“In my lab at Mason, we talked about ‘the dark and stormy night approach’ which is how every long story around a campfire [starts with] ‘it’s a dark and stormy night.’ And the idea is that you have this really big build up to some kind of key thing. And in a lot of ways, that’s how introductions to a paper start; they naturally progress from kind of a broad statement with broad context to a very specific problem that you’re trying to solve with your research and you talk about how you’re going to do it. And the feedback I consistently get is ‘you know the dark and stormy night approach has some problems and it’s a lot better if you just state your intentions as soon as possible, every single time.’ I’ve gotten better at that, but that’s kind of one of the things that just keeps coming up. As I’m working with colleagues we’re constantly trying to look at our initial drafts and understand that we need to put the key points more upfront and refer back to them more consistently throughout the narrative. It’s not that the logical progression of ‘the dark and stormy night’ is bad, it just takes more than that. And if that’s all that you do, then it’s really easy for the reader to lose the lose the thread of the story.”
John Graybeal graduated from Mason with a PhD in Psychology in 2017 and currently works for a contract company of the Department of Defense.