You know your research, they don’t

As I read through the recent reviews for my paper, there was one comment that was consistent through all three. And this comment pointed out something that’s easy to forget when writing your paper. That while you know your research, those who are reading/reviewing it don’t.

Specifically, I belong to a research group that works on X. We are creating X, we are using X as a research platform, and most of our research revolves around X. Because of this, we (my research group) all know X really well. On the other hand, X is pretty specific to our research group. This means that generally everyone else doesn’t know much about X (or care about X – since it’s mainly a research topic).

The comment I was getting, was that people thought the research was very X specific. They didn’t feel that it would apply elsewhere (false) and felt that it was difficult to understand the research since they don’t know X (my fault). So, as I edit the paper (well, I need to cut in about half and so it’ll be more of a rewrite than an edit) I’ll keep these comments in the back of my mind and use them to decide how I go about describing my research.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about this because I think this is a really easy trap to fall into (I did) and that it’s one to keep in your mind as you write your paper. Just because you know some topic really well, doesn’t mean those who will be reading and/or reviewing your paper know it at all. And so, it’s important to make sure you describe your research in enough detail that someone who doesn’t know anything about it (but is still knowledgeable in your field) can follow.

Now, back to re-writing that paper for me. I have less than a week to get it polished and camera-ready.

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