Friday, March 20, 2015

The Five Stages of Scientific Writing

Like many other life events there are five distinct stages to completing your first major scientific piece of writing. All of which I experienced on my journey to complete the 20.109 abstract and data summary, a daunting 10 page paper filled with data that, at first, I could barely comprehend. So without further ado here are the five stages of writing your first major lab assignment.


You've got plenty of time ahead of you! 2 days = 48 hours - 6 for sleep means you have 42 whole hours to work on this project if you have to. The deadline creeps closer and closer and all you can think about is how sunny and happy it is outside and how nice it would be to go for a run. The pain and suffering this will cause you later never crosses your mind.


The pain and suffering this will cause you finally crosses your mind. You're screwed! The deadline for the paper is only 12 hours away, you have no idea what all those numbers and charts you're supposed to interpret even mean, and on top of that, it's midnight, and you are exhausted from a full day of classes. Why couldn't you have started this assignment sooner? Why do you have to procrastinate so much? The regret for all those hours you wasted on the weekend starts to kick in and you make hollow promises to yourself that you will never procrastinate again.


After getting over your pre work tantrum, you start making deals with yourself. If you can finish two pages in the next hour you can take a 15 minute break. If you finish them in 45 minutes you get a 30 minute break. As your situation becomes more and more desperate, sometimes you will start making deals with the universe; if this deadline get's postponed I will never procrastinate again. Eventually you somehow manage to settle into a frenzy of productivity burning through the bulk of your assignment.


Somehow by a seemingly superhuman effort you've completed most of your assignment. There's only the abstract and the bibliography left but it's now 7 AM and you haven't slept a wink. You struggle to make it through the last few hours of work without passing out and it seems like the last few edits take longer than writing the piece in the first place. Eventually, you drift off to sleep hoping your paper is adequate, and that you set your alarm so you will wake up for class in a few hours.


The deadline is minutes away and you make a few last minute changes to your paper before you submit it online. You get it in mere seconds before the deadline. Somehow, you managed to comprehend all those confusing charts and tables. Not only that but you managed to write a ten page paper about all of the significant features of that data. After all the blood, sweat and tears you poured into this project you can finally claim victory. Despite your exhaustion you feel awesome. You wrote your first major lab assignment!

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