Is the research ready for formal publication

Consider your research ready to be written up for publication when the results and conclusions fulfill at least one of these requirements:

• They are reasonably consistent, reproducible, and complete

• They represent significant experimental, theoretical, or observational extensions of knowledge

• They represent advances in the practical application of known principles

• They take knowledge of the subject a step further

In other words, are you fairly confident that the outcomes of your study are new, true, and meaningful? If yes, go for it! If the answer to all these questions is no, delay publication efforts. Sometimes, a topic that originally looked worthwhile turns out to be a dud or simply unsuitable in its present form. Don't throw away the data - just defer writing a paper based on them until further work has been done.

If you decided not to publish this work, don't hide it (or yourself) in a closet. Perhaps at the moment you simply need to consider a different venue for sharing this information.

Formal publication: the message determines the medium

Where scientific material appears is almost as important as what it says. Conversely, where it appears ideally should be determined by what it says. Thus, before going any further, a savvy writer asks four questions.

• What message do I want to convey?

• What format is most appropriate for my message?

• Who will be interested in my message?

• Where should this paper be published?

You may be able to answer these questions by yourself, but for an extra margin of safety, discuss them with a more experienced colleague. All of us can suffer from the normal human failings of inflating the importance of a message and overestimating the size and nature of its potential audience.

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