Let’s begin with the basics…1. When a tree falls in the forest, but there is no one to hear it fall, does it make a sound? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In a similar vein, a scientific paper is useless, unless it is received and understood. When writing a scientific paper we must aim high – our goal should be to publish it in a recognized scientific journal.
How to achieve this goal?1. The only way is to write a high-quality paper, which will convince a potential editor and reviewer that it is worth publishing.2. A high-quality paper goes hand in hand with a high-quality experiment.3. Writing with clarity and precision should do the trick – avoid metaphors, similes, idioms and embellishments.
Organization of a scientific paper1. The IMRAD approach is usually the most effective: Introduction Materials & Methods Results and Discussion2. However, this approach is meant to serve us and not the other way round.3. It is worth consulting this approach with the instructions for authors, available on the website of the journal.
Good title1. Each word contained in the title is extremely significant, therefore, it must be carefully chosen.2. The title is our label – each word will be the key to finding our paper.3. Good title = clear and precise summary of the paper conveyed in the smallest possible number of words.
Good title1. Avoid empty words and expressions, such as studies on, investigations on, observations on.2. Never begin a title with an article, i.e. a, an, the.3. Never end a title with a full stop.4. The title is not a sentence, it is simpler than a sentence and doesn’t follow the usual subject, verb, object arrangement, and thus the word order becomes extremely important.
Word order1. Incorrect word order can make the title ambiguous or incomprehensible: e.g. Comparing human hair before and after treatment with Atomic Force Microscopy2. If we are uncertain whether our title is correct, the safest approach is to contact an English teacher (e.g. working at our university) who should be able to verify this.
Precision1. Good title is precise: Action of Antibiotics on Bacteria Action of Streptomycin on Mycobacterium tuberculosis Inhibition of Growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis by Streptomycin2. Title should almost never contain abbreviations, chemical formulas, proprietary (non-generic) names and jargon.
Authors and addresses1. Order of the names:• the first person on the list should be the primary progenitor of the work (both the experiment and written report);• if the division of labour was equal, we can list the names alphabetically;• in the past, there was a tendency to list the head of the group (regardless of their contribution), now we usually list only active participants.
Authors and addresses1. Form• the preferred designation is given name, middle initial and surname: e.g. Jeremy F. Richards• journals do not print degrees or titles• the addresses should be listed in the same order as the authors: e.g. John F. Jonesa, Sarah J. Smithb, and Jeremiah N. Finesa a address of Mr Jones and Mr Fines b address of Ms Smith
Authors and addresses1. Foreign addresses:• never translate or anglicise foreign addresses incorrect form: 11/12 Narutowicza Str., Gdansk 80233, Poland correct form: Narutowicza 11/12, 80-233 Gdansk, Poland
Abstract1. Is a miniature version of the paper and should provide a brief (and concise) summary of the main sections.2. As with the title, it can very effectively encourage the readers to continue or discourage them from doing so.3. Consists of 1 paragraph and contains no more than 250 words.
An abstract should:1. define the main objectives and scope of the paper;2. describe the methods employed;3. summarize the results;4. state (only) the principal conclusions;5. be written in the past tense (simple past), because it refers to work done.
An abstract should never:1. give references to the literature, except in rare cases, such as modification of a previously published method;2. contain abbreviations or acronyms, unless they are self-evident, e.g. DNA, laser. Abbreviations should be introduced and explained at first use in the main text;3. use imprecise language or contain embellishments.
How to make a good impression?1. A good abstract foreshadows a good paper, whereas a bad one can ruin the paper’s chances of ever being published.2. The language used in the abstract must be simple, comprehensible and precise.3. Having written the abstract, we must re-read every single word and mercilessly cut out those that add nothing new or important. The abstract is no place for showing off our language skills.
Introduction1. A good introduction must supply sufficient information to allow the reader to understand and evaluate the results without needing to refer to previous publications on the topic.2. In the introduction, we must clearly state the purpose in writing the paper, as well as provide the rationale for our study (i.e. why this paper is worth publishing).
How to write a good introduction?Step by step:1. Present the nature and scope of the problem under investigation.2. Briefly review the pertinent literature on the topic.3. State the selected method (and/or methodology).4. List the most significant results.5. Present the most relevant conclusions.
In the introduction:1. Write in present tense (simple present).2. Define difficult (specialized) terms and explain abbreviations used in the paper.3. Cite only the references which are pertinent to the problem discussed.4. Towards the end of the introduction, it is worth mentioning other papers on the subject which will be published soon.
Remember1. A good introduction is like a road map, which quickly and effectively leads the reader from the problem, through the most important points of the paper (context, methodology, results) to the solution – the principal conclusions.
Materials and Methods1. The aim of this section is to give a detailed description of the subsequent steps of the experiment, so that a competent person can repeat it.2. For results to be of scientific merit, they must be reproducible.3. Without the potential for reproducing the same/similar results, the paper cannot represent good science.4. This section is written in past tense.
Dos and don’ts1. A common mistake is to put the results in the section on methodology. The purpose of this section is to answer the following question: What must be done in order to reproduce the presented experiment?2. The Materials and Methods section is often divided into subheadings; when possible, construct the subheadings so as to match those in the Results section.
MaterialsIn this section:1. For materials, provide the exact technical specifications and quantities and source (or method of preparation).2. Sometimes it is necessary to give chemical and physical properties of the reagents.3. Avoid using trade names, choose generic or chemical names (more likely to be known throughout the world than trade names).
Methods1. Try to describe methods in chronological order. However, related method should be described together. The most important thing is to present the methods in a logical and consistent way.2. If several methods are commonly employed, identify your method briefly and cite the reference. Make the readers’ life easier: cells broken as described in ; cells broken by ultrasonic treatment as described in .
Precision1. Give the exact temperatures, quantities and times, check twice whether the units are given correctly.2. Answer precisely all potential questions such as ‘how?’ and ‘how much?’.3. Statistical analyses: discuss the data, not the statistical methods.4. Be careful with your syntax e.g. After standing in boiling water for 1h, examine the flask.
Results1. This is the most important and often the shortest section of the paper.2. The results are the core of the paper, therefore, they must be presented with due care and as clearly as possible.3. This section should contain two ingredients:• general description of the experiment (the big picture), which puts the results in context;• presentation of the data (past tense).
Results1. How to present them? Give only the representative results and avoid endlessly repetitive data.2. How to deal with numbers? If there are few numbers, describe them in the text. Repetitive numbers (only those meaningful) should be given in tables or graphs.
Tables and graphs1. External factors and variables: present only those which are relevant and affect the results.2. Statistics: present only those that are meaningful from the scientific point of view.3. In the text – do not repeat numbers already presented in the tables or graphs.4. Avoid beating about the bush: It is clearly shown in Table 1 that A = B. A = B (Table 1).
Discussion1. Usually, this is the most difficult section to write and, at the same time, the most important one – if poorly written, it can obscure the true meaning of the data.2. Most Discussion sections are too long and verbose.3. It must describe the meaning and implications of the paper. Spell it out, never leave the reader asking: ‘what does this (really) mean?’.
A good discussion:1. Presents the principles, relationships and generalizations shown in Results.2. Points out exceptions, lack of correlation, and unsettled points – never conceal data only because they do not quite fit!3. Shows how the results agree (or contrast) with previously published work.
A good discussion:4. Presents theoretical implications of the results, as well as their practical applications.5. States conclusions (as clearly as possible).6. For each conclusion, gives the evidence to support it.
Acknowledgments1. First, acknowledge any significant help that you have received from any individual. Also acknowledge the source of special equipment and materials. e.g. We acknowledge helpful discussions…2. Second, acknowledge any outside financial assistance, such as grants, contracts, fellowships. e.g. This work was supported by…
References1. List only significant, published references.2. A paper accepted for publication can be listed, however, after giving the name of the journal we must add ‘accepted’ or ‘in press’.3. In the end, check whether all items cited in the text were listed in the References section (and vice versa).4. It’s more efficient to prepare this section while writing the paper (not afterwards).
Reference styles1.Name and year system:• references are unnumbered;• references are listed alphabetically;• name/s of the author/s and the year of publication must be given in the text;• if there are more than three authors add et al. after the third name (applies to all reference styles);
Name and year system General formula: Name/s and initial/s. Year, month and day of publication. Title of the paper. Abbreviated title of the journal. Journal No. (Edition No.): page numbers.e.g. Wilton P. 1992 May 15. The Toronto Free Hospital for Consumptive Poor. Can Med Assoc J 146 (10): 1812-14.
Reference styles2. Alphabet-number system:• reduces printing expenses;• references are numbered;• references are listed alphabetically;• only reference numbers are given in the text, unless names or dates are important: e.g. …as was discovered by Einstein .
Alphabet-number systemGeneral formula:Reference number. Name and initial of the1st author [initials and names of subsequentauthors]. Year of publication. Title of thepaper. Abbreviated title of the journal.Journal No.: page numbers.e.g. 1. Jenkins, S.H., and P.E. Busher. 1979.Castor canadensis. Mammalian Species.120:1-8.
Reference styles1. Citation order system:• the most reader-friendly system (quick and simple);• references are numbered;• references are listed in the order in which they appear in the text;• it is not a good system for long papers with many references.
Citation order system General formula: Reference number. Name/s and initial/s. Title of the paper. Abbreviated title of the journal and year of publication; Journal No.: page numbers.e.g. 1. Jenkins SH, and Busher PE. Castor canadensis. Mammalian Species 1979; 120:1-8.
Journal abbreviationsThree simple rules:1. Journal J. or J2. -ology Ø e.g. Biology Biol. Physiology Physiol.3. Never abbreviate titles which consist of one word e.g. Nature, Science.Index of abbreviated titles:http://www.efm.leeds.ac.uk/~mark/ISIabbr/
Ethics1. Plagiarism: originality in science has a deeper meaning than in other fields, therefore, plagiarism is treated as theft. When citing (paraphrasing), give references. Direct quotations must appear in inverted commas.2. Self-plagiarism: a primary research paper can be published in a primary journal only once: repetitive publication of the same data, ideas, results in different journals (foreign or national) is considered unethical.
Hence This lecture was prepared on the basis of the following publication: Roberta A. DayHow to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper (5th edition). It is definitely worth reading!