Jamal El Ouahi

Helping researchers. Posts about scientific research & its process. Academia/Government Consulting.

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Jamal El Ouahi

Helping researchers. Posts about scientific research & its process. Academia/Government Consulting.

#19 A 7-step writing framework

Read time: 3 min.

Hey friends,

I often get the following from PhD candidates and Researchers:

“How can I improve my writing, and be more effective?”

During my PhD, I transformed my writing process.

Initially, I had absolutely no idea how to write a scientific manuscript.

But, now, I have a 7-step process to overcome the blank screen.

Here is how I do it to move things forward:

𝟭- 𝗜 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝗽𝗮𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝗺𝘆 𝗳𝗶𝗲𝗹𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆’𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲𝗱

Different types of papers have different structures.

There are also field specificities.

Spend some time to  know more about the publishing “standards” in your field.

𝟮- 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮𝗻 𝗼𝘂𝘁𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲 𝗮𝘀 𝗽𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲.

No need to make it perfect. I include:

  • the problem statement
  • the aim of my study
  • the research questions
  • relevant literature
  • data and methods I will use

𝟯- 𝗪𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝘂𝗹𝗮𝗿𝗹𝘆

Have a writing schedule. I set space and time for writing.

During that time, I minimize distractions (mainly phone notifications and emails…)

And I fill the sections of the outline.

𝟰- 𝗨𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀

I cannot write without EndNote.

It saves me hundreds of hours to collect, manage and format citations/references easily.

Some would recommend RefWorks, Zotero or Mendeley.
It’s all about preferences. And access.

I also use Grammarly to check my spelling and grammar.

Many other tools can help you be more effective.

Some prefer Word, some prefer Latex. Others would recommend Google Docs.
Use what works for you.

𝟱- 𝗗𝗶𝘀𝗰𝘂𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻

I finish with the discussion and abstract:

I summarize the results.

What do the findings mean?

What are the implications within and beyond my field?

What are the future research prospects?

𝟲- 𝗘𝗱𝗶𝘁


Get feedback from your supervisors and/or colleagues.

Edit. Repeat.

I usually get up to 7 versions of the same manuscript before having something ready for submission.

𝟳- 𝗚𝘂𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲𝘀

I follow the guidelines of the journal/conference I target (publication standards and reporting guidelines, formatting and style guides..)

Some journals /conferences offer templates with the right structure and format


  1. Get familiar with papers in your field
  2. Start with the outline
  3. Write regularly
  4. Use tools
  5. Discussion
  6. Get feedback. Edit. Repeat
  7. Follow the guidelines of the journal/conference

Anything missing?

Let us know in the comments.

That’s it for this week.

As usual, if anything is unclear or if you need help with your research projects, please contact me and I will reply.

See you next Sunday!


Question of the Week

Any other tips or recommendation to add when writing a scientific paper?

Let us know in the comments.

My favorite things this week

  1. I recently conducted a webinar with the Federation of Arab Scientific Research Councils. Great discussions about research integrity and scientific misconduct.

  2. Rich conversation about scientific publishing for non-native English speakers, Open Access and scientific collaboration with Enago Academy. More about this soon.

Quote of the Week

“I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.”
― Vladimir Nabokov


  1. Bonjour Mr Jamal,

    D’abord je vous félicite encore une fois pour cette belle initiative consacrée à la promotion de la recherche scientifique. Dans le cadre de plusieurs conférences, le comité scientifique exige au chercheur la soumission de plusieurs versions(un résumé, une première version et une version finale et ça diffère d’un événement à un autre).

    De même, c’est le cas des revues scientifiques. Le chercheur sera informé par détails des lacunes ou des points omis ou mal traités méthodologiquement, théoriquement ou même la mise en page du papier. Cette rigueur est expliquée par la coopération avec des revues scientifiques qui imposent des lignes directrices pour la publication d’un travail de recherche. Cette étape en soi-même est bénéfique pour tout chercheur car une autocritique se crée, se construit et évolue. Donc l’apprentissage sera continu grâce aux étapes précédemment mentionnées par vous. Je dis on ne naît pas chercheur, on le devient. Et ça me rappelle aussi la métaphore de l’iceberg. Je vous souhaite une bonne continuation.


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