Preparing your research story for peer review and publication

About this seminar

Considering how important writing is to a career in science, many scientists receive little forrmal training in the writing process. In this seminar, Mary shares tips to help overcome common writing problems, drawing on her 25 years of teaching about scientific writing.

Speaker Title: Mary Williams, Features Editor, The Plant Cell

Speaker Bio: Mary received her PhD in Plant Molecular Biology from Rockefeller University. From 1995 to 2009 she was a Professor of Biology at Harvey Mudd College, a liberal arts college of science and engineering. In 2009 she joined The Plant Cell as the developer of Teaching Tools in Plant Biology. In addition to her editorial role at The Plant Cell, she mentors students through the Plantae platform, edits Plant Science Research Weekly, and gives workshops in writing, teaching and communicating at conferences and universities. Mary is very active on Twitter as @PlantTeaching.

Seminar Description:

In this presentation, I outline the key steps in writing a paper, preparing figures, and navigating the review process, including how to frame the significance of the question being addressed, how to put the results in context, and how to present the key findings in the abstract, title, summary figure and cover letter. I also discuss best practices for figure presentation, from cropping and contrast adjustment to layout and design. The second part of the presentation covers how the manuscript is reviewed, from initial submission to final acceptance, in order to demystify this process and help early-career researchers understand how they can ensure a smooth process. I describe the author’s roles at various stages of the review process, how editors and reviewers are solicited, how a decision is reached, and how authors can respond to reviewer comments.

Video recording of seminar

Link to download slides


Collection: Resources for getting published

Collection: Plant Cell Peer-Review Reports (samples)

Collection: Resources for peer review


Strunk, W. Jr. (1999).The Elements of Style.

George Orwell (1946)  Politics and the English Language

Anne Green (2013) Writing Science in Plain English 

Steven Pinker (2014) Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)

ASPB Policies & Procedures

Office of Research Integrity