Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Manuscript Progress

I built up a bit of writing momentum by (semi) participating in InaDWriMo, and I'm pleased to say that I've managed to put it to good use! I have finished the draft of my first first-author manuscript. Since the Thanksgiving holiday, I have:

  • Finished the "Discussion" section of the paper. Including the oh-so-hard-to-write "speculation on the significance of these findings"
  • Written an introduction
  • Added more references
  • Created a new figure that shows the design of the experiment
  • Written a caption for that figure

That just leaves another round of revisions and getting feedback from a few people who are not directly involved. Hopefully we can get this submitted before the end of the year!

I have also continued to try to figure out how to get the nearly impossible experiment that would really improve the paper to work. I made some significant progress today. I'm now convinced that, although this experiment will be pushing the limits of our technique, it might be doable. Yay! Too bad I'm the one who must actually do it.

The new figure was also a challenge, but of a different sort. When I started writing this paper, I decided that I didn't want to have any color figures unless they were absolutely necessary. That's right I decided that. The journal we are submitting to does charge a fee for color, and I have heard of PIs insisting that there be no color to save the money, or at least making a point about the need to be judicious. But that is not the case for me. I just think that useless color figures are annoying and wasteful. When I first started reading primary literature, I liked for papers to have splashy, full-color figures. I thought it looked more "polished". But now, I think color is often used for no good reason, and does not enhance the "readability" of the figure at all. If anything, it makes things harder to understand when the colors are not easily distinguished. I once read a paper for a class and was so confused by one figure that during the discussion section I had to ask which feature was supposed to be the color "wheat" and which one was "mustard". They both just looked yellow in the printout from the crappy inkjet printer I had at home. Whatever happened to primary and secondary colors? And what a waste of ink!

For my poster, I had a version of this figure that was in color. It looked nice, but I wanted to change it around a bit for the paper. The poster version had started out as a diagram of a totally different experiment, and I had just relabeled things, added things, and moved things around so that it more or less accurately represented my experiments. In some parts there was too much detail, and in others not quite enough, and the color did not really add much information to the figure. It just made it look more colorful. So I decided to remove the color while I was fixing the other issues. I think it looks pretty good. I showed it around the lab, and everyone was surprised, but had to admit that it works really well without the color. Hooray for grey!

4 comments:

Brigindo said...

Congrats on the full draft. That's a huge accomplishment. Its amazing how once you get it going these things actually get written.

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde said...

Good for you. I am sick of people using color in figures because they can. Labs that can afford it spend more money to print them, and other places will just print the papers in b&w anyhow, making the figures hard to understand.

I almost popped a cork at a Nature paper that had used color....for its two-bar bar graphs. Yeah, you really needed red and black there. Jerks! Go read Edward Tufte.

acmegirl said...

Brgindo: Yep. I still can't believe I ever got it done. I'm bracing myself for the revision cycles.

Dr. J & Mrs. H: Damned straight!

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