Write the first draft. Write the first draft of the entire manuscript. If you are writing with coauthors, you may wish to assign different aspects of the manuscript to different authors. This can save time, allow more individuals to feel that they are making substantive contributions to the writing process, and ensure the best use of expertise. However, it also can lead to a mixture of styles. Thus, if you take this approach, be certain that the final product is carefully edited to provide a single “voice.”
“Components of a Research Article” discusses what goes into each section of the manuscript. For a more extensive presentation of this and many other aspects of preparing a paper, see Day (1998). At this point, do not worry about it being intelligible. That comes later.
Some people recommend that you begin your writing with the Introduction and continue through in order each section of the paper. This can help ensure flow. However, others suggest that you start wherever you wish – anything to get rid of that blank screen or piece of paper. Whatever your approach, heed the advice of Charles Sides (1991): “If you try to write and edit at the same time, you will do neither well.” And because editing is often a lot easier than writing, push through this step as quickly as possible. If you are taking much more than two full days, you have probably paused to edit!
Revise the manuscript. This step involves three major tasks, each to be carried out in the order given:
Make major alterations. Fill in gaps, correct flaws in logic, restructure the document to present the material in the most logical order.
Polish the style. Refine the text, then correct grammar and spelling.
Format the document. Make your manuscript attractive and easy to read. It is important to do the tasks in the stated order. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending a lot of time revising material that you later delete.