Recorded Tuesday, February 4, 2020

In this webinar, ASPB Features Editor Mary Williams will outline the key steps in writing a paper, preparing figures, and navigating the submission process. Topics include how to frame the significance of the question being addressed; how to put the results in context; and how to present the key findings in the abstract, title, summary figure and cover letter. Mary will also discuss best practices for figure presentation, from cropping and contrast adjustment to layout and design, and why researchers are moving away from bar graphs. Read Mary's bio here

Here is a link to the slides

Here's a list of Resources and References mentioned in the webinar

Here are some suggestions about how to make better graphs

Questions from the Audience  

The Writing Process 

Hello all, how can one approach in writing the literature review and discussion section in an MSc thesis?

Do you have any suggestions for review papers?

Which part of the manuscript do you usually start writing first? The results and making figures? Or the introduction?

How do you avoid redundancy?

How do you present a new concept or a new work that hasn’t been published by anyone? 

Do you have any suggestions on how to smoothly transition from the outline of the article to a fully formed work? 

How do you prevent yourself from succumbing to manuscript fatigue? At some point I am so tired of re-reading my papers that I just say “good enough” and it’s hard to maintain a critical perspective. 

What is the best way to write manuscript of research paper? after completing full experiment or with experiment  

Do you suggest any services that helps in writing and proofreading? 

Where to publish? 

How do you decide which journal is appropriate to submit your work to?

There is a lot of pressure regarding getting your paper published. So many people publish in paper in predatory journals. Some predatory journals are even free, can you please describe in detail why its not safe to publish in predatory journals? 

Is it better to use journal with collaborative review process? 


In many papers, We still see images of Arabidopsis being shown with the background removed digitally to make it pitch black when the authors want to point out the phenotype of the rosettes or the whole plant. I heard some PIs considering it is as image manipulation. While some find it okay, and present their images that way and put it those images in their publications as well. What is your stand on this matter?  

Usually red means increased and green decreased. Are you saying we should use magenta and green instead?

For confocal microscopy data, images are typically green (for gfp-tagged proteins) and red (autofluoresence or rfp). Is it appropriate to change the coloring in this case as well?

Can you do dot plots, violin plots etc in Excel? Which software do you use to make violin plots?

What softwares can be used beside Microsoft excel to make presentable graphs? 

What software should we use to prepare the figures with? Is PowerPoint okay or should we use something like Adobe illustrator? 

What's the best way to describe boxplot results? Which parameters should we mention? Median, quartiles?


Do you have to add suggested reviewers in the cover letter? 

How should you deal with conflicting reviewer comments? For instance: reviewer A asks you to elaborate in one paragraph and reviewer B wants you to eliminate that whole paragraph. any suggestions for non-native speaker English choosing an editor is difficult task, their work should be available on the same page or some link about it is good? 

When a manuscript is finally submitted, it is often a compromise of writing styles among authors, especially between the first and corresponding authors. Any suggestions on the coordination of writing process? 

Can editor of a paper tell if the reviewer (a potential competitor) is being fair or not? If they can, how does the editor treat a seemly unfair review? Is it just a count of vote (e.g. 2 positives vs 1 negative means accept)? 

Comments and Tips from the Audience:

I just wanted to share that there is a course in Coursera called "Writing in the Sciences", which is free. I haven't tried it yet, but people may find it helpful.

Prism is a quite good solution for graphs