Practical Authorship: Tools

Quill_penWelcome to a new series. We’d love to have contributors, ideas and comments. The aim of this group of blogs are to address the question

How do you write, particularly a paper for a clinical, academic audience?

And we’ll start, not at the very beginning, because although it is a very good place to start, it would be better to start one step further back. With some idea of the tools you may want to use.

  1. Pencil
  2. Paper (lined, unlined, coloured or scrap as you desire)
  3. Eraser
  4. Coffee

These are what you’ll plan your writing with, draft the structure, use for distraction/procrastination, and return to. Repeatedly.

You’ll also want

  1. Computer you can install stuff onto and save things on*
  2. Word processing package*
  3. Reference managing software.

The latter might come as a surprise; a little pointless if all you’re going to do it write one or two things. But honestly you will find an hour invested into learning how to use something – perhaps something free like Zotero – will be paid back handsomely if you need to resubmit, add another reference or update that guideline you tagged in draft 2.

The principle of them is to download the references you’ll be making (citations, to be proper) into the programme, and select an output style for the journal of your choosing which will then be added as a reference list at the end of your paper. You can also use them to keep track & tag any PDF copies of articles you find, and some of them (like Zotero) will import the citation directly from a web-page when you discover the perfect source for your information.

It’s beyond this blog to teach you exactly how to use them, and unnecessary as there are some very straightforward video tutorials available – honestly, they are easier than many of the Minecraft tutorials you, your family or your patients will have been following.

– Bob Phillips



* Alternative: Use something like GoogleDocs that means you only need internet access and it will auto-backup for you.

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  • gourmetpenguin

    What I learnt this morning: it’s quite easy to adapt an existing reference manager template so that it meets the criteria of a particular journal. For example, BMJ journals use a modified version of the Vancouver style, which isn’t an option in RefWorks. But, you can adapt the RefWorks template (and save it as a new template in your personal account on RefWorks), which means that you can use it in the future. Any later editing/cut&paste will keep the referencing 🙂