Introduction to scientific writing
Common editing mistakes
Why Scientific Writing?
When a doctor decides to conduct a study, at
the same time the doctor should decide to
write and publish the study result as well.
If you start to work but you will not finish it, why
do you start it?
Moreover, if you finish the work but you will
not publish it, why do you finish it?
Why Scientific Writing?
Writing and publishing a study result is important
either for the investigator or the reader.
For the investigator or writer, publication is
evidence that he/she has conducted a clinical
trial according to good clinical practice.
While for the reader, publication of a study
provide greater knowledge on research of
medical/health care science which may bring
advantages to enhance medical services for
On the other hand, publishing a manuscript of
result in medical or biomedical journal is not as
as we imagine.
For original research:
have a clear research question
seek statistical advice
use the right study design
keep an open mind and minimise bias
agree who will be principal investigator
agree who will be authors and contributors
agree to publish even negative results
WHAT DO THE READER AND
Who will be the readers of my article?
What will make the readers interested in
What will be the main concern of the
Do the readers understand the situation
and condition explained in this article?
What does the writer expect after the
reader has done reading this article?
Top 10 Reasons Manuscripts
1. Poor organization throughout, writing, spelling
2. Disorganized study design
3. Defective tables, figures
4. No hypothesis or problem statement
5. Inappropriate statistical methods
6. Over interpretation of results
7. No or insufficient conclusion
8. Poorly written abstract/title
9. Article unfocused
10. Wrong journal, format, preparation
Pierson DJ, Respiratory Care 49(10), 2004
Byrne DW, Publishing Medical Research Papers, Williams and Wilkins, 1998
Writing scientific manuscripts need not be
difficult or painful.
With a little bit of organization, discipline,
and persistence, writing manuscripts can
be learned rapidly, thus producing
excellent exchange of experience,
personal success, and scientific progress.
Keep it simple: use short, familiar words
Avoid jargon and acronyms
Be concrete, not abstract
Say what you mean and mean what you say
Writing is an Essential Skill
The career of a researcher can depend
heavily on this skill
The ability to communicate clearly and
precisely through the written word is an
essential skill for medical researchers
Try to Avoid
Long complicated sentence
Cluttering a paragraph
Citing too many references
The results are given in Figure1, where it is shown that
temperature was directly proportional to metabolic
Temperature was directly proportional to metabolic rate
In order to determine... OR to determine… !!!!
Cluttering a Paragraph
Don’t have more than one main idea or theme
in a paragraph? It is better in such cases to
rather write two or more linked paragraphs.
Don’t overkill with too many citations. Just cite
the most important, most recent.
(However, in a review paper it may be
appropriate to have an extensive/complete list
Before Starting to Write the
Record your readings (results)
Keep file to record summaries of results and
any observation however insignificant
Date the files
Revise your readings, you may need to
repeat an experiment while you still have the
Write ideas when ever they come to you
I = Introduction, what question (problem) was
M = Methods, how was the problem studied
R = Results, what are the findings
A = and
D = Discussion, what do these findings mean
Why was the study undertaken?
What was the research question, the tested hypothesis or the purpose of the
When, where, and how was the study done?
What materials were used or who was included in the study groups (patients,
What answer was found to the research question
what did the study find?
Was the tested hypothesis true?
What might the answer infer and why does it matter?
How does it fit in with what other researchers have found?
What are the perspectives for future research?
Essential Parts of a Scientific paper
Title: Describe concisely the core contents of the
Abstract: Summarize the major elements of the paper
Introduction: provide context and rationale for the
Materials: Describe the experimental design so it is
Methods: Describe the experimental procedures
Results: Summarize the findings without interpretation
Discussion: Interpret the findings of the study
Summary: Summarize the findings
Acknowledgement: Give credit to those who helped
References: List all scientific papers, books and
Writing and Editing for Biomedical
The first step: is always to read the Guide for Authors of the journal where you
intend to submit analysis (~1,000 words or less).
The second step: is to describe the results (~350 words).
The methods and results are the most important parts of the paper. When
possible, use figures rather than tables to show your results.
Start the manuscript preparation by describing the materials and methods,
including the planned statistical.
The discussion typically starts with a short overview of the most important
results, followed by an assessment why the chosen design or model is
appropriate. The discussions should place the results into contact, and
present the clinical impact of the findings. The discussion should also
acknowledge limitations of the study. The final conclusions should be low-
key rather than exaggerated.
The last step: is writing the introduction (~350 words), the abstract, and the
A good title is defined as the fewest possible
words that adequately describe the contents
of the paper.
The title is extremely important and must be
chosen with great care as it will be read by
thousands, whereas few will read the entire
Indexing and abstracting of the paper depends
on the accuracy of the title. An improperly titled
paper will get lost and will never be read.
Titles should neither be too short nor too long
as to be meaningless
Waste words (studies on, investigations on, a,
an, the etc) should not be used.
It should contain the keywords that reflect the
contents of the paper.
It should be meaningful and not general
It should be concise, specific and informative
It should capture the fundamental nature of the
experiments and findings
1. Action of Antibiotics on Bacteria
Action: should be defined
Antibiotics: should be listed
Bacteria: should be listed
2. Mechanism of Suppression of Non-
transmissible Pneumonia in Mice Induced by
Newcastle Disease Virus
How to Prepare the Title
Make a list of the most important keywords
Think of a title that contains these words
The title could state the conclusion of the paper
The title NEVER contains abbreviations,
Think, rethink of the title before submitting the
Be very careful of the grammatical errors due
to faulty word order
Avoid the use of the word “using”
An abstract can be defined as a summary of the
information in a document
It is of fundamental importance that the abstract be written
clearly and simply, as it is the first and sometimes the only
part of the manuscript read.
It should provide a brief summary of each of the main
sections (IMRAD) of the paper:
1. State the principal objective and scope of the investigation
2. Describe the methods used
3. Summarize the results, and
4. State the principal conclusions
It is easier to write the abstract after completion of the
Criteria of the Abstract
It should not exceed 250 words
It should be written in one paragraph.
It should be written in the past tense as it refers to
Long words should be followed by its abbreviation
which would be used through out the abstract and
It should not cite any references (except in rare
It should never give any information or conclusion
that is not stated in the paper
Brief and arresting
Define nature and scope of problem, but
Do not hide inconvenient facts
Provide rationale for current study
State aim of study
Adequate information to allow reader to
understand and evaluate present study without
referring to previous publications
Key references to support background
Writing Rules for Introduction
Use the present tense when referring to
work that has already been published, but
past tense when referring to your own
Use the active voice as much as possible
Avoid lengthy or unfocused reviews of
Cite peer-reviewed scientific literature or
scholarly reviews. Avoid general reference
works such as textbooks.
Define any specialized terms or
The three questions
What has been done?
What did you look for?
How was it done?
• Study design (drug trial / intervention;
prospective / retrospective; randomized, blinded;
sensitivity of method; questionnaire; case report;
• Who is the study about? – Participants and
control subjects (in animal studies, specify genus,
• What did you do?
– Follow up
• What did you look for? – Outcome measure
• Inclusion criteria
• Exclusion criteria
• Sample size calculation
• Circumstances under which intervention done
– Lab settings
– In-patient or real life
• Ethics clearance
Timing and duration of intervention
• Equipment / kits / manufacturer
(Sections and subsections help)
• Define outcome
• Parameters to assess outcome
• Endpoint, cut-off values
• Adverse events, if any
• What did you find?
• Should answer all points raised in Methods
• No new parameters
• No mismatch in numbers between text and
tables / figures
• How many screened?
• How many eligible?
• How many recruited / excluded?
• How many completed study?
• Reasons for lack of completeness
• Compliance with therapy / protocol
Results: Data presentation
Cause of incomplete data, if any (sample lost,
• No repetition between text and tables
• No interpretation
• No adjectives (most, some, often..)
• Provide value of p (“highly significant”, “very
highly significant” meaningless)
Tables and figures
Tables are appropriate for large or complicated
data sets that would be difficult to explain clearly
Figures are appropriate for data sets that exhibit
trends, patterns, or relationships that are best
Any table or figure must be sufficiently described
by its title and caption or legend, to be
understandable without reading the main text of
the results section.
Do not include both a table and a figure showing
the same information
• Discussion of major findings in light of
• Discussion of important minor findings
• Alternative explanations
• Strengths and limitations of study
• Implications of findings
• Unanswered questions and future research
• Summary / conclusion
Common Mistakes in
• Details of previous studies
• Abbreviations without full form
• Details of Results and Conclusions
Common Mistakes in Methods and
• Errors in data (e.g., mean age 25, range 17-
• Mismatch of data in Methods / Results /
Tables / Figures
• Misinterpretation of data
Common Mistakes in
• Repeating results
• Emphasizing strengths of study over its
• Going beyond evidence and drawing
Journal Editors Agree
Good writing signals clear thinking and an
Clear direct English and logical, organized
writing are key to acceptance
Even well-constructed study will be rejected if
the writing is flawed.
Title & Abstract
Acceptance - Outright
Rejection - Outright
Summary of peer reviews
Summary of editor’s review
Outline your paper
Start early as your data is being analyzed
Look at your data and decide how to organize and present
your results: tables, figures, text
Patterns and clues will emerge to guide your argument
Start with results then introduction and discussion/conclusions
Write title and abstract last
Put it away, re-read, give to your colleagues to read
Revise, revise, and re-revise
Adhere to journal guidelines!
Critically evaluate your paper with an editor’s eye
Write clearly, logically, and simply!
Things may help you
Put the manuscript away for a couple of
Let go of “academic” writing habits and
don’t imitate others’ writing. Develop your
own clear, direct style
Fundamentals of good medical writing by Dr.Trish Groves, Deputy editor at BMJ
How to write a scientific paper By Prof. Dr. Khadiga Gaafar, Zoology Dept., Faculty of
Writing The Biomedical Manuscript:A Systematic Approach. Christopher Dant. Stanford
Writing for Scienti c Medical Manuscript: a Guide for Preparing Manuscript Submitted to
Biomedical Journals. Siti Setiati, Kuntjoro Harimurti Medicine, Faculty of Medicine,
University of Indonesia-dr. Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, Jakarta.
A Step by Step Guide to Writing a Scientific Manuscript, Volker Wenzel, M.D., M.Sc.,
Martin W. Dünser, M.D.*, Karl H. Lindner, M.D.Department of Anesthesiology and Critical
Care Medicine, Innsbruck) Medical University, Innsbruck,Austria.