submit it to a journal!! You are confident that everyone will love your paper and that there are absolutely no holes in your logic and you’ve covered every possible scenario to test your hypothesis.

<- Side note: at this point in the process, your paper is sent to 3-4 people in your field for them to read and review->

Step 6:

You have been judged. And deemed unworthy.

Reviewer 1: “Looks great! The data clearly supports the hypothesis and the explanation makes sense.” OK to publish

-We love reviewer 1 and will typically address every comment they make

Reviewer 2: “Not a huge fan of this one outlying data point, could you make it go away? Other than that loved it!” OK to publish

-See reviewer 1

Reviewer 3: “This is the worst paper I have ever read. Seriously, who let these idiots do research anyways?!? Everything needs to be re-tested and you also need to do these additional 30 tests to even start to prove your hypothesis” OK to burn in hell

-This reviewer can suck it. Clearly they missed the entire point of the paper and probably didn’t even read it! All of your comments shall be ignored/we shall come up with some kick ass comebacks to all your hate.

Step 7:

Follow up with your edits and repeat steps 3 and 4 until you and the PI are happy with the paper. Resubmit paper to journal

Step 8:

WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Congrats your paper will now be published and fame and fortune shall be yours! Your research has changed the world!*

*This strongly depends on the impact factor (how many people even read this sh*t)  of your journal. The higher the impact factor, the more important you are.

Once you have finished celebrating your acceptance, you begin planning what you should do for your next paper cause any grad program worth it’s clout will not give you a PhD having published only 1 paper.




What do you mean it’s September??

I mean really?!? There is absolutely no way it can be September already right?

September means….

Back to school

The start of pumpkin spice everything!! (how did this become a thing?)

And my fall half marathon/full marathon training starts again

I’m getting ready to run the USA San Diego Invitational Half Marathon (they really need to shorten that name) coming up in November. And, as seen above, I’m following Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Half Marathon training plan, free training plans FTW!

I started up yesterday with a treadmill sesh at early o’clock in the morning for 3 easy miles (target pace 9:00 min/mile). Luckily I had some frog friends to keep me company




They are super teeny frogs in the top left window pane and the one right below that, I have named them Fiona and Fred

I finished up in 27:43 for a 9:14 min/mile pace which wasn’t too bad considering how little I’ve run and how sleepy I was!

Anyways, Steve is getting better every day and Luna is getting bigger every day! I swear she could fit in my hand last week…


Although Steve is making a lot of progress we still have some rough days (this was from a few weeks ago when we made yet another trip to urgent care, it’s a really awesome place for a date)


Look familiar??


Hopefully he’ll feel well enough to help me drive to Alabama for Labor Day fun this weekend.

I gotta go work on homework while drinking a pumpkin spice latte now…Cheers!

The Start of Something New

Hi peeps!

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about anything crazy here, just the start of the new semester. Since the summer is officially over (at least here in NC) I figure it’s about time to get on a semi regular posting schedule again. Ya know, in addition to organizing everything else and setting up for the upcoming year

So. Let’s see.

Last week I joined the ASSIST Center at Sourcing at MAGIC (not an actual magic show as in two sorcerers battling it out but a textiles and fashion expo) in Las Vegas!

Our research was being highlighted as the latest in wearable technology so we were front and center of the thing! Here’s a picture of me, taken with a potato, wearing our EKG shirt at a corner of our booth. I may look less than thrilled as this was the last day of the expo and we had just seen……




Insert girly freak out here


It was everything my 10 yr old self could have asked for and then some! I didn’t have much of a voice the day after due to all the loud singing and such 🙂

We also made a point to drink some obscene slushies every night (can you tell I’m really good at taking pictures with my potato??)


Which eventually led to decisions like this….


Apparently balloon hats are rather suspicious to airport security, although FYI they will let you on a plane with them.

Steve had a great time trying to herd two dogs (the puppy is pretty high energy) with a bad knee, but I’ll let him tell you about that experience.


Classes are back in action (I’m taking one class this semester) and it’s weird having to be responsible and make good decisions again…i.e. my half marathon training starts this week…..after not working out for….2 months??….it’s gonna be awesome…..

I’ll be back soon with more!

Return From The Void

Hello faithful blog readers!

We are just now getting a minor amount of sanity back after the site visit void. For the last couple of weeks, Steve and I have been working some insane hours to get things ready for the ASSIST 3rd year review from NSF. While we get reviewed every year, the 3rd and 6th years are key review years where NSF determines if they will continue our funding. AKA everything breaks and shit hits the ceiling over the span of 12 hrs

Needless to say, the blog has been a little neglected. So has most every other aspect of our lives (sorry Indy). So, even though the site visit shenanigans finished up on Thursday, we have spent the last two days sleeping, spending time with Indy, and doing normal shit like grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc.

As goes with the whole working 15 hrs days for 2 straight weeks thing, my Ironman Raleigh 70.3 training has been GREAT! Wait….that was meant to say nonexistent. I went for a 2 mile run yesterday and thought I was going to die for most of it. Partly from lack of sleep and partly from lack of working out for 2.5 weeks. This means I’m not sure if I’m actually going to do the race. I don’t feel prepared and I’m still recovering from lack of sleep and extremely high levels of stress. I’ve decided to take it one day at a time and see how I feel morning of.

On a happy note, all the work and struggles and sleepless nights and broken equipment and last minute panic was worth it because the ASSIST Center passed our 3rd year review with UNANIMOUS AND UNCONDITIONAL TERMS! Basically we were perfect and have raised the bar for what NSF expects of their engineering research centers. We were all so excited that we went to the only place that serves alcoholic beverages on campus, the golf course!

Please ignore the look of crazed exhaustion/delirium that’s on our faces. We are actually super happy.

In other exciting news, Indy has learned how to jump faceplant off a dock! It only took us actually throwing her into the lake about 5 times before she got the hang of it 🙂












Maybe one day she’ll get the hang of it. Until then we will continue to post embarrassing pictures of her faceplanting into the water and she will continue to silently resent us 🙂

Have a great Memorial Day!

Confessions of a Triathlete

Hi guys! I woke up pretty convinced that today was Thursday and am now wondering why there are two days of the week that start with the letter ‘T’. Waaaay too confusing.

Anyways, here’s my latest training update for Raleigh 70.3!












Wait for it….










yep! That just about covers it!

May is hell. I hate May. It’s the month of EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE DONE RIGHT NOW AND PERFORM AND RECITAL AND EXAMS AND RACE AND HOLIDAYS AND PROJECT DEADLINES AND…..ok so I’ve run out of things. But seriously, it’s the month that our ERC has our annual site visit where NSF (the National Science Foundation) visits and lets us know if they’ll continue sending exorbitant amounts of money our way to fund our super cool research, aka let’s sit in a windowless room for 2 days and listen to people with no sense of humor talk about things you know nothing about.

This means that even though Raleigh 70.3 is in 26 days, I did not work out once last week. Thanks to the grad school hullabaloo and the fact that we are getting ready to move and getting ready to go to Europe for 2 weeks, I have not had any remaining energy to spend on training.

And that’s ok.

It’s not ideal. Sometimes you read articles about how triathletes are super dedicated to their sport and wake up at 4am to get a swim in. It’s inspiring and all, but it’s not reasonable. I will almost always choose sleep over a workout because I need that mental energy to stay on top of my game at school and that physical energy to keep up with the professor walk. So in some ways, I don’t feel like a ‘real’ triathlete.

<–Total side note here. Professors and people in academia walk SUPER fast everywhere. Not sure why. Maybe they’re always late. IDK. But I usually have to jog to keep up with the brisk pace that is the standard here. Also also, hallways are dangerous places and collisions are highly likely —>

Real triathlete or not, it’s ok. I’m not shooting to be an elite athlete and qualify for the World Championship. I’m going out there to push my physical and mental limits and I can accomplish that with the amount of training I currently have.  So even though my training looks like this….


I will finish the race and maybe even beat my time from last year. Who knows.

Gotta be baller at the grad school thing first!