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1/n: So, we just finished reviewing abstracts for NSGC's 2018 Annual Ed Conference & I really enjoyed it! I loved some of the projects—for others I had constructive, diplomatic feedback. Here are some good & bad things that might be helpful to other researchers:
2/n: First, let’s start with the things that I didn’t like: 1. Bad intros. Omit clunky declarative opening lines. When in doubt, type “Purpose:” and go from there. Good intros don’t receive extra points, but you will avoid the dreaded sigh through grinding teeth.
3/n: Intro infatuation. Intros shouldn't be the longest part. Try color-coding each section or a word-count and make a bar graph to see relative length. It's like filling up on breadsticks at a subpar Italian chain restaurant when I came for the osso buco.
4/n: Passive results. If you type “will be presented…” then stop. Imagine your boss calls you in: “It’s about your raise.” “Oh! Is it significant?” S/he shakes their head, “Results will be presented in 3 months and may not be significant.” You, and I, want the results -- today.
5/n: Title infatuation. You thought of an awesome title, except it sort of doesn’t describe your project anymore. The devil on your shoulder whispers: keep it anyway. Do not listen. Kill your darlings, all of them.
6/n: Info is MIA. For some reason, specific pieces of information are missing. Common offenders were methodology, recruitment and/or analysis strategy, & cohort descriptions. Maybe you meant to add them later? Maybe you’re hoping I didn't notice? I did. I tired to be diplomatic.
7/n: An almost idea. It's not hard to see when a project is half-baked. Like, “I can probably whip something up...” MacGyver whipped up a lot of things w/few resources in no time, but research wasn’t one of them. Limited time = smaller project. Small isn’t bad. Half-baked is bad.
8/n: Most of these issues lead to confusion, then a sigh through grinding teeth with Reviewer 3 style comments back about your project. But the good news is they're all easily fixed! Now, on to the things I liked!
9/n: Clarity. As a writer of plenty of bad writing (abstracts, papers, fiction, songs poetry), I know bad (and good) writing. Clarity is King of good writing. Muddled vision = muddled writing. Give your writing to someone naïve so they can point out the confusing parts.
10/n: Focus. Keep the project’s objectives in sight and the narrative serving that objective. One abstract ended with a discussion that did not address their objective, which looks not-so-great since they’re separated by ~150 words. Tight, on-point writing -- be stil my heart!
11/n: Uniqueness. Adding an interesting detail to a standard project—like a patient survey for a clinical utility study—is refreshing. Obviously, the combinations of should be relevant to each other. Don’t just tack something shiny on—I’m a reviewer, not a raven.
12/n: Ambition. Projects w/an ambitious scope are always intriguing. But ambition is not a fat N with tiny p-values and CIs. I’d rather read five small project abstracts that are clearly presented than one messy and muddled Very Big Project.
13/n: Those are the main good/bad things! One important point is that the things I like (and I’m guessing other reviewers, editors, publishers, patients) are not specific things. They are not a statistical test or subject matter. These are foundational to any project.
14/n: In all my projects, I’ve found that if I can describe an idea in 2-3 sentences w/o clarifying f/u Qs (not Qs of scope/depth/etc), then I have clarity. After that, the project will do itself! Just kidding—it’s always a slog. But you can make the slog easier.
15/n: I hope that's helpful to current/future writers and researchers for genetic counseling or elsewhere. Others, please add other thoughts below! #GCchat #researchers
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