Plan Your Paper

After writing about the calendar in the PhD Planner, now it’s high time to have a look on planning our papers in the Planner. How does it look like and how to make the most of the Phd Planner while working on your next journal or conference article?

Plan your paper

You will find four sheets like this in the PhD Planner:

phd planner plan your paper

How to plan the best paper you have ever written?

1. Start from a working title

Don’t waste your time thinking about the title and choosing optimal words at the beginning. Leave it for the end of writing. You will see, it will be easier and the result is going to be better. Don’t waste the energy, which you have at the beginning, for the title. Start with a draft version.

2. Note down the requirements so that you don’t have to look for them again

While writing my first papers, I have several times checked what is the maximal length, and how many words should the abstract be, and other similar details. Do you also do this? Stop! Save this time and before you start writing, note down these things. It is not that checking it takes hours, but to check it you need to open your browser, and if you open the browser, you will probably check on the mailbox or social media… you know what I mean. Internet is dragging 🙂

3. Ask yourself about the aim of the paper

But seriously – why do I write this paper? Try to split this question into two parts:

  • hypothesis / research question. It is important that you are able to describe it in one-two sentences. It will lead to your paper having a comprehend theme. It is easy to describe everything that you have done, each experiment and analysis, but not all of them do really contribute to the specific paper. Asking yourself what your research question is – and writing it down – will help you filter the data and results and choose what is really relevant.
  • which part of research do you want to present? – this is complementary to the first part. Write down what needs to be in the article in order to be able to answer the chosen question. You will see that at the same time you will reject what does not need to be in it – and if it does not need to, then usually it should not.

4. Think about references. What sources do you want to cite?

Science does not exist in a vacuum. We are not alone and usually not the only ones to deal with our research field. We are basing on the work of others, and others will later base on our work. That’s why before we start to create the content of the article, it is worth to think for a while about which works we should refer to. Who should I cite?

Obviously, a list of references will always include works that we use directly, using a quotation or describing someone else’s graphics. But perhaps reading this or that paper also influenced your conclusions in some way? If so, it would be worthwhile for it to be included in the bibliography as well.

Few minutes spent on this before you start writing will help you avoid the awkward „adding” of more articles to the reference list later and searching for a place for them in the text.

phd planner plan your paper

5. Plan your text… and time!

This is the most important part of the whole paper-planning 🙂


Here in the PhD Planner you have space to prepare a plan of the individual parts. Write down the sections subtitles, and put in what should you not forget in each section, or what the main points are. The goal of this part is to define a structure of the paper. Such structure helps to move smoothly from one issue to another during the writing process, and avoid suffering from the blank page syndrome.


Setting yourself deadlines is a challenge. Look at your calendar, take other commitments into account and try to set a realistic date that is demanding yet possible. You can set this deadline firstly for a draft version – it is a help for those who can endlessly improve and improve every single sentence.

Do not underestimate how helpful dividing the whole paper into smaller parts is. Something that seems so insignificant makes writing more productive than ever before. It is because our brain copes better with tasks that it can „embrace” at once… The whole paper is too big a task, and that’s why we tend to delay writing so often. Our brain simply cannot grasp it as a whole, it needs to be divided into smaller pieces to be done effectively.

Ticking off

PhD Planner provides you also space to tick off a section when it is completed. Some of us love this feeling 😉 and for many it can be helpful to tick when a section is marked as finished. Then you will know that you don’t have to go back to this passage anymore. Of course you can, if you have time left before deadline and you want to refine the text even better – after all it’s never perfect 😉 – but even if you don’t come back, you will have a quiet conscience that the „final” version is finished.

In the PhD Planner you can also tick off if the references are complete and formatted with the proper style, and whether you checked all figures’ captions.

Your turn!

Now it’s your turn to try it! Plan your next paper using this sheet and let me know how did it work for you. I wish you productive writing sessions!