It’s not over until the fat lady sings

An algorithm to end your paper with a bang, not a whimper

You’ve just finished the Best Paper Ever Written, but something’s missing: that perfect last sentence that will make your readers jump from their seats and shout, “Encore! Encore!” They shouldn’t leave before the soprano hits her highest note. What’s the secret? Here’s an algorithm – distilled from thousands of high-impact papers – that practically guarantees success.

Method:  Two readers, working independently, read the same paper and wrote down the last sentence. In a second step they met to drink very strong coffee and compare data. Surprisingly, the results were sometimes in disagreement. Whoever made the mistake had to buy the coffee. Subsequently, the same steps were repeated on 20,000 more papers, over a period of time that seemed infinite but was likely somewhat shorter. At regular intervals coffee was withheld and whiskey was administered, as a means of ameliorating neurological symptoms and reducing the likelihood of  cardiac incidents. When 20,000 sentences had been collected, a systematic comparison was undertaken. Initially this produced no results, due to the inability of the researchers to detect patterns or even stand up most of the time. After six months in a rehabilitation center, their cognitive abilities had returned somewhat and the data was submitted to a second round of analysis. This yielded a model and a powerful algorithm that generates the final sentence for any paper, in a high-throughput way, with very minimal input from the author.


Results:  Most high-impact papers end in this sentence (n = 13,521; p < 0.05):

This suggests that our work will surely open new avenues in the diagnosis of individuals suffering from cancer.

Astoundingly, this is true even for papers that don’t mention cancer at all and fail to provide evidence of any connection to cancer. Of course it’s almost impossible to rule out a connection; with a little creativity, anything can be connected to anything, including Kevin Bacon. We all know that the best way to demonstrate that something is connected to cancer is to claim, in print, that it is not: within days somebody will find some sort of link.

In nearly all the other papers, authors changed a few words to include their own content but kept the structure of the model sentence. This provided a template for the algorithm:

This  1   that   our  2  will    3      4    new  5   in the    6   of  7   suffering from   8 .

The algorithm can be used by anyone capable of following simple instructions: From each column below, choose the word that best fits your research, then put it in the corresponding slot in the following model sentence:


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
suggests work likely open avenues diagnosis individuals cancer
implies discovery surely lead to approaches treatment patients Alzheimer’s disease
proves findings definitely trigger insights quality of life domestic animals old age
indicates results obviously stimulate fields sanity children excessive verbosity
demonstrates project clearly boost disciplines health chickens domestic


urges secret videos inevitably excite ion channels sexual gratification teenagers hormone


concludes conclusions conclusively bring to a conclusion dead ends mortality senior citizens terminal old age
proclaims proclamations permanenty provoke pathways proselytization popes priapism
proclaims pronouncements omnisciently ignite mule paths removal of nutcases promiscuity
confirms excretions necessarily inflame intestinal canals presence of physicians lack of sleep
fantasizes random musings perfectly hurl gastrointestinal tracts longevity of political prisoners STDs
states considerations considerably push Autobahns socialization of condemned prisoners prion diseases
foresees algorithm astutely impassion windows education of students hallucinations
hints ideas definitively grope with hiking paths conceptual development of torreadors a case of the giggles
threatens witticisms assuredly throw open corridors disposal of stray pets poor hygeine
instructs teachings succinctly emit fish hatcheries recovery of vicious animals messiness
promulgates lessons exhaustively exude routes death of viruses body odor
presupposes commandments heavily reduce considerations occupational therapy of queens/ other titles of royalty poor self-esteem
attests theories limitlessly disgust red carpets domestic situation of insects split personality disorders
promotes hypotheses infinitely digest trap doors visa status of rocks the attention of a two-year-old
dispells treatises obnoxiously fling aside drive-throughs marital status of irrationally happy people public intoxication
concurs dissertation quirkily discard escalators enjoyment of saftey inspectors idiosyncracies
occludes paper dramatically continue litter boxes eyes of television


writer’s block
announces grant application significantly enhance start-ups pockets of alien life forms library fines
broadcasts YouTube video meaningfully display cat videos retirement parties of professors projectile


tweets workshop stultifyingly expose body parts electrical sockets of blind dates fatal hiccups
predicts examinations clearly sharpen views lenses of myopic people new bifocals

In rare cases, the most fitting words for your project will all be found in one row:

This  concludes  that   our  conclusions  will  conclusively  bring to a conclusion  new dead ends  in the  mortality  of  senior citizens  suffering from  terminal old age.

But in most cases you will need to mix items from different rows, producing sentences like this:

This proclaims that our project will omnisciently inflame gravel roads in the recovery of royalty suffering from poor self-esteem.


This hints that our witticisms will succinctly enhance new escalators in the recovery of chickens with poor hygeine.


The power of the algorithm lies in the number of possible combinations it can produce: namely, 258. Somewhere in this galaxy of sentences must be one that adequately describes your project. If not, you should probably change topics.


The sentence produced by this algorithm should be put at the end of the “Discussion” section. “Discussion” was coined by combining the words “Discus” and “concussion”, reflecting the fact that a good paper should have an impact. A good discussion compresses the paper’s data into a heavy object, if possible with a good aerodynamic shape, and hurls it high into the atmosphere. A high-impact paper will return with such force that anyone struck by it will require medical attention. To avoid being struck yourself, which is embarrassing, never throw your discussion straight up. This suggests that our work will surely open new avenues in the diagnosis of individuals suffering from cancer.

All material on this website copyright 2016 by Russ Hodge

Published by


I am a science writer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, author of fiction and popular science books, an artist, and a professional musician who performs on the viola da gamba and Medieval and Renaissance stringed instruments. I edit manuscripts of all types and teach the full range of scientific communication skills. I am doing theoretical work in this subject - see for example

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.