Monday, November 8, 2010

Tips for Writing a Systematics DDIG Part 4: How Much Methodological Detail?

You may feel compelled to give excruciating details of your proposed methods. Done correctly, this can be an excellent way to convince reviewers that you know what you’re talking about. However, space is tight and you can’t be expected to give a completely comprehensive overview of your proposed methods. The most important thing is to convince your reviewers that you understand what you’re talking about and have carefully selected the most appropriate, most sophisticated, and feasible methods possible given the question at hand. If you’re using standard methods (e.g., parsimony analyses in PAUP, Bayesian analyses in MrBayes) its safe to assume your reviewers have at least heard of these methods and the software used to implement them (they’re all going to be practicing systematists, after all). Even with such widely know methods, however, its still a good idea to mention a few specific details to show that you're familiar with the intricacies of your analyses (i.e., which type of search you'll be using in PAUP or how you'll assess convergence of your Bayesian analyses). If your proposal involves relatively new methods, or specialized methods that might not be familiar to other systematists, you should plan on including more detail. Be sure to justify why these methods are the most appropriate for your study, and how they will be used to specifically address the hypotheses/questions framed previously in your proposal.

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