Organizing a Paper or Lecture (slide 1)

Jean-Joel Villier, M.D.

and Susan Tapert, Ph.D.

Updated 5/2002


I.          Overview (slide 2)

A.     Searching the literature

B.     Taking notes

C.     Creating an outline

D.     Summary

II.        Searching the Literature (slide 3)

A.     Find an on line database of periodicals

1.      PubMed for medical topics (

2.      PsycInfo for psychological topics (

3.      Or, go to the library and get help from a reference librarian

B.     Select recent review articles in good journals

C.     Select recent articles from reference lists of the review articles

III.       Taking Notes (slide 4)

A.     Begin with comprehensive recent paper

B.     Read and make tentative list of major subtopics for your paper/lecture

C.     Create a series of blank pages with each subtopic as a heading

D.     Select a paper to read and note the info relevant to each topic on each relevant page (slide 5)

1.      Begin each note by listing a shorthand for the paper it came from

2.      E.g., “O’Brien, JSA, 1994”

E.      Each page of notes will now have all information from all articles on each topic (e.g., epidemiology, pharmacological treatments, etc.)

F.      Of course, use additional pages for a topic if the first page fills up

IV.       Suggestions for the Review of Papers (slide 6)

  1. Know what you’re looking for
  2. Extract info from the abstract (might be enough)
  3. Depending on goals, turn to:

1.   Tables

2.   Methods

3.   Conclusion

4.   Etc.

D.  Intro and Discussion might offer useful references

V.        Revising Notes (slide 7)

A.     Review the topic headings on each page

B.     See which additional topics are needed for the paper/lecture

C.     Continue reviewing and revising

VI        Preparing to Write (slide 8)

A.     For each topic, write a brief summary of the major points made

B.     Place the topics in the order relevant to your lecture/paper

C.     Begin the outline

VII.     Guidelines for website consistency (slide 9)

  1. Limit Abuse and Dependence to DSM-IV definitions
  2. Create a skeleton that can be easily modified (typically a 5-10 page outline)
  3. Insert notes referring to slides
  4. Limit number of slides (~15-30 slides for a 45-minute lecture)

VIII.    Creating an Outline (slide 10)

A.     Requires brief phrases or short sentences

1.   Goal is to guide writing/lecture structure and logical flow

2.   Allows you to speak and write in own words

3.   Helps you find your place

B.     KISS (Keep It Simple)

1.      Don’t write a paper

2.      Keep to a skeleton of ideas and their support

3.   Delete prepositions, articles, etc.

C.  Some examples (slides 11-12)

IX.       Organizing the Outline (slide 13)

A.     Use Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, lowercase letters, etc.

  1. An Example Outline (slide 14)

X.        Use appropriate references (slide 15)

  1. Help other lecturers prepare
  2. Emphasis on recent papers and reviews
  3. Usually need 15to 30 for AMSP lectures
  4. Use American Journal of Psychiatry style for reference format

XI.       Summary (slide 16)

A.     Good organization is the key

B.     Always start with an overview/outline of the major points

C.     Consistency, accuracy, clarity and flow of ideas are essential