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How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.

Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.

This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.

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Table of contents

Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.

Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:

  • Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
  • Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
  • Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.

Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.

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There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.

You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.

You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.

Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:

  • A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
  • A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.

Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.

Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.

  • Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
  • Are there any heated debates you can address?
  • Do you have a unique take on your topic?
  • Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?

In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”

A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.

The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.

You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.

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A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.

A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.

Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:

  • Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
  • Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
  • Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.

You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.

Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.

Paragraph structure

Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.

Example paragraph

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.

Citing sources

It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.

You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.

What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.

Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?

How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.

The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.

One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:

  • topic sentences against the thesis statement;
  • topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
  • and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.

Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.

Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.

You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.

You should not :

  • Offer new arguments or essential information
  • Take up any more space than necessary
  • Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)

There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.

  • Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
  • Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
  • Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
  • If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.

The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible. You can speed up the proofreading process by using the AI proofreader .

Global concerns

  • Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
  • Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
  • Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.

Fine-grained details

Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:

  • each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
  • no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
  • all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.

Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .

Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading  or create an APA title page .

Scribbr’s professional editors can help with the revision process with our award-winning proofreading services.

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Checklist: Research paper

I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.

My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.

My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .

My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .

Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.

I have used appropriate transitions  to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.

My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.

My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.

My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.

I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.

I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .

I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).

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  • By Rose Wolfe-Emery
  • July 21 st 2023

Academics normally learn how to write while on the job,  sugge s ts  Michael Hochberg. This usually starts with “the dissertation and interactions with their supervisor. Skills are honed and new ones acquired with each successive manuscript.” Writing continues to improve throughout a career, but that thought might bring little solace if you are staring at a blank document and wondering where to start. 

In this blog post, we share tips from editors and outline some ideas to bear in mind when drafting a journal article. Whether you are writing a journal article to share your research, contribute to your field, or progress your career, a well-written and structured article will increase the likelihood of acceptance and of your article making an impact after publication.

Four tips for writing well

Stuart West and Lindsay Turnbull  suggest  four general principles to bear in mind when writing journal articles:

  • Keep it simple:  “Simple, clear writing is fundamental to this task. Instead of trying to sound […] clever, you should be clear and concise.”
  • Assume nothing:  “When writing a paper, it’s best to assume that your reader is [subject] literate, but has very little expert knowledge. Your paper is more likely to fail because you assumed too much, than because you dumbed it down too much.”
  • Keep to essentials:  “If you focus on the main message, and remove all distractions, then the reader will come away with the message that you want them to have.”
  • Tell your story : “Good […] writing tells a story. It tells the reader why the topic you have chosen is important, what you found out, and why that matters. For the story to flow smoothly, the different parts need to link clearly to each other. In creative writing this is called ‘narrative flow’.”

“A paper is well-written if a reader who is not involved in the work can understand every single sentence in the paper,”  argues  Nancy Dixon. But understanding is the bare minimum that you should aim for—ideally, you want to  engage  your audience, so they keep reading. 

As  West and Turnbull say , frankly: “Your potential reader is someone time-limited, stressed, and easily bored. They have a million other things to do and will take any excuse to give up on reading your paper.”

A complete guide to preparing a journal article for submission

Consider your research topic.

Before you begin to draft your article, consider the following questions:

  • What key message(s) do you want to convey?
  • Can you identify a significant advance that will arise from your article?
  • How could your argument, results, or findings change the way that people think or advance understanding in the field?

As  Nancy Dixon  says: “[A journal] editor wants to publish papers that interest and excite the journal’s readers, that are important to advancing knowledge in the field and that spark new ideas for work in the field.”

Think about the journal that you want to submit to

Research the journals in your field and create a shortlist of “target” journals  before  writing your article, so that you can adapt your writing to the journal’s audience and style. Journals sometimes have an official style guide but reading published articles can also help you to familiarise yourself with the format and tone of articles in your target journals. Journals often publish articles of varying lengths and structures, so consider what article type would best suit your argument or results. 

Check your target journals’ editorial policies and ethical requirements. As a minimum, all reputable journals require submissions to be original and previously unpublished. The  ThinkCheckSubmit  checklist can help you to assess whether a journal is suitable for your research.

Now that you’ve decided on your research topic and chosen the journal you plan on submitting to, what do you need to consider when drafting each section of your article?

Create an outline

Firstly, it’s worth creating an outline for your journal article, broken down by section. Seth J. Schwartz  explains  this as follows:

Writing an outline is like creating a map before you set out on a road trip. You know which roads to take, and where to turn or get off the highway. You can even decide on places to stop during your trip. When you create a map like this, the trip is planned and you don’t have to worry whether you are going in the correct direction. It has already been mapped out for you.

The typical structure of a journal article

  • Make it concise, accurate, and catchy
  • Avoid including abbreviations or formulae
  • Choose 5-7 keywords that you’d like your journal article to appear in the search results for
  • Summarize the findings of your journal article in a succinct, “punchy”, and relevant way
  • Keep it brief (200 words for the letter, and 250 words for the main journal)
  • Do not include references


  • Introduce your argument or outline the problem
  • Describe your approach
  • Identify existing solutions and limitations, or provide the existing context for your discussion
  • Define abbreviations


For STEM and some social sciences articles

  • Describe how the work was done and include plenty of detail to allow for reproduction
  • Identify equipment and software programs


For STEM and some social science articles

  • Decide on the data to present and how to present it (clearly and concisely)
  • Summarise the key results of the article
  • Do not repeat results or introduce new discussion points


  • Include funding, contributors who are not listed as authors, facilities and equipment, referees (if they’ve been helpful; even though anonymous)
  • Do not include non-research contributors (parents, friends, or pets!)
  • Cite articles that have been influential in your research—these should be well-balanced and relevant
  • Follow your chosen journal’s reference style, such as Harvard or Chicago
  • List all citations in the text alphabetically at end of the article

Sharing data

Many journals now encourage authors to make all data on which the conclusions of their article rely available to readers. This data can be presented in the main manuscript, in additional supporting files, or placed in a public repository.

Journals also tend to support the Force 11 Data Citation Principles that require all publicly available datasets be fully referenced in the reference list with an accession number or unique identifier such as a digital object identifier (DOI).


Permission to reproduce copyright material, for online publication without a time limit, must also be cleared and, if necessary, paid for by the author. Evidence in writing that such permissions have been secured from the rights-holder are usually required to be made available to the editors.

Learning from experience

Publishing a journal article is very competitive, so don’t lose hope if your article isn’t accepted to your first-choice journal the first-time round. If your article makes it to the peer-review stage, be sure to take note of what the reviewers have said, as their comments can be very helpful. As well as continuing to write, there are other things you can do to improve your writing skills, including peer review and editing.

Christopher, Marek, and Zebel note  that “there is no secret formula for success”, arguing that: 

The lack of a specific recipe for acceptances reflects, in part, the variety of factors that may influence publication decisions, such as the perceived novelty of the manuscript topic, how the manuscript topic relates to other manuscripts submitted at a similar time, and the targeted journal. Thus, beyond actively pursuing options for any one particular manuscript, begin or continue work on others. In fact, one approach to boosting writing productivity is to have a variety of ongoing projects at different stages of completion. After all, considering that “100 percent of the shots you do not take will not go in,” you can increase your chances of publication by taking multiple shots.

Rose Wolfe-Emery , Marketing Executive, Oxford University Press

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  • 08 May 2019

Toolkit: How to write a great paper

A clear format will ensure that your research paper is understood by your readers. Follow:

1. Context — your introduction

2. Content — your results

3. Conclusion — your discussion

Plan your paper carefully and decide where each point will sit within the framework before you begin writing.

writing a journal paper

Collection: Careers toolkit

Straightforward writing

Scientific writing should always aim to be A, B and C: Accurate, Brief, and Clear. Never choose a long word when a short one will do. Use simple language to communicate your results. Always aim to distill your message down into the simplest sentence possible.

Choose a title

A carefully conceived title will communicate the single core message of your research paper. It should be D, E, F: Declarative, Engaging and Focused.


Add a sentence or two at the end of your concluding statement that sets out your plans for further research. What is next for you or others working in your field?

Find out more

See additional information .

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-01362-9

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How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal

  • Open access
  • Published: 30 April 2020
  • Volume 36 , pages 909–913, ( 2021 )

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  • Clara Busse   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0178-1000 1 &
  • Ella August   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-5151-1036 1 , 2  

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Communicating research findings is an essential step in the research process. Often, peer-reviewed journals are the forum for such communication, yet many researchers are never taught how to write a publishable scientific paper. In this article, we explain the basic structure of a scientific paper and describe the information that should be included in each section. We also identify common pitfalls for each section and recommend strategies to avoid them. Further, we give advice about target journal selection and authorship. In the online resource 1 , we provide an example of a high-quality scientific paper, with annotations identifying the elements we describe in this article.

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Avoid common mistakes on your manuscript.


Writing a scientific paper is an important component of the research process, yet researchers often receive little formal training in scientific writing. This is especially true in low-resource settings. In this article, we explain why choosing a target journal is important, give advice about authorship, provide a basic structure for writing each section of a scientific paper, and describe common pitfalls and recommendations for each section. In the online resource 1 , we also include an annotated journal article that identifies the key elements and writing approaches that we detail here. Before you begin your research, make sure you have ethical clearance from all relevant ethical review boards.

Select a Target Journal Early in the Writing Process

We recommend that you select a “target journal” early in the writing process; a “target journal” is the journal to which you plan to submit your paper. Each journal has a set of core readers and you should tailor your writing to this readership. For example, if you plan to submit a manuscript about vaping during pregnancy to a pregnancy-focused journal, you will need to explain what vaping is because readers of this journal may not have a background in this topic. However, if you were to submit that same article to a tobacco journal, you would not need to provide as much background information about vaping.

Information about a journal’s core readership can be found on its website, usually in a section called “About this journal” or something similar. For example, the Journal of Cancer Education presents such information on the “Aims and Scope” page of its website, which can be found here: https://www.springer.com/journal/13187/aims-and-scope .

Peer reviewer guidelines from your target journal are an additional resource that can help you tailor your writing to the journal and provide additional advice about crafting an effective article [ 1 ]. These are not always available, but it is worth a quick web search to find out.

Identify Author Roles Early in the Process

Early in the writing process, identify authors, determine the order of authors, and discuss the responsibilities of each author. Standard author responsibilities have been identified by The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) [ 2 ]. To set clear expectations about each team member’s responsibilities and prevent errors in communication, we also suggest outlining more detailed roles, such as who will draft each section of the manuscript, write the abstract, submit the paper electronically, serve as corresponding author, and write the cover letter. It is best to formalize this agreement in writing after discussing it, circulating the document to the author team for approval. We suggest creating a title page on which all authors are listed in the agreed-upon order. It may be necessary to adjust authorship roles and order during the development of the paper. If a new author order is agreed upon, be sure to update the title page in the manuscript draft.

In the case where multiple papers will result from a single study, authors should discuss who will author each paper. Additionally, authors should agree on a deadline for each paper and the lead author should take responsibility for producing an initial draft by this deadline.

Structure of the Introduction Section

The introduction section should be approximately three to five paragraphs in length. Look at examples from your target journal to decide the appropriate length. This section should include the elements shown in Fig.  1 . Begin with a general context, narrowing to the specific focus of the paper. Include five main elements: why your research is important, what is already known about the topic, the “gap” or what is not yet known about the topic, why it is important to learn the new information that your research adds, and the specific research aim(s) that your paper addresses. Your research aim should address the gap you identified. Be sure to add enough background information to enable readers to understand your study. Table 1 provides common introduction section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

figure 1

The main elements of the introduction section of an original research article. Often, the elements overlap

Methods Section

The purpose of the methods section is twofold: to explain how the study was done in enough detail to enable its replication and to provide enough contextual detail to enable readers to understand and interpret the results. In general, the essential elements of a methods section are the following: a description of the setting and participants, the study design and timing, the recruitment and sampling, the data collection process, the dataset, the dependent and independent variables, the covariates, the analytic approach for each research objective, and the ethical approval. The hallmark of an exemplary methods section is the justification of why each method was used. Table 2 provides common methods section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

Results Section

The focus of the results section should be associations, or lack thereof, rather than statistical tests. Two considerations should guide your writing here. First, the results should present answers to each part of the research aim. Second, return to the methods section to ensure that the analysis and variables for each result have been explained.

Begin the results section by describing the number of participants in the final sample and details such as the number who were approached to participate, the proportion who were eligible and who enrolled, and the number of participants who dropped out. The next part of the results should describe the participant characteristics. After that, you may organize your results by the aim or by putting the most exciting results first. Do not forget to report your non-significant associations. These are still findings.

Tables and figures capture the reader’s attention and efficiently communicate your main findings [ 3 ]. Each table and figure should have a clear message and should complement, rather than repeat, the text. Tables and figures should communicate all salient details necessary for a reader to understand the findings without consulting the text. Include information on comparisons and tests, as well as information about the sample and timing of the study in the title, legend, or in a footnote. Note that figures are often more visually interesting than tables, so if it is feasible to make a figure, make a figure. To avoid confusing the reader, either avoid abbreviations in tables and figures, or define them in a footnote. Note that there should not be citations in the results section and you should not interpret results here. Table 3 provides common results section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

Discussion Section

Opposite the introduction section, the discussion should take the form of a right-side-up triangle beginning with interpretation of your results and moving to general implications (Fig.  2 ). This section typically begins with a restatement of the main findings, which can usually be accomplished with a few carefully-crafted sentences.

figure 2

Major elements of the discussion section of an original research article. Often, the elements overlap

Next, interpret the meaning or explain the significance of your results, lifting the reader’s gaze from the study’s specific findings to more general applications. Then, compare these study findings with other research. Are these findings in agreement or disagreement with those from other studies? Does this study impart additional nuance to well-accepted theories? Situate your findings within the broader context of scientific literature, then explain the pathways or mechanisms that might give rise to, or explain, the results.

Journals vary in their approach to strengths and limitations sections: some are embedded paragraphs within the discussion section, while some mandate separate section headings. Keep in mind that every study has strengths and limitations. Candidly reporting yours helps readers to correctly interpret your research findings.

The next element of the discussion is a summary of the potential impacts and applications of the research. Should these results be used to optimally design an intervention? Does the work have implications for clinical protocols or public policy? These considerations will help the reader to further grasp the possible impacts of the presented work.

Finally, the discussion should conclude with specific suggestions for future work. Here, you have an opportunity to illuminate specific gaps in the literature that compel further study. Avoid the phrase “future research is necessary” because the recommendation is too general to be helpful to readers. Instead, provide substantive and specific recommendations for future studies. Table 4 provides common discussion section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

Follow the Journal’s Author Guidelines

After you select a target journal, identify the journal’s author guidelines to guide the formatting of your manuscript and references. Author guidelines will often (but not always) include instructions for titles, cover letters, and other components of a manuscript submission. Read the guidelines carefully. If you do not follow the guidelines, your article will be sent back to you.

Finally, do not submit your paper to more than one journal at a time. Even if this is not explicitly stated in the author guidelines of your target journal, it is considered inappropriate and unprofessional.

Your title should invite readers to continue reading beyond the first page [ 4 , 5 ]. It should be informative and interesting. Consider describing the independent and dependent variables, the population and setting, the study design, the timing, and even the main result in your title. Because the focus of the paper can change as you write and revise, we recommend you wait until you have finished writing your paper before composing the title.

Be sure that the title is useful for potential readers searching for your topic. The keywords you select should complement those in your title to maximize the likelihood that a researcher will find your paper through a database search. Avoid using abbreviations in your title unless they are very well known, such as SNP, because it is more likely that someone will use a complete word rather than an abbreviation as a search term to help readers find your paper.

After you have written a complete draft, use the checklist (Fig. 3 ) below to guide your revisions and editing. Additional resources are available on writing the abstract and citing references [ 5 ]. When you feel that your work is ready, ask a trusted colleague or two to read the work and provide informal feedback. The box below provides a checklist that summarizes the key points offered in this article.

figure 3

Checklist for manuscript quality

Data Availability

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Vetto JT (2014) Short and sweet: a short course on concise medical writing. J Cancer Educ 29(1):194–195

Brett M, Kording K (2017) Ten simple rules for structuring papers. PLoS ComputBiol. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005619

Lang TA (2017) Writing a better research article. J Public Health Emerg. https://doi.org/10.21037/jphe.2017.11.06

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Ella August is grateful to the Sustainable Sciences Institute for mentoring her in training researchers on writing and publishing their research.

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Busse, C., August, E. How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal. J Canc Educ 36 , 909–913 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-020-01751-z

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Writing a journal manuscript

Publishing your results is a vital step in the research lifecycle and in your career as a scientist. Publishing papers is necessary to get your work seen by the scientific community, to exchange your ideas globally and to ensure you receive the recognition for your results. The following information is designed to help you write the best paper possible by providing you with points to consider, from your background reading and study design to structuring your manuscript and figure preparation.

By the end of the tutorial you should know on how to:

  • prepare prior to starting your research
  • structure your manuscript and what to include in each section
  • get the most out of your tables and figures so that they clearly represent your most important results.

You will also have the opportunity to test your learning by completing a quiz at the end.

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How to Journal

Your complete guide to getting started with journaling.

Do you want to learn how to journal, but are unsure where to start?  Or you want to know what to write in a journal?  Maybe you’ve heard of creative journaling and are curious what it is? Perhaps you’re a writer and want to journal to deepen your craft?

This comprehensive “How to Journal” article will answer all of your questions about journal writing. For example, what journal writing is, how you can use it, and what benefits you can experience from this type of writing.  It also includes many journal writing prompts to help you get started. Lastly, while journal writing is typically a solitary act, you don’t have to journal alone or in isolation.  This article will tell you where you can get some help and support for your journal writing, including being part of a journal writing community or group.

writing a journal paper

This Article Covers:

What is Journal Writing?

What can i use journaling for.

  • How to Journal – What are the Benefits?
  • Getting Started with Journaling
  • Creating a Journal Writing Ritual
  • How to Journal – What To Write?
  • How Often Should I Write in my Journal?

Do You Need to Write Regularly in a Journal?

  • How To Journal Consistently –  Creating the Journaling Habit
  • How to Journal – What Help and Support Can I Get?
  • In Conclusion

image of person learning how to journal

Before we talk about how to journal, let’s look at what journaling is.

Journal Writing is the practice of taking time for yourself to write and reflect on your thoughts, feelings and life experiences.  There are many suggestions for how to journal and what to write about. However, the beauty of journal writing is you can do it in your own way. This means you can really make it your own creative and life enhancing practice.

There are lots of people who write in a journal.  I recently heard that 16% of the world’s population regularly writes in a journal. You could loosely test this claim yourself by asking a group of friends or family if they write in a journal and see what percentage say yes.

Each person will give a slightly different answer when asked, “What is journaling?” But in essence, journaling is the simple and profound act of capturing and understanding our lives through expressive writing and story. Expressive writing includes writing about our thoughts and feelings while gaining self-awareness and new discoveries along the way. Journaling is all about exploring and enriching life through narrative, words and creative self-expression through writing.

Journaling is…

  • a powerful tool for personal growth, self-discovery, improved health and creative self-expression
  • a fun and creative life enhancing practice
  • used by many successful people, including Oprah and Jack Canfield (author of Chicken Soup for the Soul books), to achieve success in life and work

“Journal writing is one of the rare forms of writing in which freedom of form and content support each other magically.”   –  Stephanie Dowrick

You can use journal writing to get to know yourself better, solve problems, make life decisions, improve your health and increase feelings of gratitude and joy.  Journaling can also help you heal from stressful life circumstances, deal with grief and loss, or other life transitions. Or just journal for the pure love it!

Journaling is a fun, nourishing and creative practice that simply requires something to write with and write on. Whether it’s a pen and notebook, loose paper, cue cards, you get to choose your journaling tools!

People use journal writing in different ways for a variety of reasons. One person might journal to heal a broken heart writing an unsent letter sharing what they wish they’d said to that person.  Someone else might journal to celebrate their accomplishments and make a list of their recent successes in their journal.

There are also a wide variety of journaling methods and techniques to get the most out of your journaling. You can use it for whatever matters most to you at this time in your life.

How to Journal – What are the Benefits?

There are many evidence-based benefits of journal writing from over 30 years of research in the expressive writing field.  Yes, journal writing is a field of work!

People use the journaling process for many reasons, including to:

  • stimulate a healthier mind and body
  • vent and express thoughts and feelings in a healthy, constructive manner
  • increase self-awareness
  • create clarity for decision-making
  • track progress and personal growth
  • celebrate successes
  • heal emotional pain and trauma
  • increase self-care
  • manage stress and prevent burnout
  • gain broader and multiple perspectives
  • practice writing in a non-judgmental setting
  • improve creative thinking
  • preserve memories
  • get closer to God or a divine energy source

Today, journaling is widely accepted as a means for cultivating wellness as part of a whole person health approach. This includes the emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of well-being. Journaling is also being used across various disciplines, such as education, psychology, leadership, business, health, creative writing, coaching and counselling fields, as a powerful tool for learning and growth.

How to Journal – Getting Started

Get organized.

One of the first things to do when you start a journal is get your journaling tools organized.

It can be fun to pick out your favourite pen and an inspiring journal. Look online or go into any book, stationary or office supply store and you’ll find all kinds of journals, pens, markers and other things you might like to use in your journal such as stickers or other creative touches.

So over time, you can experiment with your journaling tools. Do you like blank pages or lined? Would you prefer a small journal or a large sketchbook style journal?  Would you use the same style journal or mix it up and try something new each time you begin a new one?

Sometimes people use loose leaf paper and put their journaling pages in a binder, or write small entries on cue cards. And some people even use big 18 x 24 pages of paper for larger visual journaling entries. You can create a mixed media art journal and much more.

Image of hand starting to write in journal

Just Write!

The key is to pick some simple journaling tools to start with – a pen and notebook – and just start writing.

Your writing will teach you what you need. For example, I used to write in a small lined journal and over the years, my writing longed for larger, open, clear spaces to fill. Now I use an 8 ½ by 11 blank page sketchbook, spiral bound and I keep my pilot pen in the spine of the journal.

Find your own tools and make your own way as you write. The only way to journal, is to write. And then write some more.

Whether you’re an avid journal writer, someone who journaled in the past, or have never written in a journal before:

“There is a Spanish proverb which says: there is no road, we make the road as we walk. I would say the same thing about journal writing: we make the path as we write.” Christina Baldwin

How to Journal – Creating Writing Rituals

What is a journaling writing ritual.

Dr. James Pennebaker, author of Writing to Heal: A Guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval , suggests some conditions that help enhance the expressive writing process.  His research shows that creating a journal writing ritual is very beneficial.

Being focused, non-judgmental, and connected to your interior world fosters deeper writing. But, it’s not a frame of mind that everyone can simply switch on and off.

The idea behind creating a ritual is to create a unique environment and/or behavior which helps you sink into the best journal writing mindset possible. The purpose of the ritual is to take you away from everyday life. Your ritual contains the cues you create for yourself which help you become relaxed, alert, and reflective.

How do you Create a Journal Writing Ritual?

Here are some suggestions, but remember, the ritual you create to transition into deeper journal writing is uniquely yours.

  • Select some music that creates a sense of serenity. Play it for five minutes, focusing on simply listening to the music. Consider closing your eyes. Do not read your mail or straighten out your desk! You may want to have just one piece of music you use each time as your centering pre-writing ritual. Or choose three or four pieces you love for some variety.
  • Begin with several minutes of a meditation or a prayer. You can write just for the occasion or create something spontaneously each time.
  • Brew a cup of tea or coffee, or pour yourself some fresh juice. Perhaps a glass of wine? Spend a few minutes holding the cup, feeling the warmth, smelling the aromas of your drink and deeply enjoy those sensations.

Write in an environment that’s inspiring for your journal writing

  • This could be by a bright and sunny window or a softly lit corner nestled in a cozy chair.
  • Light a candle and while lighting the candle say an affirmation, your intention or make a wish.

Journal at approximately the same time each day

  • This doesn’t have to be at the same hour each day, but it’s helpful if it’s at the same time in your daily routine. For example half an hour before bed, which will work whether you go to bed at 10pm or at midnight.

The trick, of course, is to find the cues that help you settle in quickly. Initially, experiment with different rituals to see which feels best and then stick with the practice once you’ve found one you like. Remember to use as many of your senses (smell, sight, touch, hearing and taste) as you can when creating your centering ritual.

Image of woman journaling to create a ritual for how to journal article

How to Journal – What To Write

You can write about anything you want to write about. For example write about your day including your thoughts, feelings, problems, challenges, upsets, joys, successes and dreams. Here are some journaling prompts to help you get started:

  • Right now, I am feeling…
  • In the moment, I notice…
  • Currently, I am thinking about…
  • So far, the best part about my week is…

You can also write about what you don’t want to write about—and explore your resistance!

Resistance offers you information about where you’re feeling stuck, perhaps procrastinating, or simply not quite sure how to proceed. Here are some journaling prompts to play with around resistance:

  • At the moment, I don’t really want to write about (and then write about it anyways)…
  • I am feeling resistant because…
  • If I wasn’t feeling resistant, what might be different in my life right now…

You can free write (simply go to the page and start writing) or you can do more structured journal writing activities such as using prompts.

There are many other journal writing techniques and methods such as mind maps, cluster drawings, dialogue writing, captured moments, poetic writing and more that you can learn about and use to keep your journal writing fresh and interesting.

Access our free 7 Servings of Journal Juice for new ideas on what to write about in your journal. And you’ll also receive journal writing prompts, exercises, tips and our inspiring Journaling Museletter .

How To Journal – How Often Should I Write

There are no rules about how often you should write in your journal. Like anything, the more often you do something that’s good for you, the more benefits you get from it. I doubt you would go for one walk around the block and expect to experience significant health benefits from it.

The same is true for journaling. While that one walk would have offered you ‘in the moment’ benefits like time to relax, feeling good from moving your body, fresh air and more, the same is true for journaling.

You could gain a sense of relief, renewal and replenishment from just 10 minutes of writing about your thoughts, feelings and life observations.

Journal Regularly

Much like any other activity that’s good for you like brushing your teeth, meditating or eating a healthy diet, journaling can also be done regularly. Journaling makes a great healthy daily habit.

Set a Timer

I often facilitate timed journal writing exercises in workshops and retreats that I offer. It’s a core part of my Transformational Writing for Wellness Salon , a 6 week group coaching program that takes people into the heart and art of transformational journaling.

So often people say, “I can’t believe how much I wrote in just 5 minutes” or “I can’t believe I gained new insights when I just wrote for 7 minutes!”

Journaling to Cope

Many people only write in their journals when they are going through difficult times. Then once things are going better, they stop writing. This is also a valuable way to use your journal as a life companion to help you cope during stressful or troubled times.

The key is not to get too caught up in “shoulds”: I should journal today, I should journal more often. That’s because ‘shoulds’ can open the door for negative self-talk and feelings of inadequacy and shame. Instead, your journaling practice is best treated like a kind friend. You journal because you want to, and because it’s an enjoyable, or at least helpful, relaxing experience.

It’s a question that most journal writers face at some point. Does it matter if you write often in your journal? Well, whether you write regularly depends on your purpose for writing. Is it to preserve memories? To sort out issues? To track physical or emotional, spiritual, or intellectual progress? Track health symptoms?

If journal writing is pleasurable, then writing is its own reward. If journal writing becomes a task you “should” do, rather than something you enjoy, then you’ll write less consistently.

So part of the issue can be reframed by asking, ”How do I make journal writing pleasurable?” The answer to this question will help you find your own way to make journaling a consistent and enjoyable habit.

How To Journal Consistently –  Creating the Journaling Habit

Think of writing a journal entry as the lowest cost and highest benefit way of taking care of your health. Remember that writing about meaningful events or activities in your life has been proven to positively impact your overall health without major cost of time or money and without having to leave your home!

If you do want to write in your journal on a regular basis and truly create the journaling habit, here are a few ideas to help you keep writing consistently:

Make your journal writing more upbeat

  • Review the good things that have happened in your day—your attitude, your progress toward a goal, a minor victory, even a two-minute interaction with someone that went well.
  • Remind yourself about the good stuff in your life and your good qualities.

Write when you have difficult issues in your life that need to be resolved

  • Who doesn’t experience difficult times? Consider the time that you write in your journal as an oasis of self-nurturing in your day. It’s a time to vent, rant, reflect, and process just for you.

If possible, write at the same time every day

  • Incorporate your writing practice into a daily routine.

Make it short and fun!

  • Write a one-word journal entry that captures your day.
  • It’s a challenge to come up with that one word. You can think about it while you are doing some mindless life maintenance activity—like flossing your teeth, taking out the garbage, or folding clothes.
  • Then once you’ve determined that word, writing your journal entry takes almost no time.

Back to the question: Does it really matter that you write consistently?

Writing consistently helps you maintain your journaling practice. It means that when you re-read your journal, there are enough entries to have meaning and flow.

Your ability to write consistently in your journal will be determined by how you feel and doing what’s right for you. So, while you’re writing and when you finish, notice how you feel.

  • Did you like the process?
  • Were you feeling relaxed and soothed during or after writing?
  • Did you feel at times frustrated, angry, confused, despairing?

This whole spectrum of emotions is simply part of the process of journal writing. I know that I feel better most of the time after I write – like I’ve released a burden or relived a pleasurable part of my day.

How to Journal – What Help and Support Can I Get?

One of the best ways to learn more about how to journal is with the support of a like minded community. When we join with fellow journal writers there are regular opportunities to connect, learn and be inspired about journaling. People who like yoga connect in yoga communities, and the same is true for meditation, scrapbooking, running and more. There is a human instinct to find supportive communities who share our passion or interest, so we can learn and grow together.

At the IAJW, our journal writing community is for extroverts and introverts alike. Perhaps you want the inspiration and support of a community, but would rather sit back quietly and take it all in. Or maybe you want to chat with fellow journal writers live on our monthly Zoom Chats with guest experts. You can gain regular  help and support for your unique approach to journal writing.

People journal writing in group for how to journal article

Join our Online Journal Writing Community

We know there is power in community. So come join fellow journal writers in the International Association for Journal Writing ! We offer a learning and inspirational community for journal writers worldwide. Access monthly online writing circles, interviews with guest experts in the field of journaling and expressive writing, courses, journaling tools, e-books and much more.

We also have our Journal Writing Facebook group . Connect with fellow journal writers, receive journal writing tips and prompts to support you on your unique journal writing journey. Everyone is welcome!

Treat Yourself to a Journal Writing Retreat

Lastly, you might want to join one of our virtual Renew You Writing Retreats . Take 3 hours for yourself to journal in a guided and nourishing way. Whether you want to kick-start or reinvigorate your journaling practice, this retreat gives you time for creative self-care and renewal!

“Wow! What an awesome experience! I must admit I was a tad bit skeptical about an online retreat. But woah! Was I wrong! The Renew You Writing Retreat was so invigorating, uplifting, therapeutic, inspirational….just plain awesomesauce. Have you ever had an experience like that? You go in a little skeptical and come out blown away? Have you had the experience of being deeply inspired through writing and sharing with others? If not, you’re missing out! Thank you, Lynda, for creating such a wonderful space and experience.” Airial W. Dandridge, Certified Life Coach

How to Journal – In Conclusion

If you’ve read this far, I know you’re passionate (or at least curious about) the many benefits of  journal writing. Journaling is an empowering experience because you’re always the expert of your own life. Journaling helps you explore both your inner and outer worlds and make sense of your life experience.

As a Registered Social Worker and Certified Co-Active Life Coach, I have been immersed in human transformation, growth, change and wellness for the past 30 years. I’ve learned many different tools and techniques for self-care, healing and growth through my studies and first-hand experience. Journaling is my go to practice that helps me live an intentional, healthy and happy life. And it has helped many people to do the same! Including you, perhaps?

There is only one way to experience the many benefits of journal writing—pick up your pen and write!

“Writing was the healing place where I could collect bits and pieces, where I could put them together again…written words change us all and make us more than we could ever be without them.” bell hooks

May your journaling support you to live an incredible life!

Authors :  Lynda Monk, Director of IAJW and Ruth Folit, Founder of IAJW , partnered to write this How to Journal article, attempting to answer some of the most common questions that new and, in some cases, even seasoned journal writers have.


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Such a wonderful article. Thank you for sharing!

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Thanks, Diana!

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I went to write lots bits to remember and copied it almost word for word in my common place book,but I love to write and am trying to get back into it,I’m writing for recovery from am 8yr relationship with a covert gaslighting narcissist,and I couldn’t write,let alone relax,I have been out for almost 2yrs,and when I start to feel joy or something didn’t work out and I’m hard on myself,I swear I can feel his presence in my house,he doesn’t know where I am,I left him and moved 2hr away in a different state,the feeling is almost overwhelming

Hi Dixie, personal writing can help heal from painful relationships. It’s great you are getting back into it!

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Thank you both Lynda and Ruth for this wonderfully informative resource. Never too old to learn something new! Thank you both for bringing this to us.

Thanks, Lyn. Glad it offered some new ideas!

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Great article Lynda! You’ve covered so many bases – lots of work, and very informative and knowledgeable as always :) Emma-Louise

Hi Emma, thanks for your kind feedback!

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You two put together a beautiful and accessible piece here. It’s filled with all the vast experience and love you have for journaling. Thanks, Beth

Thanks so much, Beth! Your feedback means a lot to us.

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Lynda, a beautiful gift to receive, words combing thoughts, insightful expressions and creative suggestions. Thank you for sharing a writing world held in heart, pen or typing starts journaling what is seen, felt or sensed from a human inner essence. Whole ❤️ Namaste.

Thank you, Denise! Namaste.

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My name is Jacki Smallwood. I have been watching your sight on Facebook, and all the various gifts you have given while on the sight. I have been in a nursing home for 3 years and in quarantine for the past 11 months, not leaving my room, no guests, no funerals or graduation s. To keep my sanity u journal, I share my journaling with other residents through Messenger to help others cope. I don’t have access to copy machine nor anyone to take it out to staples. I am asking if anyone of your organization would donate material that would help me so much and then share with others. I get 45.00 a month from SS and need every penny for my needs. Anything you can do would be so helpful.

Seniors are a special group often ignored through this Covid.

Thank you for anything you could for me.

Jacky Smallwood

Hi Jacky, thank you for your note and request. I removed your mailing address from your original comment before publishing it for your privacy. I will reach out to you by email. I am glad journaling is helping you during this difficult time. More to follow, Lynda

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Lynda, I’m very grateful to have ran across this article. I used to journal a lot when I was younger and I write poetry and music pretty consistently for the last few years. I have been told journaling could be amazing for me to get over some of my past pains and nasty relationships and getting to know myself, growing into a stronger (as well as better person), and just for my general mental health. So, as I begin to journal this very day, I was writing down many things that I want to include and accomplish with this journal inside the front pages of my book and I happened to run across your article! Now I just want to give you a big thank you BECAUSE I attained a lot of information, ideas, and format to include in my new journaling experience! I’m very excited to embark and I just wanted to let you know again I’m grateful for running across your words.

Chelsea Venice, Florida

Hi Chelsea, thanks for your note and for sharing some of your journaling hopes! I love the serendipity that you found our journaling website. We have lots of free journaling resources, including journaling prompts, that might be helpful along the way. You can find them here if you are interested: https://iajw.org/free-journaling-resources/ Happy journaling!

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Thanks for your article esp the prompts to change the language and freshen up what I usually write.

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wonderful article

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Thank you so much for this article! When I was in my deepest months I would always journal but then once I got better I stopped journaling. I really want to get back into it but instead of writing about the bad in my life, I am going to focus on the good.

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thank you for this article!

You’re welcome, Gwen. Thanks for reading.

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I love the ideas for making journaling more appealing in order to journal more consistently. Sometimes I get so caught up in the “should do’s” that I forget that there really are no rules!

' src=

Very informative article on journaling! I’ve found journaling to be a wonderful practice for self-discovery and personal growth.

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writing a journal paper

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Writing for an academic journal: 10 tips

1) Have a strategy, make a plan

Why do you want to write for journals? What is your purpose? Are you writing for research assessment? Or to make a difference? Are you writing to have an impact factor or to have an impact? Do you want to develop a profile in a specific area? Will this determine which journals you write for? Have you taken their impact factors into account?

Have you researched other researchers in your field – where have they published recently? Which group or conversation can you see yourself joining? Some people write the paper first and then look for a 'home' for it, but since everything in your article – content, focus, structure, style – will be shaped for a specific journal, save yourself time by deciding on your target journal and work out how to write in a way that suits that journal.

Having a writing strategy means making sure you have both external drivers – such as scoring points in research assessment or climbing the promotion ladder – and internal drivers – which means working out why writing for academic journals matters to you. This will help you maintain the motivation you'll need to write and publish over the long term. Since the time between submission and publication can be up to two years (though in some fields it's much less) you need to be clear about your motivation.

2) Analyse writing in journals in your field

Take a couple of journals in your field that you will target now or soon. Scan all the abstracts over the past few issues. Analyse them: look closely at all first and last sentences. The first sentence (usually) gives the rationale for the research, and the last asserts a 'contribution to knowledge'. But the word 'contribution' may not be there – it's associated with the doctorate. So which words are used? What constitutes new knowledge in this journal at this time? How can you construct a similar form of contribution from the work you did? What two sentences will you write to start and end your abstract for that journal?

Scan other sections of the articles: how are they structured? What are the components of the argument? Highlight all the topic sentences – the first sentences of every paragraph – to show the stages in the argument. Can you see an emerging taxonomy of writing genres in this journal? Can you define the different types of paper, different structures and decide which one will work best in your paper? Select two types of paper: one that's the type of paper you can use as a model for yours, and one that you can cite in your paper, thereby joining the research conversation that is ongoing in that journal.

3) Do an outline and just write

Which type of writer are you: do you always do an outline before you write, or do you just dive in and start writing? Or do you do a bit of both? Both outlining and just writing are useful, and it is therefore a good idea to use both. However, make your outline very detailed: outline the main sections and calibrate these with your target journal.

What types of headings are normally used there? How long are the sections usually? Set word limits for your sections, sub-sections and, if need be, for sub-sub-sections. This involves deciding about content that you want to include, so it may take time, and feedback would help at this stage.

When you sit down to write, what exactly are you doing:using writing to develop your ideas or writing to document your work? Are you using your outline as an agenda for writing sections of your article? Define your writing task by thinking about verbs – they define purpose: to summarise, overview, critique, define, introduce, conclude etc.

4) Get feedback from start to finish

Even at the earliest stages, discuss your idea for a paper with four or five people, get feedback on your draft abstract. It will only take them a couple of minutes to read it and respond. Do multiple revisions before you submit your article to the journal.

5) Set specific writing goals and sub-goals

Making your writing goals specific means defining the content, verb and word length for the section. This means not having a writing goal like, 'I plan to have this article written by the end of the year' but 'My next writing goal is to summarise and critique twelve articles for the literature review section in 800 words on Tuesday between 9am and 10.30'. Some people see this as too mechanical for academic writing, but it is a way of forcing yourself to make decisions about content, sequence and proportion for your article.

6) Write with others

While most people see writing as a solitary activity, communal writing – writing with others who are writing – can help to develop confidence, fluency and focus. It can help you develop the discipline of regular writing. Doing your academic writing in groups or at writing retreats are ways of working on your own writing, but – if you unplug from email, internet and all other devices – also developing the concentration needed for regular, high-level academic writing.

At some point – ideally at regular intervals – you can get a lot more done if you just focus on writing. If this seems like common sense, it isn't common practice. Most people do several things at once, but this won't always work for regular journal article writing. At some point, it pays to privilege writing over all other tasks, for a defined period, such as 90 minutes, which is long enough to get something done on your paper, but not so long that it's impossible to find the time.

7) Do a warm up before you write

While you are deciding what you want to write about, an initial warm up that works is to write for five minutes, in sentences, in answer to the question: 'What writing for publication have you done [or the closest thing to it], and what do you want to do in the long, medium and short term?'

Once you have started writing your article, use a variation on this question as a warm up – what writing for this project have you done, and what do you want to do in the long, medium and short term? Top tip: end each session of writing with a 'writing instruction' for yourself to use in your next session, for example, 'on Monday from 9 to 10am, I will draft the conclusion section in 500 words'.

As discussed, if there are no numbers, there are no goals. Goals that work need to be specific, and you need to monitor the extent to which you achieve them. This is how you learn to set realistic targets.

8) Analyse reviewers' feedback on your submission

What exactly are they asking you to do? Work out whether they want you to add or cut something. How much? Where? Write out a list of revision actions. When you resubmit your article include this in your report to the journal, specifying how you have responded to the reviewers' feedback. If your article was rejected, it is still useful to analyse feedback, work out why and revise it for somewhere else.

Most feedback will help you improve your paper and, perhaps, your journal article writing, but sometimes it may seem overheated, personalised or even vindictive. Some of it may even seem unprofessional. Discuss reviewers' feedback – see what others think of it. You may find that other people – even eminent researchers – still get rejections and negative reviews; any non-rejection is a cause for celebration. Revise and resubmit as soon as you can.

9) Be persistent, thick-skinned and resilient

These are qualities that you may develop over time – or you may already have them. It may be easier to develop them in discussion with others who are writing for journals.

10) Take care of yourself

Writing for academic journals is highly competitive. It can be extremely stressful. Even making time to write can be stressful. And there are health risks in sitting for long periods, so try not to sit writing for more than an hour at a time. Finally, be sure to celebrate thoroughly when your article is accepted. Remind yourself that writing for academic journals is what you want to do – that your writing will make a difference in some way.

These points are taken from the 3rd edition of Writing for Academic Journals .

Rowena Murray is professor in education and director of research at the University of the West of Scotland – follow it on Twitter @UniWestScotland

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How to Write and Publish a Research Paper in 7 Steps

What comes next after you're done with your research? Publishing the results in a journal of course! We tell you how to present your work in the best way possible.

This post is part of a series, which serves to provide hands-on information and resources for authors and editors.

Things have gotten busy in scholarly publishing: These days, a new article gets published in the 50,000 most important peer-reviewed journals every few seconds, while each one takes on average 40 minutes to read. Hundreds of thousands of papers reach the desks of editors and reviewers worldwide each year and 50% of all submissions end up rejected at some stage.

In a nutshell: there is a lot of competition, and the people who decide upon the fate of your manuscript are short on time and overworked. But there are ways to make their lives a little easier and improve your own chances of getting your work published!

Well, it may seem obvious, but before submitting an academic paper, always make sure that it is an excellent reflection of the research you have done and that you present it in the most professional way possible. Incomplete or poorly presented manuscripts can create a great deal of frustration and annoyance for editors who probably won’t even bother wasting the time of the reviewers!

This post will discuss 7 steps to the successful publication of your research paper:

  • Check whether your research is publication-ready
  • Choose an article type
  • Choose a journal
  • Construct your paper
  • Decide the order of authors
  • Check and double-check
  • Submit your paper

1. Check Whether Your Research Is Publication-Ready

Should you publish your research at all?

If your work holds academic value – of course – a well-written scholarly article could open doors to your research community. However, if you are not yet sure, whether your research is ready for publication, here are some key questions to ask yourself depending on your field of expertise:

  • Have you done or found something new and interesting? Something unique?
  • Is the work directly related to a current hot topic?
  • Have you checked the latest results or research in the field?
  • Have you provided solutions to any difficult problems?
  • Have the findings been verified?
  • Have the appropriate controls been performed if required?
  • Are your findings comprehensive?

If the answers to all relevant questions are “yes”, you need to prepare a good, strong manuscript. Remember, a research paper is only useful if it is clearly understood, reproducible and if it is read and used .

2. Choose An Article Type

The first step is to determine which type of paper is most appropriate for your work and what you want to achieve. The following list contains the most important, usually peer-reviewed article types in the natural sciences:

Full original research papers disseminate completed research findings. On average this type of paper is 8-10 pages long, contains five figures, and 25-30 references. Full original research papers are an important part of the process when developing your career.

Review papers present a critical synthesis of a specific research topic. These papers are usually much longer than original papers and will contain numerous references. More often than not, they will be commissioned by journal editors. Reviews present an excellent way to solidify your research career.

Letters, Rapid or Short Communications are often published for the quick and early communication of significant and original advances. They are much shorter than full articles and usually limited in length by the journal. Journals specifically dedicated to short communications or letters are also published in some fields. In these the authors can present short preliminary findings before developing a full-length paper.

3. Choose a Journal

Are you looking for the right place to publish your paper? Find out here whether a De Gruyter journal might be the right fit.

Submit to journals that you already read, that you have a good feel for. If you do so, you will have a better appreciation of both its culture and the requirements of the editors and reviewers.

Other factors to consider are:

  • The specific subject area
  • The aims and scope of the journal
  • The type of manuscript you have written
  • The significance of your work
  • The reputation of the journal
  • The reputation of the editors within the community
  • The editorial/review and production speeds of the journal
  • The community served by the journal
  • The coverage and distribution
  • The accessibility ( open access vs. closed access)

4. Construct Your Paper

Each element of a paper has its purpose, so you should make these sections easy to index and search.

Don’t forget that requirements can differ highly per publication, so always make sure to apply a journal’s specific instructions – or guide – for authors to your manuscript, even to the first draft (text layout, paper citation, nomenclature, figures and table, etc.) It will save you time, and the editor’s.

Also, even in these days of Internet-based publishing, space is still at a premium, so be as concise as possible. As a good journalist would say: “Never use three words when one will do!”

Let’s look at the typical structure of a full research paper, but bear in mind certain subject disciplines may have their own specific requirements so check the instructions for authors on the journal’s home page.

4.1 The Title

It’s important to use the title to tell the reader what your paper is all about! You want to attract their attention, a bit like a newspaper headline does. Be specific and to the point. Keep it informative and concise, and avoid jargon and abbreviations (unless they are universally recognized like DNA, for example).

4.2 The Abstract

This could be termed as the “advertisement” for your article. Make it interesting and easily understood without the reader having to read the whole article. Be accurate and specific, and keep it as brief and concise as possible. Some journals (particularly in the medical fields) will ask you to structure the abstract in distinct, labeled sections, which makes it even more accessible.

A clear abstract will influence whether or not your work is considered and whether an editor should invest more time on it or send it for review.

4.3 Keywords

Keywords are used by abstracting and indexing services, such as PubMed and Web of Science. They are the labels of your manuscript, which make it “searchable” online by other researchers.

Include words or phrases (usually 4-8) that are closely related to your topic but not “too niche” for anyone to find them. Make sure to only use established abbreviations. Think about what scientific terms and its variations your potential readers are likely to use and search for. You can also do a test run of your selected keywords in one of the common academic search engines. Do similar articles to your own appear? Yes? Then that’s a good sign.

4.4 Introduction

This first part of the main text should introduce the problem, as well as any existing solutions you are aware of and the main limitations. Also, state what you hope to achieve with your research.

Do not confuse the introduction with the results, discussion or conclusion.

4.5 Methods

Every research article should include a detailed Methods section (also referred to as “Materials and Methods”) to provide the reader with enough information to be able to judge whether the study is valid and reproducible.

Include detailed information so that a knowledgeable reader can reproduce the experiment. However, use references and supplementary materials to indicate previously published procedures.

4.6 Results

In this section, you will present the essential or primary results of your study. To display them in a comprehensible way, you should use subheadings as well as illustrations such as figures, graphs, tables and photos, as appropriate.

4.7 Discussion

Here you should tell your readers what the results mean .

Do state how the results relate to the study’s aims and hypotheses and how the findings relate to those of other studies. Explain all possible interpretations of your findings and the study’s limitations.

Do not make “grand statements” that are not supported by the data. Also, do not introduce any new results or terms. Moreover, do not ignore work that conflicts or disagrees with your findings. Instead …

Be brave! Address conflicting study results and convince the reader you are the one who is correct.

4.8 Conclusion

Your conclusion isn’t just a summary of what you’ve already written. It should take your paper one step further and answer any unresolved questions.

Sum up what you have shown in your study and indicate possible applications and extensions. The main question your conclusion should answer is: What do my results mean for the research field and my community?

4.9 Acknowledgments and Ethical Statements

It is extremely important to acknowledge anyone who has helped you with your paper, including researchers who supplied materials or reagents (e.g. vectors or antibodies); and anyone who helped with the writing or English, or offered critical comments about the content.

Learn more about academic integrity in our blog post “Scholarly Publication Ethics: 4 Common Mistakes You Want To Avoid” .

Remember to state why people have been acknowledged and ask their permission . Ensure that you acknowledge sources of funding, including any grant or reference numbers.

Furthermore, if you have worked with animals or humans, you need to include information about the ethical approval of your study and, if applicable, whether informed consent was given. Also, state whether you have any competing interests regarding the study (e.g. because of financial or personal relationships.)

4.10 References

The end is in sight, but don’t relax just yet!

De facto, there are often more mistakes in the references than in any other part of the manuscript. It is also one of the most annoying and time-consuming problems for editors.

Remember to cite the main scientific publications on which your work is based. But do not inflate the manuscript with too many references. Avoid excessive – and especially unnecessary – self-citations. Also, avoid excessive citations of publications from the same institute or region.

5. Decide the Order of Authors

In the sciences, the most common way to order the names of the authors is by relative contribution.

Generally, the first author conducts and/or supervises the data analysis and the proper presentation and interpretation of the results. They put the paper together and usually submit the paper to the journal.

Co-authors make intellectual contributions to the data analysis and contribute to data interpretation. They review each paper draft. All of them must be able to present the paper and its results, as well as to defend the implications and discuss study limitations.

Do not leave out authors who should be included or add “gift authors”, i.e. authors who did not contribute significantly.

6. Check and Double-Check

As a final step before submission, ask colleagues to read your work and be constructively critical .

Make sure that the paper is appropriate for the journal – take a last look at their aims and scope. Check if all of the requirements in the instructions for authors are met.

Ensure that the cited literature is balanced. Are the aims, purpose and significance of the results clear?

Conduct a final check for language, either by a native English speaker or an editing service.

7. Submit Your Paper

When you and your co-authors have double-, triple-, quadruple-checked the manuscript: submit it via e-mail or online submission system. Along with your manuscript, submit a cover letter, which highlights the reasons why your paper would appeal to the journal and which ensures that you have received approval of all authors for submission.

It is up to the editors and the peer-reviewers now to provide you with their (ideally constructive and helpful) comments and feedback. Time to take a breather!

If the paper gets rejected, do not despair – it happens to literally everybody. If the journal suggests major or minor revisions, take the chance to provide a thorough response and make improvements as you see fit. If the paper gets accepted, congrats!

It’s now time to get writing and share your hard work – good luck!

If you are interested, check out this related blog post

writing a journal paper

[Title Image by Nick Morrison via Unsplash]

David Sleeman

David Sleeman worked as Senior Journals Manager in the field of Physical Sciences at De Gruyter.

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De Gruyter publishes over 1,300 new book titles each year and more than 750 journals in the humanities, social sciences, medicine, mathematics, engineering, computer sciences, natural sciences, and law.

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How to Write a Journal

Last Updated: March 21, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Catherine Boswell, PhD . Dr. Catherine Boswell is a Licensed Psychologist and a Co-Founder of Psynergy Psychological Associates, a private therapy practice based in Houston, Texas. With over 15 years of experience, Dr. Boswell specializes in treating individuals, groups, couples, and families struggling with trauma, relationships, grief, and chronic pain. She holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Houston. Dr. Bowell has taught courses to Master’s level students at the University of Houston. She is also an author, speaker, and coach. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 239,828 times.

Journal writing is a creative form of recording your feelings free from the fear of judgement or criticism. Writing in a journal can allow you to work through complex issues in your life, exploring them thoroughly and candidly. It can also be a way of relieving stress, rather than inadvertently taking out your unexplored feelings on someone else. See Step 1 below to start writing your own journal.

Journal Entry Template

writing a journal paper

Starting Your Own Journal

Step 1 Find something to contain your journal entries.

  • If you're looking at computer-based options for your journal, you might want to consider starting a blog - essentially an online journal that other people can read . A variety of free blog sites exist, some of which allow you to control who can and cannot read your blog.

Step 2 Start your first entry by setting the scene.

  • If you're writing a blog, you may want to begin by addressing your readers.

Step 3 Write!

  • As an exception to this rule, if you're writing a blog, while you'll want to be open with your emotions, consider your audience. You may want to consider censoring your most intense and/or personal thoughts.

Step 4 Develop a routine.

  • Many journal-writers like to add an entry every night before bed. This is a healthy routine because it allows the writer to relax and unwind at the end of the day by "letting out" any lingering emotions. Be sure to write honestly, don't overthink it, and stay focused.

Step 5 Re-read your past entries for insights.

  • Use your past entries to reflect on your life. As you read, ask yourself questions like, "Am I the same person who wrote this entry?", "Is my life going the way I want it to?", and "How can I work to solve any problems that may have been troubling me when I wrote this entry?"

Step 6 Give your journal some personal style.

  • The experiences you have while travelling can be some of the most influential ones in your life. Discovering the beauty of nature, making a friend in a far-off place, and even simply leaving your home can shape you, so document these things!

Step 8 Customize your journal.

  • If you're using a digital journal, like a blog, try adding photographs to your posts, including links, and choosing colorful templates.

Writing Great Journal Entries

Step 1 Think of your journal as a safe place to express yourself.

  • If you're having trouble turning off your filter, try writing "free form" as an exercise - scrawling your thoughts down in a stream-of-consciousness form the moment they come to you, whether they make sense or not.

Step 3 Comment on past journal entries.

  • For instance, were you in a miserable mood when you wrote yesterday, but are now feeling better? Comment on this! By doing so, you may start to understand why you felt this way in the first place.

Step 4 Use writing prompts when you're bereft of ideas.

  • You may find that, by pursuing a prompt, your writing ventures into interesting new areas you might otherwise never have explored. Be adventurous and pursue these new topics to your heart's content!

Step 5 Learn from the greats!

  • The diary of Samuel Pepys
  • The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank's diary)
  • The diary of Jemima Conduct
  • The diary of Franz Kafka
  • Bridget Jones's Diary
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • The Color Purple
  • Flowers for Algernon
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Expert Q&A

Catherine Boswell, PhD

Reader Videos

Share a quick video tip and help bring articles to life with your friendly advice. Your insights could make a real difference and help millions of people!

  • Find a secluded and familiar place to write (for example, your bedroom with the door locked), but other secluded places are good too. (Your backyard.) Thanks Helpful 7 Not Helpful 0
  • It's best to write with a pen because pencil can fade. Thanks Helpful 8 Not Helpful 3
  • It's best if it is a secret. It's better if no one reads about your feelings and your secrets. Thanks Helpful 6 Not Helpful 3

writing a journal paper

  • Always keep it in a safe no-one-knows box of secrets after writing. It's best if it has a lock. Thanks Helpful 85 Not Helpful 7
  • If this person does and reads it, confront them and tell them you absolutely do not want them to read it. Then take necessary precautions, such as getting a notebook with a lock. Thanks Helpful 77 Not Helpful 7
  • Your secrets may be posted around the net if you don't lock it. (This is for blog authors only.) Thanks Helpful 60 Not Helpful 8
  • Someone could find out about your journal. Thanks Helpful 67 Not Helpful 15

Things You'll Need

  • A cheap but good composition notebook.
  • A working pen or pencil.
  • Colouring in pens or pencils.

You Might Also Like

Write a Journal Entry

  • ↑ https://docs.google.com/
  • ↑ https://psychcentral.com/blog/ready-set-journal-64-journaling-prompts-for-self-discovery
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-musings/201611/3-reasons-let-yourself-feel-your-emotions
  • ↑ Catherine Boswell, PhD. Licensed Psychologist. Expert Interview. 29 December 2020.
  • ↑ https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/7-writing-routines-that-work
  • ↑ https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/mar/22/how-to-start-journal-writing-drawing
  • ↑ https://www.washingtonpost.com/travel/tips/travel-photos-journal-memories-/
  • ↑ https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1
  • ↑ https://psychcentral.com/blog/ready-set-journal-64-journaling-prompts-for-self-discovery#the-journal-prompts

About This Article

Catherine Boswell, PhD

To write a journal entry, start by writing down the date, time, and location where you're writing. Then, let your emotions flow and write about your feelings, like your family life, crush, or dreams. Try not to overthink it by writing things down as soon as they come into your head. You can also use writing prompts. To make your entries as useful as possible, get into a routine of writing regularly. Then, review your past entries to assess your feelings with the benefit of hindsight. To see a list of some famous journal writers and get tips on how to decorate your journal, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Writing a Research Paper for an Academic Journal: A Five-step Recipe for Perfection

The answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a step-by-step recipe. Here we bring to you a recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article.

Updated on March 15, 2022

pen with post-it notes on a laptop

As a young researcher, getting your paper published as a journal article is a huge milestone; but producing it may seem like climbing a mountain compared to, perhaps, the theses, essays, or conference papers you have produced in the past.

You may feel overwhelmed with the thought of carrying innumerable equipment and may feel incapable of completing the task. But, in reality, the answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a recipe with step-by-step instructions.

In this blog, I aim to bring to you the recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article. I will give you the essential information, key points, and resources to keep in mind before you begin the writing process for your research papers.

Secret ingredient 1: Make notes before you begin the writing process

Because I want you to benefit from this article on a personal level, I am going to give away my secret ingredient for producing a good research paper right at the beginning. The one thing that helps me write literally anything is — cue the drum rolls — making notes.

Yes, making notes is the best way to remember and store all that information, which is definitely going to help you throughout the process of writing your paper. So, please pick up a pen and start making notes for writing your research paper.

Step 1. Choose the right research topic

Although it is important to be passionate and curious about your research article topic, it is not enough. Sometimes the sheer excitement of having an idea may take away your ability to focus on and question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research topic.

On the contrary, the first thing that you should do when you write a journal paper is question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research question.

It is also important to remember that your research, along with the aforementioned points, must be original and relevant: It must benefit and interest the scientific community.

All you have to do is perform a thorough literature search in your research field and have a look at what is currently going on in the field of your topic of interest. This step in academic writing is not as daunting as it may seem and, in fact, is quite beneficial for the following reasons:

  • You can determine what is already known about the research topic and the gaps that exist.
  • You can determine the credibility and novelty of your research question by comparing it with previously published papers.
  • If your research question has already been studied or answered before your first draft, you first save a substantial amount of time by avoiding rejections from journals at a much later stage; and second, you can study and aim to bridge the gaps of previous studies, perhaps, by using a different methodology or a bigger sample size.

So, carefully read as much as you can about what has already been published in your field of research; and when you are doing so, make sure that you make lots of relevant notes as you go along in the process. Remember, your study does not necessarily have to be groundbreaking, but it should definitely extend previous knowledge or refute existing statements on the topic.

Secret ingredient 2: Use a thematic approach while drafting your manuscript

For instance, if you are writing about the association between the level of breast cancer awareness and socioeconomic status, open a new Word or Notes file and create subheadings such as “breast cancer awareness in low- and middle-income countries,” “reasons for lack of awareness,” or “ways to increase awareness.”

Under these subheadings, make notes of the information that you think may be suitable to be included in your paper as you carry out your literature review. Ensure that you make a draft reference list so that you don't miss out on the references.

Step 2: Know your audience

Finding your research topic is not synonymous with communicating it, it is merely a step, albeit an important one; however, there are other crucial steps that follow. One of which is identifying your target audience.

Now that you know what your topic of interest is, you need to ask yourself “Who am I trying to benefit with my research?” A general mistake is assuming that your reader knows everything about your research topic. Drafting a peer reviewed journal article often means that your work may reach a wide and varied audience.

Therefore, it is a good idea to ponder over who you want to reach and why, rather than simply delivering chunks of information, facts, and statistics. Along with considering the above factors, evaluate your reader's level of education, expertise, and scientific field as this may help you design and write your manuscript, tailoring it specifically for your target audience.

Here are a few points that you must consider after you have identified your target audience:

  • Shortlist a few target journals: The aims and scope of the journal usually mention their audience. This may help you know your readers and visualize them as you write your manuscript. This will further help you include just the right amount of background and details.
  • View your manuscript from the reader's perspective: Try to think about what they might already know or what they would like more details on.
  • Include the appropriate amount of jargon: Ensure that your article text is familiar to your target audience and use the correct terminology to make your content more relatable for readers - and journal editors as your paper goes through the peer review process.
  • Keep your readers engaged: Write with an aim to fill a knowledge gap or add purpose and value to your reader's intellect. Your manuscript does not necessarily have to be complex, write with a simple yet profound tone, layer (or sub-divide) simple points and build complexity as you go along, rather than stating dry facts.
  • Be specific: It is easy to get carried away and forget the essence of your study. Make sure that you stick to your topic and be as specific as you can to your research topic and audience.

Secret ingredient 3: Clearly define your key terms and key concepts

Do not assume that your audience will know your research topic as well as you do, provide compelling details where it is due. This can be tricky. Using the example from “Secret ingredient 2,” you may not need to define breast cancer while writing about breast cancer awareness. However, while talking about the benefits of awareness, such as early presentation of the disease, it is important to explain these benefits, for instance, in terms of superior survival rates.

Step 3: Structure your research paper with care

After determining the topic of your research and your target audience, your overflowing ideas and information need to be structured in a format generally accepted by journals.

Most academic journals conventionally accept original research articles in the following format: Abstract, followed by the Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections, also known as the IMRaD, which is a brilliant way of structuring a research paper outline in a simplified and layered format. In brief, these sections comprise the following information:

In closed-access journals, readers have access to the abstract/summary for them to decide if they wish to purchase the research paper. It's an extremely important representative of the entire manuscript.

All information provided in the abstract must be present in the manuscript, it should include a stand-alone summary of the research, the main findings, the abbreviations should be defined separately in this section, and this section should be clear, decluttered, and concise.


This section should begin with a background of the study topic, i.e., what is already known, moving on to the knowledge gaps that exist, and finally, end with how the present study aims to fill these gaps, or any hypotheses that the authors may have proposed.

This section describes, with compelling details, the procedures that were followed to answer the research question.

The ultimate factor to consider while producing the methods section is reproducibility; this section should be detailed enough for other researchers to reproduce your study and validate your results. It should include ethical information (ethical board approval, informed consent, etc.) and must be written in the past tense.

This section typically presents the findings of the study, with no explanations or interpretations. Here, the findings are simply stated alongside figures or tables mentioned in the text in the correct sequential order. Because you are describing what you found, this section is also written in the past tense.

Discussion and conclusion

This section begins with a summary of your findings and is meant for you to interpret your results, compare them with previously published papers, and elaborate on whether your findings are comparable or contradictory to previous literature.

This section also contains the strengths and limitations of your study, and the latter can be used to suggest future research. End this section with a conclusion paragraph, briefly summarizing and highlighting the main findings and novelty of your study.

Step 4: Cite credible research sources

Now that you know who and what you are writing for, it's time to begin the writing process for your research paper. Another crucial factor that determines the quality of your manuscript is the detailed information within. The introduction and discussion sections, which make a massive portion of the manuscript, majorly rely on external sources of information that have already been published.

Therefore, it is absolutely indispensable to extract and cite these statements from appropriate, credible, recent, and relevant literature to support your claims. Here are a few pointers to consider while choosing the right sources:

Cite academic journals

These are the best sources to refer to while writing your research paper, because most articles submitted to top journals are rejected, resulting in high-quality articles being filtered-out. In particular, peer reviewed articles are of the highest quality because they undergo a rigorous process of editorial review, along with revisions until they are judged to be satisfactory.

But not just any book, ideally, the credibility of a book can be judged by whether it is published by an academic publisher, is written by multiple authors who are experts in the field of interest, and is carefully reviewed by multiple editors. It can be beneficial to review the background of the author(s) and check their previous publications.

Cite an official online source

Although it may be difficult to judge the trustworthiness of web content, a few factors may help determine its accuracy. These include demographic data obtained from government websites (.gov), educational resources (.edu), websites that cite other pertinent and trustworthy sources, content meant for education and not product promotion, unbiased sources, or sources with backlinks that are up to date. It is best to avoid referring to online sources such as blogs and Wikipedia.

Do not cite the following sources

While citing sources, you should steer clear from encyclopedias, citing review articles instead of directly citing the original work, referring to sources that you have not read, citing research papers solely from one country (be extensively diverse), anything that is not backed up by evidence, and material with considerable grammatical errors.

Although these sources are generally most appropriate and valid, it is your job to critically read and carefully evaluate all sources prior to citing them.

Step 5: Pick the correct journal

Selecting the correct journal is one of the most crucial steps toward getting published, as it not only determines the weightage of your research but also of your career as a researcher. The journals in which you choose to publish your research are part of your portfolio; it directly or indirectly determines many factors, such as funding, professional advancement, and future collaborations.

The best thing you can do for your work is to pick a peer-reviewed journal. Not only will your paper be polished to the highest quality for editors, but you will also be able to address certain gaps that you may have missed out.

Besides, it always helps to have another perspective, and what better than to have it from an experienced peer?

A common mistake that researchers tend to make is leave the task of choosing the target journal after they have written their paper.

Now, I understand that due to certain factors, it can be challenging to decide what journal you want to publish in before you start drafting your paper, therefore, the best time to make this decision is while you are working on writing your manuscript. Having a target journal in mind while writing your paper has a great deal of benefits.

  • As the most basic benefit, you can know beforehand if your study meets the aims and scope of your desired journal. It will ensure you're not wasting valuable time for editors or yourself.
  • While drafting your manuscript, you could keep in mind the requirements of your target journal, such as the word limit for the main article text and abstract, the maximum number of figures or tables that are allowed, or perhaps, the maximum number of references that you may include.
  • Also, if you choose to submit to an open-access journal, you have ample amount of time to figure out the funding.
  • Another major benefit is that, as mentioned in the previous section, the aims and scope of the journal will give you a fair idea on your target audience and will help you draft your manuscript appropriately.

It is definitely easier to know that your target journal requires the text to be within 3,500 words than spending weeks writing a manuscript that is around, say, 5,000 words, and then spending a substantial amount of time decluttering. Now, while not all journals have very specific requirements, it always helps to short-list a few journals, if not concretely choose one to publish your paper in.

AJE also offers journal recommendation services if you need professional help with finding a target journal.

Secret ingredient 4: Follow the journal guidelines

Perfectly written manuscripts may get rejected by the journal on account of not adhering to their formatting requirements. You can find the author guidelines/instructions on the home page of every journal. Ensure that as you write your manuscript, you follow the journal guidelines such as the word limit, British or American English, formatting references, line spacing, line/page numbering, and so on.

Our ultimate aim is to instill confidence in young researchers like you and help you become independent as you write and communicate your research. With the help of these easy steps and secret ingredients, you are now ready to prepare your flavorful manuscript and serve your research to editors and ultimately the journal readers with a side of impact and a dash of success.

Lubaina Koti, Scientific Writer, BS, Biomedical Sciences, Coventry University

Lubaina Koti, BS

Scientific Writer

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The Write Practice

How to Write a Journal: 6 Tips to Get Started

by Pamela Hodges | 61 comments

Writers are collectors of ideas, and where do we keep them? On scraps of paper, napkins, the notes app of our phones, and sometimes in journals. But as anyone who's started a journal can attest, sometimes it's hard to begin and even harder to keep one going. So how to write a journal? What to write in a journal? Let's look at some simple ways to start capturing ideas. 

How to Write a Journal: 6 Tips

There are a number of ways to capture ideas, from keeping a gratitude journal, to a reading journal, to a project journal. No matter what type of journal you keep, let me share with you some tips from my journaling experience for how to keep a journal and why a journaling habit pays off for writers.

4 Advantages of Keeping a Journal

Julia Cameron, acclaimed author of The Artist's Way and more recently a 6-week program outlined in a book called Write for Life, begins the writing and artistic life with a practice she calls morning pages. In essence, she suggests writing three pages each morning to explore ideas and life, and to clear the mind.

The benefits of journaling this way are numerous. Writers who establish regular journaling time may find it helps them clear their minds and explore new ideas.

There are many reasons why it is a good idea to keep a journal. I want to share four big reasons this daily habit may help you with your writing process and develop your writing skills.

1. Remember details

When I traveled to Europe in 1978, I kept a journal of my daily life. I have notes from the trip to Greece where I wiped out on a moped, weeded sugar beets on Kibbutz Reshafim in Israel, and hitchhiked through occupied territory in the south of Israel.

There were several details of my trip that I had completely forgotten until I re-read my personal journals.

Recording the details of your life can enrich your stories. One year when for The Spring Writing Contest at The Write Practice, I wrote a story about when the IRS called me to say I owed money.

In my first draft, I wrote that the amount they said I owed was, $638. After I had completed the first draft I went back to the notes I had written in my journal, and the correct amount was over six thousand dollars: $6,846.48 to be exact. Well, maybe there are some things we don't want to remember.

Thankfully, I didn't send the money. It wasn't the real IRS. But it was even better than a writing prompt for a story idea.

2. Find old friends

Keeping a journal can help you find old friends. One of the women I met on November 26th, 1978, wrote down her address. I found her on Facebook and just sent her a message. (Social media and Google can also help, but the journal did remind me of her name.)

We'll see if she responds to my Facebook message. It has been almost forty years since she lent me a pair of gloves when I scraped my hand on the pavement when I fell off my moped.

3. Help process feelings and ideas

When you keep thoughts in your head it can be hard to know how you think and feel. Writing down how you feel will help you process your emotions , as feelings become words, which can be then be edited.

Processing your feelings and ideas can lead to personal growth and peace, but that's not all. Expressive writing can be therapeutic, but it can also help you flesh out characters later. 

4. Preserve the writer's history

When you are dead and a famous writer, your journals will give your readers insight into your life, thoughts, and process.

You may never sell more than one hundred copies of your book, you may never publish your writing, or your journals may only be read by the mice that crawl through your basement. Or your journals will be read by zombies after the zombie apocalypse, sharing insight into your life and daily routines.

If you don't want anyone to read your journal, keep it in a locked box and swallow the key. (Please don't really swallow the key. It would be unpleasant to have to find it again, and you might choke.) Put the key in a safe spot, and then remember where you put it. 

6 Tips for How to Keep a Journal (and What to Write in a Journal!)

Now you know why journaling can be helpful. But how should you journal? It is very personal, and you should do what works best for you. But I will give you some tips to help you get started on a journaling practice.

1. Choose your kind of journal

You have several options for how to keep your journal.

A book, where you write with a pen or pencil onto paper:  Write in a book that is not so pretty you are afraid to write in it. Keep the size small enough you don't mind carrying it in your messenger bag, and big enough you can read your handwriting. Do not try journaling at night when the only paper you have on your bedside table is a bandaid. The next morning I couldn't read my writing on the band-aid, and the idea I wanted to journal was lost.

The advantage of pen to paper is you can write without having to be plugged into an electronic device. You don’t have to worry about a dead battery, and you can write even when the sun is bright or the airline makes you turn off your electronic devices.

The disadvantage to a paper journal is if you lose the journal and you didn’t make a copy of it, you have lost all of the writing. But either way, the journal writing helps you pay attention and record the moments of everyday life that will fade with time otherwise.

Software: There are several software applications and journaling apps on the market you can use to keep a digital journal. Be sure they sync to the cloud, as you don’t want to lose your entries because you fry your computer's hard-drive. 

Journey and Day One can add photographs and text, and export all of your entries into a PDF. You can also journal in Google Docs,  Microsoft Word, or Scrivener and save your files to a cloud-based program that will keep your files safe if you lose your computer or pour water on your keyboard.

2. Date your entry

You think you will remember when it happened, but without a written date, you might forget. Make it a part of your journal writing routine to date the entry.

3. Tell the truth

The journal is a record of how you felt and what you did. Telling the truth will make you a reliable storyteller.

If you haven’t cleaned the seven litter boxes for a week, don’t write that you clean them every day simply because you want your readers one hundred years from now to think you had good habits. The beauty of journal writing is that you can record things honestly for yourself that you might not otherwise record or share. 

4. Write down details

Record details like the time, location, who you were with, and what you were wearing. Details will help bring the memory alive when you record using your five senses .

To this day, if I smell a certain kind of Japanese soup, I can remember vividly the day I flew to Korea to renew my Japanese visa, only to discover the Japanese embassy was closed for a traditional Japanese holiday.

5. Write down what you felt

What you were thinking? Were you mad? Sad? Happy? Write down why.

6. Write a lot or a little

A journal entry doesn’t have to be three pages long. It can be a few words that describe what happened, a few sentences about the highlight of your day, or it can be a short description of an event from your day, where you describe details to help you remember what happened. What time of day was it? What sound do you remember?

Your journal entry might be a drawing, a poem, or a list of words or cities you drove through. It is your journal, and you have the freedom to be creative.

You can use journal writing prompts or simply tap into a memory that floats into your mind. 

Bonus tip: How to write a journal entry

Aside from the date, you can write your journal entry in a number of ways. You can write stream-of-consciousness, try bullet points written rapid fire, you can use various art materials, or any form that speaks to you.  Try a list or a mix of writing and doodling, or even dialogue exchanges. 

The most important thing is just to take the journaling time and make a regular habit of it, even if it isn't on a daily basis. The words will show up when you do. 

When to Journal

There is no right or wrong time to write in a journal. Write when you will remember to do it. Do you always brush your teeth before you go to bed? Have writing in your journal be part of your bedtime routine. Perhaps put it on your bedside table, or beside your hammock, or on the floor beside your futon.

If you are a morning person, consider keeping your journal on the table where you drink your morning coffee, tea, water, milk, or orange juice.

These are only suggestions. You don’t have to write down your feelings or why you felt a certain way. I hate being told what to do. Even if it is a good idea. But I hope you'll give it a try and see if you find it unlocks your own writing. 

Do you write in a journal? Why is keeping a journal a valuable practice? Please tell us in the   comment s.  

Do you write in a journal? Do you think writing in a journal is a good idea for a writer, or a bad idea? Please tell us why in the comments .

Write for fifteen minutes about some aspect of your day as though you were writing in a journal. Your journal entry might be a drawing, a poem, a list of words, or a list of cities you drove through.

Please share your writing in the Pro Practice Workshop here and leave feedback on someone else’s practice today. We learn by writing and by reading.

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Pamela Hodges

Pamela writes stories about art and creativity to help you become the artist you were meant to be. She would love to meet you at pamelahodges.com .

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How to write an article: Preparing a publishable manuscript!

Vinod b. shidham.

Department of Pathology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Karmanos Cancer Center, and Detroit Medical Center, Old Hutzel Hospital (Department of Cytology-Ground Floor), 4707 St. Antoine Blvd, Detroit, MI 48201

Martha B. Pitman

Richard m. demay.

1 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

Most of the scientific work presented as abstracts (platforms and posters) at various conferences have the potential to be published as articles in peer-reviewed journals. This DIY (Do It Yourself) article on how to achieve that goal is an extension of the symposium presented at the 36 th European Congress of Cytology, Istanbul, Turkey (presentation available on net at http://alturl.com/q6bfp ). The criteria for manuscript authorship should be based on the ICMJE ( International Committee of Medical Journal Editors ) Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts. The next step is to choose the appropriate journal to submit the manuscript and review the ‘Instructions to the authors’ for that journal. Although initially it may appear to be an insurmountable task, diligent organizational discipline with a little patience and perseverance with input from mentors should lead to the preparation of a nearly perfect publishable manuscript even by a novice. Ultimately, the published article is an excellent track record of academic productivity with contribution to the general public good by encouraging the exchange of experience and innovation. It is a highly rewarding conduit to the personal success and growth leading to the collective achievement of continued scientific progress. Recent emergences of journals and publishers offering the platform and opportunity to publish under an open access charter provides the opportunity for authors to protect their copyright from being lost to conventional publishers. Publishing your work on this open platform is the most rewarding mission and is the recommended option in the current modern era.

[This open access article can be linked (copy-paste link from HTML version of this article) or reproduced FREELY if original reference details are prominently identifiable ].


This article is an extension of the symposium presented at the 36 th European Congress of Cytology (ECC), Istanbul, Turkey: How to write article? CytoJournal perspective ! (Symposium# 9).[ 1 ] This four-part symposium was presented by the editors-in-chief/representative of four of five international, peer-reviewed, premier cytopathology journals. The message by each of the four presenters had an anticipated overlap. This article is a modification and expansion of the CytoJournal point of view. It is published for CytoJournal readership as an exercise in open access charter as requested by some attendees and CytoJournal readers. The CytoJournal portion of the presentation at ECC is also available on web at http://alturl.com/q6bfp .

Writing an article can be a reality with appropriate efforts and approach. Once we decide to write on the topic of our research, the most important factor is to just begin the process! However, what follows may not seem as simple. As aptly stated by Gene Fowler, “ Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead ”.[ 2 ]

Scientific literature is based on the analysis and discussions about experiments, observations, and experiences with serious and intellectual exchange of information accomplished through a variety of platforms. In addition to the books, e-books, lectures, and direct conversations among scientists, publishing the research in peer-reviewed journals is an important exercise for academic growth at the individual level and advancement of science at the global level.

Even though performing a study and recording the details of the observations are important components of an academic career, abandoning the process at this stage will not add significantly to individual academic advancement [ Table 1 ].[ 3 ] Converting these initial scholarly efforts into the abstract is a nimble start. However, writing an abstract is just not enough. For appropriate academic credit, one must proceed to the next step of preparing a publishable manuscript. Unfortunately, fewer than half of all abstracts at the conference went on to become completed manuscripts.[ 4 ] Non-publication of a deserving work is a tremendous personal and public loss [ Table 1 ]. The fact is that only published articles are considered the true gauge of academic achievement in the scholarly world as judged by funding entities, department chairs, colleagues, and peers.

Hypothetical scale comparing the efforts put and proportion of scholarly credits perceived

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Object name is CJ-9-1-g001.jpg

This article is primarily directed towards junior scholars seeking some general guidance in writing a publishable cytopathology manuscript. Although this article mainly concerns research papers, the broad principles are applicable to other areas of pathology and science in general. These principles are also applicable to other categories of publications including case reports and review articles, as well as brief reports and editorials.[ 5 ]

Writing a research manuscript and shaping it into a published article (paper) is a structured process with ample potential for frustration unless honed by the wisdom of appropriate mentorship. Most of the resources are available freely on the web, but this article consolidates these resources in one place with prime emphasis on cytopathology manuscripts. Beginners are especially recommended and encouraged to study these resources.[ 6 – 12 ]

There are many steps in writing a publishable manuscript, beginning with the decision to perform a study and culminating in its publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, preferably the one with ability to generate high impact of your work in the scientific arena. The impact factor of any journal measures the number of citations to its articles published in other scientific journals. It is a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field. The magnitude to which an individual article has been cited by other authors is thus the important factor conventionally used for measuring the scientific achievements.[ 13 ] Indirectly, any journal achieving widest, barrier-free broadcasting of your article would increase its visibility with enhanced opportunities to attract a higher number of citations.[ 14 ]

Research and publication process may be broadly divided in to three main steps:

  • Performing the research
  • Analyzing the data (results)
  • Preparing the manuscript

The first two steps are not the main topic of this article, and so these will be addressed only briefly with the following lists of important points to be considered for achieving the goal of publishing an article in a scientific peer-reviewed journal.

I. Performing a study (research)

What shall i research.

  • For important discoveries-problem studied should usually be important.
  • Dull and banal problems yield dull or insignificant results.
  • The problem should be such that it matters what the answer is!
  • The issue should be studied in sufficient depth.
  • Any perceived challenge is a potential opportunity for research with an attempt to resolve it successfully.
  • In reality, research is the art of finding a simple solution to a perplexing problem. Once a topic has been preliminarily chosen, then the pertinent literature is searched to determine the potential of a publishable research before making a final decision to proceed with the project.

How shall I commence the research?

  • Have a clear plan for data collection.
  • A senior mentor could be a good resource to help guide the research project.
  • For human research, the project must first be approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or a comparable entity .
  • Before starting the study you may have to explore resources and expertise in a variety of technical and academic areas. Communicating and networking with colleagues already doing research in a particular area is recommended. Collaboration and collegiality are critical for academic success. Design the study with application of statistical tools as needed for appropriate collection of data. If necessary, consult a statistician.[ 15 – 17 ]

II. Analysis of data (results)

Statistical analysis of data is often required for scientific studies.

Science involves formulating and testing hypotheses which are capable of being proven false by observed data. The null hypothesis is the statement being tested, typically that there is no statistical difference in observed events. It is usually paired with an alternative hypothesis and the researcher tries to disprove the null hypothesis . The results then may be:

  • Can support the null hypothesis (lack of a statistically significant difference).

Simple statistical tools , including tutorials[ 18 ] and calculators[ 19 ] for statistical analysis required for most of the clinical-translational research are available on the web.

III. Prepare publishable manuscript

Manuscript preparation is the main focus of this article. The goal of this step is to share research results with scientific peers and ultimately, the general public. However, even before embarking upon this crucial step, it is important to consider and evaluate the following seemingly innocuous but critical and pertinent issues, which may otherwise be neglected with unintended long term consequences.[ 1 ]

Authorship acknowledges the scholars for their work. With authorship comes the burden of responsibility. The authors are responsible for the integrity of their published data including its analysis and interpretation.[ 20 ] It is prudent to discuss authorship in advance with all involved participants with perceived stake in the publication process of the manuscript under preparation. The scholar writing and performing the study should be the first author and the mentor could be the senior or last author. All authors should fulfill the criteria described by ICMJE.[ 21 ] Anyone who claims authorship should have made a significant contribution to the study.

Some of these ethical standards may be open to interpretation, which may result in disagreements and even occasional scandals.[ 22 – 26 ] WAME (World Association of Medical Editors) may help address disagreements.[ 27 ] Unearned authorship, not fulfilling the ICJME criteria, is unacceptable to the academic community. Unacceptable justifications for authorship include: “I was around at the time of the study,” “It is my topic,” “I suggested the study,” “The paper will not be published without my name on the author list,” and “I need authorship for my promotion.” One of the most egregiously abusive practices is the department chair who demands authorship because “I am the one who made it possible for you to do this study.”[ 28 ] Additional inadequate justifications for authorship include: “I signed out this case or these cases,” “I did all the technical work such as staining or immunostaining,” “I pulled out all the cases,” and so on. Many of these deserve credit, but may not fulfill criteria to be listed as an author. However, these contributions may be recognized under acknowledgements.

Ongoing efforts to avoid unethical authorship claims are encouraging advances in authorship standards. Due to the complexity of authorship disputes, senior scholars and mentors should help junior colleagues to avoid egregious authorship violations. General guidelines are available at ICMJE.[ 21 ]

Authorship should be appropriately addressed both for the abstract and the final paper . A brief initial communication as abstract of Platform or Poster presentation to the appropriate audience at various meetings is encouraged to elicit feedback from peers to improve the final manuscript. The final phase is preparation of manuscript to be published as a peer-reviewed scientific journal article (paper).

Journal selection

The focus at this stage is to consider what is the most appropriate journal in which to publish the manuscript? The issues to be considered include personal goals as well as the contribution to the public domain. A lack of serious thought to this issue may have seriously negative consequences. Faster, wider, and perennial dissemination of the publication should be the most important consideration.

Whichever journal is chosen, a poorly prepared manuscript will likely be rejected. Believing that inclusion of a prominent co-author will ensure acceptance of a poor quality manuscript is a common misconception and should be strongly discouraged.

Many journals allow recommending the most suitable reviewers for your work or who should be excluded because of conflict of interest, academic competition, or potential of bias. Journals may consider these recommendations to improve the review process.[ 29 ] However, these recommendations are only suggestions and the final selection of reviewers is at the discretion of the journal's editorial team.

Additional issues to consider in selecting an appropriate journal include:

The audience

Select the meeting (for publication of abstract) followed by finalization of the journal (for publication of the manuscript) most suitable for communicating your research to your potential audience. Although many authors aspire to publish in prestigious journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine , it may be more rewarding to publish in a journal dedicated to your specialty. For cytopathology, it is appropriate to select a cytopathology journal.

Open access charter

The rewards to the authors also include the intellectual property rights as copyright for the article. Although traditionally the copyright has been transferred to other interests, many consider this to be a flawed practice. Today, the option of open access charter prevents this loss of copyright without compromising the publication. Additional benefits include more rapid and wider dissemination of the work in a free environment. Open access journals such as CytoJournal extend this alternative platform and resources to maintain the author's copyright in the public domain.

The entire enterprise, from performance of the research to publication of the article, is directly based on your intellectual efforts. Protecting your intellectual property by retaining your copyright is not only to your benefit, but is also your responsibility. Open access charter allows the retention of copyright by the authors to be shared in a public domain.[ 13 ] The list of Open Access journals is available at The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).[ 30 ]

Circulation potential for widest dissemination

Journals offering rapid, real time, ubiquitous, barrier-free perennial access to the article would be an excellent choice for publishing your article. Journals, such as CytoJournal, which emphasize modern, online dissemination allow many other benefits including instant translation into many languages to reach a world wide audience.

Potential for high impact (short and long term) with real time tracking

In addition to the many benefits mentioned above, internet-based journals allow verification of multiple quality indices related to the individual articles and the journal with easily available free tools on web in real time instead of static data.[ 1 ] Some of these tools are listed below:

  • “Google Scholar” ( http://scholar.google.com/ ) and
  • “Google analytics” ( http://www.google.com/analytics/ ).
  • Other Google scholar based sites for more matrices-E.g. “Publish or Perish” from Harzing.com
  • SJR (SCImago Journal Rank Indicator) http://www.scimagojr.com/aboutus.php

Online articles in CytoJournal can provide additional matrices (such as number of views, downloads, prints, and citations by other articles) directly related to a particular article in its HTML version. This data can be accessed and verified by anybody at any time in real time on web.

Review the instructions to authors

Once the appropriate journal is chosen, review the instructions to the authors of the selected journal . The instructions should be followed meticulously. These instructions are published in the journal and are also usually available on the journal's homepage (which could be found through commonly used search engines, such as Google). For instance, CytoJournal author instructions can be downloaded from ‘Author corner’ at http://www.cytojournal.com/contributors.asp .[ 31 ]

Visiting journal web sites will also give additional information such as the scope of the journal and details on the peer-review process. Peer-review is an important component of the publication process, but varies by journal. CytoJournal's peer-review process is double-blind, in which the author identity is kept unknown to the reviewers and vice versa .[ 32 ] The journal's website is also a valuable resource for samples of the journal's style. Failure to comply the journal's instructions could result in rejection of the manuscript.

Additional help may be obtained from books on the topic,[ 9 – 12 , 33 ] various resources on the web,[ 6 – 8 , 34 ] and most importantly your mentors and senior colleagues.

Keep abbreviations to a minimum and avoid non-standard, difficult-to-comprehend mnemonics. An alphabetized list of abbreviations is recommended. It is appropriate to engage the reader by balancing the scientific narration with a human touch, such as first-person narration.

Remainder of the article will now cover step by step hints for writing a publishable cytopathology manuscript . In general, it is similar to writing any other scientific manuscript with various stages such as brainstorming, prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing ultimately leading to a publishable manuscript.[ 27 , 35 – 37 ]

Step 1: Write materials and methods

The Materials and Methods section is one of the most important of any scientific manuscript. The description should communicate to the reader all critical details. For example, manuscripts with immunological and molecular methodologies should provide explicit details on temperatures, clones of antibodies, titers, diluents, pH, molarity, buffers, primer sequences, incubation temperature, duration, etc. (preferably as a table) so that the results could be reproduced by others. In addition, how to read the results including actual criteria with appropriate images and sketches should be mentioned in a very easy to understand fashion. Already published areas may be mentioned in brief with appropriate citation.

Studies involving human subjects must first be approved by the Institutional Review Board. Such approval (as well as informed consent, if appropriate) must be included in the manuscript. Similarly, if the study involved animals, approval from the appropriate review board is also required with appropriate statement in the manuscript.

Most of the details required under Materials and Methods should be in your “study protocol” and may be copy-pasted from there. Include details on the population such as age, sex, race, etc., relevant to the study. If you must use abbreviations, Materials and Methods is a good place to introduce them.

Methods of maintaining patient safety and confidentiality may be included if relevant. Many studies involve comparison and so randomization process and statistical methods should be explained. As previously mentioned, it may be prudent to involve a statistician from the beginning to help devise the study and report the findings .

Step 2: Organize your results

The results are the soul of your study and a critical part of the manuscript. The scientific peers, in addition to scrutinizing how you conducted the study, will want to know what your findings were! The Results section is for communicating these findings in an easily understood manner.

The arrangement of data should match the methodology and should communicate as much information as relevant. At this stage, avoid interpreting the result which should be left to the Discussion section. To help organize presentation of data, first prepare tables, graphs, sketches, and photographs, and then describe them in the text. Visual representation of your data makes it easier for the reader to understand.

With current software programs, many different options are available for organizing data. Select graphs and tables appropriate to best communicate your data. Readers often miss trends of data in tables; therefore, use graphs to highlight trends. One should strike a balance between too few and too many visual aids. Include brief titles and legends for each visual representation. Avoid abbreviations if possible, but define them if used.

Describe the important details of the visual representations in the Results section and cite all the representations in the text. It is not necessary to describe every data point in this section. However, the text should guide the reader in interpretation of the visual representations and facilitate understanding of the discussion.

Step 3: Discussion

The discussion is where the authors analyze their findings and put them into a broader scientific context. The length of the discussion depends on the type of study and generally should focus on the points related to the results observed in the study.[ 38 ]

Determine which results are most important. Devote about three sentences to these main findings in the first paragraph. In the next paragraph, explain the methodology. This is the place to justify your choice of techniques, protocols, selection criteria, methods of data analysis, etc.

Next, show how your study compares with other scientific studies, including citations to appropriate key references. You should indicate how your findings confirm or deny already published data . The length of this portion may run into a several paragraphs, with the goal of covering the important points. It is also imperative to convey statistical versus clinical significance and how it might impact clinical practice and patient care.[ 39 ]

Most studies have some limitations, and so it is appropriate to acknowledge the limitations of your study, if you know of any. If appropriate, you could include concerns with methods, sample population, study power, sampling issue, uncontrollable variables, etc.

At this stage, you should complete the discussion with a summary of the findings or realistic conclusions based only on your results. This last paragraph should be, preferably, short with no more than a few sentences. Avoid exaggerating or understating your claims. Finish with suggestions for future investigation in the area of your study.

Important pitfalls to be avoided in the discussion

Avoid a claim to be first unless it is well-documented. Priority claims are invitations to be proven wrong. Avoid rambling discussions. Do not fail to cite key references for your study, and avoid unrelated literature.

Step 4: The introduction

After writing most of your manuscript, then draft an introduction. The introduction is critical in attracting the reader's attention. Use brief sentences.[ 40 ]

Use the introduction to state why your study is necessary. A brief review of literature can be cited in support. This section generally should not be more than one double spaced typed page.

Cover the following points in your introduction

  • Identify the clinical or scientific problem.
  • Explain the unknown issues related to the problem.
  • Address any identifiable challenges in study design.
  • End with an unambiguous statement about the hypothesis of the study.

The primary hypothesis is one of the most critical components of any manuscript. It should be spelled out very early in the planning stages of any study.

Step 5: References

References should be carefully documented so that other investigators can consult them. The authors should follow the citation guidelines used by the individual journal.[ 31 , 41 ]

Software programs such as Endnote ® (Thomson Reuters, http://www.endnote.com/ and WinWord ® can help manage the references and simplify their citation in the manuscript. Both reviewers and readers will be frustrated by inaccurate citations. Failure to cite references accurately can result in manuscript rejection, and if published, errors may compromise the researcher's credibility.

Step 6: The abstract

Although the abstract appears first in the article, it is better to write it last, after all the details are well worked out. Each journal has specific guidelines for writing an abstract. The CytoJournal abstracts are structured under four different areas: Background, Material and Methods, Results, and Conclusions as explained in the “Instructions for CytoJournal authors.”[ 31 ]

Stay within the word limit, but provide all critical key information, especially the results and conclusion or summary. The abstract summarizes the article. Many readers will only review the abstracts, at least initially, so it is vitally important.

Step 7: Create the title page

The ideal title should be brief, catchy, and self-explanatory. In addition to the title, the title page should provide the author information required for publication.

Depending on the particular journal, the title page may be submitted as part of the manuscript or as a separate file. CytoJournal, for example, requests a separate “title page” to facilitate double blind peer-review [ Table 2 ].[ 31 ]

The CytoJournal articles should be written in following sections

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Authors for CytoJournal should provide all of the following in the title page file: names of all authors, their degrees, affiliations and institutions, e-mail addresses, and contact details including phone number and fax number. Depending on the type of the article (research versus case report versus review versus others), the additional details required for CytoJournal include- Acknowledgement, Competing Interest Statement by all Authors, Authorship Statement by all Authors, Ethics Statement by all Authors, and any other related information.[ 31 ]

Step 8: Rewrite-rewrite-rewrite

Review your manuscript with your own brutally honest criticism. Revise until you are satisfied and the manuscript is the best it can be. Check for appropriate flow to the manuscript without abrupt transitions. Any statement not supported by your findings or the published literature should be deleted.[ 42 ]

Read aloud and check for common preventable errors, such as a missing “not” or “no.” Similarly, check to make sure that all tables, figures, and references are appropriately cited.

Step 9: Circulate your manuscript

Once satisfied with self-review, circulate the manuscript. The coauthors should review the manuscript critically and participate in its finalization. As mentioned previously, all authors of the manuscript are responsible for its content. You should also ask others for their opinion, including junior and senior colleagues, trainees, mentors, and secretarial staff depending on the topic and its breadth.

Every manuscript can benefit from honest input from readers. However, their input may be incorporated, modified, or ignored based on careful consideration of the authors. Authors with English as a second language should take extra efforts with copy editing the manuscript using professional help if needed.

Brief statements, such as “the manuscript is OK as is” should be taken with caution. If there is compelling evidence that the contributor has not participated in the review and there is a lack of intellectual ownership, they should be deleted from the author list. Coauthors should have appropriate opinions and input in various areas such as tables, figures, algorithms, etc. Lack of critical analysis and honest criticism may lead to rejection of the manuscript.

Successful manuscripts usually have undergone numerous revisions before submission to journals with high standards. When satisfied that the manuscript is ready for submission, follow a general checklist [ Table 3 ] and also a specific “submission checklist” provided by specific journals.[ 31 ]

Manuscript checklist (prior to final submission to the journal)

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Step 10: Recheck the final draft for flaws

There are some obvious errors in the manuscript that can lead to rejection [ Table 3 ]. Although these may not be enumerated specifically by the journals, some of the features which may be highlighted are:[ 28 , 43 , 44 ]

  • Insufficient statistical power;
  • The topic is not interesting;
  • Methodology insufficient to address the hypothesis;
  • The topic is not novel and has been already covered widely;
  • The topic, although novel, does not need special attention;
  • Improper review of literature
  • Poor statement of the hypothesis;
  • The hypothesis is clear, but the manuscript fails to address it;
  • Contradictions in the manuscript
  • The topic is unrelated to the scope of the journal;
  • Conclusion based on the data not provided or generated;
  • Inconsistent and confusing use of terminologies;
  • Avoidable blatant spelling errors;
  • Failure to cite all tables, figures, and references in the manuscript.

Common questions

How to approach the request for revision as peer reviewers’ comments?

Peer reviewers are the most critical component of scientific publications and they extend you the opportunity to improve the final publication. They spend a significant amount of time and efforts by participating in this final goal as your peer.

In general, the editors of the journals are polite in communicating the decision and act as intermediaries between authors and reviewers. Please read the editor communication carefully. Request for a revision does not equate with possibility of acceptance. It is just the message that the reviewers have identified some concerns and the authors have the opportunity to address these issues to improve the manuscript and increase the chance of final acceptance.

Although reviewers avoid harsh comments, it is not uncommon for the authors to be angry at the reviewers. Nevertheless, it was meant to be a flawless manuscript submitted after pain-staking, meticulous efforts thriving for a nearly perfect manuscript almost ready to be accepted. Receiving pages of criticisms from the reviewers may be frustrating. In general, many of the sentinel papers are the ones which generate the most extensive criticism by the reviewers!

The role of reviewers is to challenge and prevent the author(s) from publishing a flawed manuscript on one hand or helping them to hone their manuscript into a revolutionizing high-powered publication on the other. It is crucial to acknowledge the underestimated fact that all reviewers devote their expertise and time as passion for the science in your specialty and are generally there to help you with their best intentions. Reviewers generally have experience and expertise in their subspecialty with significant insights into evaluation of the manuscript of your topic.[ 45 ]

Authors should analyze the editor's and reviewers’ comments with a plan to address them one by one. It is obviously annoying to see a revision of the manuscript which has failed to address the reviewer's suggestions.

Meticulously drafted documents ( response form ) explaining how each of the criticisms has been addressed in the revision are an important part of the revised submission for the reviewers to understand the response by the authors. Depending on the topic and type of the manuscript this may be longer than the original manuscript. It is prudent to thank the reviewers for suggesting the changes to which you agree as the author. In case you do not agree with the criticism, the disagreement may be addressed in a polite manner in the response form. If the controversy is important to be shared with the readership and has a bigger picture component, it is preferable to address the controversy in the discussion section of the manuscript in proper perspective with cited references. It is recommended to highlight the areas of modifications in the revised manuscript, so that the editor and the reviewers can locate them easily.

Consciousness about the menace of Plagiarism

Plagiarism is defined as using ideas and words of other person without citing the source. It is a significant unethical behavior in the scholarly exercise of publishing.[ 46 ] It could be a major challenge to the reviewers and editorial component of the article publication. Although the current availability of software programs to check plagiarism are of significant help,[ 47 ] it is the commitment and conscious efforts by the scientific community which can only make a significant impact. Additional details and guidelines on the topic are available on WAME web site.[ 48 ]

Post acceptance of the manuscript

The acceptance of your manuscript has been your final goal and you deserve a huge congratulation for achieving it! You should celebrate and share the achievement with all the colleagues and parties participating in the successful culmination of your project. Thank all contributing colleagues and communicate the acceptance decision by the journal to all, including your department chair.

Soon, you should receive the page proofs. Please, read them carefully and correct them as needed. Check the spellings and affiliation details of all authors, including the entire article and areas such as the conflict of interest, disclosures, and the legends to all figures. Share the corrections with all the contributors and submit the consolidated final corrections to the publisher. This will be your last chance to avoid any errors in the final published version. Failure to correct at this stage may cost you your academic reputation. It is a good practice to extend personal thanks to all involved with the paper at various stages including those mentioned under the acknowledgements section.

Although challenging, writing manuscripts to be published in scientific journals can be learned with some organization skills and help from your mentors and colleagues with input from resources like this article [ Table 4 ]. Self-discipline and perseverance will be critical assets for execution of this important and rewarding academic exercise to disseminate scientific achievements leading to sharing of experiences and personal successes for scientific progress.

Summary chart showing the steps from performing a study to its final publication

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Performing this exercise of publishing research under the open access charter is now possible in the modern era with the advent of internet. This will retain your copyright and still achieve broadcasting of your research achievements in the public domain.[ 13 , 39 ]


The authors thank Kathy Rost for her secretarial help. We also thank Anushree Shidham and Anjani Shidham for their copy editing support. Evaluation of the final drafts with constructive criticism by Dr. Tranchida, Dr. Bandyopadhyay and Dr. Nazeer is appreciated.

Available FREE in open access from: http://www.cytojournal.com/text.asp?2012/9/1/1/92545

What are Journal Guidelines on Using Generative AI Tools

AI tools for authors

There’s been a noticeable surge in interest regarding the integration of AI tools within academic writing processes, reflecting a growing recognition of AI’s potential to enhance research productivity and efficiency. From generative AI tools capable of drafting complex texts to sophisticated algorithms designed for data analysis, the potential of AI to revolutionize the academic landscape is immense. However, this burgeoning integration of AI into research practices has also raised significant ethical, methodological, and regulatory considerations, prompting academic journals and publishers to establish specific guidelines for the use of AI tools in research submissions. In this article, we talk about journal guidelines on the usage of AI for academic writing and how to use AI ethically. 

What are the current journal policies on the use of Generative AI for academic writing?

A recent preprint paper authored by Ganjavi et al. sheds light on this trend, examining the policies of the top 100 science journals regarding Generative AI (GAI).  

In their study, Ganjavi et al. analysed the policies of these prestigious journals to understand their stance on the use of Generative AI tools. Notably, their findings revealed that only a small percentage, specifically 5.7% of the top science journals, prohibit the use of Generative AI. These journals include prestigious publications like Nature and others. This suggests a general openness among scientific journals toward the adoption of AI technologies for content generation purposes. 

A vast majority, accounting for 94.3% of the surveyed journals, do not prohibit the use of Generative AI. This suggests a general acceptance of Generative AI within certain parameters. This shows that the landscape and policies surrounding Generative AI are evolving over time. 

This research underscores the importance of exploring and understanding the evolving landscape of AI in academia, particularly its implications for scholarly publishing practices. As AI continues to advance, it becomes crucial for academic institutions and journals to establish clear guidelines and policies to ensure responsible and ethical use of AI tools in research and writing processes. Ganjavi et al.’s study provides valuable insights into the current state of affairs regarding the integration of Generative AI in academic publishing. 

What are the established parameters by journals for using Generative AI?  

In examining journal guidelines, two primary stipulations emerge regarding the use of Generative AI.  

  • Use Generative AI tools only to enhance language and clarity. 
  • AI tools should be always used with human supervision.   
  • Authors should disclose their usage of Generative AI in submissions to ensure transparency and integrity in academic research. 

To ensure that readers are informed about AI involvement in the creation or enhancement of the manuscript’s content, it’s expected from authors to acknowledge the use of Generative AI and specify its role.  

Authors should familiarize themselves with disclosure practices outlined by journals, recognizing both their potential benefits and the need for careful supervision. By following these guidelines, authors can leverage the benefits of AI tools while upholding the integrity and quality of their academic work. 

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Related Reads:

  • What are the Benefits of Generative AI for Academic Writing?
  • How Long Should a Chapter Be?
  • Should You Use AI Tools like ChatGPT for Academic Writing?
  • Empirical Research: A Comprehensive Guide for Academics 

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Student Opinion

Do You Keep a Journal?

What does journaling do for you?

Sixteen types of diaries.

By Jeremy Engle

Do you have a journal or a diary? If so, what do you like to write about in it, and why? Do you use it to process your feelings or rant about your friends and family? Or do you write to ruminate on your crushes and worries? Do you detail your dreams — both literal and figurative?

If you don’t journal, have you ever thought about starting but just didn’t know how?

In a guest essay, “ An Analog Library of All the Lives I’ve Lived ,” Josephine Sittenfeld writes about the power of journals — and the stories they tell about us:

After a routine iPhone update, a new Journal app recently appeared. Intrigued, I tapped it, which led to the instruction “Enable journaling suggestions.” If I agreed, my phone promised to give prompts like “Take a moment to write about something special in your life you’ve been taking for granted” and “Take a look around you and take a picture of something you’ve overlooked. What do you notice about it?” Apple is attempting to lure me into the world of Journaling 2.0, complete with the help of artificial intelligence. The app promises meaningful reflection, apparently gleaned from my phone usage, that I can share with people around me via Bluetooth. In the multipage permissions, the creepiest line explained that all I would have to do is tap a button for the app to utilize “information about your workouts, media use, communications and photos,” which would “create meaningful suggestions for you.” This isn’t the first time outside forces have suggested I reflect on my life. About 34 years ago, when I was 9, a family member gave me a “Ramona Quimby Diary.” The spiral-bound book contained a page of stickers that said, “Extra special!” and “Private! Keep out!” as well as leading prompts like, “This month I was really happy when …” and “The nicest person in my class is ….” Around then, a friend of my parents gave me another journal, with the title “My Private World.” That cover has a pensive, apron-wearing, barefoot girl seated under a sinewy tree, nestled alongside a dog, two cats and a book, with rolling mountains in the distance. I’ve never felt a connection to the girl, blissfully lost in thought in her bucolic setting. But the journal’s title? That spoke to me. It still does. I’ve kept a journal ever since. I have an oversize Tupperware bin in my basement containing dozens of musty diaries. Each is filled with anecdotes from my life, scrawled in sloppy handwriting, riddled with misspellings. They’re filled with rants about friends, family and feelings. They contain my shames and terrors, my crushes, my dreams (both literal and figurative), my worries and mundane accounts of more than 30 years of my life.

Ms. Sittenfeld concludes her essay by comparing the power of analog journals to digital ones:

I recently photographed my diaries set against sentimental garments: delicate, pint-size floral dresses my mom saved from the 1980s and stretched-out extra-large T-shirts from the 1990s. By making these photographs, I entered a portal to my youth, simultaneously connecting with my angsty, decorative, teenage self and appreciating her from afar. They remind me of who I was, who I’ve always been and, to some extent, who I still am. Whether or not it’s healthy, on some level, holding on to the stuff of my youth makes it more bearable to swallow the fact that time is always, incessantly, marching on. Which brings me back to that iPhone update. I still don’t fully understand Apple’s new Journal app. If it weren’t for the eerie fact that it mines phone usage to prompt reflection, I would be open to trying it. Regardless, I’m curious what changes when journaling moves into the cloud. Paging through an old diary is an emotional, time-travel experience. If a teenager today uses the Journal app, what will her experience be decades from now? Assuming the technology exists to retrieve her writing, will revisiting an online journal have the same power to transport her back in time? What’s her online equivalent of me holding the crispy, lined pages of my spiral-bound books from decades ago, touching the stickers, seeing my childhood handwriting and doodles in the margins?

Students, read the entire essay and then tell us:

Do you keep a diary or a journal? If so, what do you like to write about?

If you don’t journal, why not? Did reading the article persuade you to try? What else do you do to process or chronicle each day?

What do you see as the benefits of journaling? What advice would you give to others who are hesitant to keep a diary or are not sure what to write about?

Journals are a kind of time capsule for world events and your own life. Of rereading and photographing her collection of more than 30 years, Ms. Sittenfeld writes: “Paging through the diaries now. I’m startled to realize how far I’ve come and also how little I’ve changed.” If you were to look at your journals 20 or 30 years from now, what story do you think they would tell? What do you think you could learn about yourself?

At the end of Ms. Sittenfeld’s essay, she wonders what is lost when journaling moves into a digital space and diaries are saved on the cloud: “Paging through an old diary is an emotional, time-travel experience. If a teenager today uses the Journal app, what will her experience be decades from now?” What do you think of digital journals? Can they ever capture the magic of analog ones? Would you ever consider using a digital journal?

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.

Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.

Jeremy Engle joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2018 after spending more than 20 years as a classroom humanities and documentary-making teacher, professional developer and curriculum designer working with students and teachers across the country. More about Jeremy Engle

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Open Access


Research Article

The first Neolithic boats in the Mediterranean: The settlement of La Marmotta (Anguillara Sabazia, Lazio, Italy)

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Funding acquisition, Investigation, Methodology, Project administration, Resources, Supervision, Writing – original draft

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliation Milà i Fontanals Institution, Spanish National Research Council, Barcelona, Spain

Roles Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Supervision, Writing – original draft

Affiliation Museo delle Civiltà di Roma, Piazza Guglielmo Marconi, Rome, Italy

ORCID logo

Roles Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Validation, Writing – original draft

Affiliation Centro Nacional de Aceleradores (Universidad de Sevilla, CSIC, Junta de Andalucía), Sevilla, Spain

Roles Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Writing – original draft

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Writing – original draft

Affiliation Instituto Patagónico de Ciencias Sociales y Humanas (IPCSH-CONICET), Puerto Madryn, Prov. de Chubut, Argentina

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Methodology, Writing – original draft

Affiliation Regirarocs, Organyà, Lleida, Spain

Roles Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Writing – original draft

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Resources, Writing – original draft

Affiliation Dipartimento di Civiltà e Forme del Sapere, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy

  • Juan F. Gibaja, 
  • Mario Mineo, 
  • Francisco Javier Santos, 
  • Berta Morell, 
  • Laura Caruso-Fermé, 
  • Gerard Remolins, 
  • Alba Masclans, 
  • Niccolò Mazzucco


  • Published: March 20, 2024
  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0299765
  • Reader Comments

Fig 1

Navigation in the Mediterranean in the Neolithic is studied here through the boats that were used, the degree of technical specialisation in their construction and, above all, their chronology. After a brief explanation of the exceptional site of La Marmotta, the characteristics and chronology of the five canoes found at the settlement and one of the nautical objects linked to Canoe 1 are discussed. This will allow a reflection on the capability of Neolithic societies for navigation owing to their high technological level. This technology was an essential part in the success of their expansion, bearing in mind that in a few millennia they occupied the whole Mediterranean from Cyprus to the Atlantic seaboard of the Iberian Peninsula.

Citation: Gibaja JF, Mineo M, Santos FJ, Morell B, Caruso-Fermé L, Remolins G, et al. (2024) The first Neolithic boats in the Mediterranean: The settlement of La Marmotta (Anguillara Sabazia, Lazio, Italy). PLoS ONE 19(3): e0299765. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0299765

Editor: John P. Hart, New York State Museum, UNITED STATES

Received: November 21, 2023; Accepted: February 14, 2024; Published: March 20, 2024

Copyright: © 2024 Gibaja et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the manuscript and its Supporting Information files.

Funding: The research has been carried out in the collaboration agreement between the Museo delle Civiltà and the Spanish Scientific Research Council (centres in Barcelona IMF-CSIC and Rome EEHAR-CSIC) and the National Accelerators Centre (CNA) in Seville. Several projects have resulted from this collaboration funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation and State Research Agency of Spain, Marie Curie Europe Program, JdC-Formación 2020 AEI Program, and Ministry for University and Research of Italy: PID2020-112513RB-I00/AEI/10.13039/501100011033, HAR2016-75201-P, PIAR-201818008, PIAR-201918010, QUANT-792544, PICT-2015-2541 and Rita Levi Montalcini project ‘AGER’. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

1. Introduction. Navigation in the Mediterranean in the Neolithic

Many of the most important civilisations in Europe originated on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians plied that practically enclosed sea to move rapidly along its coasts and between its islands. In different historical times, the Mediterranean was a space in which to travel and a means of communication. However, one of the main migratory phenomena in history took place in the Neolithic, when farming communities began to spread around Europe and North Africa. Although the beginnings of the Neolithic are documented in the Near East in about 10,000 cal. BC, communities from that region gradually occupied the whole Mediterranean around 7500–7000 cal. BC and reached the coasts of Portugal in about 5400 cal. BC [ 1 ].

It is clear that the Mediterranean Sea must have often been used for travel, as boats allowed rapid movements of population, contacts and exchange of goods. This is seen not only in the vessel or other watercrafts, the subject of this paper, but also in the location of the first Neolithic settlements on islands or near the sea. For this reason, several researchers [ 2 , 3 ] have proposed that the first farming communities must have travelled by sea, by means of short voyages following the coastline.

Obviously, those groups did not set sail without knowing what lay beyond the horizon they saw from their shores. Their knowledge about the maritime routes began to be acquired by Mesolithic groups, and possibly before, and was transmitted and perfected from generation to generation.

Much of the first indirect and direct evidence of maritime travel in Europe has been found at Mesolithic sites. Sea voyages explain the occupation during this period of Cyprus, Corsica, Sicily and Greek islands like Icaria, Lemnos and Melos [ 4 – 15 ]. Canoes discovered at several sites open a window to past navigation. They have been preserved under water (in lakes and lagoons) or in very humid sites (peat bogs). Their documentation reveals the types of boats that were used and their building techniques. Some of the most notable examples of Mesolithic canoes have been found at Noyen-sur-Seine and Le-Codray-Montceaux-Nandy, in France; Dümmerlohausen and Stralsund-Mischwasserspeicher, in Germany; Pesse, in Holland; Tybrind Vig, Lystrup and Praestelyng II-Baden in Denmark, and Hotiza, in Slovenia [ 16 – 23 ].

Although at that time the canoes were usually made from pine trunks ( Pinus sylvestris ), other species were used, such as poplar ( Populus tremula ) in the case of the canoes at Lystrup, oak ( Quercus sp.) and alder ( Alnus sp.) at Dümmerlohausen and Hotiza, and lime ( Tilia sp.) at Tybrind Vig and Stralsund-Mischwasserspeicher ( S1 File ).

They were monoxylous canoes or dugouts made from a single trunk, of very different sizes. Some were small, practically for a single person, as at Pesse (7920–6470 BC), 3m long, or at Noyen-sur-Seine (7190–6540 BC), 4.5m long. Others were larger, like Canoes I and II at Lystrup (5200–5000 BC), 6-7m in length, one at Le-Codray-Montceaux (7240–6720 BC), and Canoe 2 at Stralsund-Mischwasserspeicher (4800–4700 BC), 8m long, and those at Tybrind Vig (4300–4100 BC), 10m long. Together with these, other nautical elements have sometimes been found, such as oars. These have been documented at the Danish sites of Tybrind Vig, Holmegaard and Ulkestrup Lyng [ 16 , 17 , 24 ]. Finally, remains of combustion identified inside some of the canoes shows that they were made by burning the middle of the trunks, which speeded up the work of hollowing them as it was thus easier to cut out the wood.

This model of dugout canoe, of varying sizes and made of different wood, using combustion of the trunk to hollow it, continued in the Neolithic. The canoes of La Marmotta are currently the only boats known at Neolithic sites in the Mediterranean basin. However, numerous canoes dated in more recent periods have been found in other countries [ 18 , 20 , 25 ]. Thus, for instance, the canoes at Seeland, Denmark (3640 and 2920 BC), 7m long, were made of alder ( Alnus sp.). The one at Bevaix, Switzerland (3500–3030 BC), 8.27m long, was made of pine ( Pinus sp.). Canoe 1 at Stralsund-Mischwasserspeicher, Germany (3858 BC) was 12m long and made from a lime trunk ( Tilia sp.). Finally, canoes from the French sites of Paris-Bercy (2890–2510 BC), 6 and 8m long, and one from Charente, 5.56m long, (3650–2900 BC), were made from oak ( Quercus sp.) [ 18 , 22 , 24 , 26 , 27 ].

2. La Marmotta: The earliest Neolithic lakeshore village in the central Mediterranean

Taphonomic processes and preservation conditions in general mean that we normally obtain a very biased and limited picture of the archaeological remains left by prehistoric communities. This image changes drastically at sites conserving many of the biotic remains that usually disappear because of bacterial activity. The observation of objects made of wood, textiles, basketry, cordage and animal skins completely alters our idea of those communities. The lakeshore site of La Marmotta is one of those cases in which the exceptional conservation of the archaeological artefacts validates a reflection on the numerous materials they used, their skill in working them and the high technical level reached by Neolithic societies.

The first evidence of the site, under Lake Bracciano (Anguillara Sabazia, Lazio, Italy) was found in 1989. It was then excavated from 1992 to 2006 under the supervision of the Superintendency of the Museo delle Civiltà “Luigi Pigorini”, headed by Dr Fugazzola ( Fig 1 ). Another small excavation was carried out in 2009, the last fieldwork at the site.


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The archaeological area is now about 300m from the modern lakeshore, at a depth of 11m (8m of water and 3m of sediment). This is a natural form of protection, safely under water and earth ( Fig 2 ). Lake Bracciano is connected to the Mediterranean Sea by the River Arrone, over a distance of 38km.



Three main levels have been defined. While Level II, corresponding to the foundation of the settlement, is linked to the presence of impressed ware and, sporadically, incised ware (reminiscent of the Basi-Pienza style), Level I represent the most recent phase at the settlement and is associated with painted and incised pottery in the Sasso-Fiorano style. Finally, the level known as “ Chiocciolaio ” is the uppermost layer in the sequence and reflects the abandonment of the settlement [ 28 , 29 ].

During the excavation, 3,400 piles supporting the structure of the dwellings were found, as well as remains of the walls, made with wattle and daub, the roofs, consisting of the stems of different kinds of plants, and some wooden floors, made with timber or bark. Their positions were able to define a group of 14 possible rectangular dwellings with internal walls and a central hearth (Numbers 3, 4+8, 5, 6, 7, 11, 13 and 16 were excavated completely and 2, 9, 10, 14, 15 and 17 partially [ 30 ]). The houses were about 8 to 10m long and 6m wide. The five canoes found at La Marmotta were associated with some of the houses. Thus, Canoe 1 was next to Structure 6, Canoe 2 was near Structure 5, Canoe 3 near Structure 12, Canoe 4 next to Structure 3 and Canoe 5 next to Structure 13 ( Fig 3 ).



Plant and animal remains are indicative of a community with a fully consolidated domestic economy. Domestic livestock make up about 75% of the minimum number of individuals documented at La Marmotta. These consist mostly of sheep and goats, together with fewer cattle and pigs. The faunal assemblage also includes two canine species of different size and a wide array of wild animals, including mammals ( Cervus elaphus , Capreolus capreolus , Bos primigenius , Vulpes vulpes , etc.), birds, reptiles and fish [ 31 ].

In turn, 65% of the botanic remains correspond to different types of domestic cereals ( Triticum dicoccum L ., Triticum monococcum S ., Hordeum distichum , Hordeum vulgare L . and Triticum aestivum compactum e durum ). The other remains are legumes ( Pisum sativum , Lens culinaris , Lathyrus cicera/sativus , Vicia cfr. sativa ), several kinds of fruit ( Prunus spinosa , Ficus carica , Sambucus sp ., Fragaria vesca , Rubus fruticosus , Corylus avellana , Quercus sp., etc.) and plants used to make textiles, oil and dyes or with phytotherapeutic properties ( Linum usatissimum , Papaver somniferum , Carthamus lanatus and Silybum marianum ). The inhabitants of La Marmotta also collected fungi as tinder to light fires ( Fomes fomentarius ) or because of their medicinal effects ( Daedalopsis tricolor ) [ 32 – 34 ].

However, La Marmotta is also special because of the conservation of numerous and varied utensils and implements made from wood, basketry and textiles. Some examples are the bows, adzes, sickles, spoons, spindles, artefacts possibly related to working with textiles, wooden recipients and baskets, and, above all, the canoes [ 35 , 36 ].

Together with the wooden implements, a large chipped lithic toolkit comprises 12,000 objects generally made with high-quality varieties of flint and to a lesser extent with obsidian. Heavy-duty tools are equally numerous: polished stone axes and adzes, querns, handstones, hammerstones and polishers. Some of those polishing stones display the marks left by the abrasion of axes and adzes, by sharpening bone and wooden tools, or making ornaments from shells, stones, wood, seeds, ceramics or the teeth/fangs of different animals.

The stones used to make these chipped and polished tools come from different provenances. Some flint is probably from the mines at Defensola in the Foggia region of Italy, obsidian from the islands of Palmarola and Lipari, and some hard stones used to make the axes and adzes come from the Alps [ 37 , 38 ].

The 14 C dates obtained from remains of charcoal and seeds, and the dendrochronological analyses of the piles supporting the houses, indicate the site was in use between approximately 5700 and 5150 cal. BC; that is to say, during an uninterrupted period of about 550 years. On the other hand, based on dendrochronological data, they seem to point to and uninterrupted use of the settlement for at least 250 years [ 30 , 39 ] A new series of dates is focused on the analysis of short-lived samples (cereal grains from different levels) and some wooden artefacts, including the five canoes presented here.

3. The Marmotta canoes: True nautical engineering

Although it is difficult to estimate the area occupied by the settlement of La Marmotta, based on the results of the archaeological excavation, it is possible that a large part of the site remains unexcavated. We believe that there may be a larger number of boats still preserved under the waters of Lake Bracciano, and it is possible that they could be excavated in the future. To date, in the archaeological fieldwork that has been conducted, five canoes have been found [ 40 – 43 ].

Canoe Marmotta 1 was found in Level II (Squares A62, A64, A108, A109, A110, A111, A112, A113, A153, A154, A155, A156 and A157). It is a huge dugout canoe made from an oak trunk ( Quercus sp.) 10.43m long, 1.15m wide at the stern and 0.85m wide at the bow. It is 65 to 44cm high, depending on the part of the canoe. On the base of the canoe, four transversal reinforcements were made out of the same trunk with a trapezoidal shape. They would have increased the durability of the hull and protected it, as well as improving its handling [ 40 ] ( Fig 4 ).


On display in the Museo delle Civiltà in Rome.


In addition to its size, this canoe is of special interest because of three objects associated with its starboard side. They are T-shaped, with an ogival upper part, and with 2, 3 and 4 holes respectively ( Fig 5 ). They were found inserted in the wall of the canoe at similar distances and heights. The visible holes were in the outer part of the canoe wall ( Fig 5 ) Their size and shape are described elsewhere [ 40 ]. The characteristics and position of these objects suggest that they might have been used to fasten ropes tied to a possible sail or to join other nautical elements such as a stabiliser or even another boat to create a double hull in the form of a catamaran [ 44 ]. Those strategies would have provided greater safety and stability, and greater capacity for the transport of people, animals and goods [ 21 ].


Object 144364, dated by 14 C. On display in the Museo delle Civiltà in Rome.


A large alder trunk ( Alnus sp.) was chosen for the second canoe, Marmotta 2. Found in Level II (Squares D185, D186, D187, D186, D188, D237, D238 and D240), it was fastened to the ground with two sticks in the middle of the starboard and port sides ( Fig 6 ). It is 5.4m long, 0.4m wide in the stern and 0.36m wide in the bow. Judging by its size and shape, it is thought to have been a fishing boat, or used to gather plant resources and transport people and small animals on the lake, or even on the sea [ 41 ].



A piece of wood with a single hole, about 2.8cm in diameter, was found with this canoe. It is mushroom-shaped, 13.4cm long and between 9.1 and 8.3cm wide. The characteristics of this object, and its similarity to modern bollards seen in our ports, suggest that its function might have been precisely that, to secure the canoe when the water level rose in the lake.

Canoe Marmotta 3 was found in Squares A136, A138, A140, A183, A185 and A187 (Levels I and II) ( Fig 7 ). Made out of an alder trunk ( Alnus sp.), it is 8.35m long, 58cm wide at the stern and 50cm wide at the bow. Like Canoe Marmotta 1, at the base, three transversal reinforcements made in the trunk itself are positioned at a similar distance and trapezoidal in shape. During the excavation a transversal fracture was observed 4m from the stern, which broke the canoe in two. This is probably a post-depositional fracture as a consequence of a natural action. This canoe was also on land as it was fixed to the ground with three sticks.



Canoe Marmotta 4 was discovered in Squares A263, A265, A266, A315, A316, A318, A367 and A368 ( Fig 8 ). Owing to its size this dugout occupied the three levels: Chiocciolaio, Level I and Level II. Like the previous canoe, it was affected by a transversal fracture 4m from the stern. It was so badly deteriorated that much of the hull was missing. Made from a poplar trunk ( Populus sp.), in its present fragmentary state it can only be said that its maximum width is 65cm. During the last stages of the excavation a large wooden board that might have formed part of the canoe was found on its port side.



The last of the canoes, Marmotta 5, was excavated in Squares A401, A402, A403, A405, A354, A356, A367, A358, A359, A360, A361, D449 and D450 (Levels I and II) ( Fig 9 ). Shaped from a beech trunk ( Fagus sylvatica ), in its present state it is 9.5m long and a maximum of 60cm in width in the area of the stern. These are not its real measurements because it is fragmented, and it obviously must have been larger. Two transversal reinforcements made in the trunk itself can be appreciated on the base of the canoe.



In addition, other objects documented at the site may have been associated with navigation. These are three wooden objects that might be oars or rudders.

  • Object no. 11618 (Level I, Squares D287-D288) was found near canoe Marmotta 2. It is 105cm in length from the shaft to the blade.
  • Object no. 4954 (Level II, Square A151) was retrieved near Marmotta 1. Although the proximal end of the shaft is broken, we can imagine its appearance. It is 44cm long in total; 16cm in the blade and 28cm in the shaft.
  • The third of these objects is no. 12005 (Level I, Square D344). It is rectangular, between 17 and 19cm wide and 1.4 to 1.6cm thick. This blade must have been tied to the shaft with cord as six holes are aligned in the area of the connection, three on each side. This artefact was not found near any of the canoes as it came from a square between Marmotta 2 and Marmotta 5.

The studies conducted on the canoes from La Marmotta show that they were carved with polished adzes and axes [ 40 ]. At La Marmotta, woodworking has been clearly attested by the use-wear study of the stone adzes and axes recovered in the excavations. Further use-wear analysis is currently being performed according to the methodological criteria established by Masclans (2020) [ 45 ] ( Fig 10 ) and preliminary results have been recently published [ 46 ].


A) tool 32454; A1-2) 200x; B) tool 40781; B1-2) 200x; C) tool 28881; C1-2) 200x (Picture: Alba Masclans).


Given the important morphometric variability observed in the Marmotta stone adze record, it is to be expected that specialised tools were related to particular kinds of woodworking activities. Further experimental programs would be advisable to be able to discriminate between artefacts used for specific functions within woodworking, such as chopping down trees or other carpentry tasks, including canoe-making.

Like many other prehistoric boats in Europe, the work of carving them was simplified by burning their interior. This is clearly seen in Canoes Marmotta 1 and 4.

4.1 Botanical identification

The identification of the wood species was carried out by observing the three anatomical planes of the wood (transversal, radial longitudinal and tangential longitudinal). The samples were obtained by extracting three thin sections from each of the planes with a sharp instrument. Obtaining thin sections is an invasive technique and therefore the samples must be of a size appropriate for the identification of species, but not too large as to damage the object [ 47 , 48 ]. The polyethylene glycol treatment (PEG) has not impeded the taxonomic study a posteriori , as the microanatomy of the wood can be observed, allowing taxonomic identification.

The thin sections were observed with an optic microscope equipped with objectives with 4, 10, 20 and 50x magnification (Leica DM 750M at the Instituto Patagónico de Ciencias Sociales y Humanas: IPCSH-CONICET) and compared with a specialized atlas [ 49 , 50 ].

4.2 Radiocarbon dates

4.2.1 sample selection and processing..

The whole procedure for radiocarbon dating of the wood samples was performed at the Centro Nacional de Aceleradores (CNA) in Seville, Spain. Samples were first chemically treated in the laboratory to remove contamination, and then were graphitized for AMS measurement.

The outsite of the trunks used to make the canoes was lightly quarried by the La Marmotta community itself. To minimise its impact on the dating, the outer part of the trunks, probably belonging to the most recent growth rings, was selected for the samples. In this way, we avoided ageing the making of the canoes with the age of the tree.

With the exception of canoe Marmotta 5, Sample CNA5349.1.1, the wood had previously been treated with polyethylene glycol (PEG), which must be considered a contaminant for radiocarbon dating. Thus, a proper pre-treatment method must be applied to remove PEG molecules from the wood structure. Such organic compounds are usually removed by organic solvent extraction in a Soxhlet apparatus, where the solvent in a glass container is heated, and the vapour is condensed in a cooling serpentine, dropping over the sample and dissolving the contaminant. Three consecutive organic solvents are used in increasing polarity order: hexane, acetone and ethanol, 15 minutes for each wash. Samples are dried in the stove after each wash at 80°C. After the organic solvent treatment, the usual Acid-Alkali-Acid procedure is applied [ 51 ].

A first acid wash (HCl, 0.5M) is applied at 80°C for 24 hours to eliminate remaining carbonates. The sample is then neutralized with Milli-Q grade water. A second alkali wash (NaOH, 0.1M) is applied to eliminate possible humic and fulvic acids, also at 80°C for 24 hours, and then the sample is neutralized. A final acid wash of only 15 minutes is applied to eliminate CO 2 that may be absorbed from the atmosphere during the alkali wash. A final neutralization is performed, and the sample is dried in an oven overnight. At this point the wood sample is ready to be graphitized.

However, experience has shown that aged PEG may be very difficult to remove completely from wood even by those chemically aggressive procedures [ 52 ]. The effect of PEG on the date of a sample is not straightforward to assess and will depend mainly on three factors: the amount of residual PEG after the cleaning procedure, the 14 C concentration of PEG (the “age” of the PEG), and the real age of the sample itself. This issue will be discussed in the following section.

Clean and dry samples are graphitized using the so called Automatic Graphitisation Equipment (AGE) [ 53 ]. About 3 mg of wood sample are combusted in an elemental analyser, where the combustion gases are separated, and in the case of CO 2 injected into the AGE system. An amount of CO 2 gas corresponding to 1 mg of carbon is kept in a reactor and is mixed with hydrogen and heated to 580°C in presence of iron as a catalyst. As a result, CO 2 is reduced to graphite, and this is deposited over the catalyst. The mixture of iron and graphite is pressed in an aluminium piece to obtain the AMS target.

AMS targets were measured using a Micadas system [ 54 ]. In the AMS measurement the concentrations of the three carbon isotopes, 12 C and 13 C, which are stable, and 14 C, which is radioactive, are determined, since all of them are needed to obtain the age of the sample. The final analysis of the data is performed using the BATS tool [ 55 ] to obtain the final radiocarbon ages and δ 13 C values, which are also measured in the AMS system. The δ 13 C parameter indicates the relative concentration of the stable isotopes and is used to correct the fact that different coetaneous materials contain slightly different radiocarbon concentrations. δ 13 C is included in the calculation of the radiocarbon age, which is performed as defined by Stuiver and Polach [ 56 ], and is the experimental result of the dating process.

Samples in this study were measured in different batches. Each batch contains unknown samples, standard samples for normalization, blank samples used for background correction, and one reference sample, IAEA-C8 [ 57 ] used to control the quality of the measurement. Consensus value of this material is pMC = 15.03±0.17 (one sigma). The pMC is a measure of the quantity of radiocarbon in a sample, expressed as the percentage of radiocarbon in the sample related to the defined standard [ 56 ]. The pMC results obtained for the C8 quality control samples in the different batches were 14.80±0.16, 15.03±0.08, 14.97±0.09 (one sigma), in agreement with the consensus value.

4.2.2 Statistical analysis of the dates.

Six new radiocarbon dates have been obtained: one for each of the five canoes and the other for one of the T-shaped objects associated with Canoe 1, the one with four holes (no. 144364) ( Table 1 ).



The wood of five of the samples had been treated with PEG. Infra-red spectrometry was used to determine whether the cleaning process to remove the PEG had been effective. The results showed that the procedure had greatly reduced the presence of PEG in the samples, but not always completely. If PEG is synthesised with fossil products and contemporary organic products, it can alter the age of the sample (older or younger, respectively). However, in the present study, the dates obtained for all the samples are consistent with age of the settlement established by dating samples of seeds, charcoal and Canoe 5, which was not treated with PEG. This suggests that the effect of PEG in the present samples is, at most, very small.

All of them were analysed through different kinds of statistical tools in order to determine the chronology of the boats, as well as their degree of contemporaneity. These analyses were carried out using the OxCal v.4.4 software [ 58 ] and the IntCal20 calibration curve [ 59 ].

First of all, the temporal distribution of the canoes was determined from a Single Contiguous Phase Bayesian Model [ 58 , 60 , 61 ]. It is a simple uniform distribution model based on the hypothesis that all events (radiocarbon dates) have the same probability of occurring at any time between the beginning and the end of the phase. The model takes the oldest and most recent dates as temporal boundaries. If it presents high consistency with the data, it could be inferred that the dated events are distributed continuously throughout the entire phase.

The contemporaneity between the different boats was tested through the Chi-Square Test (OxCal Combine function). This test assesses the statistical consistency of the radiocarbon dates probability intervals overlap. Specifically, it estimates the mean of the set of dates and compares it with each of them individually. The test also estimates a total overall error by combining the standard deviations of the analysed radiocarbon determinations. If the result is statistically consistent, the contemporaneity of the pooled dates can be interpreted [ 62 , 63 ].

Finally, the new set of dates was compared with a total of 58 available 14 C dates for European boats between 7200 and 1700 cal. BC to place their temporality on a European scale by a Single Continuous Phase Bayesian Model ( S1 File ). Dates with standard deviations greater than ±75 were discarded from the analysis to restrict and specify as much as possible the probability intervals.

5.1 Woody raw material

The taxonomic analysis showed that four different trees were used to make the five dugout canoes and the four-hole artefact found next to Canoe 1.

Canoes 2 and 3 and the artefact (no. 144364) were made of wood from Alnus sp. Deciduous Quercus sp. was used for Canoe 1, Populus sp. for Canoe 4 and Fagus sylvatica for Canoe 5. The heterogeneous use of wood determined by the taxonomical study does not support the selection of wood types with special properties or characteristics for the manufacture of the canoes from the La Marmotta archaeological site ( Table 1 ). This taxonomic diversity is important because it shows the knowledge that the boat-builders had knowledge of the qualities of the wood and they knew which trees could be used to make the dugouts. The Quercus timber is characterized by considerable density and weight. It would provide tough wood and resistant to decay and available in different lengths and diameters. The advantage of Quercus is the presence of tyloses within the vessels, which lessen the permeability of its wood. The use of deciduous oak wood is generally well-documented at the site [ 28 , 36 ]. The lightness of Alnus wood together with its resistance to splitting and cracking could have been an advantage for its use.

In contrast, at other sites where more than one canoe has been found, the same species was usually used for all of them. Thus, for instance, whereas alder was used at Ogårde, lime was used at Tybrind Vig and oak at Paris-Bercy [ 20 , 64 ].

The archaeobotanical study of the canoes of the Neolithic site of La Marmotta, allows us to understand, on the one hand, the strategies of management and use of woody resources as raw material by the inhabitants of this village. On the other hand, this study allows to understand the level of specialization of the first Neolithic communities that spread in the Mediterranean.

5.2 Chronological analysis

The Bayesian Model ( Fig 11 ) determined that all the canoes and the other nautical object were distributed continuously in a single chronological phase ( Amodel 92 . 2 and Aoverall . 92 . 1) between 5875–5490 and 5305–4860 cal. BC (95.4% probability) with a span of 205–490 years (95.4%).



The proposed boundaries for the model have a long tail because of the small set of modelled dates. The phase Model assumes that a random sample of the events was dated within the phase, so the long boundaries indicate that other unsampled events could be significantly earlier or later [ 58 ]. Thus, based on the available data, the first and last parameters (highlighted in green in Fig 11 ), are more reliable chronological intervals. According to them, the five canoes were continuously distributed in a more restricted chronological phase, between 5620–5490 and 5310–5085 cal. BC (95.4%, span of 200–485 years).

However, not all of them were contemporary during the chronological phase. Specifically, the OxCal’s Combine function ( Fig 12 ) proposed that Canoes 4 and 3 were the oldest ones, being contemporary between 5620 and 5480 cal. BC (95.4%, Acomb. 112), while the object attached to Canoe 1 coincided in time with Canoe 5 between 5475 and 5325 cal. BC (95.4%, Acomb. 69) and with Canoe 2 between 5370 and 5225 cal. BC (95.4%, Acomb. 81.4). Finally, the latest boats were Canoe 2 and Canoe 1, which were synchronous between 5305 and 5215 cal. BC (95.4%, Acomb. 70.7).



The only canoe that is not contemporary with any of the other four boats is Canoe 5, whose calibrated intervals are dated in the middle of the chronology of the other boats (5480–5330 cal. BC). Canoe 5 is only contemporary with the element attached to Canoe 1 (5475–5320 cal. BC Acomb. 69). However, the radiocarbon date for Canoe 1 does not coincide with the date of this attached element. Instead, the Chi-Square test determined that the wood for Canoe 5 and that element were procured at approximately the same time, and that this element was subsequently attached to Canoe 1.

Despite being dated on long-lived samples, the probability intervals of the radiocarbon dates coincide with the chronology of La Marmotta that is based on the dating of both the wooden piles [ 30 ] and charred cereal seeds recovered from the archaeological layers (Levels 1 and 2) [ 39 ]. This demonstrates that the trees were felled directly with the purpose of building the boats and they did not come from previously felled or reused pieces. Moreover, the different contemporaneity relationships, as well as the short time of the continuous interval in which all of the canoes are chronologically distributed (around 200–480 years), demonstrates that they were built only over 4 or 5 generations.

The Bayesian Model ( Fig 13 ) determined that the modelled European canoes were continuously distributed between 7360–6755 and 1865–1420 cal. BC (Amodel 95.3 and Aoverall 94.5) with a span of 5325–4930 years. Specifically, the boats from La Marmotta (highlighted in green) are among the 10 earliest dated so far in Europe. The Mesolithic Nandy 1 (7180–6705 cal. BC) and Nandy 2 (7060–6700 cal. BC) from Seine-et-Marne (France) are the oldest canoes, followed by the ones found in Dümmerlohausen (Germany, 6596–6445 cal. BC) and in Hotiza (Slovenia, 6240–6080 cal. BC). Therefore, the canoes at La Marmotta are the oldest known Neolithic boats.



As can be observed in S1 File , there was a preference for particular tree species that is unrelated to the chronology. This might be expected, since human communities have always made use of the species they found in their surroundings. This would be the case, for example, at Dümmerlohausen ( Alnus sp.), Hauterive ( Tilia sp.) and Paris-Bercy ( Quercus sp.). The situation at La Marmotta is different however because no single species was employed for all the canoes and instead four trees were selected for the five boats (the same species, alder, was used for two of them, Canoes 2 and 3). This is indicative of the wide knowledge that the community at La Marmotta possessed about the properties of the trees they used to make their boats.

The dugout canoes from La Marmotta can be chronologically ascribed to a second, or a later, phase of the Italian Early Neolithic, which coincides with the expansion of Neolithic communities into the inland territories of South and Central Italy. The earliest dates for Impressed Ware in South Italy are ca . 6100–6000 cal. BC [ 66 ]. At that time, Neolithic communities were limited to southern Italy, mainly around the Gargano promontory and the Salento region, and to the Adriatic shores of Middle and Northern Dalmatia. Coastal expansion proceeded quickly; around 5900 cal. BC, sites such Arene Candide in Liguria, or Pont de Roque-Haute and Peiro Signado in the Gulf of Lyon were already occupied, confirming the importance of maritime navigation as rapid form of human dispersal. Terrestrial expansion appears to proceed more slowly, with a gap of at least a few centuries. Farmer groups gradually penetrated into Central Italy, in the Molise and Abruzzo regions (i.e., sites of Santo Stefano di Ortucchio, Monte Maulo) in about 5800 cal. BC. From 5600 cal. BC onwards, when the shores of Lake Bracciano were finally settled, Neolithic communities had already expanded further north, at San Marco di Gubbio (Umbria) and Portonovo Fosso Fontanaccia (Marche). The Po plain would be reached only later, between 5400 and 5300 cal. BC. The impact of riverways in this process of expansion is not clear, especially for peninsular Italy, a stretch of territory in which the main river basins are oriented on an east-west or west-east axis, although is probable that basins of large rivers such as the Tevere or the Po acted as vectors for inland diffusion. The diversity in size and shape of the Marmotta dugout canoes suggests that they were possibly used for both rivers and seafaring and, therefore, canoes like those at La Marmotta might have played a role not only for coastal expansion but also inland.

6. Conclusions

The dugout canoes at La Marmotta are undoubtedly exceptional examples of prehistoric boats and nautical systems. Their size, the other elements associated with them, and the variety of tree species make this site a compulsory point of reference in any discussion on the neolithisation process around the Mediterranean Sea and the origins of sailing.

These canoes at La Marmotta, and the occupation of many islands in the eastern and central Mediterranean during the Mesolithic and particularly the early Neolithic periods, are irrefutable proof of the ability of those societies to travel across the water. This is enormously significant, because all the canoes found at European Mesolithic and Neolithic sites are associated with lakes and therefore with sailing in those waters.

In the case of La Marmotta, the size of the lake (it is now 9.3km across, but must have been smaller in the Neolithic as the shore was 300m from its current position) barely justifies the large size of a canoe nearly 11m long. It is therefore possible that they were used to cover the 38km from Lake Bracciano to the Mediterranean Sea along the River Arrone. In this way, the canoes were used both in the lake and on the sea. Plentiful indirect evidence has been found of contact, and consequently voyages, between communities on different Mediterranean islands. In the case of La Marmotta, while the shape of some pottery recipients and the white ceramic figurine recall Greek and Balkan products, the obsidian used to make some lithic implements, especially some laminar tools, came from the islands of Lipari and Palmarola [ 38 ].

The seaworthiness of the canoes has been demonstrated by experimental archaeology. In 1998, in the framework of the project The Sea Navigation in Early Neolithic Period . A Contribution of Experimental Archaeology to the Beginnings of Mediterranean Neolithization Monoxylon II , Radomír Tichý‘s team built a reproduction of the canoe Marmotta 1 and sailed over 800km around the Mediterranean coast from Italy to the beaches of Portugal [ 65 , 66 ]. Later, another canoe similar to Marmotta 1, ‘Monoxylon III’, was launched as part of the Navis project ( https://projektnavis.com ). The crew, with no experience of sailing, was formed by 8 to 10 rowers and a coxswain. They rowed in three hour shifts during most of the day and thus achieved an average speed of about 50km/day in favourable weather and sea conditions. If it can be supposed that Neolithic crewmen must have been more experienced sailors, they would surely have covered long distances in a short time, especially in the most suitable months. In any case, experimental archaeology is providing a clear picture of the extraordinary nautical skills possessed by members of the Neolithic community at La Marmotta.

Thus, there must have been people who knew how to choose the best trees, how to cut the trunk and hollow it by burning out its middle, and how to stabilise the dugout with transversal reinforcements on its base, or perhaps by the use of side poles or even parallel canoes in the form of a catamaran. To achieve this they made a series of amazingly modern artefacts, such as the T-shaped objects with two, three or four holes. These canoes and nautical technology are undoubtedly reminiscent of much more recent navigation systems. This shows that many of the major advances in sailing must have been made in the early Neolithic.

This technical complexity must be linked to social organisation in which some specialists were dedicated to particular tasks. The canoes can only be understood in a context of collective labour overseen by a craftsman who was in charge of the whole process: from cutting down the tree to launching the canoe in the lake or in the sea. These communities would therefore be well-structured in the organisation of labour, since collaboration would have been necessary to build the houses, make the canoes, procure raw materials from their sources several hundred kilometres away and put in practice certain agricultural tasks.

In this way, La Marmotta is causing a literal sea change in our view of those first Neolithic farming groups. It was always difficult to understand how they could have travelled around all Mediterranean Europe. The Marmotta canoes are not only outstanding evidence of how they achieved that but also an example of the complexity of those societies from the viewpoint of their social and technical organisation. These dugouts and the other elements associated with them represent the knowledge and experience accumulated over centuries and the practical skills of those groups to make them.

It is only in this way that we can understand how they crossed the Mediterranean Sea and occupied the coasts of Europe and Africa in the space of a few centuries. In the lands where they settled they introduced their new economic model based on domestic plant and animal species. That model has reached the present time and thus we are without doubt their most direct heirs.

Supporting information

S1 file. list of all 14c dates made on canoes..



This article is dedicated to the memory of Filippo Maria Gambari (Director of Museo delle Civiltà). The research has been carried out in the collaboration agreement between the Museo delle Civiltà and the Spanish Scientific Research Council (centres in Barcelona IMF-CSIC and Rome EEHAR-CSIC) and the National Accelerators Centre (CNA) in Seville. The authors would like to thank all the staff at the Museo delle Civiltà (curators, administrative staff, technicians, etc.) for their kindness in allowing us to access and study the remains from La Marmotta deposited in the museum and use the photographs presented here. The article would never have been possible without the incredible work of all the archaeologists who took part in the underwater excavations at La Marmotta from 1989 to 2009. It is their legacy. Finally, Peter Smith translated parts of the original text written in Spanish.

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  • 10. Efstratiou N. Microhistories of transition in the Aegean islands. The cases of Cyprus and Crete. In: Manen C, Perrin T, Guilaine J (Eds.). La transition néolithique en Méditerranée. Comment des chasseurs devinrent agriculteur. Errance, Toulouse. 2014; pp. 169–187.
  • 12. Sampson A. The Mesolithic of the Aegean Basin. In: Manen C, Perrin T, Guilaine J (Eds.). La transition néolithique en Méditerranée. Comment des chasseurs devinrent agriculteur. Errance, Toulouse. 2014; pp. 189–207.
  • 13. Simmons A. Akrotiri-Aetokremnos (Cyprus) 20 years later: An assessment of its significance. In: Ammerman AJ, Davis T (Eds). An Island archaeology and the origins of seafaring In the eastern Mediterranean. Eurasian Prehistory. 2014; 10 (1–2): 139–156.
  • 21. Guerrero VM Comer antes que viajar. Pesca y barcas de base monóxila en la prehistoria occidental. Mayurqa. 2006; 31: 7–56.
  • 22. Klooss S, Lübke H. The terminal Mesolithic and early Neolithic logboats of Stralsund-Mischwasserspeicher evidence of early waterborne transport on the German southern Baltic coast. In: Bockius R (Ed.). Between the seas transfer and exchange in nautical technology proceedings of the eleventh International Symposium on boat and ship archaeology. Verlag des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums. Mainz. 2009; pp. 97–105.
  • 23. Erič M, Kavur B. Late Mesolithic logboat from Hotiza. In: Gaspari A, Erič M (Eds.). Potopljena Preteklost. Didakta Ed. Ljubljana. 2012; pp. 405–408.
  • 29. Delpino Ch. Il Neolitico antico dell’areale medio-tirrenico: gli aspetti della ceramica impressa e della ceramica lineare nel Lazio e nel territorio di Roma. In: Anzidei AP, Carboni G (Eds.). Roma prima del mito abitati e necropoli dal Neolítico alla Prima Età dei Metalli nel territorio di Roma (VI-III Millennio A.C.). Archaeopress Archaeology. 2020; pp. 3–24.
  • 30. Fugazzola MA, Tinazzi O. Dati di cronologia da un villaggio del Neolitico Antico. Le indagini dendrocronologiche condotte sui legni de La Marmotta (lago di Bracciano-Roma). Miscellanea in ricordo di Francesco Nicosia, Studia Erudita. Fabrizio Serra Editore. 2010; In CD.
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  • 42. Mineo M. Monossili d’Europa. costruite anche per le rotte marine?. A Ubi minor … Le isole minori del Mediterraneo centrale dal Neolitico ai primi contatti coloniali. Convegno di Studi in ricordo di Giorgio Buchner, a 100 anni dalla nascita (1914–2014). Scienze dell’Antichità. 2015; 22 (2): 453–473.
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  • 66. Tichý R, Rogozov V. Monoxylon II: Plavba po 8000 letech. Dobrodrusztví experimentální archeologie. Hradec Králové. 1999.

Journaling For Mental Health: How To Do It Effectively To Improve Mood And Well-Being

Here's what the science says.

preview for How to Help a Friend Struggling with Mental Health

“Journaling can be a powerful way to organize your thoughts, feelings, and ideas, leading to increased self-awareness, self-discovery, and growth,” says Jaci Witmer Lopez, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist based in New York City. “In my practice, I've seen firsthand how regular journaling can transform lives.”

Maybe you've kept a fitness journal in the past to help you stay on track toward your wellness goals, or you currently have a gratitude journal to stay grounded. There are travel journals to help you document your adventures, and if you’re less artistically inclined, there are even journaling apps to help you stay mindful on the go. Below, experts share the benefits of journaling for mental health, how to start one yourself, and specific writing prompts for inspiration.

Meet the experts: Jaci Witmer Lopez, PsyD , is a clinical psychologist based in New York City. Marc Campbell, LMHC , is a licensed therapist based in Orlando, Florida, and the author of I Love My Queer Kid .

Common Benefits Of Journaling

Apart from having a dedicated place for juicy diary entries, there are several general benefits of journaling. The practice has been shown to help people process stressful events, according to a study published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine . In another study about college students, researchers found that journaling may improve self-efficacy —in other words, it can help you believe in yourself. Writing has even been studied as a behavioral intervention for children—so if you have kiddos at home, encouraging them to write may not be such a bad idea.

Common benefits of journaling include:

  • Finding inspiration
  • Creative expression
  • Tracking your goals
  • Fun freewriting
  • General reflection
  • Brainstorming ideas

5 Mental Health Benefits Of Journaling

Apart from its general benefits, here's how journaling can impact your mental health, specifically, according to experts.

1. It can help you process (and learn from) your emotions.

“Remembering the events from your day—both the ups and the downs—can help your brain practice processing and regulating your emotions,” says Marc Campbell, LMHC, a licensed therapist based in Orlando, Florida. For instance, if you’re feeling rejected from a recent breakup or you're burned out at work, writing about how you feel and reading it back to yourself can help you process the difficult emotions. Journaling can also help you recognize certain patterns, practice more acceptance, and have more empathy for yourself, Campbell says.

2. It can help you heal from traumatic events.

Journaling can significantly impact your ability to process and heal from trauma, Lopez says. “ Research has shown that writing can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” she says. “When you write things down as opposed to just thinking about them, you hold yourself accountable to reframing or changing your narrative.” Although the mental health effects of trauma won’t disappear by simply writing down how you feel, journaling can be a helpful practice in addition to seeking therapy and trauma treatment .

3. It may help you manage anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression are among the most commonly cited mental health struggles in America, per the American Psychological Association (APA). And although having a writing practice won't cure these conditions overnight, journaling may have the potential to decrease depression and anxiety and improve resilience over time, according to a recent study . Plus, if you’re struggling to find meaning in everyday life or you feel generally disengaged—both of which are common experiences when facing mental health challenges— some studies suggest that journaling may help.

4. It can help you track your therapy progress.

If you're seeing a therapist right now, journaling can help you check in with yourself daily or weekly about how it’s going—or even help you hold yourself accountable for certain behaviors you’d like to change, Campbell says. “Through the process of journaling, you can reflect on past entries and potentially learn about any patterns you have,” he says.

You can also use a journal to reflect on what, exactly you speak about during your therapy sessions and begin to process how you’re feeling about it, Lopez adds. An added benefit? One day, you can look back at your journal and celebrate how far you've come.

5. It can help you practice self-compassion.

Whether you're dealing with a specific mental health issue or you're simply feeling overwhelmed, negative self-talk, shame, and embarrassment are common. It can be difficult to be kind to yourself, however, practicing self-compassion can go a long way, experts say. A recent study in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology found that daily journaling as a mindfulness practice led to increased levels of self-compassion, and another study on registered nurses found that journaling can boost compassion and help manage burnout.

How To Start Journaling For Mental Health

If you aren't someone who spilled your heart out in a childhood diary, don't worry—journaling can be as simple as jotting things down on your phone, in a notebook, or responding to a specific prompt to get inspiration (more on that soon).

There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to journal, but it should be a personal process, Campbell says. “I recommend starting journaling in the way that feels most authentic to you. If you prefer pen and paper, start with that. If you prefer typing things out in your notes app, that works, too. If you aren’t sure, try both and more—a laptop or even typewriter if you’re feeling adventurous,” he says. Also, writing for mental health is personal, but you shouldn't feel pressured to document your whole life story all at once (unless you want to).

Whether you incorporate journaling into your morning routine or you attempt five minutes before bedtime to free-write, experts recommend starting slow. “If you're new to journaling, my advice is to start small and be patient with yourself. Set aside just a few minutes a day to begin with, and gradually increase the time as you build the habit. It’s important to find a method that you'll stick with consistently," Lopez says. Try to pace yourself and make the practice as manageable as possible so that it becomes a habit formed over time, she adds.

10 Journal Prompts For Mental Health

  • What was the highlight of my day?
  • What was a lot moment of my day?
  • What's a challenge I'm facing right now?
  • What people, places, or things am I grateful for and why?
  • Who is someone that's inspired me lately and why?
  • What are three things I'm proud of myself for, and why?
  • What is a small act of kindness I can do for myself this week?
  • What is one limiting belief I have about myself? (And is there a way I can begin to reframe it)?
  • Describe something you are struggling with. Then, read it from the perspective of someone you care about. What would they have to say about it?
  • If I could change an aspect of my mental health and well-being right now, what would it be and why?

When it comes to journaling for mental health, consistency is key. Whatever method, prompt, or format you choose, your mental health will thank you.

Best Journals For Mental Health

The Five Minute Journal

The Five Minute Journal

Looking for a simple, sleek journal that will help you practice more mindfulness and gratitude? This popular option might be a good fit for you. It encourages you to cultivate a sense of calm for just five minutes a day, but there are plenty of helpful tools packed into the journal itself—like prompts, daily highlights, weekly challenges, affirmations, and more. If you're brand new to journaling for mental health, this one provides clear cues and outlines to help you self-reflect and feel more confident. Plus, it's aesthetically pleasing. What could be better?

The Big Feelings Survival Guide

The Big Feelings Survival Guide

This colorful, activity-filled workbook by licensed art therapist Alyse Ruriani, LPC, is a great option if you're ready to dive into mental health in a fun, accessible, yet meaningful way. The workbook includes practical and creative activities that are all rooted in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which, ICYMI, is a revolutionary treatment that helps people move through emotions. Not only will you gain major insight about your mental health journey, but the workbook itself is super bright and engaging—the helpful illustrations and eye-opening exercises are sure to help you reflect and gain inspiration.

Self-Love Workbook for Women

Self-Love Workbook for Women

This self-love workbook by therapist Megan Logan, LCSW, is uniquely designed to help you release self-doubt and have more self-compassion. The journal includes quizzes, writing prompts, and fun activities to help you cultivate more self-love, like writing a message to your younger self and making a "happy playlist." You'll also find empowering affirmations for those days when your mental health isn't so good—plus, the journal provides helpful resources for goal-tracking, identifying emotions, and embracing who you are.

90-Day Mental Health Journal

90-Day Mental Health Journal

This easy-to-follow journal encourages you to care for your mental health in a holistic way. If you're dealing with stress, anxiety, or uncertainty about the future, the journal claims to help you self-reflect and gain self-awareness while focusing on the power of the present moment. This journal is ideal for anyone who wants to breathe, reconnect with themselves, and cultivate more mindfulness. It comes with grounding activities and daily check-ins to help you keep track of your emotions—and understand their roots.

Headshot of Lexi Inks

Lexi Inks (she/her) is a lifestyle journalist based in Jacksonville, Florida. She has reported on countless topics, including sexual wellness, astrology, relationship issues, non-monogamy, mental health, pop culture, and more. In addition to Women’s Health, her work has been published on Bustle, Cosmopolitan, Well + Good, Byrdie, Popsugar, and others. As a queer and plus-size woman with living with mental illness, Lexi strives for intersectionality and representation in all of her writing. She holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Jacksonville University, which she has chosen to make everyone’s problem.

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READ: Ruby Franke kept handwritten timeline journal over months her children were abused

by Michelle Poe, KUTV

A photo from the arrest video of Ruby Franke for child abuse after her interview with Washington County Sheriff's investigators August 30, 2023. (Washington County Sheriff's Office).

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — As part of the evidence released by the Washing County Attorney in the child abuse case against Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt on Friday is a handwritten account from Ruby of the months of abuse the children were put through.

The document is 60 pages long and is heavily redacted.

On June 30, 2023 she says that her son who is referred to as R “refuses to do wall sits. He says he is done. The next day on July 1, 2023 Ruby says “R is to stay outside. Sleep outside.”

R’s sister E on July 14, 2023 “refuses to work. Screams. Has hair shaved off.”

We learn in the document that Ruby’s son did run away on July 15th. Ruby says she found him two hours after and that he, his sister, Ruby and Jodi all “drive to Arizona and find property. Land!”

Throughout the document Ruby talks about both children being possessed. One time saying her son’s behavior is “Satanic chaos.” She goes on to say that both children have “deviant behavior” and that “they are both furious their selfish sinful lifestyle is being intervened upon.” Ruby says she told her son “that he needs God. I invited him to fast and pray. R is in and out of possession.”

Related stories from the 8 Passengers case

  • WATCH: Utah police make first entry into Jodi Hildebrandt's home
  • Footage shows police, EMTs coaxing abused Franke child out of closet
  • Video shows moment abused Franke child asks Hildebrandt's neighbor for help
  • Evidence released in child abuse case of YouTubers Ruby Franke, Jodi Hildebrandt

Only July 11, 2023, Ruby starts her entry with “Big day for evil.”

Several times in the document Ruby describes outings she takes the kids on. In mid-July she took both children on a four hour car ride to Gunlock Lake. Another time she takes the children to a cemetery to pick up glass and weeks.

If you suspect child abuse is occurring, report it to state officials at 855-323-3237. You can submit a tip to the Utah Attorney General's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force by calling 801-281-1211 or emailing [email protected].

Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at missingkids.org.

writing a journal paper

LSU coach Kim Mulkey's feuding with the Washington Post. Here's what we know so far

writing a journal paper

As it turns out, the madness of March extends past the confines of the court.

LSU women's head basketball coach Kim Mulkey spent four minutes of a Saturday press conference going after her next opponent: the Washington Post .

Mulkey, who led the Tigers back to the NCAA tournament one year after winning a national title, accused the Post of writing an upcoming article framed as a "hit piece" about her. According to Mulkey, the Post's reporter has been working on the piece for the last two years and contacted multiple former coaches and players.

"I’ve hired the best defamation law firm in the country, and I will sue The Washington Post if they publish a false story about me," Mulkey said. "Not many people are in a position to hold these kinds of journalists accountable but I am, and I’ll do it."

A Washington Post spokesperson declined a comment request from USA TODAY on Saturday.

FOLLOW THE MADNESS: NCAA basketball bracket, scores, schedules, teams and more.

On Sunday, Mulkey had more to say when asked about her team's slow start against No. 11 Middle Tennessee State Tigers. While LSU eventually won handily, 83-56, the sluggish first half begged the question of whether the team was distracted.

“No. Listen, we’re not going to let one sleazy reporter distract us from what we’re trying to do. Absolutely not,” Mulkey said.

Here's everything we know so far about the upcoming article.

March Madness picks: Our Sunday bracket predictions for 2024 NCAA women's tournament

Rumors about a Kim Mulkey article surfaced on Friday

Pat Forde, a writer for Sports Illustrated, reported via social media platform X (formerly Twitter) on Friday that he heard about a "big Washington Post story in the works." According to Forde, the piece may come out as early as next week.

The Washington Post reporter has covered LSU in the past

According to Mulkey, the reporter in question, Kent Babb, had previously written an article about Brian Kelly for the Post. She "didn't appreciate" the story and refused to sit down with him as a result.

Mulkey said the writer sent LSU "more than a dozen questions" on Tuesday with a deadline to respond on Thursday, "right before we’re scheduled to tip-off." (LSU's women's basketball team played their first game of the tournament against Rice on Friday afternoon. They won, 70-60.)

She went on to say she believed the timing of the questioning and deadline were intentional, an attempt to distract her and her team from their current postseason run.

"It ain’t gonna work, buddy," Mulkey said.

"This is exactly why people don’t trust journalists and the media anymore. It’s these kinds of sleazy tactics and hatchet jobs that people are just tired of."

Women's March Madness games: Schedule, how to watch Sunday's NCAA Tournament games

Kent Babb has responded to Mulkey's comments

Though both Babb and the Post have declined most requests for comment from multiple outlets, Babb did confirm to the Associated Press he is working on a Mulkey profile. He also seemingly responded to Mulkey's press conference allegations and lawsuit threats in a Saturday post on X.

"Hit piece?" the post read with a link to Babb's aforementioned 2022 article on Brian Kelly.

It is so far unclear when the Washington Post will publish the upcoming story.


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  27. READ: Ruby Franke kept handwritten timeline journal over months her

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