By Yonela Z. Njisane

Social writing: Through this blog, I have been receiving very positive comments about my writing. Apparently I write so well, mmmh! I am flattered, really. I remember I used to get similar feedback in high school (Sehole Combine School) from the dialog stories/books I used to write… I wonder where they are now. At the time, the stories got a lot of attention from all the different social groups residing in the boarding premises.
Even my tutor from the S.A. Writers College has been really impressed with my writing on the tasks they’ve been requesting for a blog-writing course. “Your writing is great and fresh and original, I love your stories” she says. I have been enjoying all the praise, I must say ☺. With all this positive reinforcement, I really should have no writing “issues.” However…
Scientific writing: I can’t say the same about my scientific writing skills; it’s been a nightmare. Ever wrote something and felt “Yeah! I nailed it,” only to find out that you didn’t? LOL, at least not as great as you thought. Yup! That’s the story of my life. You see, I can strip down someone else’s document and suggest this and that to improve it, but it seems I am failing when it comes to my own.

Maybe if I cleared my desk, things would get better...
Maybe if I cleared my desk, things would get better…

I have been trying to write a publishable review paper for almost two years now and my supervisor is not pleased at all. I am not too happy with myself either, and I am not taking it well. How could I take this long with a single paper? ☹ You would think reviewing literature is the easiest thing to do; I mean, you are supposed to just be analysing information that has been generated over the years: everything is there already. Or not, since you are actively trying to identify a sensible gap.
I honestly think it’s the most challenging type of paper to write, and yet has the most potential to boost your research profile once it’s out there. Everybody reads and cites review papers! But rejections and vague, mysterious comments by anonymous reviewers are not helping me with this. Exposing yourself to criticism is part of the job, but it’s so hard to go back to a manuscript after your masterwork has been rejected. It makes me feel like a complete failure and trust me, I know that is a very bad way to respond to the challenge.

Or maybe if I get out of my comfort zone and allow Mother Nature to speak to me while I’m at it...
Or maybe if I get out of my comfort zone and allow Mother Nature to speak to me while I’m at it…

I am even considering putting it aside and concentrate on writing the experimental papers instead; maybe I will get inspiration afterwards. There are four of them and each of them individually includes an Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results and Discussion, Conclusion and list of references. I even have an unfinished experiment from lab work. Maybe I should do all that so long — get something done in the little time that’s left to me.
However, a wise man once told me that publishing a review as early as possible at PhD level is more like building your thesis on solid ground. I think it was something along those lines. Don’t forget, it can’t be just any old publication, but a world class paper that will be suitable for a high impact factor journal. I mean this is where you prove yourself as a scientist, right? And we all want a bigger RG score (ResearchGate) through citations and contributions.

I don't think I like my desk this way, makes me feel empty. Maybe I'll just stick to my mess...
I don’t think I like my desk this way, makes me feel empty. Maybe I’ll just stick to my mess…

I guess it’s time I pull up my socks, stretch them out if I have to and learn every trick in the book on how to overcome this review threat. That “finding your motivation or inspiration” I spoke about last month must now come to the rescue. “Njisane et al., 2016″ suits me, right? ☺ I know hahaha! If you have any trick for me, please don’t be shy to share (I promise to read them VERY quickly before returning to my scientific writing).

9 thoughts on “And so I write to you

  1. totally under stand how you feel and what you going through hey; try writing a review paper on what has never been done and youl have sleepless nights. They say look at other review papers just to check out the structure and premise but there aren’t as many reviews as you might think out there. hopefully we will over come this mountain called “review paper”.

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  2. At some point we have got to find a way around it Sipho. All mountains must come down… what’s a life with no challenges though…

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