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Visualizing the format of your manuscript

Starting a new manuscript from scratch is almost always difficult. Our last two posts discussed how creating an outline for your manuscript can help get you started. These posts described in detail what to think about and include as you outline the content for your paper. But another way to help with this process is to visualize the format of your final manuscript. This is good for both planning your writing and also in providing checks and balances as you develop your work—essentially, it gives you a simple guide to making sure you are putting the right amount of effort and content into the right sections.

Visualizing the format of your manuscript

For the standard Original Article format, you can think of your manuscript as having an hourglass shape. The wider sections of the hourglass correspond to sections that require more broad and generalized content, while the narrower sections indicate that those areas should be highly detailed and narrower in scope.


This idea is clear when you think of what sort of information you discuss in each section. Your manuscript will almost always start with a brief and general introduction to the topic you plan to discuss with reference to other work in the field, then it will narrow down to the specific issue or knowledge gap that your study tried to address. This creates the upper part of the hourglass. Once you have introduced your objective, you will then present your methods and results, which are the very specific details that relate to your study, or the narrow middle of the hourglass. Next, you will discuss what these results indicate, bringing in support from the literature, and finally broaden the discussion back out to the wider relevance of your findings and the implications they have for future research.


As you write, use this concept to check whether you are on the right track or if you need to rewrite some sections to better fit this shape. Also make sure that you link your discussion and conclusions back to the original objective. Just like an hourglass where the sand from the top becomes the sand at the bottom, so must the content of your manuscript correspond.


Do you have any other tricks that help you plan your manuscript writing? Let us know below!