Personal perspective                        How to write a scientific masterpiece                                         ...
personal perspectivecommas (parentheticals), “and terms in quotes.” And try to get                        chance to add in...
personal perspective    The proper way to present a point-by-point response      Referee Point 1: The authors make the poi...
personal perspectivebe a long letter, but space is not limiting, and this is your chance to                    scientific ...
JCB                               Feature                               Me write pretty one day: how to write a good      ...
758 The Journal of Cell Biology | Volume 165, Number 6, 2004everyone, even a scientist, thinks in            the writer is...
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共通セミナーF(生命医科学セミナー)Shimaoka 論文の書き方

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共通セミナーF 
(生命医科学セミナー)
2013年1月21日(月)9・10時限  
<授業のテーマおよび目標> 文献抄読により生命医科学研究の基礎を修得する

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共通セミナーF(生命医科学セミナー)Shimaoka 論文の書き方

  1. 1. Personal perspective How to write a scientific masterpiece Ushma S. Neill Executive Editor, The Journal of Clinical InvestigationI’ve been asked several times to give talks about various aspects of the scientific publishing enterprise, and some-times to comment specifically on how to write a manuscript that will have maximal impact. While many in myaudiences have felt that my presentations are designed for students and trainees, I hope everyone listens, assometimes even established scientists are prone to making mistakes. I hope here to outline a few pointers that willhelp your manuscripts skate through the submission and peer review process. Some points may be elementary,but all bear repeating.Before you start writing and it is probably not sufficient to communicate your mes-It goes without saying that you need to be realistic about which sage. What is to be contained in these precious few paragraphs?journal to send your work to in the first place. Our particular goal First, introduce the study and list the authors. The middle para-at the JCI is to publish basic biological findings and translational graphs should be dedicated to explaining the basic premise ofstudies that have clear biomedical interest and implications for your study and why the findings are interesting and novel. Inthe treatment of human diseases and represent a novel concep- the case of the JCI, you should also note what clinical implica-tual advance; I realize this is a very broad statement. What I mean tion your work may have. You may also use a paragraph in theis that to present an advance in the understanding of a disease cover letter to suggest referees and also to explain any exclusionsmechanism or pathogenesis usually involves in vivo models or that you want the editors to respect; the JCI will only entertainclinical samples. Studies carried out primarily in vitro are unlikely 2 exclusions — any more will be up to the discretion of the edi-to be competitive at the JCI, something I learned when I submit- tors (more on this later). End the cover letter by declaring anyted my entirely in vitro work to the JCI as a graduate student (I conflicts of interest that you may have (make sure to look up theknow how rejection feels, too). Take a good look at the hypoth- specific conflict-of-interest policy for the journal to which youesis you’ve sought to prove, the experiments performed, and their are submitting, as different journals have different rules aboutimplications before deciding which journal is the best fit for your what you must declare); indicating that the findings are as yetmanuscript. Consider where you find most of the papers that are unpublished (or where, in abstract form, they may have beenrelevant to your own work — perhaps in those journals your work referred to); and also verifying that the work is not currentlywill gain the most exposure and appreciation. under consideration at any other journal. A last point that I can- Another important early consideration has to do with author- not emphasize heavily enough: make sure to address your cover let-ship. I encourage you to openly discuss from the start who is to ter to the correct journal, and also make sure the date listed on thebe an author; the Scientist recently had a very interesting open letter is current. We understand where we fall in the hierarchydebate about what defines authorship (1). We, however, have estab- of journals, but at least give us the delusion that we were yourlished no hard and fast rules about what merits authorship versus first choice. I also note here that it is a good idea to change theacknowledgment or how to determine the order of authors; the JCI names of your files and the headers/footers from “ScienceSub-will not get involved in authorship disputes, and you need to deter- mission07” to “JCISubmission07” prior to uploading your filesmine this on your own. We encourage you to keep track of who did to our database. The realization that a competitor rejected thewhat and also to discuss who gets to write the paper, as this person paper can result in a negative predisposition.is usually the first author. You should also consider shared first Make sure to format your paper according to the specific jour-authorship and/or senior authorship if the situation merits this nal’s instructions. In addition to the cover letter faux pas, a give-designation, as most journals (including the JCI) will allow this. away that a paper was previously submitted elsewhere is when Once you start to write, do not forget the importance of a the sections are not in the proper order or the references are notgood cover letter; one that is well worded can be a very impor- properly formatted (e.g., in alphabetical order as opposed to num-tant weapon in your arsenal. After the title (more on that in a bered). Other details, like appropriate italicization of terms (genemoment), this is your chance to set the stage for what is to come, names and mRNAs, but not gene products or terms such as inyour opportunity to really sell your findings and their impor- vivo) should be kept in mind.tance. Papers submitted with and without extensive cover let-ters are read equally thoroughly, but a good cover letter helps Writing the paperthe editor understand the implications of the manuscript and Title. Start with an appropriate title, not one that inflates the rel-appreciate how you, the author, believe it fits into the broader evance of your findings and not one that claims to cure cancerfield and makes a significant contribution. Remember that there and the common cold. And it need not be long: 15 words shouldis an art to writing a good cover letter: it should be a maximum suffice (the limit at the JCI). No jargon should be used in the title,of 4–5 paragraphs in length — any more and we question why or anywhere else in the text for that matter; keep in mind thatyou are arguing so vehemently (heading off questions asked by you want to attract the most diverse readership to your articlesprevious referees? hinting at a fundamental flaw?); much less (particularly important at general biomedical journals such as the JCI), and if people can’t understand your title, they will not readCitation for this article: J. Clin. Invest. 117:3599–3602 (2007). doi:10.1172/JCI34288. your paper. Avoid using excess punctuation: i.e., no colons, excess The Journal of Clinical Investigation      http://www.jci.org      Volume 117      Number 12      December 2007 3599
  2. 2. personal perspectivecommas (parentheticals), “and terms in quotes.” And try to get chance to add in supporting findings from the literature and tothe species studied into the title; this is sometimes complicated argue why your study is a conceptual advance over those studies.if multiple species are used, but it allows readers to immediately The end of this section should also touch on the areas left to inves-put the work in its appropriate context. As examples, I offer the tigate and mysteries that remain. You may choose to add a sche-succinct title from an article published in 2006, “Activated macro- matic figure to the Discussion if the signaling cascades studied arephages are essential in a murine model for T cell–mediated chronic particularly complex; however, try not to use lightning bolts andpsoriasiform skin inflammation” and, as a corollary, a title from scissors within these schematics.1962, “Pathogenesis of the coagulation defect developing during Introduction. The structure of the Introduction is somewhat dif-pathological plasma proteolytic (‘fibrinolytic’) states: the signifi- ferent from that of the Discussion, and the purpose is also dis-cance of fibrinogen proteolysis and circulating fibrinogen break- tinct, but they are similar in that they are the sections where youdown products.” While I am sure this is informative to some read- can argue your hypothesis. Start the Introduction by providing theers, I fell asleep halfway through the second line and have no idea background for the field — how does it link to your particular sig-whether this was done in vitro or in vivo or in what species. naling cascade/polymorphism/technique of interest and what was Abstract. The abstract is your hook, the most important informa- heretofore unknown — alongside your hypothesis for how you willtion readers use when deciding whether to abandon your article or fill that gap in knowledge. Make sure to furnish relevant referencesread it more in depth. It pays to make it easy to understand and in the Introduction, as we do not want to find a reference at thebroadly appealing; informative but not too detailed. What is the end of the Discussion that shows your whole study was simply aformula for such a masterpiece? Here is one that we try to follow as recapitulation of another study. Also make sure to add all salientbest we can: first, start with a sentence or two that frames the work. references — we can use PubMed as easily as you can, and nothingIntroduce the disease and system you are studying and indicate will ensure a faster rejection than finding that you have selectivelywhat was previously unknown — framing why we are here now. referenced your article. Finish the Introduction with a short para-Move on to the major finding, then spend a few sentences detail- graph detailing what you are about to show.ing the steps and mechanisms uncovered. Make sure to indicate Methods. Provide enough detail so that any reader would be ablethe species studied, especially when this changes with different to repeat your experiment based solely on the information pro-experiments. End the abstract with a sentence or two indicating vided in the Methods. Treat it like a recipe: give concentrationsthe implications of the work without inflating the relevance. and amounts used, temperatures and durations of experiments, In addition, in the abstract, use the present tense to refer to facts n values and details of equipment used, and cell/animal sources.that have already been established in the field. Then move on to You need to include a separate paragraph detailing your statisti-the past tense to describe the findings from the current study. This cal methods. You also need to explicitly state which institutionalway it is easy for readers to parse what was done in the current authority granted approval for the animal experiments, as a simplestudy and what was previously known. Try to avoid the passive statement that you followed the rules of animal care is not suffi-voice if you can. Near the beginning, it is helpful to distinguish cient. If the experiments were done in humans, you need to declarebetween what was already published and what is currently shown that you had written informed consent. Prior to submission, youby using a phrase akin to, “Here, we showed . . . ” must submit original nucleotide or amino acid sequence data to Results. As for writing the rest of the paper, my suggestions will GenBank, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL),largely be a summary of the points perfectly expressed by William the DNA Data Bank of Japan (DDBJ), or another appropriate,Wells in an article from the Journal of Cell Biology on how to write a identified, publicly available database in general use in the fieldscientific paper (2). I suggest you begin writing the Results section that gives free access to researchers from the date of publication.before other sections, as the experiments described will then dic- Accession numbers should appear in the manuscript.tate what needs to be detailed in Methods, and also what needs to Figures. A reader familiar with the topic should be able to under-be introduced and thoroughly discussed; not every experiment per- stand your work solely by looking at the figures and legends. Titleformed needs to make it into the paper. You can choose to present your figures in the legend as you would a subheading in the text.the experiments either in the chronological order in which you per- Also limit the figure legends to 250 words or less. They shouldformed them, if you happen to have been that prescient about what include no methodology, but make sure to list n values. Keep high-the results would have been or, rather, in an order wherein the most resolution pictures for ultimate reproduction and publication.important result is presented first, and the supporting and mecha- Keep them well organized as well, so there is no confusion if/whennistic data follow. Bear in mind that too much data can be distracting you are questioned about your figures. Try to provide quantifi-— make use of the supplemental data section should the need arise. cation of blots and of histology when possible. When presenting In the Results section, you should describe the data succinctly histograms, use black and white bars, then gray/shaded bars, asand take pains to indicate statistical differences; save most inter- opposed to colored bars. Keep in mind that approximately 10%pretation for the Discussion. A certain amount of interpretation of the male population is red/green colorblind, and try to avoidis, of course, encouraged when describing the logical progression using red and green bars next to each other. Avoid gratuitous useof experiments: “because A resulted in B, which is in the cascade of color for decorative effect, boxes around graphs and figures, andof C (citation), we decided to see whether A was connected to C; small type and symbols on large graphs. Type appearing withintherefore, we subjected D to E.” figures (axis labels, for example) should be of sufficient size and Discussion. You should start the Discussion section with a sum- contrast to retain clarity if reduced in size. When using scale bars,mary of the research presented and the implications for broader please define scales in figure legends, not in the figures themselves.application. The Discussion should not simply be a recapitula- Whenever possible, do not place labels over any part of a color fig-tion of the Results, but rather an interpretation of how each of ure. Provide a key to any symbols used. Do not overfill a figurethe experiments supported your central hypothesis. This is your with too many panels.3600 The Journal of Clinical Investigation      http://www.jci.org      Volume 117      Number 12      December 2007
  3. 3. personal perspective The proper way to present a point-by-point response Referee Point 1: The authors make the point that A shows B through C in D cells, but they do not provide any evidence to show that B works through C in an in vivo model of E syndrome or in clinical samples from patients with E syndrome. Demonstrating B functions through C in the F model of E syndrome would be required at a minimum. Response: We thank this reviewer for his/her critical and helpful evaluation of our manuscript. In response to the reviewer’s critique, our manuscript has undergone a major revision. In Figure 4 we have added new data in the F model of E syndrome that demonstrate that B goes through C. In Figure 5 we investigated B expression in a case series of biopsies from patients with E syn- drome to confirm the result in human samples.Other considerations recognize and fix the major flaws before submitting to anotherPeer review. You have the option to suggest as well as exclude ref- journal and make a modest effort to incorporate the referee sug-erees, and most journals welcome suggestions. As the author, you gestions, as it is always possible the same referee will see it again.may be equally or better placed than the editors to know who is Peer review should help improve the paper.best qualified to evaluate and recognize the impact of your work. Revision. Gratifyingly, not all papers are rejected by the JCI. ReadIt is appreciated if you provide the contact information for at your letters carefully to determine whether there is hope and if theleast five referees. Suggest established investigators with a broad editors specifically mentioned anything that would be absolutelyknowledge of the field and those with the technical expertise to required in a revision. If an editor customizes the letter to under-evaluate your experimental approach. Also look at the masthead score a particular point, it is meant to assist you by identifyingof the journal to which you are submitting your manuscript to see particularly key issues, but at the same time, it is not a free pass towhether there is a board of consulting editors or the like, as these ignore the other referee comments, and you must provide a robustare often the people who are most often employed as consultants. response to those points in addition to the ones the editor outlines.Do not suggest researchers that are in your department, institu- Endeavor to revise and resubmit within three months, but take alltion, or company — even if they are at another campus. Friends, the time you need, as a hastily prepared, insufficient revision isrecent (less than 3 years) coauthors, and collaborators are also not likely to be rejected. However, regardless of whether a manuscriptappropriate to suggest. This includes those you acknowledge in is returned to us within two days or three months, the editors willthe manuscript for providing reagents or critiques. determine whether the findings are still novel: if any manuscripts As for exclusions, we understand that you may have valid rea- appear within the literature that compromise the novelty of yoursons for keeping sensitive results out of competitors’ hands, and work, we are under no obligation to consider the work further.we will respect 2 exclusions as long as you give a short description When revising your manuscript, do not cherry pick which pointsof why: financial conflict, known bias, etc. If you try to exclude you wish to respond to and which you don’t. You need to addresseveryone in your field or an entire institution, you will appear all the referee and editor comments with new experimental data,paranoid, and we will question whether the work is controversial editorial changes, or a convincing counterargument when appro-(which is fine) or totally off kilter. priate. The referees and editors will notice if you have skipped a How do the editors choose referees? A quick spin through PubMed comment in your point-by-point response. Also make sure to actu-is often helpful, and we look at the authors of the most salient refer- ally incorporate the data/text into the article and not just discussences while keeping in mind the authors’ suggestions and exclusions. it in the point by point; again, we will notice if it is not there.We use those with technical expertise and broad understanding of In the point-by-point letter, always be respectful and polite, eventhe field, those who are efficient, fair-minded, and constructive. We if it hurts. As the adage goes, you will catch a lot more flies withalso try to use referees who have either previously served as referees honey than with vinegar. In the first few lines of the letter to beor have been authors for the journal, as they are familiar with our transmitted to the referees, thank him/her for the insightful andstandards. We have also established a conflict-of-interest policy for helpful comments. Then break down each of their points (in bold,reviewers and ask that our referees adhere to it (3). italicized, or colored font) and provide a reply to each point (see The Decisions. Please don’t call or write to the editors daily to inquire proper way to present a point-by-point response) in plain, unformattedas to the status of your manuscript; we do not sit on decisions, and text (or vice versa, with unformatted text for the referee and boldyou will know as soon as we have properly discussed your article. text for your response). This may seem elementary, but we haveRemember that very few papers are accepted upon initial submis- received any number of permutations: authors provide narrativesion (I can remember only one in the past seven years), and on aver- responses (without detailing which of the referee’s points is beingage it takes 1–2 revisions before a work is acceptable. If the paper is addressed) and replies like “1. Change made. 2. Change made” whenrejected, don’t be discouraged, as even Nobel laureates get rejection the referee’s points 1 and 2 concerned creation of new animal mod-letters — Rosalyn Yalow famously showed a rejection letter from the els. It is worth being explicit about the reasons behind the changeJCI in her acceptance speech for the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology and what exactly you did, and where in the manuscript thoseor Medicine (4). And please do not take a decision letter personally changes can be found. Also, if multiple referees ask for the same— sending rejection letters brings no editor any particular joy. changes, repeat yourself in the response to each referee (unless the If you choose to submit elsewhere, carefully consider your sec- response is very long) — it is irritating when an author replies “seeond choice, and remember to change your cover letter. You should change indicated in response to point 1 of referee b.” This need not The Journal of Clinical Investigation      http://www.jci.org      Volume 117      Number 12      December 2007 3601
  4. 4. personal perspectivebe a long letter, but space is not limiting, and this is your chance to scientific facts, but I find every day that there is something moreimpress the referee that you have taken their comments seriously. to learn and even more that I do not know. Given that the JCI isDo the work for them. You may also choose to highlight or under- a journal that often publishes papers on the minutiae of mecha-line within the text the passages that have changed, and while this nisms of sometimes obscure diseases, the phrase “as you know”can be distracting if the changes are substantial, it may also assist often does not apply. You should never use this phraseology unlessthe referees and the editors in rapidly identifying the revisions. the fact is patently obvious (in which case, it probably need not be If you cannot accommodate the demands of the referee, thank included). Compare these examples: “As you know, patients withthe referee for the suggestion, but offer an explanation as to why cystic fibrosis can sometimes find it difficult to breathe” and “Asthe experiments are not possible at this time, or perhaps why they you know, excess dietary cholesterol can be used to ameliorate theare beyond the scope of the current paper. This argument may not retinal dysfunction associated with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndromealways work, as the editors may repeat their request for a specific (SLOS).” One fact is obvious, one — not so much.experiment, but if an experiment is simply impossible, give a short, Another irksome phraseology relates to the way diseases areconvincing explanation. introduced. Clearly the disease under investigation is the most Appealing the decision. If you receive a rejection letter, put it away important, but it can be introduced in a way that does not requirefor a minimum of 24 hours. Knee-jerk responses are rarely rational fancy statistics and superlatives. Set the stage for what is to comeor well constructed. Also, if you are making fun of us, take special and introduce the disease in question without a paragraph ofcare to ensure you click “forward” and not “reply” to the decision statistics. I found this introduction to a recent study particularlyletter, as no matter how amusing I find these letters, they are not apt, “Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease marked by over-usually meant for our eyes (the most entertaining of these e-mails resorption of bone by osteoclasts.” More informative, but entirelysaid I deserved a spanking). Determine whether a rebuttal letter is excessive, is the following example: “Osteoporosis is a major publictruly your best option, as you may not submit the work elsewhere health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, or 55% of thewhile the rebuttal is still being considered. But editors and referees people 50 years of age and older. In the US, 10 million individualsdo make mistakes, and we are willing to overrule specific points, are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 millionespecially if there were factual errors in the reviews. While I have more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at risk forno statistics on how many rebuttals are successful, I note that the osteoporosis.” Which would you prefer to preface an article aboutlarge majority of decisions are not overturned. osteopontin signaling? What helps in a rebuttal letter? As in the point-by-point letter, be Alzheimer disease. Parkinson disease. Lou Gehrig’s disease. It ispolite, even if you disagree. Do not guess at the referee’s identity, subtle, but can you see the difference an apostrophe can make? Dis-as most of the time you are incorrect, and we will not reveal any eases that are named for the scientist who discovered them do notinformation related to who did or did not provide input into the have an apostrophe, while diseases named for a notorious suffererdecision; it is helpful, however, to have specific evidence if you feel do use the apostrophe. This has been a long-standing rule, anda referee is biased. But do not spend too much time trying to prove we have approached PubMed about ensuring that searches withthe editor or referee wrong; simply explain why your manuscript and without the apostrophe will show results for both. Speakingdeserves a second look. You should always offer to add new data of apostrophes: its versus it’s — use it’s with an apostrophe whenand not just make superficial changes. Stress that you are willing you could substitute “it is.” Use its when you refer to possession.to do everything and more to alleviate the editors’ and referees’ It’s a simple rule. On a related note, it pays to proofread carefully,concerns and to improve the paper. Point out (politely) what fac- as a poorly written study is less likely to impress either the refereestual errors were made in the interpretations of the data. or the editorial board. We appreciate the efforts that many of our What doesn’t help (and is more often supplied in rebuttal let- non-native English speakers make when they engage the servicesters)? Inflammatory language. Calling the editors or referees idi- of a professional editor.ots. Bribes (rare) or threats of varying seriousness (not as rare). Do not start sentences with numbers. Unless you are coining aBlanket statements that the referees are unfair. Celebrity endorse- new “term” do not use quotes. Also never use exclamation points!ments like “Nobel laureate X said my paper was great.” Cosmetic Not even in the cover letter! Your science is not hot or sexy; dorewriting of the paper. Guesses at referee identity followed by per- not refer to it as such. The following sentence taken from a recentsonal attacks. Statements about your reputation and where you cover letter gave me palpitations, “As you know, this area of auto-have previously published. And worst of all, don’t tell us that we immunity research is quite ‘hot’ right now!”“published a worse paper on a similar subject.” Hopefully, this article has given you some useful pointers and reinforced rules that many of you already knew. My hope is that allPersonal pet peeves writers can find some room for creativity with this overall formulaOne of my biggest pet peeves is overuse of the phrase “As you know for how to submit a successful article and that I didn’t put any. . . ” After nearly seven years as an editor, I feel fairly well versed in reader — young or old — to sleep. 1. The Scientist Staff. 2007. How to resolve author- to write a good scientific paper. J. Cell Biol. policy. J. Clin. Invest. 117:506–508. ship disputes. Scientist. http://www.the-scientist. 165:757–758. 4. Kahn, C.R., and Roth, J. 2004. Berson, Yalow, and com/news/display/53485/. 3. Neill, U.S., Thompson, C.B., Feldmann, M., and the JCI: the agony and the ecstasy. J. Clin. Invest. 2. Wells, W.A. 2004. Me write pretty one day: how Kelley, W.N. 2007. A new JCI conflict of interest 114:1051–1054.3602 The Journal of Clinical Investigation      http://www.jci.org      Volume 117      Number 12      December 2007
  5. 5. JCB Feature Me write pretty one day: how to write a good scientific paper The scientific literature is exploding in quantity even as it stands still in literary quality. In this brief guide, I suggest a few small steps that the individual can take to make his or her writing clear, straightforward, and digestible. ©2003 The New Yorker Collection from cartoonbank.com. All Rights Reserved. So…what was your point? The first step with any manuscript is to define your bottom line. Be realistic about how much the average reader will take away from an article. Non-The Journal of Cell Biology experts will retain at most a single message. Make sure you have one, and then repeat it over and over again—at the end of the Abstract, in the Introduction, in the Results, and in the Discussion. In contrast, everything but this single sentence belongs in one section (Introduction, Results, or Discussion) only. To uncover your bottom line, ask some questions: What was the mystery that you wanted to answer at the start? Have you answered it? What first got you excited about this area of research? With any luck, it was more than the idea that proteins X and Y might bind to each other—there was probably a bigger idea that motivated and intrigued which your volunteer has no familiarity the number of known penguin you. Make sure you convey that reason or interest. species…”. If your readers don’t and that excitement. Does the reader need help under- think that is exciting, they won’t be What is new? Break up the story into standing the significance? If you think convinced by you stating that it is. “It was previously shown that…” and your discovery might (in the future) Finally, include different levels at “Now it is shown that…”. Is there a prove to be the explanation for mystery which your results are significant: e.g., significant difference between the two X, don’t make the reader figure out the (a) we have found a stem cell repressor, statements? Justify the interest of your identity of mystery X. State it explicitly, and (b) this may be one of many work verbally to someone outside of make clear that the link is only specula- repressors for maintaining a generally your field. Your explanation should be tion, and explain any basis for making dormant state in stem cells. This is compelling on a general, conceptual the speculation. Remember that your particularly important for papers that you level, not grounded in minutiae with readers are busy in their own field, and are trying to get into top-tier journals. will not necessarily make the jumps in Reprinted with permission by the American logic that are glaringly obvious to you. The anatomy of a paper Society for Cell Biology from the ASCB Newsletter, Make the jumps for them. Now that you have your bottom line, May 2004. Some of the content of this article came from Show; don’t tell. Not “Our results you need a roadmap for writing the an earlier guide by R. Ward and K. LaMarco. are exciting…” but “Our results double paper. Remember throughout that The Journal of Cell Biology, Volume 165, Number 6, June 21, 2004 757–758 http://www.jcb.org/cgi/doi/10.1083/jcb.200403137 757
  6. 6. 758 The Journal of Cell Biology | Volume 165, Number 6, 2004everyone, even a scientist, thinks in the writer is trying to put on the data have to build the entire case before tell-narrative. Science is a story. Tell it. so that the reader can agree or disagree ing us the conclusion. They list all their To draft a paper, simply work out with this spin. evidence before stating: “Thus, X ϭ Y.”what the figures and tables would look Start the Discussion with a very brief But this leaves the reader scratchinglike. Give each figure a simple, declara- one-paragraph summary of the main their head for sentence upon sentence.tive title in the form of a sentence. Most results: first state the answer to the Put a preview first.of the content of the paper should question, and then concisely add a Flow comes about when the writerbe evident from reading these few broad-brush version of the supporting makes connections between the endsentences alone. When the sentences evidence. Organize subsequent topics of each sentence, paragraph, or sectionlook as if they both tell a story and from most to least important, i.e., start and the next. Make all transitions sohave a bottom line, it’s time to start with topics most closely related to the there are no gaps in logic. Don’t pre-writing. answer. The first sentence of each para- sume that the reader will do any work. A good paper is not a random accu- graph should indicate the structure of Do the work for them.mulation of facts. Give your paper a the Discussion. The main route to clarity is to cut,narrative structure that links from one Do NOT just repeat the Results cut, cut. Chop out everything fromfinding to another. This can be the (or Introduction) section, but discuss single words to entire thoughts. “Inlogical order of why one experiment how the results affect the field. Reveal spite of the fact that…” becomes “Al-was done in response to another, or any large areas that remain a complete though…”. Only after chopping outyou can describe from the beginning mystery. text will the average reader make itto the end of a pathway. Build up this The Introduction sets up the back- through your words without drowning.structure by writing notes, in any ground for what we are about to Specificity means using only wordsorder, and then rearranging them so learn (the bottom line) and why it with precise meanings. Replace lazythat there are logical links. matters. Funnel from known (the big phrases such as “gives important insight Start by drafting a title that is strong, picture significance of the field) to into…” with words that actually meandirect, and as “big picture” as the data unknown (the specific gaps in know- something. Use the specific (“dog” notcan justify. But don’t claim more than ledge) to the specific question being “animal”) but simple (“girl” not “femaleyou have shown. asked by you. The Introduction is child;” “used” not “utilized”) and neces- An Abstract can and must pack in not a literature review but a means to sary (“X was examined and found tomany elements: background, a ques- set up the question. vary” becomes “X varied”).tion, what was done, what was found, Stuffy writing is frequently used tothe conclusion/answer, and implica- How to write clearly disguise intellectual fuzziness. Thinktions. Make it clear where the back- Now that the text is down in rough about what you really want to say. Beground ends and the new work begins. form, we can tackle style issues. Think exact. Arrange Results either chronologically about each element used to construct Space precludes a full discussion of(as they unfolded in lab), or put the the paper. Sentences should have an how to deal with journals, but there ismost important result first and second- active construction, address one thought one Golden Rule: be polite to editors,ary results later. The latter organization at a time, and generally be kept short no matter how you are provoked.works best when organizing each and to the point. Treat each paragraph Editors are trying to do a good job,paragraph. as a thought, with a single, clear message. and screaming at them will not advance Describe the data with only enough More general style issues include your cause, and could well damage it.interpretation so that the reader can signposts, flow, editing, and specificity. Be forceful, but civil. And good luck!both see what logical path the writer is Signposts tell the reader where you’retaking—how one experiment prompts going with the argument that follows. William A. Wellsthe next—and understand what spin Many authors mistakenly feel that they wellsw@rockefeller.edu

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