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Conquer the Blank Page: Start with the Discussion Section

Unlock your writing potential with a counterintuitive approach: Begin with the end in mind.
Starting with the Discussion section makes writing a journal article easier

Are you tired of staring at a blank page, unsure where to start your research paper? You're not alone. Many writers struggle with the overwhelming openness of a blank document, feeling paralyzed by the sheer number of possibilities. But what if I told you there's a better way? By starting with the Discussion section, you can streamline your writing process and reduce the need for endless revisions. In this blog, I'll explain why this approach works and how it can save you time and frustration.


Staring at a blank page, unsure of where to start? Break free from the paralysis of the blank-page syndrome with a simple, yet revolutionary strategy: Start with the Discussion section. Discover why this approach not only saves you time and energy but also enhances the quality of your writing.


Writing can be a daunting task, especially when you’re unsure of where to start. The blank page stares back at you, seemingly challenging you to fill it with words. But what if there was a way to make the process less painful and more efficient? The answer lies in an unexpected place: the Discussion section, where all the elements of your paper converge. It picks up from the Introduction, justifies your methods, explains your findings, and highlights their significance. It's a comprehensive section that encapsulates the essence of your research, making it an excellent starting point.


Why start with the Discussion section?


The Discussion section is the heart of your paper. It's where all the threads of your research come together: the introduction, the methods, and the findings. It's where you explain the significance of your work and its implications. In essence, the Discussion section is a microcosm of your entire paper.


But why start with the Discussion section? Here are three compelling reasons:


  1. Working Backwards is Easier: Knowing your end point makes it easier to plan your starting point. The Discussion section forces you to think through your findings and their implications, giving you a clear roadmap for your Introduction (and Theory section if your paper has one).

  2. The Discussion Section is Comprehensive: It encapsulates all elements of your paper. It's an expanded version of the Abstract, it contains your voice and perspective, it engages with the relevant literature, and it clearly states why your research matters. Writing it first helps you map out the rest of your paper.

  3. It Saves Time and Energy: If you need to rethink elements of your paper, it's better to know now rather than having to rewrite the whole paper later. Starting with the Discussion ensures that all your thinking and planning are done upfront. This reduces the need for extensive revisions and rewrites, saving you time and energy.


Getting started


So, if you're struggling with where to start, try beginning with the Discussion section. But what if you can't write the Discussion section right now? Here are some questions to help you get started:


  1. What is currently known about your study object? What does current research show or lead us to expect?

  2. Why is the current state of knowledge problematic or insufficient?

  3. What did you do (methods) and how do those methods help you answer your research question or reach your findings?

  4. What do your findings show or suggest, and how do they relate to what is currently known?

  5. What is the significance of those findings? What should readers, researchers, others do with them?


Expand your definition of writing


One reason why researchers struggle with the blank-page syndrome is because they have a very narrow view of what counts as writing. Writing is more than just putting words on a page and word counts. It involves thinking, planning, and rethinking. Many writers only count words produced as writing, but the background work is equally important. By considering writing as a structured thinking process, you can overcome the initial hurdles and make the writing process less painful. So, expand your definition of "writing" and embrace the process. Whether it's free-writing, talking through your ideas with a colleague or friend, mapping out ideas on a whiteboard, or writing different sections in separate documents, find what works for you.


Connect your findings to the literature


In the end, the most important aspect of your writing is connecting your research to the literature. Which research does your work touch on the most? Which has the most relevance? Once you've figured that out, you're well on your way to conquering the blank page.


So, start with the Discussion section and watch as the words begin to flow. Happy writing!


Want more proof of how starting with the Discussion section can make the job of writing your next article easier? Check out this companion blog article: "Comparing Discussion sections in Nature and Organization Studies, Connecting the Discussion to the rest of the paper."

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