This document originally came from the Journal of Mammalogy courtesy of Dr. Ronald Barry, a former editor of the journal.

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Welcome to the PLOS Writing Center

Your source for scientific writing & publishing essentials.

A collection of free, practical guides and hands-on resources for authors looking to improve their scientific publishing skillset.

ARTICLE-WRITING ESSENTIALS

Your title is the first thing anyone who reads your article is going to see, and for many it will be where they stop reading. Learn how to write a title that helps readers find your article, draws your audience in and sets the stage for your research!

The abstract is your chance to let your readers know what they can expect from your article. Learn how to write a clear, and concise abstract that will keep your audience reading.

A clear methods section impacts editorial evaluation and readers’ understanding, and is also the backbone of transparency and replicability. Learn what to include in your methods section, and how much detail is appropriate.

In many fields, a statistical analysis forms the heart of both the methods and results sections of a manuscript. Learn how to report statistical analyses, and what other context is important for publication success and future reproducibility.

The discussion section contains the results and outcomes of a study. An effective discussion informs readers what can be learned from your experiment and provides context for the results.

Ensuring your manuscript is well-written makes it easier for editors, reviewers and readers to understand your work. Avoiding language errors can help accelerate review and minimize delays in the publication of your research.

The PLOS Writing Toolbox

Delivered to your inbox every two weeks, the Writing Toolbox features practical advice and tools you can use to prepare a research manuscript for submission success and build your scientific writing skillset. 

Discover how to navigate the peer review and publishing process, beyond writing your article.

The path to publication can be unsettling when you’re unsure what’s happening with your paper. Learn about staple journal workflows to see the detailed steps required for ensuring a rigorous and ethical publication.

Reputable journals screen for ethics at submission—and inability to pass ethics checks is one of the most common reasons for rejection. Unfortunately, once a study has begun, it’s often too late to secure the requisite ethical reviews and clearances. Learn how to prepare for publication success by ensuring your study meets all ethical requirements before work begins.

From preregistration, to preprints, to publication—learn how and when to share your study.

How you store your data matters. Even after you publish your article, your data needs to be accessible and useable for the long term so that other researchers can continue building on your work. Good data management practices make your data discoverable and easy to use, promote a strong foundation for reproducibility and increase your likelihood of citations.

You’ve just spent months completing your study, writing up the results and submitting to your top-choice journal. Now the feedback is in and it’s time to revise. Set out a clear plan for your response to keep yourself on-track and ensure edits don’t fall through the cracks.

There’s a lot to consider when deciding where to submit your work. Learn how to choose a journal that will help your study reach its audience, while reflecting your values as a researcher.

Are you actively preparing a submission for a PLOS journal? Select the relevant journal below for more detailed guidelines. 

How to Write an Article  

Share the lessons of the Writing Center in a live, interactive training.

Access tried-and-tested training modules, complete with slides and talking points, workshop activities, and more.

guidelines for writing scientific papers

Writing the Scientific Paper

When you write about scientific topics to specialists in a particular scientific field, we call that scientific writing. (When you write to non-specialists about scientific topics, we call that science writing.)

The scientific paper has developed over the past three centuries into a tool to communicate the results of scientific inquiry. The main audience for scientific papers is extremely specialized. The purpose of these papers is twofold: to present information so that it is easy to retrieve, and to present enough information that the reader can duplicate the scientific study. A standard format with six main part helps readers to find expected information and analysis:

  • Title--subject and what aspect of the subject was studied.
  • Abstract--summary of paper: The main reason for the study, the primary results, the main conclusions
  • Introduction-- why the study was undertaken
  • Methods and Materials-- how the study was undertaken
  • Results-- what was found
  • Discussion-- why these results could be significant (what the reasons might be for the patterns found or not found)

There are many ways to approach the writing of a scientific paper, and no one way is right. Many people, however, find that drafting chunks in this order works best: Results, Discussion, Introduction, Materials & Methods, Abstract, and, finally, Title.

The title should be very limited and specific. Really, it should be a pithy summary of the article's main focus.

  • "Renal disease susceptibility and hypertension are under independent genetic control in the fawn hooded rat"
  • "Territory size in Lincoln's Sparrows ( Melospiza lincolnii )"
  • "Replacement of deciduous first premolars and dental eruption in archaeocete whales"
  • "The Radio-Frequency Single-Electron Transistor (RF-SET): A Fast and Ultrasensitive Electrometer"

This is a summary of your article. Generally between 50-100 words, it should state the goals, results, and the main conclusions of your study. You should list the parameters of your study (when and where was it conducted, if applicable; your sample size; the specific species, proteins, genes, etc., studied). Think of the process of writing the abstract as taking one or two sentences from each of your sections (an introductory sentence, a sentence stating the specific question addressed, a sentence listing your main techniques or procedures, two or three sentences describing your results, and one sentence describing your main conclusion).

Example One

Hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidemia are risk factors for life-threatening complications such as end-stage renal disease, coronary artery disease and stroke. Why some patients develop complications is unclear, but only susceptibility genes may be involved. To test this notion, we studied crosses involving the fawn-hooded rat, an animal model of hypertension that develops chronic renal failure. Here, we report the localization of two genes, Rf-1 and Rf-2 , responsible for about half of the genetic variation in key indices of renal impairment. In addition, we localize a gene, Bpfh-1 , responsible for about 26% of the genetic variation in blood pressure. Rf-1 strongly affects the risk of renal impairment, but has no significant effect on blood pressure. Our results show that susceptibility to a complication of hypertension is under at least partially independent genetic control from susceptibility to hypertension itself.

Brown, Donna M, A.P. Provoost, M.J. Daly, E.S. Lander, & H.J. Jacob. 1996. "Renal disease susceptibility and hypertension are under indpendent genetic control in the faun-hooded rat." Nature Genetics , 12(1):44-51.

Example Two

We studied survival of 220 calves of radiocollared moose ( Alces alces ) from parturition to the end of July in southcentral Alaska from 1994 to 1997. Prior studies established that predation by brown bears ( Ursus arctos ) was the primary cause of mortality of moose calves in the region. Our objectives were to characterize vulnerability of moose calves to predation as influenced by age, date, snow depths, and previous reproductive success of the mother. We also tested the hypothesis that survival of twin moose calves was independent and identical to that of single calves. Survival of moose calves from parturition through July was 0.27 ± 0.03 SE, and their daily rate of mortality declined at a near constant rate with age in that period. Mean annual survival was 0.22 ± 0.03 SE. Previous winter's snow depths or survival of the mother's previous calf was not related to neonatal survival. Selection for early parturition was evidenced in the 4 years of study by a 6.3% increase in the hazard of death with each daily increase in parturition date. Although there was no significant difference in survival of twin and single moose calves, most twins that died disappeared together during the first 15 days after birth and independently thereafter, suggesting that predators usually killed both when encountered up to that age.

Key words: Alaska, Alces alces , calf survival, moose, Nelchina, parturition synchrony, predation

Testa, J.W., E.F. Becker, & G.R. Lee. 2000. "Temporal patterns in the survival of twin and single moose ( alces alces ) calves in southcentral Alaska." Journal of Mammalogy , 81(1):162-168.

Example Three

We monitored breeding phenology and population levels of Rana yavapaiensis by use of repeated egg mass censuses and visual encounter surveys at Agua Caliente Canyon near Tucson, Arizona, from 1994 to 1996. Adult counts fluctuated erratically within each year of the study but annual means remained similar. Juvenile counts peaked during the fall recruitment season and fell to near zero by early spring. Rana yavapaiensis deposited eggs in two distinct annual episodes, one in spring (March-May) and a much smaller one in fall (September-October). Larvae from the spring deposition period completed metamorphosis in earlv summer. Over the two years of study, 96.6% of egg masses successfully produced larvae. Egg masses were deposited during periods of predictable, moderate stream flow, but not during seasonal periods when flash flooding or drought were likely to affect eggs or larvae. Breeding phenology of Rana yavapaiensis is particularly well suited for life in desert streams with natural flow regimes which include frequent flash flooding and drought at predictable times. The exotic predators of R. yavapaiensis are less able to cope with fluctuating conditions. Unaltered stream flow regimes that allow natural fluctuations in stream discharge may provide refugia for this declining ranid frog from exotic predators by excluding those exotic species that are unable to cope with brief flash flooding and habitat drying.

Sartorius, Shawn S., and Philip C. Rosen. 2000. "Breeding phenology of the lowland leopard frog ( Rana yavepaiensis )." Southwestern Naturalist , 45(3): 267-273.

Introduction

The introduction is where you sketch out the background of your study, including why you have investigated the question that you have and how it relates to earlier research that has been done in the field. It may help to think of an introduction as a telescoping focus, where you begin with the broader context and gradually narrow to the specific problem addressed by the report. A typical (and very useful) construction of an introduction proceeds as follows:

"Echimyid rodents of the genus Proechimys (spiny rats) often are the most abundant and widespread lowland forest rodents throughout much of their range in the Neotropics (Eisenberg 1989). Recent studies suggested that these rodents play an important role in forest dynamics through their activities as seed predators and dispersers of seeds (Adler and Kestrell 1998; Asquith et al 1997; Forget 1991; Hoch and Adler 1997)." (Lambert and Adler, p. 70)

"Our laboratory has been involved in the analysis of the HLA class II genes and their association with autoimmune disorders such as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. As part of this work, the laboratory handles a large number of blood samples. In an effort to minimize the expense and urgency of transportation of frozen or liquid blood samples, we have designed a protocol that will preserve the integrity of lymphocyte DNA and enable the transport and storage of samples at ambient temperatures." (Torrance, MacLeod & Hache, p. 64)

"Despite the ubiquity and abundance of P. semispinosus , only two previous studies have assessed habitat use, with both showing a generalized habitat use. [brief summary of these studies]." (Lambert and Adler, p. 70)

"Although very good results have been obtained using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of DNA extracted from dried blood spots on filter paper (1,4,5,8,9), this preservation method yields limited amounts of DNA and is susceptible to contamination." (Torrance, MacLeod & Hache, p. 64)

"No attempt has been made to quantitatively describe microhabitat characteristics with which this species may be associated. Thus, specific structural features of secondary forests that may promote abundance of spiny rats remains unknown. Such information is essential to understand the role of spiny rats in Neotropical forests, particularly with regard to forest regeneration via interactions with seeds." (Lambert and Adler, p. 71)

"As an alternative, we have been investigating the use of lyophilization ("freeze-drying") of whole blood as a method to preserve sufficient amounts of genomic DNA to perform PCR and Southern Blot analysis." (Torrance, MacLeod & Hache, p. 64)

"We present an analysis of microhabitat use by P. semispinosus in tropical moist forests in central Panama." (Lambert and Adler, p. 71)

"In this report, we summarize our analysis of genomic DNA extracted from lyophilized whole blood." (Torrance, MacLeod & Hache, p. 64)

Methods and Materials

In this section you describe how you performed your study. You need to provide enough information here for the reader to duplicate your experiment. However, be reasonable about who the reader is. Assume that he or she is someone familiar with the basic practices of your field.

It's helpful to both writer and reader to organize this section chronologically: that is, describe each procedure in the order it was performed. For example, DNA-extraction, purification, amplification, assay, detection. Or, study area, study population, sampling technique, variables studied, analysis method.

Include in this section:

  • study design: procedures should be listed and described, or the reader should be referred to papers that have already described the used procedure
  • particular techniques used and why, if relevant
  • modifications of any techniques; be sure to describe the modification
  • specialized equipment, including brand-names
  • temporal, spatial, and historical description of study area and studied population
  • assumptions underlying the study
  • statistical methods, including software programs

Example description of activity

Chromosomal DNA was denatured for the first cycle by incubating the slides in 70% deionized formamide; 2x standard saline citrate (SSC) at 70ºC for 2 min, followed by 70% ethanol at -20ºC and then 90% and 100% ethanol at room temperature, followed by air drying. (Rouwendal et al ., p. 79)

Example description of assumptions

We considered seeds left in the petri dish to be unharvested and those scattered singly on the surface of a tile to be scattered and also unharvested. We considered seeds in cheek pouches to be harvested but not cached, those stored in the nestbox to be larderhoarded, and those buried in caching sites within the arena to be scatterhoarded. (Krupa and Geluso, p. 99)

Examples of use of specialized equipment

  • Oligonucleotide primers were prepared using the Applied Biosystems Model 318A (Foster City, CA) DNA Synthesizer according to the manufacturers' instructions. (Rouwendal et al ., p.78)
  • We first visually reviewed the complete song sample of an individual using spectrograms produced on a Princeton Applied Research Real Time Spectrum Analyzer (model 4512). (Peters et al ., p. 937)

Example of use of a certain technique

Frogs were monitored using visual encounter transects (Crump and Scott, 1994). (Sartorius and Rosen, p. 269)

Example description of statistical analysis

We used Wilcox rank-sum tests for all comparisons of pre-experimental scores and for all comparisons of hue, saturation, and brightness scores between various groups of birds ... All P -values are two-tailed unless otherwise noted. (Brawner et al ., p. 955)

This section presents the facts--what was found in the course of this investigation. Detailed data--measurements, counts, percentages, patterns--usually appear in tables, figures, and graphs, and the text of the section draws attention to the key data and relationships among data. Three rules of thumb will help you with this section:

  • present results clearly and logically
  • avoid excess verbiage
  • consider providing a one-sentence summary at the beginning of each paragraph if you think it will help your reader understand your data

Remember to use table and figures effectively. But don't expect these to stand alone.

Some examples of well-organized and easy-to-follow results:

  • Size of the aquatic habitat at Agua Caliente Canyon varied dramatically throughout the year. The site contained three rockbound tinajas (bedrock pools) that did not dry during this study. During periods of high stream discharge seven more seasonal pools and intermittent stretches of riffle became available. Perennial and seasonal pool levels remained stable from late February through early May. Between mid-May and mid-July seasonal pools dried until they disappeared. Perennial pools shrank in surface area from a range of 30-60 m² to 3-5- M². (Sartorius and Rosen, Sept. 2000: 269)

Notice how the second sample points out what is important in the accompanying figure. It makes us aware of relationships that we may not have noticed quickly otherwise and that will be important to the discussion.

A similar test result is obtained with a primer derived from the human ß-satellite... This primer (AGTGCAGAGATATGTCACAATG-CCCC: Oligo 435) labels 6 sites in the PRINS reaction: the chromosomes 1, one pair of acrocentrics and, more weakly, the chromosomes 9 (Fig. 2a). After 10 cycles of PCR-IS, the number of sites labeled has doubled (Fig. 2b); after 20 cycles, the number of sites labeled is the same but the signals are stronger (Fig. 2c) (Rouwendal et al ., July 93:80).

Related Information: Use Tables and Figures Effectively

Do not repeat all of the information in the text that appears in a table, but do summarize it. For example, if you present a table of temperature measurements taken at various times, describe the general pattern of temperature change and refer to the table.

"The temperature of the solution increased rapidly at first, going from 50º to 80º in the first three minutes (Table 1)."

You don't want to list every single measurement in the text ("After one minute, the temperature had risen to 55º. After two minutes, it had risen to 58º," etc.). There is no hard and fast rule about when to report all measurements in the text and when to put the measurements in a table and refer to them, but use your common sense. Remember that readers have all that data in the accompanying tables and figures, so your task in this section is to highlight key data, changes, or relationships.

In this section you discuss your results. What aspect you choose to focus on depends on your results and on the main questions addressed by them. For example, if you were testing a new technique, you will want to discuss how useful this technique is: how well did it work, what are the benefits and drawbacks, etc. If you are presenting data that appear to refute or support earlier research, you will want to analyze both your own data and the earlier data--what conditions are different? how much difference is due to a change in the study design, and how much to a new property in the study subject? You may discuss the implication of your research--particularly if it has a direct bearing on a practical issue, such as conservation or public health.

This section centers on speculation . However, this does not free you to present wild and haphazard guesses. Focus your discussion around a particular question or hypothesis. Use subheadings to organize your thoughts, if necessary.

This section depends on a logical organization so readers can see the connection between your study question and your results. One typical approach is to make a list of all the ideas that you will discuss and to work out the logical relationships between them--what idea is most important? or, what point is most clearly made by your data? what ideas are subordinate to the main idea? what are the connections between ideas?

Achieving the Scientific Voice

Eight tips will help you match your style for most scientific publications.

  • Develop a precise vocabulary: read the literature to become fluent, or at least familiar with, the sort of language that is standard to describe what you're trying to describe.
  • Once you've labeled an activity, a condition, or a period of time, use that label consistently throughout the paper. Consistency is more important than creativity.
  • Define your terms and your assumptions.
  • Include all the information the reader needs to interpret your data.
  • Remember, the key to all scientific discourse is that it be reproducible . Have you presented enough information clearly enough that the reader could reproduce your experiment, your research, or your investigation?
  • When describing an activity, break it down into elements that can be described and labeled, and then present them in the order they occurred.
  • When you use numbers, use them effectively. Don't present them so that they cause more work for the reader.
  • Include details before conclusions, but only include those details you have been able to observe by the methods you have described. Do not include your feelings, attitudes, impressions, or opinions.
  • Research your format and citations: do these match what have been used in current relevant journals?
  • Run a spellcheck and proofread carefully. Read your paper out loud, and/ or have a friend look over it for misspelled words, missing words, etc.

Applying the Principles, Example 1

The following example needs more precise information. Look at the original and revised paragraphs to see how revising with these guidelines in mind can make the text clearer and more informative:

Before: Each male sang a definite number of songs while singing. They start with a whistle and then go from there. Each new song is always different, but made up an overall repertoire that was completed before starting over again. In 16 cases (84%), no new songs were sung after the first 20, even though we counted about 44 songs for each bird.
After: Each male used a discrete number of song types in his singing. Each song began with an introductory whistle, followed by a distinctive, complex series of fluty warbles (Fig. 1). Successive songs were always different, and five of the 19 males presented their entire song repertoire before repeating any of their song types (i.e., the first IO recorded songs revealed the entire repertoire of 10 song types). Each song type recurred in long sequences of singing, so that we could be confident that we had recorded the entire repertoire of commonly used songs by each male. For 16 of the 19 males, no new song types were encountered after the first 20 songs, even though we analyzed and average of 44 songs/male (range 30-59).

Applying the Principles, Example 2

In this set of examples, even a few changes in wording result in a more precise second version. Look at the original and revised paragraphs to see how revising with these guidelines in mind can make the text clearer and more informative:

Before: The study area was on Mt. Cain and Maquilla Peak in British Columbia, Canada. The study area is about 12,000 ha of coastal montane forest. The area is both managed and unmanaged and ranges from 600-1650m. The most common trees present are mountain hemlock ( Tsuga mertensiana ), western hemlock ( Tsuga heterophylla ), yellow cedar ( Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ), and amabilis fir ( Abies amabilis ).
After: The study took place on Mt. Cain and Maquilla Peak (50'1 3'N, 126'1 8'W), Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The study area encompassed 11,800 ha of coastal montane forest. The landscape consisted of managed and unmanaged stands of coastal montane forest, 600-1650 m in elevation. The dominant tree species included mountain hemlock ( Tsuga mertensiana ), western hemlock ( Tsuga heterophylla ), yellow cedar ( Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ), and amabilis fir ( Abies amabilis ).

Two Tips for Sentence Clarity

Although you will want to consider more detailed stylistic revisions as you become more comfortable with scientific writing, two tips can get you started:

First, the verb should follow the subject as soon as possible.

Really Hard to Read : "The smallest of the URF's (URFA6L), a 207-nucleotide (nt) reading frame overlapping out of phase the NH2- terminal portion of the adenosinetriphosphatase (ATPase) subunit 6 gene has been identified as the animal equivalent of the recently discovered yeast H+-ATPase subunit gene."

Less Hard to Read : "The smallest of the UR-F's is URFA6L, a 207-nucleotide (nt) reading frame overlapping out of phase the NH2-terminal portion of the adenosinetriphosphatase (ATPase) subunit 6 gene; it has been identified as the animal equivalent of the recently discovered yeast H+-ATPase subunit 8 gene."

Second, place familiar information first in a clause, a sentence, or a paragraph, and put the new and unfamiliar information later.

More confusing : The epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layer are the three layers of the skin. A layer of dead skin cells makes up the epidermis, which forms the body's shield against the world. Blood vessels, carrying nourishment, and nerve endings, which relay information about the outside world, are found in the dermis. Sweat glands and fat cells make up the third layer, the subcutaneous layer.

Less confusing : The skin consists of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous layer. The epidermis is made up of dead skin cells, and forms a protective shield between the body and the world. The dermis contains the blood vessels and nerve endings that nourish the skin and make it receptive to outside stimuli. The subcutaneous layer contains the sweat glands and fat cells which perform other functions of the skin.

Bibliography

  • Scientific Writing for Graduate Students . F. P. Woodford. Bethesda, MD: Council of Biology Editors, 1968. [A manual on the teaching of writing to graduate students--very clear and direct.]
  • Scientific Style and Format . Council of Biology Editors. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • "The science of scientific writing." George Gopen and Judith Swann. The American Scientist , Vol. 78, Nov.-Dec. 1990. Pp 550-558.
  • "What's right about scientific writing." Alan Gross and Joseph Harmon. The Scientist , Dec. 6 1999. Pp. 20-21.
  • "A Quick Fix for Figure Legends and Table Headings." Donald Kroodsma. The Auk , 117 (4): 1081-1083, 2000.

Wortman-Wunder, Emily, & Kate Kiefer. (1998). Writing the Scientific Paper. Writing@CSU . Colorado State University. https://writing.colostate.edu/resources/writing/guides/.

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  • ACS Publishing Center

Scientific Writing

It is critical to understand the important elements of a scientific paper and how to most effectively describe research results in the context of your manuscript. While writing your paper can seem like an afterthought compared to years of work in the lab, the way you convey your findings can have a profound impact on editors, reviewers, and your readers. Here are some resources to help you maximize the potential of your next ACS paper.

Mastering the Art of Scientific Publication

ACS editors are highly experienced researchers full of valuable observations from years of running top journals. We’ve collected a number of their top suggestions about making your research stand out and clearly conveying your findings into a virtual issue entitled "Mastering the Art of Scientific Publication." Visit the issue to learn more about writing cover letters, employing best practices for citations, writing compelling results and methods sections, choosing the best title, and much more.

Before You Write Your Paper

Writing a good paper starts well before you type the first letter. Link your data together to tell a story to your peers (and the world). And remember to start early! Don’t wait until all the data is complete, because your results may take you in a new direction with additional controls or experiments. Find out more with these ACS Author University videos:

How to Write a Scientific Article: Find the Story

How to write a scientific article: when should you start writing your research article, getting started writing your paper.

With your story in mind, the next step is turning that into a written document that is ready to share. In the ACS Author University videos below, ACS editors share their tips for starting with an outline, preparing your figures, and much more, so you can use your time efficiently and produce a top-quality draft.

How Do You Start Writing a Paper? Create an Outline

How do you start writing a paper create the figures, how do you start writing a paper tips from acs editors.

Best of luck with your next paper! We hope you’ll consider submitting to an ACS journal when it’s ready.

guidelines for writing scientific papers

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Atypon

WRITING A SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ARTICLE | Format for the paper | Edit your paper! | Useful books | FORMAT FOR THE PAPER Scientific research articles provide a method for scientists to communicate with other scientists about the results of their research. A standard format is used for these articles, in which the author presents the research in an orderly, logical manner. This doesn't necessarily reflect the order in which you did or thought about the work.  This format is: | Title | Authors | Introduction | Materials and Methods | Results (with Tables and Figures ) | Discussion | Acknowledgments | Literature Cited | TITLE Make your title specific enough to describe the contents of the paper, but not so technical that only specialists will understand. The title should be appropriate for the intended audience. The title usually describes the subject matter of the article: Effect of Smoking on Academic Performance" Sometimes a title that summarizes the results is more effective: Students Who Smoke Get Lower Grades" AUTHORS 1. The person who did the work and wrote the paper is generally listed as the first author of a research paper. 2. For published articles, other people who made substantial contributions to the work are also listed as authors. Ask your mentor's permission before including his/her name as co-author. ABSTRACT 1. An abstract, or summary, is published together with a research article, giving the reader a "preview" of what's to come. Such abstracts may also be published separately in bibliographical sources, such as Biologic al Abstracts. They allow other scientists to quickly scan the large scientific literature, and decide which articles they want to read in depth. The abstract should be a little less technical than the article itself; you don't want to dissuade your potent ial audience from reading your paper. 2. Your abstract should be one paragraph, of 100-250 words, which summarizes the purpose, methods, results and conclusions of the paper. 3. It is not easy to include all this information in just a few words. Start by writing a summary that includes whatever you think is important, and then gradually prune it down to size by removing unnecessary words, while still retaini ng the necessary concepts. 3. Don't use abbreviations or citations in the abstract. It should be able to stand alone without any footnotes. INTRODUCTION What question did you ask in your experiment? Why is it interesting? The introduction summarizes the relevant literature so that the reader will understand why you were interested in the question you asked. One to fo ur paragraphs should be enough. End with a sentence explaining the specific question you asked in this experiment. MATERIALS AND METHODS 1. How did you answer this question? There should be enough information here to allow another scientist to repeat your experiment. Look at other papers that have been published in your field to get some idea of what is included in this section. 2. If you had a complicated protocol, it may helpful to include a diagram, table or flowchart to explain the methods you used. 3. Do not put results in this section. You may, however, include preliminary results that were used to design the main experiment that you are reporting on. ("In a preliminary study, I observed the owls for one week, and found that 73 % of their locomotor activity occurred during the night, and so I conducted all subsequent experiments between 11 pm and 6 am.") 4. Mention relevant ethical considerations. If you used human subjects, did they consent to participate. If you used animals, what measures did you take to minimize pain? RESULTS 1. This is where you present the results you've gotten. Use graphs and tables if appropriate, but also summarize your main findings in the text. Do NOT discuss the results or speculate as to why something happened; t hat goes in th e Discussion. 2. You don't necessarily have to include all the data you've gotten during the semester. This isn't a diary. 3. Use appropriate methods of showing data. Don't try to manipulate the data to make it look like you did more than you actually did. "The drug cured 1/3 of the infected mice, another 1/3 were not affected, and the third mouse got away." TABLES AND GRAPHS 1. If you present your data in a table or graph, include a title describing what's in the table ("Enzyme activity at various temperatures", not "My results".) For graphs, you should also label the x and y axes. 2. Don't use a table or graph just to be "fancy". If you can summarize the information in one sentence, then a table or graph is not necessary. DISCUSSION 1. Highlight the most significant results, but don't just repeat what you've written in the Results section. How do these results relate to the original question? Do the data support your hypothesis? Are your results consistent with what other investigators have reported? If your results were unexpected, try to explain why. Is there another way to interpret your results? What further research would be necessary to answer the questions raised by your results? How do y our results fit into the big picture? 2. End with a one-sentence summary of your conclusion, emphasizing why it is relevant. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This section is optional. You can thank those who either helped with the experiments, or made other important contributions, such as discussing the protocol, commenting on the manuscript, or buying you pizza. REFERENCES (LITERATURE CITED) There are several possible ways to organize this section. Here is one commonly used way: 1. In the text, cite the literature in the appropriate places: Scarlet (1990) thought that the gene was present only in yeast, but it has since been identified in the platypus (Indigo and Mauve, 1994) and wombat (Magenta, et al., 1995). 2. In the References section list citations in alphabetical order. Indigo, A. C., and Mauve, B. E. 1994. Queer place for qwerty: gene isolation from the platypus. Science 275, 1213-1214. Magenta, S. T., Sepia, X., and Turquoise, U. 1995. Wombat genetics. In: Widiculous Wombats, Violet, Q., ed. New York: Columbia University Press. p 123-145. Scarlet, S.L. 1990. Isolation of qwerty gene from S. cerevisae. Journal of Unusual Results 36, 26-31.   EDIT YOUR PAPER!!! "In my writing, I average about ten pages a day. Unfortunately, they're all the same page." Michael Alley, The Craft of Scientific Writing A major part of any writing assignment consists of re-writing. Write accurately Scientific writing must be accurate. Although writing instructors may tell you not to use the same word twice in a sentence, it's okay for scientific writing, which must be accurate. (A student who tried not to repeat the word "hamster" produced this confusing sentence: "When I put the hamster in a cage with the other animals, the little mammals began to play.") Make sure you say what you mean. Instead of: The rats were injected with the drug. (sounds like a syringe was filled with drug and ground-up rats and both were injected together) Write: I injected the drug into the rat.
  • Be careful with commonly confused words:
Temperature has an effect on the reaction. Temperature affects the reaction.
I used solutions in various concentrations. (The solutions were 5 mg/ml, 10 mg/ml, and 15 mg/ml) I used solutions in varying concentrations. (The concentrations I used changed; sometimes they were 5 mg/ml, other times they were 15 mg/ml.)
 Less food (can't count numbers of food) Fewer animals (can count numbers of animals)
A large amount of food (can't count them) A large number of animals (can count them)
The erythrocytes, which are in the blood, contain hemoglobin. The erythrocytes that are in the blood contain hemoglobin. (Wrong. This sentence implies that there are erythrocytes elsewhere that don't contain hemoglobin.)

Write clearly

1. Write at a level that's appropriate for your audience.

"Like a pigeon, something to admire as long as it isn't over your head." Anonymous

 2. Use the active voice. It's clearer and more concise than the passive voice.

 Instead of: An increased appetite was manifested by the rats and an increase in body weight was measured. Write: The rats ate more and gained weight.

 3. Use the first person.

 Instead of: It is thought Write: I think
 Instead of: The samples were analyzed Write: I analyzed the samples

 4. Avoid dangling participles.

 "After incubating at 30 degrees C, we examined the petri plates." (You must've been pretty warm in there.)

  Write succinctly

 1. Use verbs instead of abstract nouns

 Instead of: take into consideration Write: consider

 2. Use strong verbs instead of "to be"

 Instead of: The enzyme was found to be the active agent in catalyzing... Write: The enzyme catalyzed...

 3. Use short words.

Instead of: Write: possess have sufficient enough utilize use demonstrate show assistance help terminate end

4. Use concise terms.

 Instead of: Write: prior to before due to the fact that because in a considerable number of cases often the vast majority of most during the time that when in close proximity to near it has long been known that I'm too lazy to look up the reference

5. Use short sentences. A sentence made of more than 40 words should probably be rewritten as two sentences.

 "The conjunction 'and' commonly serves to indicate that the writer's mind still functions even when no signs of the phenomenon are noticeable." Rudolf Virchow, 1928

  

Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation

1. Use a spellchecker, but be aware that they don't catch all mistakes.

 "When we consider the animal as a hole,..." Student's paper

 2. Your spellchecker may not recognize scientific terms. For the correct spelling, try Biotech's Life Science Dictionary or one of the technical dictionaries on the reference shelf in the Biology or Health Sciences libraries.

 3. Don't, use, unnecessary, commas.

 4. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

USEFUL BOOKS

Victoria E. McMillan, Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences , Bedford Books, Boston, 1997 The best. On sale for about $18 at Labyrinth Books, 112th Street. On reserve in Biology Library

Jan A. Pechenik, A Short Guide to Writing About Biology , Boston: Little, Brown, 1987

Harrison W. Ambrose, III & Katharine Peckham Ambrose, A Handbook of Biological Investigation , 4th edition, Hunter Textbooks Inc, Winston-Salem, 1987 Particularly useful if you need to use statistics to analyze your data. Copy on Reference shelf in Biology Library.

Robert S. Day, How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , 4th edition, Oryx Press, Phoenix, 1994. Earlier editions also good. A bit more advanced, intended for those writing papers for publication. Fun to read. Several copies available in Columbia libraries.

William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style , 3rd ed. Macmillan, New York, 1987. Several copies available in Columbia libraries.  Strunk's first edition is available on-line.

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Writing a Scientific Paper

Writing a scientific paper is very similar to writing a lab report. The structure of each is primarily the same, but the purpose of each is different. Lab reports are meant to reflect understanding of the material and learn something new, while scientific papers are meant to contribute knowledge to a field of study.  A scientific paper is broken down into eight sections: title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. 

  • Ex: "Determining the Free Chlorine Content of Pool Water"
  • Abstracts are a summary of the research as a whole and should familiarize the reader with the purpose of the research. 
  • Abstracts will always be written last, even though they are the first paragraph of a scientific paper. 
  • Unlike a lab report, all scientific papers will have an abstract.
  • Why was the research done?
  • What problem is being addressed?
  • What results were found?
  • What are the meaning of the results?
  • How is the problem better understood now than before, if at all?

Introduction

  • The introduction of a scientific paper discusses the problem being studied and other theory that is relevant to understanding the findings. 
  • The hypothesis of the experiment and the motivation for the research are stated in this section. 
  • Write the introduction in your own words. Try not to copy from a lab manual or other guidelines. Instead, show comprehension of the research by briefly explaining the problem.

Methods and Materials

  • Ex: pipette, graduated cylinder, 1.13mg of Na, 0.67mg Ag
  • List the steps taken as they actually happened during the experiment, not as they were supposed to happen. 
  • If written correctly, another researcher should be able to duplicate the experiment and get the same or very similar results. 
  • In a scientific paper, most often the steps taken during the research are discussed more in length and with more detail than they are in lab reports. 
  • The results show the data that was collected or found during the research. 
  • Explain in words the data that was collected.
  • Tables should be labeled numerically, as "Table 1", "Table 2", etc. Other figures should be labeled numerically as "Figure 1", "Figure 2", etc. 
  • Calculations to understand the data can also be presented in the results. 
  • The discussion section is one of the most important parts of a scientific paper. It analyzes the results of the research and is a discussion of the data. 
  • If any results are unexpected, explain why they are unexpected and how they did or did not effect the data obtained. 
  • Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the design of the research and compare your results to similar research.
  • If there are any experimental errors, analyze them.
  • Explain your results and discuss them using relevant terms and theories.
  • What do the results indicate?
  • What is the significance of the results?
  • Are there any gaps in knowledge?
  • Are there any new questions that have been raised?
  • The conclusion is a summation of the experiment. It should clearly and concisely state what was learned and its importance.
  • If there is future work that needs to be done, it can be explained in the conclusion.
  • When any outside sources to support a claim or explain background information, those sources must be cited in the references section of the lab report. 
  • Scientific papers will always use outside references. 

Other Useful Sources

  • Guidelines for Writing Scientific Papers
  • How to Write a Scientific Article
  • Writing a Scientific Research Article
  • How to Write a Good Scientific Paper
  • << Previous: How To Write A Lab Report
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Formatting guide

This guide describes how to prepare contributions for submission. We recommend you read this in full if you have not previously submitted a contribution to Nature . We also recommend that, before submission, you familiarize yourself with Nature ’s style and content by reading the journal, either in print or online, particularly if you have not submitted to the journal recently.

Formats for Nature contributions

Articles are the main format for original research contributions to Nature . In addition, Nature publishes other submitted material as detailed below.

Articles are original reports whose conclusions represent a substantial advance in understanding of an important problem and have immediate, far-reaching implications. In print, physical sciences papers do not normally exceed 6 pages on average, and biological, clinical and social-sciences papers do not normally exceed 8 pages on average. However, the final print length is at the editor’s discretion.

Articles start with a fully referenced summary paragraph, ideally of no more than 200 words, which is separate from the main text and avoids numbers, abbreviations, acronyms or measurements unless essential. It is aimed at readers outside the discipline. This summary paragraph should be structured as follows: 2-3 sentences of basic-level introduction to the field; a brief account of the background and rationale of the work; a statement of the main conclusions (introduced by the phrase 'Here we show' or its equivalent); and finally, 2-3 sentences putting the main findings into general context so it is clear how the results described in the paper have moved the field forwards. Please refer to our annotated example   to see how the summary paragraph should be constructed.

The typical length of a 6-page article with 4 modest display items (figures and tables) is 2500 words (summary paragraph plus body text). The typical length of an 8-page article with 5-6 modest display items is 4300 words. A ‘modest’ display item is one that, with its legend, occupies about a quarter of a page (equivalent to ~270 words). If a composite figure (with several panels) needs to occupy at least half a page in order for all the elements to be visible, the text length may need to be reduced accordingly to accommodate such figures. Keep in mind that essential but technical details can be moved into the Methods or Supplementary Information.

As a guideline, articles typically have no more than 50 references. (There is no such constraint on any additional references associated with Methods or Supplementary Information.)

Sections are separated with subheadings to aid navigation. Subheadings may be up to 40 characters (including spaces).

Word counts refer to the text of the paper. Title, author list, acknowledgements and references are not included in total word counts.

Matters Arising and Corrections

Matters Arising are exceptionally interesting or important comments and clarifications on original research papers or other peer-reviewed material published within the past 18 months in Nature . They are published online but not in print.

For further details of and instructions for how to submit such comments on peer-reviewed material published in Nature — or to notify editors of the potential need for a correction — please consult our Matters Arising page.

Other contributions to Nature

Please access the other submitted material pages for further details on any of the contribution types below:

News and Comment

Correspondence

Books & Arts

News & Views

Insights, Reviews and Perspectives

Technology Features

The editorial process

See this section for an explanation of Nature 's editorial criteria for publication, refereeing policy and how editors handle papers after submission. Submission to a Nature journal is taken by the journal to mean that all the listed authors have agreed to all of the contents. See authorship policy for more details.

Presubmission enquiries

If you wish to enquire whether your Article might be suitable for consideration by Nature , please use our online presubmission enquiry service . All presubmission enquiries must include a cover paragraph to the editor stating the interest to a broad scientific readership, a fully referenced summary paragraph, and a reference list.

Readability

Nature is an international journal covering all the sciences. Contributions should therefore be written clearly and simply so that they are accessible to readers in other disciplines and to readers for whom English is not their first language. Thus, technical jargon should be avoided as far as possible and clearly explained where its use is unavoidable. Abbreviations, particularly those that are not standard, should also be kept to a minimum. The background, rationale and main conclusions of the study should be clearly explained. Titles and abstracts in particular should be written in language that will be readily intelligible to any scientist. Essential but specialized terms should be explained concisely but not didactically.

For gene, protein and other specialized names authors can use their preferred terminology so long as it is in current use by the community, but they must give all known names for the entity at first use in the paper. Nature prefers authors to use internationally agreed nomenclature. Papers containing new or revised formal taxonomic nomenclature for animals, whether living or extinct, are accepted conditional on the provision of LSIDs (Life Science Identifiers) by means of registration of such nomenclature with ZooBank, the proposed online registration system for the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN).

Even though no paper will be rejected because of poor language, non–native English speakers occasionally receive feedback from editors and reviewers regarding language and grammar usage in their manuscripts. You may wish to consider asking colleagues to read your manuscript and/or to use a professional editing service such as those provided by our affiliates Nature Research Editing Service or American Journal Experts . You can also get a fast, free grammar check of your manuscript that takes into account all aspects of readability in English. Please note that the use of a language editing service is not a requirement for publication in Nature .

Nature 's editors provide detailed advice about the expected print length when asking for the final version of the manuscript. Nature 's editors often suggest revised titles and rewrite the summary paragraphs of Articles so the conclusions are clear to a broad readership.

After acceptance, Nature 's subeditors (copyeditors) ensure that the text and figures are readable and clear to those outside the field, and edit papers into Nature 's house style. They pay particular attention to summary paragraphs, overall clarity, figures, figure legends and titles.

Proofs are sent before publication; authors are welcome to discuss proposed changes with Nature 's subeditors, but Nature reserves the right to make the final decision about matters of style and the size of figures.

A useful set of articles providing general advice about writing and submitting scientific papers can be found on the SciDev.Net website.

Format of Articles

Contributions should be double-spaced and written in English (spellings as in the Oxford English Dictionary ).

Contributions should be organized in the sequence: title, authors, affiliations (plus present addresses), bold first paragraph, main text, main references, tables, figure legends, methods (including separate data and code availability statements), methods references, acknowledgements, author contributions, competing interest declaration, additional information (containing supplementary information line (if any) and corresponding author line), extended data figure/table legends. In order to facilitate the review process, for initial submissions we encourage authors to present the manuscript text and figures together in a single file (Microsoft Word or PDF, up to 30 MB in size). The figures may be inserted within the text at the appropriate positions or grouped at the end, and each figure legend should be presented together with its figure. Also, please include line numbers within the text.

Titles do not exceed two lines in print. This equates to 75 characters (including spaces). Titles do not normally include numbers, acronyms, abbreviations or punctuation. They should include sufficient detail for indexing purposes but be general enough for readers outside the field to appreciate what the paper is about.

An uninterrupted page of text contains about 1250 words.

A typical 6-page Article contains about 2,500 words of text and, additionally, 4 modest display items (figures and/or tables) with brief legends, reference list and online-only methods section if applicable. A composite figure (with several panels) usually needs to take about half a page, equivalent to about 600 words, in order for all the elements to be visible (see section 5.9 for instructions on sizing figures).

A typical 8-page Article contains about 4300 words of text and, additionally, 5-6 modest display items (figures and/or tables) with brief legends, reference list and online-only methods section if applicable. A composite figure (with several panels) usually needs to take about half a page, equivalent to about 600 words, in order for all the elements to be visible (see section 5.9 for instructions on sizing figures).

Authors of contributions that significantly exceed the limits stated here (or as specified by the editor) will have to shorten their papers before acceptance, inevitably delaying publication.

Nature requires authors to specify the contribution made by their co-authors in the end notes of the paper (see section 5.5). If authors regard it as essential to indicate that two or more co-authors are equal in status, they may be identified by an asterisk symbol with the caption ‘These authors contributed equally to this work’ immediately under the address list. If more than three co-authors are equal in status, this should be indicated in the author contributions statement. Present addresses appear immediately below the author list (below the footnote rule at the bottom of the first page) and may be identified by a dagger symbol; all other essential author-related explanation is placed in the acknowledgements.

Our preferred format for text is Microsoft Word, with the style tags removed.

TeX/LaTeX: If you have prepared your paper using TeX/LaTeX, we will need to convert this to Word after acceptance, before your paper can be typeset. All textual material of the paper (including references, tables, figure captions, online methods, etc.) should be included as a single .tex file.

We prefer the use of a ‘standard’ font, preferably 12-point Times New Roman. For mathematical symbols, Greek letters and other special characters, use normal text or Symbol font. Word Equation Editor/MathType should be used only for formulae that cannot be produced using normal text or Symbol font.

The ‘Methods’ section is in the main text file, following the figure legends. This Methods section will appear in the PDF and in the full-text (HTML) version of the paper online, but will not appear in the printed issue. The Methods section should be written as concisely as possible but should contain all elements necessary to allow interpretation and replication of the results. As a guideline, the Methods section does not typically exceed 3,000 words. To increase reproducibility, authors are encouraged to deposit a detailed description of protocols used in their study in a protocol sharing platform of their choice. Nature Portfolio’s Protocol Exchange is a free and open service designed to help researchers share experimental know-how. Protocols deposited by the authors in Protocol Exchange will be linked to the online Methods section upon publication.

Detailed descriptions of methods already published should be avoided; a reference number can be provided to save space, with any new addition or variation stated.

The Methods section should be subdivided by short bold headings referring to methods used and we encourage the inclusion of specific subsections for statistics, reagents and animal models. If further references are included in this section their numbering should continue from the end of the last reference number in the rest of the paper and they are listed after the Methods section.

Please provide separate Data Availability and Code Availability statements after the main text statements and before the Extended Data legends; detailed guidance can be found in our data availability and data citations policy . Certain data types must be deposited in an appropriate public structured data depository (details are available here ), and the accession number(s) provided in the manuscript. Full access is required at the time of publication. Should full access to data be required for peer review, authors must provide it.

The Methods section cannot contain figures or tables (essential display items should be included in the Extended Data or exceptionally in the Supplementary Information).

References are each numbered, ordered sequentially as they appear in the text, tables, boxes, figure legends, Methods, Extended Data tables and Extended Data figure legends.

When cited in the text, reference numbers are superscript, not in brackets unless they are likely to be confused with a superscript number.

Do not use linked fields (produced by EndNote and similar programs). Please use the one-click button provided by EndNote to remove EndNote codes before saving your file.

As a guideline, Articles allow up to 50 references in the main text if needed and within the average page budget. Only one publication can be listed for each number. Additional references for Methods or Supplementary Information are not included in this count.

Only articles that have been published or accepted by a named publication, or that have been uploaded to a recognized preprint server (for example, arXiv, bioRxiv), should be in the reference list; papers in preparation should be mentioned in the text with a list of authors (or initials if any of the authors are co-authors of the present contribution).

Published conference abstracts, numbered patents, preprints on recognized servers, papers in press, and research datasets that have been assigned a digital object identifier may be included in reference lists, but text, grant details and acknowledgements may not. (An exception is the highlighted references which we ask authors of Reviews, Perspectives and Insights articles to provide.)

All authors should be included in reference lists unless there are more than five, in which case only the first author should be given, followed by ‘et al.’.

Please follow the style below in the published edition of Nature in preparing reference lists.

Authors should be listed surname first, followed by a comma and initials of given names.

Titles of all cited articles are required. Titles of articles cited in reference lists should be in upright, not italic text; the first word of the title is capitalized, the title written exactly as it appears in the work cited, ending with a full stop. Book titles are italic with all main words capitalized. Journal titles are italic and abbreviated according to common usage. Volume numbers are bold. The publisher and city of publication are required for books cited. (Refer to published papers in Nature for details.)

Research datasets may be cited in the reference list if they have been assigned digital object identifiers (DOIs) and include authors, title, publisher (repository name), identifier (DOI expressed as a URL). Example: Hao, Z., AghaKouchak, A., Nakhjiri, N. & Farahmand, A. Global Integrated Drought Monitoring and Prediction System (GIDMaPS) data sets. figshare http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.853801 (2014).

Recognized preprints may be cited in the reference list. Example: Babichev, S. A., Ries, J. & Lvovsky, A. I. Quantum scissors: teleportation of single-mode optical states by means of a nonlocal single photon. Preprint at http://arXiv.org/quant-ph/0208066 (2002).

References to web-only journals should give authors, article title and journal name as above, followed by URL in full - or DOI if known - and the year of publication in parentheses.

References to websites should give authors if known, title of cited page, URL in full, and year of posting in parentheses.

End notes are brief and follow the Methods (or Methods References, if any).

Acknowledgements should be brief, and should not include thanks to anonymous referees and editors, inessential words, or effusive comments. A person can be thanked for assistance, not “excellent” assistance, or for comments, not “insightful” comments, for example. Acknowledgements can contain grant and contribution numbers.

Author Contributions: Authors are required to include a statement to specify the contributions of each co-author. The statement can be up to several sentences long, describing the tasks of individual authors referred to by their initials. See the authorship policy page for further explanation and examples.

Competing interests  statement.

Additional Information: Authors should include a set of statements at the end of the paper, in the following order:

Papers containing Supplementary Information contain the statement: “Supplementary Information is available for this paper.”

A sentence reading "Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to XX.” Nature expects this identified author to respond to readers’ enquiries and requests for materials, and to coordinate the handling of any other matters arising from the published contribution, including corrections complaints. The author named as corresponding author is not necessarily the senior author, and publication of this author’s name does not imply seniority. Authors may include more than one e-mail address if essential, in which event Nature will communicate with the first-listed address for any post-publication matters, and expect that author to coordinate with the other co-authors.

Peer review information includes the names of reviewers who agree to be cited and is completed by Nature staff during proofing.

A sentence reading “Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints.”

Life sciences and behavioural & social sciences reporting guidelines

To improve the transparency of reporting and the reproducibility of published results, authors of life sciences and behavioural & social sciences Articles must provide a completed Reporting Summary that will be made available to editors and reviewers during manuscript assessment. The Reporting Summary will be published with all accepted manuscripts.

Please note: because of the advanced features used in these forms, you must use Adobe Reader to open the documents and fill them out.

Guidance and resources related to the use and reporting of statistics are available here .

Tables should each be presented on a separate page, portrait (not landscape) orientation, and upright on the page, not sideways.

Tables have a short, one-line title in bold text. Tables should be as small as possible. Bear in mind the size of a Nature page as a limiting factor when compiling a table.

Symbols and abbreviations are defined immediately below the table, followed by essential descriptive material as briefly as possible, all in double-spaced text.

Standard table formats are available for submissions of cryo-EM , NMR and X-ray crystallography data . Authors providing these data must use these standard tables and include them as Extended Data.

Figure legends

For initial submissions, we encourage authors to present the manuscript text and figures together in a single Word doc or PDF file, and for each figure legend to be presented together with its figure. However, when preparing the final paper to be accepted, we require figure legends to be listed one after the other, as part of the text document, separate from the figure files, and after the main reference list.

Each figure legend should begin with a brief title for the whole figure and continue with a short description of each panel and the symbols used. If the paper contains a Methods section, legends should not contain any details of methods. Legends should be fewer than 300 words each.

All error bars and statistics must be defined in the figure legend, as discussed above.

Nature requires figures in electronic format. Please ensure that all digital images comply with the Nature journals’ policy on image integrity .

Figures should be as small and simple as is compatible with clarity. The goal is for figures to be comprehensible to readers in other or related disciplines, and to assist their understanding of the paper. Unnecessary figures and parts (panels) of figures should be avoided: data presented in small tables or histograms, for instance, can generally be stated briefly in the text instead. Avoid unnecessary complexity, colouring and excessive detail.

Figures should not contain more than one panel unless the parts are logically connected; each panel of a multipart figure should be sized so that the whole figure can be reduced by the same amount and reproduced on the printed page at the smallest size at which essential details are visible. For guidance, Nature ’s standard figure sizes are 90 mm (single column) and 180 mm (double column) and the full depth of the page is 170 mm.

Amino-acid sequences should be printed in Courier (or other monospaced) font using the one-letter code in lines of 50 or 100 characters.

Authors describing chemical structures should use the Nature Research Chemical Structures style guide .

Some brief guidance for figure preparation:

Lettering in figures (labelling of axes and so on) should be in lower-case type, with the first letter capitalized and no full stop.

Units should have a single space between the number and the unit, and follow SI nomenclature or the nomenclature common to a particular field. Thousands should be separated by commas (1,000). Unusual units or abbreviations are defined in the legend.

Scale bars should be used rather than magnification factors.

Layering type directly over shaded or textured areas and using reversed type (white lettering on a coloured background) should be avoided where possible.

Where possible, text, including keys to symbols, should be provided in the legend rather than on the figure itself.

Figure quality

At initial submission, figures should be at good enough quality to be assessed by referees, preferably incorporated into the manuscript text in a single Word doc or PDF, although figures can be supplied separately as JPEGs if authors are unable to include them with the text. Authors are advised to follow the initial and revised submissions guidelines with respect to sizing, resolution and labelling.

Please note that print-publication quality figures are large and it is not helpful to upload them at the submission stage. Authors will be asked for high-quality figures when they are asked to submit the final version of their article for publication.At that stage, please prepare figures according to these guidelines .

Third party rights

Nature discourages the use or adaptation of previously published display items (for example, figures, tables, images, videos or text boxes). However, we recognize that to illustrate some concepts the use of published data is required and the reuse of previously published display items may be necessary. Please note that in these instances we might not be able to obtain the necessary rights for some images to be reused (as is, or adapted versions) in our articles. In such cases, we will contact you to discuss the sourcing of alternative material.

Figure costs

In order to help cover some of the additional cost of four-colour reproduction, Nature Portfolio charges our authors a fee for the printing of their colour figures. Please contact our offices for exact pricing and details. Inability to pay this charge will not prevent publication of colour figures judged essential by the editors, but this must be agreed with the editor prior to acceptance.

Production-quality figures

When a manuscript is accepted in principle for publication, the editor will ask for high-resolution figures. Do not submit publication-quality figures until asked to do so by an editor. At that stage, please prepare figures according to these guidelines .

Extended Data

Extended Data figures and tables are online-only (appearing in the online PDF and full-text HTML version of the paper), peer-reviewed display items that provide essential background to the Article but are not included in the printed version of the paper due to space constraints or being of interest only to a few specialists. A maximum of ten Extended Data display items (figures and tables) is typically permitted. See Composition of a Nature research paper .

Extended Data tables should be formatted along similar lines to tables appearing in print (see section 5.7) but the main body (excluding title and legend, which should be included at the end of the Word file) should be submitted separately as an image rather than as an editable format in Word, as Extended Data tables are not edited by Nature’s subediting department. Small tables may also be included as sub-panels within Extended Data figures. See Extended Data Formatting Guide .

Extended Data figures should be prepared along slightly different guidelines compared to figures appearing in print, and may be multi-panelled as long as they fit to size rules (see Extended Data Formatting Guide ). Extended Data figures are not edited or styled by Nature’s art department; for this reason, authors are requested to follow Nature style as closely as possible when preparing these figures. The legends for Extended Data figures should be prepared as for print figures and should be listed one after the other at the end of the Word file.

If space allows, Nature encourages authors to include a simple schematic, as a panel in an Extended Data figure, that summarizes the main finding of the paper, where appropriate (for example, to assist understanding of complex detail in cell, structural and molecular biology disciplines).

If a manuscript has Extended Data figures or tables, authors are asked to refer to discrete items at an appropriate place in the main text (for example, Extended Data Fig. 1 and Extended Data Table 1).

If further references are included in the Extended Data tables and Extended Data figure legends, the numbering should continue from the end of the last reference number in the main paper (or from the last reference number in the additional Methods section if present) and the list should be added to the end of the list accompanying the additional Methods section, if present, or added below the Extended Data legends if no additional Methods section is present.

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (SI) is online-only, peer-reviewed material that is essential background to the Article (for example, large data sets, methods, calculations), but which is too large or impractical, or of interest only to a few specialists, to justify inclusion in the printed version of the paper. See the Supplementary Information page for further details.

Supplementary Information should not contain figures (any figures additional to those appearing in print should be formatted as Extended Data figures). Tables may be included in Supplementary Information, but only if they are unsuitable for formatting as Extended Data tables (for example, tables containing large data sets or raw data that are best suited to Excel files).

If a manuscript has accompanying SI, either at submission or in response to an editor’s letter that requests it, authors are asked to refer to discrete items of the SI (for example, videos, tables) at an appropriate point in the main manuscript.

Chemical structures and characterization of chemical materials

For guidelines describing Nature ’s standards for experimental methods and the characterization of new compounds, please see the information sheet on the characterization of chemical materials .

We aim to produce chemical structures in a consistent format throughout our articles. Please use the Nature Portfolio Chemical Structures Guide and ChemDraw template to ensure that you prepare your figures in a format that will require minimal changes by our art and production teams. Submit final files at 100% as .cdx files.

Registered Reports

Registered Reports are empirical articles testing confirmatory hypotheses in which the methods and proposed analyses are pre-registered and peer reviewed prior to research being conducted. For further details about Registered Reports and instructions for how to submit such articles to Nature please consult our Registered Reports page.

All contributions should be submitted online , unless otherwise instructed by the editors. Please be sure to read the information on what to include in your cover letter as well as several important content-related issues when putting a submission together.

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Nature authors must make data and materials publicly available upon publication. This includes deposition of data into the relevant databases and arranging for them to be publicly released by the online publication date (not after). A description of our initiative to improve the transparency and the reproducibility of published results is available here . A full description of Nature’s publication policies is at the Nature Portfolio Authors and Referees website .

Other Nature Research journals

An account of the relationship between all the Nature journals is provided at the Nature family page . 

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guidelines for writing scientific papers

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Writing Center

Guidelines for writing scientific papers in cse style, cse style scientific papers.

The title of the study should give enough details so that the reader knows what the paper is about. The title should let the reader know if the paper contains information they are interested in. Examples:

  • “Worm Lab” – not enough detail
  • “A comparative analysis via diversity indices of epigeic, endogeic, and anecic earthworms, with juveniles excluded, from two habitat types, buckthorn and prairie, at the Red River Valley Natural History Area in Crookston, MN” – too long
  • "Invertebrates : protozoa to echinodermata" - strong title

Write this last.  This is like the resume for your paper; it should include the basic points from each of the other sections.  It usually includes: one sentence explaining the background and purpose, one or two sentences on methods, two or three sentences on results, and two or three sentences on conclusions and implications.  This section should be as concise as possible.

Introduction

The introduction should be like a funnel; it should start broad and end with the very specific purpose of your study.  Start with some background that gives the reasons this study would be of interest to your reader.  Explain your purpose and the questions you want to answer.  Conclude with your hypotheses: what you will test in order to answer those questions.

Materials and methods

This section describes the process of performing the experiment. From what you write here, someone else should be able to reliably repeat your procedures. Include important things (we sampled 1m X 1m quadrat) but leave out superfluous details (our quadrats were galvanized steel with welded corners and beveled edges).

Describe what you did to obtain your data (the field and lab methods) and what you did to understand your data (the analysis). You may wish to have subheadings for field and analytical methods. You do not need to explain how your statistical tests work, but you do need to tell your reader what data you used in the analyses (the independent and dependent variables in regressions, the variables in the t tests, the type of test you used). A brief explanation of the diversity indices (including formulas) should appear here.

The methods section should be written in the past tense (“we sampled prairie lots”). It should not be written as a list of instructions. You should mention materials as you mention the procedures that required them; do not give a list of materials. Think of this section as telling the story of your experiment.

The results section includes the results of the analyses and descriptions of trends. Tell your reader what you found but not why you think things turned out the way they did. For example, include things like the R2, the p-values, and what hypotheses were rejected. If you have tables and graphs they should be included here. Point out results that were significant and why they were significant.

The results section is the base upon which the rest of your paper stands. This is where you present the information you have derived from your data. Remember, tables and figures can add to the results section but do not take the place of writing out your results.

This is usually the longest section of the paper. If you have questions about what to include you should look at some examples.

Conclusions

In the conclusion, you explain what you think your results mean. This section should be like a reverse funnel; it starts specific (with your hypotheses and results) and then widen to apply your ideas to a broader scientific field.

First, explain the acceptance or rejection of your hypotheses and how this answers your research questions. Next, explain the science that relates to your results. Finally, tell the reader how the results of your study are of interest.

Students have a tendency to ramble in the conclusions section, but longer does not necessarily mean better if substantive content is lacking.

Literature Cited

A few good references will help you make arguments and give you solid background information on which to base your hypotheses.

You need to cite information that is not common knowledge, like the results of other people’s experiments or things you look up in reference books. Internet sources are sometimes acceptable; it depends on the type of information and the source. There are a few different styles that can be used for in-text citations. You should look at a journal from your field for examples.

Additional pointers

  • Write an outline before you start writing.  You can use the following questions to get you started: We wanted to know how… We hypothesized… We collected data by… We tested our hypotheses by… Our tests showed… I interpret this to mean…  

After your paper is written, go through it and determine the purpose of each paragraph.  If a paragraph has no purpose (or if it has too many purposes) then it should be rewritten.

If you think that part of your paper stinks, delete that part and rewrite it.  You will have already figured out what you want to say and it will flow better. Cutting and pasting too much can leave your writing blocky and difficult to follow.

Have someone  proofread  your paper.  Proofread  someone else’s paper and be honest.

Avoid “Yoda-speak.”  That is, statements like “to find their density, leaves were weighed.” Instead say “leaves were weighed to find their densities.” A whole lot easier to read, your papers, if you watch this, will be.

Watch dangling modifiers.  For example: don’t say “After pouring on the mustard, the worms rose.” This is actually saying that the worms (subject) poured on the mustard. Instead, say “After we poured the mustard solution on the soil, the worms rose” or “After the mustard solution was poured on the soil, the worms rose.”

Write course papers as you would write for a peer-reviewed journal. Do not say  “in this lab we did so and so.”  Do not say  “our class walked around campus to find trees.”  Instead say  “The purpose of this experiment was to…”  or  “twelve trees growing in high-light conditions were sampled.”  The focus should be on the experiment, not on the course or lab section.

The word “data” is plural. When you use it, switch it with the word “numbers” and see if the sentence sounds right. This is a mistake that is very commonly made by people, especially politicians. (For example, you should say “the data show” rather than “the data shows”).

Latin binomials  (scientific names) are written in italics with the genus capitalized:  Homo sapiens, Andropogon gerardii, Lynx rufus, Salicornia rubra.  The first time you mention a species you should give the Latin binomial. After that, you can use the common name (if it has a generally accepted one). For example: “We looked at the soil under a dense stand of European buckthorn  (Rhamnus cathartica)  in the woods near…” Or you can just use the Latin binomial throughout (abbreviated as  R. cathartica ). To get picky, you should also include the authority for the species ( Poa annua L. ) or the source of the names you use.

By Rhett Johnson Last updated October 2016 by Allison Haas

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A Guide to Writing a Scientific Paper: A Focus on High School Through Graduate Level Student Research

Renee a. hesselbach.

1 NIEHS Children's Environmental Health Sciences Core Center, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

David H. Petering

2 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Craig A. Berg

3 Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Henry Tomasiewicz

Daniel weber.

This article presents a detailed guide for high school through graduate level instructors that leads students to write effective and well-organized scientific papers. Interesting research emerges from the ability to ask questions, define problems, design experiments, analyze and interpret data, and make critical connections. This process is incomplete, unless new results are communicated to others because science fundamentally requires peer review and criticism to validate or discard proposed new knowledge. Thus, a concise and clearly written research paper is a critical step in the scientific process and is important for young researchers as they are mastering how to express scientific concepts and understanding. Moreover, learning to write a research paper provides a tool to improve science literacy as indicated in the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards (1996), and A Framework for K–12 Science Education (2011), the underlying foundation for the Next Generation Science Standards currently being developed. Background information explains the importance of peer review and communicating results, along with details of each critical component, the Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results , and Discussion . Specific steps essential to helping students write clear and coherent research papers that follow a logical format, use effective communication, and develop scientific inquiry are described.

Introduction

A key part of the scientific process is communication of original results to others so that one's discoveries are passed along to the scientific community and the public for awareness and scrutiny. 1 – 3 Communication to other scientists ensures that new findings become part of a growing body of publicly available knowledge that informs how we understand the world around us. 2 It is also what fuels further research as other scientists incorporate novel findings into their thinking and experiments.

Depending upon the researcher's position, intent, and needs, communication can take different forms. The gold standard is writing scientific papers that describe original research in such a way that other scientists will be able to repeat it or to use it as a basis for their studies. 1 For some, it is expected that such articles will be published in scientific journals after they have been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. Scientists must submit their articles for examination by other scientists familiar with the area of research, who decide whether the work was conducted properly and whether the results add to the knowledge base and are conveyed well enough to merit publication. 2 If a manuscript passes the scrutiny of peer-review, it has the potential to be published. 1 For others, such as for high school or undergraduate students, publishing a research paper may not be the ultimate goal. However, regardless of whether an article is to be submitted for publication, peer review is an important step in this process. For student researchers, writing a well-organized research paper is a key step in learning how to express understanding, make critical connections, summarize data, and effectively communicate results, which are important goals for improving science literacy of the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards, 4 and A Framework for K–12 Science Education, 5 and the Next Generation Science Standards 6 currently being developed and described in The NSTA Reader's Guide to A Framework for K–12 Science Education. 7 Table 1 depicts the key skills students should develop as part of the Science as Inquiry Content Standard. Table 2 illustrates the central goals of A Framework for K–12 Science Education Scientific and Engineering Practices Dimension.

Key Skills of the Science as Inquiry National Science Education Content Standard

National Research Council (1996).

Important Practices of A Framework for K–12 Science Education Scientific and Engineering Practices Dimension

National Research Council (2011).

Scientific papers based on experimentation typically include five predominant sections: Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion . This structure is a widely accepted approach to writing a research paper, and has specific sections that parallel the scientific method. Following this structure allows the scientist to tell a clear, coherent story in a logical format, essential to effective communication. 1 , 2 In addition, using a standardized format allows the reader to find specific information quickly and easily. While readers may not have time to read the entire research paper, the predictable format allows them to focus on specific sections such as the Abstract , Introduction , and Discussion sections. Therefore, it is critical that information be placed in the appropriate and logical section of the report. 3

Guidelines for Writing a Primary Research Article

The Title sends an important message to the reader about the purpose of the paper. For example, Ethanol Effects on the Developing Zebrafish: Neurobehavior and Skeletal Morphogenesis 8 tells the reader key information about the content of the research paper. Also, an appropriate and descriptive title captures the attention of the reader. When composing the Title , students should include either the aim or conclusion of the research, the subject, and possibly the independent or dependent variables. Often, the title is created after the body of the article has been written, so that it accurately reflects the purpose and content of the article. 1 , 3

The Abstract provides a short, concise summary of the research described in the body of the article and should be able to stand alone. It provides readers with a quick overview that helps them decide whether the article may be interesting to read. Included in the Abstract are the purpose or primary objectives of the experiment and why they are important, a brief description of the methods and approach used, key findings and the significance of the results, and how this work is different from the work of others. It is important to note that the Abstract briefly explains the implications of the findings, but does not evaluate the conclusions. 1 , 3 Just as with the Title , this section needs to be written carefully and succinctly. Often this section is written last to ensure it accurately reflects the content of the paper. Generally, the optimal length of the Abstract is one paragraph between 200 and 300 words, and does not contain references or abbreviations.

All new research can be categorized by field (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics, geology) and by area within the field (e.g., biology: evolution, ecology, cell biology, anatomy, environmental health). Many areas already contain a large volume of published research. The role of the Introduction is to place the new research within the context of previous studies in the particular field and area, thereby introducing the audience to the research and motivating the audience to continue reading. 1

Usually, the writer begins by describing what is known in the area that directly relates to the subject of the article's research. Clearly, this must be done judiciously; usually there is not room to describe every bit of information that is known. Each statement needs one or more references from the scientific literature that supports its validity. Students must be reminded to cite all references to eliminate the risk of plagiarism. 2 Out of this context, the author then explains what is not known and, therefore, what the article's research seeks to find out. In doing so, the scientist provides the rationale for the research and further develops why this research is important. The final statement in the Introduction should be a clearly worded hypothesis or thesis statement, as well as a brief summary of the findings as they relate to the stated hypothesis. Keep in mind that the details of the experimental findings are presented in the Results section and are aimed at filling the void in our knowledge base that has been pointed out in the Introduction .

Materials and Methods

Research utilizes various accepted methods to obtain the results that are to be shared with others in the scientific community. The quality of the results, therefore, depends completely upon the quality of the methods that are employed and the care with which they are applied. The reader will refer to the Methods section: (a) to become confident that the experiments have been properly done, (b) as the guide for repeating the experiments, and (c) to learn how to do new methods.

It is particularly important to keep in mind item (b). Since science deals with the objective properties of the physical and biological world, it is a basic axiom that these properties are independent of the scientist who reported them. Everyone should be able to measure or observe the same properties within error, if they do the same experiment using the same materials and procedures. In science, one does the same experiment by exactly repeating the experiment that has been described in the Methods section. Therefore, someone can only repeat an experiment accurately if all the relevant details of the experimental methods are clearly described. 1 , 3

The following information is important to include under illustrative headings, and is generally presented in narrative form. A detailed list of all the materials used in the experiments and, if important, their source should be described. These include biological agents (e.g., zebrafish, brine shrimp), chemicals and their concentrations (e.g., 0.20 mg/mL nicotine), and physical equipment (e.g., four 10-gallon aquariums, one light timer, one 10-well falcon dish). The reader needs to know as much as necessary about each of the materials; however, it is important not to include extraneous information. For example, consider an experiment involving zebrafish. The type and characteristics of the zebrafish used must be clearly described so another scientist could accurately replicate the experiment, such as 4–6-month-old male and female zebrafish, the type of zebrafish used (e.g., Golden), and where they were obtained (e.g., the NIEHS Children's Environmental Health Sciences Core Center in the WATER Institute of the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee). In addition to describing the physical set-up of the experiment, it may be helpful to include photographs or diagrams in the report to further illustrate the experimental design.

A thorough description of each procedure done in the reported experiment, and justification as to why a particular method was chosen to most effectively answer the research question should also be included. For example, if the scientist was using zebrafish to study developmental effects of nicotine, the reader needs to know details about how and when the zebrafish were exposed to the nicotine (e.g., maternal exposure, embryo injection of nicotine, exposure of developing embryo to nicotine in the water for a particular length of time during development), duration of the exposure (e.g., a certain concentration for 10 minutes at the two-cell stage, then the embryos were washed), how many were exposed, and why that method was chosen. The reader would also need to know the concentrations to which the zebrafish were exposed, how the scientist observed the effects of the chemical exposure (e.g., microscopic changes in structure, changes in swimming behavior), relevant safety and toxicity concerns, how outcomes were measured, and how the scientist determined whether the data/results were significantly different in experimental and unexposed control animals (statistical methods).

Students must take great care and effort to write a good Methods section because it is an essential component of the effective communication of scientific findings.

The Results section describes in detail the actual experiments that were undertaken in a clear and well-organized narrative. The information found in the Methods section serves as background for understanding these descriptions and does not need to be repeated. For each different experiment, the author may wish to provide a subtitle and, in addition, one or more introductory sentences that explains the reason for doing the experiment. In a sense, this information is an extension of the Introduction in that it makes the argument to the reader why it is important to do the experiment. The Introduction is more general; this text is more specific.

Once the reader understands the focus of the experiment, the writer should restate the hypothesis to be tested or the information sought in the experiment. For example, “Atrazine is routinely used as a crop pesticide. It is important to understand whether it affects organisms that are normally found in soil. We decided to use worms as a test organism because they are important members of the soil community. Because atrazine damages nerve cells, we hypothesized that exposure to atrazine will inhibit the ability of worms to do locomotor activities. In the first experiment, we tested the effect of the chemical on burrowing action.”

Then, the experiments to be done are described and the results entered. In reporting on experimental design, it is important to identify the dependent and independent variables clearly, as well as the controls. The results must be shown in a way that can be reproduced by the reader, but do not include more details than needed for an effective analysis. Generally, meaningful and significant data are gathered together into tables and figures that summarize relevant information, and appropriate statistical analyses are completed based on the data gathered. Besides presenting each of these data sources, the author also provides a written narrative of the contents of the figures and tables, as well as an analysis of the statistical significance. In the narrative, the writer also connects the results to the aims of the experiment as described above. Did the results support the initial hypothesis? Do they provide the information that was sought? Were there problems in the experiment that compromised the results? Be careful not to include an interpretation of the results; that is reserved for the Discussion section.

The writer then moves on to the next experiment. Again, the first paragraph is developed as above, except this experiment is seen in the context of the first experiment. In other words, a story is being developed. So, one commonly refers to the results of the first experiment as part of the basis for undertaking the second experiment. “In the first experiment we observed that atrazine altered burrowing activity. In order to understand how that might occur, we decided to study its impact on the basic biology of locomotion. Our hypothesis was that atrazine affected neuromuscular junctions. So, we did the following experiment..”

The Results section includes a focused critical analysis of each experiment undertaken. A hallmark of the scientist is a deep skepticism about results and conclusions. “Convince me! And then convince me again with even better experiments.” That is the constant challenge. Without this basic attitude of doubt and willingness to criticize one's own work, scientists do not get to the level of concern about experimental methods and results that is needed to ensure that the best experiments are being done and the most reproducible results are being acquired. Thus, it is important for students to state any limitations or weaknesses in their research approach and explain assumptions made upfront in this section so the validity of the research can be assessed.

The Discussion section is the where the author takes an overall view of the work presented in the article. First, the main results from the various experiments are gathered in one place to highlight the significant results so the reader can see how they fit together and successfully test the original hypotheses of the experiment. Logical connections and trends in the data are presented, as are discussions of error and other possible explanations for the findings, including an analysis of whether the experimental design was adequate. Remember, results should not be restated in the Discussion section, except insofar as it is absolutely necessary to make a point.

Second, the task is to help the reader link the present work with the larger body of knowledge that was portrayed in the Introduction . How do the results advance the field, and what are the implications? What does the research results mean? What is the relevance? 1 , 3

Lastly, the author may suggest further work that needs to be done based on the new knowledge gained from the research.

Supporting Documentation and Writing Skills

Tables and figures are included to support the content of the research paper. These provide the reader with a graphic display of information presented. Tables and figures must have illustrative and descriptive titles, legends, interval markers, and axis labels, as appropriate; should be numbered in the order that they appear in the report; and include explanations of any unusual abbreviations.

The final section of the scientific article is the Reference section. When citing sources, it is important to follow an accepted standardized format, such as CSE (Council of Science Editors), APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), or CMS (Chicago Manual of Style). References should be listed in alphabetical order and original authors cited. All sources cited in the text must be included in the Reference section. 1

When writing a scientific paper, the importance of writing concisely and accurately to clearly communicate the message should be emphasized to students. 1 – 3 Students should avoid slang and repetition, as well as abbreviations that may not be well known. 1 If an abbreviation must be used, identify the word with the abbreviation in parentheses the first time the term is used. Using appropriate and correct grammar and spelling throughout are essential elements of a well-written report. 1 , 3 Finally, when the article has been organized and formatted properly, students are encouraged to peer review to obtain constructive criticism and then to revise the manuscript appropriately. Good scientific writing, like any kind of writing, is a process that requires careful editing and revision. 1

A key dimension of NRC's A Framework for K–12 Science Education , Scientific and Engineering Practices, and the developing Next Generation Science Standards emphasizes the importance of students being able to ask questions, define problems, design experiments, analyze and interpret data, draw conclusions, and communicate results. 5 , 6 In the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, we found the guidelines presented in this article useful for high school science students because this group of students (and probably most undergraduates) often lack in understanding of, and skills to develop and write, the various components of an effective scientific paper. Students routinely need to focus more on the data collected and analyze what the results indicated in relation to the research question/hypothesis, as well as develop a detailed discussion of what they learned. Consequently, teaching students how to effectively organize and write a research report is a critical component when engaging students in scientific inquiry.

Acknowledgments

This article was supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant (Award Number R25RR026299) from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The SEPA program at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee is part of the Children's Environmental Health Sciences Core Center, Community Outreach and Education Core, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (Award Number P30ES004184). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Disclosure Statement

No competing financial interests exist.

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Critical Writing Program: Decision Making - Spring 2024: Researching the White Paper

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Research the White Paper

Researching the White Paper:

The process of researching and composing a white paper shares some similarities with the kind of research and writing one does for a high school or college research paper. What’s important for writers of white papers to grasp, however, is how much this genre differs from a research paper.  First, the author of a white paper already recognizes that there is a problem to be solved, a decision to be made, and the job of the author is to provide readers with substantive information to help them make some kind of decision--which may include a decision to do more research because major gaps remain. 

Thus, a white paper author would not “brainstorm” a topic. Instead, the white paper author would get busy figuring out how the problem is defined by those who are experiencing it as a problem. Typically that research begins in popular culture--social media, surveys, interviews, newspapers. Once the author has a handle on how the problem is being defined and experienced, its history and its impact, what people in the trenches believe might be the best or worst ways of addressing it, the author then will turn to academic scholarship as well as “grey” literature (more about that later).  Unlike a school research paper, the author does not set out to argue for or against a particular position, and then devote the majority of effort to finding sources to support the selected position.  Instead, the author sets out in good faith to do as much fact-finding as possible, and thus research is likely to present multiple, conflicting, and overlapping perspectives. When people research out of a genuine desire to understand and solve a problem, they listen to every source that may offer helpful information. They will thus have to do much more analysis, synthesis, and sorting of that information, which will often not fall neatly into a “pro” or “con” camp:  Solution A may, for example, solve one part of the problem but exacerbate another part of the problem. Solution C may sound like what everyone wants, but what if it’s built on a set of data that have been criticized by another reliable source?  And so it goes. 

For example, if you are trying to write a white paper on the opioid crisis, you may focus on the value of  providing free, sterilized needles--which do indeed reduce disease, and also provide an opportunity for the health care provider distributing them to offer addiction treatment to the user. However, the free needles are sometimes discarded on the ground, posing a danger to others; or they may be shared; or they may encourage more drug usage. All of those things can be true at once; a reader will want to know about all of these considerations in order to make an informed decision. That is the challenging job of the white paper author.     
 The research you do for your white paper will require that you identify a specific problem, seek popular culture sources to help define the problem, its history, its significance and impact for people affected by it.  You will then delve into academic and grey literature to learn about the way scholars and others with professional expertise answer these same questions. In this way, you will create creating a layered, complex portrait that provides readers with a substantive exploration useful for deliberating and decision-making. You will also likely need to find or create images, including tables, figures, illustrations or photographs, and you will document all of your sources. 

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IMAGES

  1. Guidelines for Scientific Writing by American College of Healthcare

    guidelines for writing scientific papers

  2. Guidelines to scientific paper writing

    guidelines for writing scientific papers

  3. (PDF) Template and Guidelines for Writing a Scientific Paper

    guidelines for writing scientific papers

  4. guidelines for writing scientific papers

    guidelines for writing scientific papers

  5. GUIDELINES FOR WRITING SCIENTIFIC PAPERS PDF

    guidelines for writing scientific papers

  6. Science Writing vs Science

    guidelines for writing scientific papers

VIDEO

  1. writing scientific paper

  2. #11- Introduction to scientific writing

  3. Top Tips for Writing Scientific Papers High Impact Journals

  4. SOME IMPORTANT ISSUES ON SCIENTIFIC WRITING. Lecture at National Chiayi University, Taiwan, 2023

  5. How to Write a Scientific Research Paper

  6. Scientific writing 101

COMMENTS

  1. Scientific Writing Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Undergraduate Writing in the Biological Sciences

    Clear scientific writing generally follows a specific format with key sections: an introduction to a particular topic, hypotheses to be tested, a description of methods, key results, and finally, a discussion that ties these results to our broader knowledge of the topic (Day and Gastel 2012 ).

  2. PDF How to Write Paper in Scientific Journal Style and Format

    The guide addresses four major aspects of writing journal-style scientific papers: (1) Fundamental style considerations; (2) a suggested strategy for efficiently writing up research results; (3) the nuts and bolts of format and content of each section of a paper (part of learning to

  3. PDF How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper

    How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper Seventh Edition An essential guide for succeeding in today's competitive environment, this book provides beginning scientists and experienced researchers with practical advice on writing about their work and getting published. This new, updated edition discusses the latest print and internet resources.

  4. Successful Scientific Writing and Publishing: A Step-by-Step Approach

    We include an overview of basic scientific writing principles, a detailed description of the sections of an original research article, and practical recommendations for selecting a journal and responding to peer review comments.

  5. Essential Guide to Manuscript Writing for Academic Dummies: An Editor's

    Abstract. Writing an effective manuscript is one of the pivotal steps in the successful closure of the research project, and getting it published in a peer-reviewed and indexed journal adds to the academic profile of a researcher. Writing and publishing a scientific paper is a tough task that researchers and academicians must endure in staying ...

  6. How to Write a Scientific Paper: Practical Guidelines

    Key words: guidelines, scientific writing Go to: INTRODUCTION A scientific paper is the formal lasting record of a research process. It is meant to document research protocols, methods, results and conclusions derived from an initial working hypothesis. The first medical accounts date back to antiquity.

  7. How to write a first-class paper

    In each paragraph, the first sentence defines the context, the body contains the new idea and the final sentence offers a conclusion. For the whole paper, the introduction sets the context, the ...

  8. Writing Center

    How to Write an Abstract The abstract is your chance to let your readers know what they can expect from your article. Learn how to write a clear, and concise abstract that will keep your audience reading. Read more... How to Write Your Methods

  9. Guide: Writing the Scientific Paper

    Generally between 50-100 words, it should state the goals, results, and the main conclusions of your study. You should list the parameters of your study (when and where was it conducted, if applicable; your sample size; the specific species, proteins, genes, etc., studied).

  10. Writing a scientific article: A step-by-step guide for beginners

    We describe here the basic steps to follow in writing a scientific article. We outline the main sections that an average article should contain; the elements that should appear in these sections, and some pointers for making the overall result attractive and acceptable for publication. Previousarticle in issue Nextarticle in issue Keywords

  11. Scientific Writing

    Scientific Writing It is critical to understand the important elements of a scientific paper and how to most effectively describe research results in the context of your manuscript. While writing your paper can seem like an afterthought compared to years of work in the lab, the way you convey your findings can have a profound impact on editors ...

  12. PDF Guidelines for Scientific Writing

    It should provide a sentence or two of background for the study, a brief overview of the basic methods used, a summary of results, and a brief interpretation of the data. Usually this section includes the scientific name of the organisms that were studied.

  13. How to write your paper

    How to write a scientific paper. A number of articles and websites provide detailed guidelines and advice about writing and submitting scientific papers. Some suggested sources are:

  14. WRITING A SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ARTICLE

    1. The person who did the work and wrote the paper is generally listed as the first author of a research paper. 2. For published articles, other people who made substantial contributions to the work are also listed as authors. Ask your mentor's permission before including his/her name as co-author. 1.

  15. Library Research Guides: STEM: How To Write A Scientific Paper

    A scientific paper is broken down into eight sections: title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. Title The title of the lab report should be descriptive of the experiment and reflect what the experiment analyzed. Ex: "Determining the Free Chlorine Content of Pool Water" Abstract

  16. HOW TO WRITE A SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE

    Reviewers consider the following five criteria to be the most important in decisions about whether to accept manuscripts for publication: 1) the importance, timeliness, relevance, and prevalence of the problem addressed; 2) the quality of the writing style (i.e., that it is well‐written, clear, straightforward, easy to follow, and logical); 3) t...

  17. Writing a scientific paper—A brief guide for new investigators

    Writing and publishing a scientific paper in academic journals is a highly competitive, time-consuming stepwise process. The road to scientific writing and publication is rarely straightforward. ... Scientific writing has uniform format, which is perplexing for the novice science writers due to its inflexible anatomy (structure) and physiology ...

  18. Formatting guide

    As a guideline, articles typically have no more than 50 references. (There is no such constraint on any additional references associated with Methods or Supplementary Information.) Sections are...

  19. PDF Guidelines for writing scientific papers and theses

    Be sure to include the month and year in the source citation and, if applicable, the issue number in the series. 4. Writing. A scientific paper is well written if it addresses the right people, is structured logically, uses adequate formulations, and cites sources correctly.

  20. PDF GUIDELINES for Writing Scientific PapersCHBI

    In addition, the science library has several excellent guide books on writing scientific papers and lab reports. Finally, as you proofread your draft out loud, please refer to the list of TIPS TO AVOID COMMON MISTAKES IN WRITING SCIENTIFIC PAPERS! The RUBRIC included at the end of this lab manual is another useful guideline. I will use this ...

  21. Guidelines for Writing Scientific Papers in CSE Style

    Avoid "Yoda-speak.". That is, statements like "to find their density, leaves were weighed.". Instead say "leaves were weighed to find their densities.". A whole lot easier to read, your papers, if you watch this, will be. Watch dangling modifiers. For example: don't say "After pouring on the mustard, the worms rose.".

  22. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Here are some useful guidelines: o If you're writing a research paper, ... When you're writing a paper based on your own research, you will need ... Scientific papers generally include standard subheadings to delineate different sections of the paper, including "introduction," "methods," and "discussion." ...

  23. A Guide to Writing a Scientific Paper: A Focus on High School Through

    When writing a scientific paper, the importance of writing concisely and accurately to clearly communicate the message should be emphasized to students. 1-3 Students should avoid slang and repetition, as well as abbreviations that may not be well known. 1 If an abbreviation must be used, identify the word with the abbreviation in parentheses ...

  24. PDF APPENDIX E Guidelines for Writing Scientific Papers

    Guidelines for Writing Scientific Papers "Write with precision, clarity and economy. Every sentence should convey the exact truth as simply as possible." Instructions to Authors Ecology 19 64 General Comments ScientiÞc research demands precision. ScientiÞc writing should reßect this precision in the form of clarity. Unfortu-

  25. Researching the White Paper

    Researching the White Paper: The process of researching and composing a white paper shares some similarities with the kind of research and writing one does for a high school or college research paper. What's important for writers of white papers to grasp, however, is how much this genre differs from a research paper.