Most things that you do for the first time are scary. The fear comes from not knowing if you’re doing the right thing; whether you will to meet your own expectations — and everybody else’s! It becomes even scarier if you believe first expectations will last.

Every researcher reaches a point where they have to share their findings for the first time, share with the world what they found and what their conclusions were. For postgraduate students that may come in the form of a dissertation or thesis. But if your research is ready for the real test, you submit to a peer reviewed journal, where the rest of the world can see what you’ve done and judge it.

For me that’s where the real fear starts, having to submit your hard work to an editor and reviewers to scrutinize and tear it all apart. I’ve heard that eyes are windows to the soul, but I believe that writing is the window to the soul. When you have passion for your work, you can’t help but pour your heart and soul into writing — so the thought of someone just crushing that work is no different from someone pulling out your heart and soul.

And even for that horrifying experience, there is a first time…

You have to put yourself out there and have faith in your work, believing that no editor will have your soul for lunch (chuckles).

So… since my previous blog post, what have I achieved? Well, I have managed to complete and submit my MSc dissertation. That’s pretty cool, right? This is one milestone that I am happy and proud to have achieved.

My next mountain to climb is writing a manuscript and submitting it to a peer-reviewed journal.

I’ve never written a manuscript before from scratch, although I have co-authored some. So I do consider this manuscript as my first. To tell you the truth, I have mixed emotions about it, I’m excited that finally I’ll get to share my work but at the same time, I’m scared that it might get rejected. But if you never try then you’ll never know.

So where do I start? Summarizing your 100 page MSc Dissertation into an eight page manuscript is not a simple task! One thing Prof Muchenje normally says is, “Choose a few articles that are similar to your work and use them as your guide”. I’ve found this to be helpful because although you want your work to be novel, it still needs to conform to the laws of scientific writing. So, I went with this approach, and first identified the journal to which I want to submit. This has helped me with the formatting and style.

In the effort to compress my dissertation, the literature review was the first to go, followed by a big chunk of the introduction. The next step was to merge both chapter 3 and 4 — this wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined. Chapter 3 looked at the effect of Moringa oleifera whole seed meal on layer performance and egg quality. Chapter 4 looked at the effect of Moringa oleifera whole seed on fatty acid profile, shelf life and health indices of eggs.

The initial plan was to split these two chapters into different manuscripts but it seems better to merge the two and create one strong manuscript as opposed to having two manuscripts that don’t have much substance. The problem however, is trying to create a single and concise and robust introduction for these two different chapters without leaving out the background and rational of running this study. This is where the template article comes into play. A number of articles have managed to merge these two ideas, so I should have this little conundrum solved in no time.

For me, the template article not only helped me with the shrinking of the document but also the table and figure formatting. Sometimes you hear a supervisor asking, “Where is the science?” Seeing how others visualize results also helps me to show the science better.

So far I have made progress with the manuscript and hopefully I can gather enough courage to send it to my supervisor. Let’s hope the cuts don’t bleed too much.

2 thoughts on “Nothing like your first time!

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