Before Writing

When you start with a course or an action-research project at IMO Academy Online you have to prepare yourself for writing a publication. This publication will at least be published on the website of the IMO Academy. And maybe it will be published somewhere else if that is your wish.

How to prepare?

  • Buy a personal notebook to make notes during the whole process. Formulate your question and reformulate it when the question changes. Make short notes of your observations, ideas, insights and order them by date. Keep them as brief as possible and read them from time to time.
  • Those notes are the building blocks for your publication. Write your ‘thesis’ with the main structure of your document (see below) in mind as a helpful orientation. Try to restrict yourself to 2500 words (“the limitation shows the master”). Write in English (preferred) or in your first language (with a summary in English).
  • Find yourself a reader (or two) who is willing to reflect on the drafts you produce. Use their remarks, but do it in your own way and style.


The act of writing is difficult for a lot of people.  They think they can’t write good enough, they feel ashamed and vulnerable by the act of making it public. There are some perspectives that can help you to overcome this threshold. Consider the process of writing as an act, appealing to your qualities of leadership.

  • Don’t keep yourself captured in solitude, but involve people in this adventure. Talk with others about your ideas, questions, activities, aims. Their feedback is part of the whole process. Change writing into co-writing. You can refer to that in the final publication as a moment of gratitude.
  • Look at your writing and the result of it (your paper) as part in a longer process of ongoing development, a lifelong learning. The publication is a fixed, a frozen moment in that process. To be complete or perfect is an illusion, so get rid of the idea to perform to the highest standard. Good is to formulate, to deepen your question and to describe what you did to bring your question on the move. A question is your sense organ to observe reality. Try to be good, not better. The publication is a moment of reflection in your biography.
  • Let your soul be the joyful, personal artist that connects the lively ideas and the textual, fixed form. The ideas are free, going everywhere, from past to future, from here to over there, like butterflies. The text than catches the ideas into a certain designed construct like a well arranged bunch of flowers that you will give to someone. This nice gift stays visible for a while but is not everlasting.
  • Consider writing and publishing as a moment in a long dialogue (meaningful interaction between two persons). You observe (the learning process), you say something (publishing), the dialogue partner listens (reading the publication) and gives a response (this publication can be an impulse for giving sense to his / her activities).


Writing and reading IMO publications from participants of the IMO Academy should be satisfying on both sides. This guideline will support you to master the act of writing. The document you are going to write has a simple structure that helps you to get your ideas on paper and helps the reader to easily follow your process.

It starts with an introduction of the topic. The biggest part is the so called body of the publication. Here you describe and reflect your process of learning and discovery in different sections. And it ends with a conclusion in which you harvest the sense of all the efforts. In an overview it looks like this:

  • You orientate the reader of the motives and the importance of your topic.
  • Identify the the question, the focus, the thesis.
  • Give an interesting example that triggers the reader.
  • Describe the method of your learning process.
  • Point 1 – Supporting details, statements – Conclusion
  • Point 2– Supporting details, statements – Conclusion
  • Point 3– Supporting details, statements – Conclusion
  • Restate your question and main point.
  • Link your learning results to other issues / concerns in the field.
  • Identify future possibilities, further research.
  • Final comment.
  • Questionnaire / Polls / Etc.
  • Publications / Links
  • Exercises, specific activities


Structure of the document

When creating a document, you are going to step into a process that starts, follows a certain path and ends. Let’s go through this process of writing in detail.


Here you start with your question as the lead of your learning process. What is the question, why is it important for you? Where and how did this question appear to you? Can you give examples that the reader can recognize and is a trigger to become curious?
Maybe you should define some keywords or terminology that is crucial for understanding your argumentation. Probably a very short overview of the issues in the document is also helpful. This part of the text has somehow the shape of a funnel because you can start wherever you want and you should end with a certain focus in which you state what will be explored further on.
Somewhere in your document you also should mention your decisions about the the way you work. Is it action-research, study of literature, appreciative inquiry, social experiments, desktop research, etc? Roughly this part takes about 15% of the document.

The body

The main part of the document is the so called ‘body’. The reader can observe the steps you have made, the steering ideas behind those steps (why, how, what), the literature you’ve read, the research activities you have done, the discoveries you have made, your insights and reflections.  This is the most attractive part of the whole text, because here the reader can observe you exploring the field of your interest. You give some background information and show different issues. Here we can read your arguments, analysis, evaluations, discussion with other opinions
You can divide the body in different chapters, paragraphs or sections to bring order and clarity in your paper.  Show the reader how those sections are interrelated. This part of the document takes about 75%


Formulate again the question and the reason why you started this research. Draw together your findings, based on what was written in the different sections of ‘the body’. Outline the implications of of your evaluations and how it makes sense for you and your profession, the leadership and the organization development. Relate your conclusions to other questions and issues if possible.
Do you see possibilities to continue the research in new constellations? What is your final comment of this publication? Is there one point the reader should not forget? This part of the document can be short, about 10%.


In the supplement you can ad all the extras that belong to the text like references to literature, detailed results of your research, survey, reading, poll, etc. You can for example also add the outline of a workshop, an exercise, an experiment.

Practical instructions

If you refer to other publications use this standard (at the bottom of a page or in the supplement part of the paper. See examples in the textbox.

Fermann, G, International politics of climate change: key issues and critical actors, (Oslo: Scandinavian University Press, 1997).

Article in a book
Elsner, R.E. and Ashwell-Erickson,s., Cardiovascular adjustments to diving, in The Biology of marine mammals, edited by H.T. Andersen, (New York: Academic Press) pp 117-145.

Kwan, I. and Mapstone, J. Visibility aids for pedestrians and cyclists: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials, in Accident Analysis & Prevention, (36(3), 2004), pp. 305-312.

You can add information in a footer text, like this.[1] ([1] The text in the footer is a bit smaller.)
As an individual we feel often powerless and confronted with the practices of those leaders in their communities that do not correspond to the inner feelings and longings we have ourselves for a better world.[2] (Quote by Adriaan Bekman, How to Create a Better World (Zeist, IMO Publication 2015).

For an example of the layout, see the PDF file of this article.
The main font is Source Sans Pro (it can be found on the internet, created by Adobe, it is ‘open source’ and can be installed on your computer).

Publish the document as a PDF file.

 Klaas IJkema, april 2016

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