Writing my first paper as a grad student was quite an ordeal. Even though I had written research reports for both my rotations as a master’s student, I struggled finding the right tone and get to the point. And I was very eager to get it submitted, because my PI only allowed me to go to my first SfN when my manuscript was submitted. So I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I harassed my advisor to read it, but in turn was pretty disappointed by the amount of red ink on my manuscript when I got it back. I remember being sad that the final version of the manuscript probably only had about 5 of my original words in it.
Writing this first paper was kind of a rite of passage and writing all the subsequent papers seemed like a breeze compared to the pain of getting that first manuscript ready. So I’m always surprised when I hear people tell that their advisors write their papers for them. Sometimes it makes sense that this happens: I’ve seen situations where grad students weren’t staying in academia and didn’t really care if their stuff got published or not. In that case I can imagine that an advisor will write the manuscript and submit the paper. But is also happens to grad students AND post-docs who want to learn how to write a paper. I’ve heard several stories of post-docs who were either told by their advisor that he read their draft but decided to re-write the whole thing himself or who were told not to even bother writing a first draft, because the advisor would take care of it. I can kind of understand this from the advisor’s point of view: that you don’t want to go through a couple rounds of writing and editing with someone who doesn’t write as good as you. But as a grad student and as a post-doc you also need to learn how to write a paper (or a grant proposal for that matter), so in my opinion it is just very bad mentoring if you don’t allow people to write their papers.