(modified from D. Zuckerman)

Your co-authors and research supervisor may not want to see your manuscript draft unless …


  • Have you followed the structure outlined and discussed here.
  • Does each paragraph focus on a single idea or point which is introduced/summarized in the paragraph’s first sentence? Remember that a paragraph is like a mini-essay - see this post on paragraph structure.
  • Is the flow of logic clear from paragraph to paragraph? From your draft, you should be able to (re)write the outline of the paper – in fact, just from the first sentences of the paragraphs. Check this.
  • Did you repeat key points in several sections to emphasize them?
  • Did you spend a lot more time on logic and clarity in addition to grammar and sentence structure?
  • Have you ruthlessly avoided complicated sentences? Remember that clarity will always trump elegance.


  • Does the abstract avoid distracting technical details?
  • Is it clear from the abstract why the work is new and worthy of publication?


  • Did you clearly explain the reason why the work was done – the existing problem?
  • Did you clearly and briefly explain what you did to make progress – what’s new?
  • Did you cite pertinent work done before? Even by people you may not like?
  • Did you read the introductions of several related papers to be sure you explained the ideas properly and cited the important work?


  • Did you remind your readers why a new/old method was used? You can write a mini-introduction for the Methods section.
  • Did you provide enough information so a reader could exactly reproduce your results? The whole procedure should be outlined, even if some details must be found in other work or Supplemental Information.


  • Did you make sure the main results are not buried? Again, use mini-introductions.
  • Did you save commentary and speculation for the Discussion section?


  • Did you clearly explain what’s new, as compared to previous work?
  • Did you avoid repeating information from the Results section?
  • Did you admit the limitations of your work?
  • Did you describe future applications, improvements, and generalizations?


  • Could a reader in a rush read just the Conclusions and learn just about everything (including acronyms)?
  • Did you avoid exaggeration and let the data speak for itself?
  • Did you acknowledge everyone who helped, including funding agencies?


  • Do figure titles describe the main point of each figure?
  • Have you put labels/arrows in the graphic to minimize effort for the reader?


  • Did you go back to the ‘General’ section above and double-check those paragraphs and logic – even in the Results section?
  • Did you make several revisions of the entire manuscript (after completing a first draft)?
  • Did you check journal-specific formatting – section order; figures; references?
  • Did you put the date on your draft so that a reader with two versions can be sure of reviewing the latest one?
  • Did you include page numbers so reviewers can easily reference sections when discussing the draft with you?
  • If there is a deadline did you tell your co-authors about it?