2.11 Avoid common errors with your refined take-home message

Some of the most common errors made in refining take-home messages are listed below, as a list of DOs and DON’Ts

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DO expect your take-home message to take time and mental effort to define, draft and refine.DON’T expect your take-home message to be a quick and easy step in your paper-writing adventure. It is possibly the most difficult part of your whole paper.
DO expect to require feedback from multiple people (e.g., friends, relatives and/or co-authors, colleagues) in order to finalise your take-home message.DON’T expect that that you can define, draft and refine your take-home message all on your own, even if you are the only author of your paper.
DO use translated jargon that intelligent people can understand
e.g., reports to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals about instances of animal cruelty (i.e., RSPCA cruelty reports)
DON’T use untranslated jargon
e.g., RSPCA cruelty reports
DO use the complete word for thingsDON’T use acronyms. If you absolutely must use an acronym (e.g., for a term that is longer than about a third-of-a-line and is used more than about 3 times in the take-home message), don’t forget to define it upon first use.
DO use the same term when referring to the same thing.DON’T try to vary your language.
DO put the current study into the broader context of the field: state explicitly the big underlying question or problem that led you to do this research. DON’T go straight into the specifics of your research (e.g., WHAT you did and WHAT you found), without telling your reader WHY you did this research.
DO think hard and show the real and compelling reason why you did the research you are presenting in your paper.DON’T use ‘there is little knowledge’ as the rationale for the research you are presenting in your paper.
DO ensure the opening sentence of your take-home message gets straight to the point of WHY you did this study.DON’T give waffly background information.
DO give enough detail so your reader can understand WHAT you actually did in your research.DON’T omit essential details, such as what type of research you undertook, what your comparator was, what outcomes you measured, etc.
DO remember to write your actual results into your take-home message.DON’T write your take-home message like the blurb on the back of a book (‘in this book, we will cover topic X, Y and Z’).
DO conclude with something that is specific to your results.DON’T conclude with something generic that someone could have told you without even reading what your results were.
DO make sure your conclusions are supported by the actual results you present in your take-home message.DON’T conclude anything that is over extrapolated from your data. Don’t be afraid of having a ‘small’ conclusion. There’s nothing ‘small’ about making an incremental gain in knowledge when that gain in knowledge is strongly supported by the data. All research is incremental.
DO ensure your take-home message is concrete and tangible.DON’T succumb to waffly hand-waving at any point in your take-home message (common at the end of the take-home message)

Check the above DOs and DON’Ts as your refine your take-home message.