How to Write a Professional Paper
- Think of a topic: a patient who’s driving you crazy, a pattern of behavior you’ve seen repeatedly, a question you want an answer to.
- Think of another topic, because the first one is too complicated and you don’t know where to start.
- Read lots of papers about the first topic, and forget what your original question was.
- As you’re listening to patients, get distracted by thoughts about what you’ve read.
- Begin to use what you’ve read as you listen to patients.
- Remember the original question, and realize it’s meaningless, but there’s another, related question that’s interesting.
- Read everything you can find about the new question, and then forget that question.
- After a year or so, remember the second question, because your most difficult patient is illustrating it perfectly.
- Write down that patient’s history and put into words what her central problem is, after changing your mind about that central problem at least twice.
- Talk to trusted colleagues about your patient, and argue about what they think.
- Rewrite what you’ve written.
- Repeat steps 10 and 11 at least three times.
- Throw out what you have written so far and repeat step 9.
- Repeat steps 10 through 13 until done.
(Optional) Add footnotes and bibliography.
(Optional) Submit for publication.