eCORRECTOR’s webinar. “Writing scientific manuscripts ? work smarter, not harder”

eCORRECTOR’s webinar. “Writing scientific manuscripts ? work smarter, not harder”

Last week, on the 21st of April, we held another webinar entitled: “Writing scientific manuscripts ? work smarter, not harder”. It was a huge success and we were really happy to see such a turnaround ? over 70 participants. It was moderated by co-founder and chief editor of eCORRECTOR, Dr. (hab.) Mark J. Hunt, and our main guest, who conducted the entire lecture, was Dr. Suzanne Naser who obtained her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Johns Hopkins University, USA.

The main purpose of the webinar was to show the attendees the basics of writing scientific papers, how not to lose your mind while doing it, and how to prepare your paper, and present it in the strongest possible way.

Many PhD candidates who participated were issued certificate of attendance which they could attach to their end of year report of their progress.

eCORRECTOR as a proofreading end editing company always try to help authors with the submission of their papers by offering proofreading/editing services or even just by giving some tips and pointers, that is why we want to share with you some highlights from our recent event:

1. Preparing a Manuscript

Help your work/results reach a wide audience and ?push back the scientific frontier? ? sounds corny, but you are all doing this. To do so, tailor your writing to the editor/reviewers, but also the audience/readers ? they will cite it, which brings it to a wider audience.

2. Key Aspects of the Review Process

Editor and Reviewers are asked to consider:

? Relevance ? Within the journal?s scope? Appropriate for the journal?s target audience?

? Novelty ? Contribution to the field (new knowledge or application)? Results reasonably support conclusions?

? Presentation ? Clearly written? Presented according to the journal?s guidelines?

 

Impact factor indicates the number of times the articles in a journal are cited in other studies during a particular period. For example, an impact factor of 3 indicates that each article in the journal was cited 3 times on average during the specified period. It is assumed that an article that is cited many times presents novel, interesting, or important research.

There is no correlation between acceptance/rejection rate and journal impact factor.

3. What Makes a Good Title?

Titles are searchable and the first thing a reader uses to judge whether to keep going. Overly amusing titles – won?t be searchable, could be lost in translation. So you should have it not too short to be descriptive, and not too long to be read or understood. Make it declarative (avoid ?A study of? etc.) and avoid abbreviations, and jargon.

4. Phrasing and Word Choice ? Make it Concise

Avoid too many introductory clauses

× Therefore, as shown in Fig. 3, under alkaline conditions, because of the higher number of active sites, catalyst 2 shows better activity than catalyst 1.

? Therefore, catalyst 2 outperforms catalyst 1 under alkaline conditions because it has more available active sites (Fig. 3).

Parentheses can help!

× It can be seen from Fig 2. that?

? As shown in Figure 2, ?

? Specifically, ? (Fig. 2).

This doesn?t mean you shouldn?t use transitions to help the flow!

? First, second, third, finally. (Not firstly, secondly, thirdly?)

? Furthermore/moreover/overall?

? Therefore/thus/additionally/as a result?

As you can see just from those few highlights, working on a scientific paper is not an easy one, so why not make your life a little bit easier in this department and use some professional help.

Writing scientific manuscripts

You can find out more about our proofreading and editing service here. As for the PhDs who work on your papers, you may find more information about them by visiting this site. Don’t forget to like our Facebook profile and subscribe to our YouTube channel to be in touch with our content!

Meet our editors and proofreaders: Sarah

Meet our editors and proofreaders: Sarah

dr Sarah

Sarah, PhD in history University of St Andrews

As a part of “Meet our editors and proofreaders” series, we interview some of the native speakers who edit and proofread your texts. Today we publish an interview with Sarah, PhD in History, from the University of St Andrews. She discusses her work and provides helpful advice about how to improve your academic writing.

Research interests

eCORRECTOR: What are you researching?
Sarah: I’m researching medieval English law. My main focus is on how cases were argued in court and how legal experts gained their knowledge.

eCORRECTOR: What inspires you about research?
Sarah: I really enjoy getting to read through manuscripts from 800 years ago to try to find out what people were thinking! It makes the Middle Ages seem so much more real.

eCORRECTOR: What is the major scientific challenge, in your field, for this decade?
Sarah: The major challenge to medieval legal history today is that we need to reassess the sources. Most of our scholarship is based on work done in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which focused on institutionalised law and neglected large bodies of local, customary law.

eCORRECTOR: Have you read a breakthrough paper recently?
Sarah: I recently discovered that people in the twelfth century sometimes tried to use their last wills to distribute land (which you can’t legally do in the Middle Ages). This shows that people were willing to experiment with the laws that were available to see what they could get away with.

Golden tips about writing papers

eCORRECTOR: What is your golden piece of advice when writing a paper?
Sarah: Write an outline before your start ? the more detailed, the better! Then you can just fill in the blanks with your research.

eCORRECTOR: What is the most common mistake you notice when you edit/proof papers?
Sarah: Grammatically, the construction “allows to” appears very frequently. In English grammar, words like ?allow? and ?let? have to have a direct object before the infinitive, such as ?this case allows me to examine?? as opposed to ?this case allows to examine??. You can also get around this by saying, ?this case allows for the examination of??, which is just a slightly different construction that lets you avoid the first person. Ridiculous, I know! 

eCORRECTOR: Do you have a presentation/stylistic tip?
Sarah: Use the same font throughout the entire paper, 12 point for the main text and 10 point for the footnotes. It seems like a small thing, but it makes a very big difference to how professional your paper looks.

eCORRECTOR: What example phrase should you use when writing a paper?
Sarah: I’m quite fond of the phrase “X is crucial for our understanding of Y because…” . It makes the point very strongly!

About tools and motivation

eCORRECTOR: How do you get motivated to start writing a paper?
Sarah: I start by organising all my evidence. Once I’ve done that, I can see what kind of an outline I need to write and might even have half of the paper written already!
When I’m having a hard time getting started, I set a timer for 15 minutes. Then, I write as much as I can in that time (even if it’s nonsense) and see what I have. The time limit makes me feel like I am writing for a deadline and doesn’t let me procrastinate.

eCORRECTOR: Can you recommend any app/tool for improving scientific writing?
Sarah: I highly recommend using Zotero or another citation software (Endnote, Mendeley) to do your references. This will ensure that you use the same format throughout and takes care of all the repeat references by automatically using “ibid.” and short-form citations.
Grammarly is also helpful, but the professional version can do more harm than good for non-English speakers, as it does not always understand what you are trying to say and will suggest things that are incorrect.

Scientific English: Getting your writing right

Scientific English: Getting your writing right

SCIENTIFIC ENGLISH: GETTING YOUR WRITING RIGHT

The guide, prepared by Jerry Carr-Brion, PhD, gives useful advice on planning your writing, guidance on style and common errors to be avoided.

You can find here:

  • Things to do before you start writing
  • Advice on style ? it should be simple, straightforward and as clear as possible
  • Twenty Common Mistakes made by non-native speakers writers

INTRODUCTION

  • Writing scientific English when it isn?t your first language can be a challenge. Having a native proofreader check your work is essential if you want to get your message across clearly and submit a professional-looking paper or report. However, as a proofreader myself, I realise that there are a number of steps that an author can take prior to copy-editing and proofreading to make the draft clearer. The fewer the mistakes at this point, the easier the copy-editing and proofreading tasks become and the less likely it is that alterations to the intended meaning will be accidently introduced. This article gives useful advice on planning your writing, guidance on style and common errors to be avoided.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU START WRITING

  • Check you?ve done all the experiments you need to. Before you do anything else, check that there aren?t any gaps in your work. It?s easy to miss out control experiments or full characterization of chemical or biochemical substances. It?s best to do these now rather than have a referee point them out later.
  • Decide what needs to be in the paper and what doesn?t. It may be necessary to leave out some results that aren?t really relevant.
  • Carefully read the ?instructions to authors? in the journal you aim to publish in. It?s worth looking at a number of papers in a similar field to yours in the journal to see how the rules are applied in practice. Follow the format and rules given, particularly with regard to the length of articles, abstracts, etc.
  • Decide whether you want UK English or US English, setting this as your language preference for the whole document. As a proofreader, I often get documents where the language setting changes from UK English to US English in the middle of the document. So ??the successful modelling of a novel, coloured carotenoid-protein complex? (UK) in the abstract becomes ??the successful modeling of a novel, colored carotenoid-protein complex? (US) in the conclusion. Decide on one form of English and stick with it throughout. Incidentally, Australian and New Zealand English is virtually the same as UK English, if you happen to be writing for those countries.

Decide on the sections you want in your document. Typically these will be the following: abstract, introduction, experimental method, results, discussion, conclusion, references and appendices/diagrams. However, the exact format will depend on the type of document and where it will be published.

ADVICE ON STYLE

  • Keep your writing simple and straightforward. Long sentences with several clauses often lead to confusion. They may be perfectly clear in your native language, but ambiguous when put into English. For example:

?The protein/ligand complex isolated by the microcentrifugation procedure and subjected to the stability protocol was bound using the coupling catalyst to the second ligand isolated by HPLC, giving a substance of lesser stability than was found in its previous state prior to the process.?

Here the proofreader is baffled: they guess that the ?substance? may refer to ?the protein/ligand complex?. However, they can?t rule out the possibility that ?substance? may refer to the second ligand. ?Process? might refer to ?microcentrifugation?, ?the stability protocol?, ?the binding? or the ?HPLC?.  Was the ?HPLC? on the ?protein/ligand complex? or on just the ?second ligand?? After ten similar, ambiguous sentences, the proofreader is ready to quit in disgust.

Split up such sentences into two or three shorter ones, making sure that it?s clear what words such as ?substance? or ?process? refer to. If you have more than one complex you can always refer to them as ?complex 1?, complex 2? etc. You can always use ?i.e.? if the meaning is still unclear. A clearer version of the above long sentence might read:

Protein/ligand complex 1, which had previously been isolated by the microcentrifugation procedure, was bound using the coupling catalyst to a second ligand, giving protein/ligand complex 2. The second ligand had been isolated by HPLC prior to the coupling. Both complex 1 and complex 2 were subjected to the stability protocol, the former being found to be more stable.?

On the other hand, only ever using short, single-phrase sentences can seem somewhat childish. You don?t just have to use ?and? to link them. ?But?, ?yet? and ?while? are useful conjunctions when comparing two things. For example, the following piece has too many short sentences:

?The protecting groups underwent hydrolysis in the presence of dilute hydrochloric acid. Attempts to hydrolyse under basic conditions with sodium hydroxide were unsuccessful. Under these conditions decomposition occurred.?

This could be rewritten as:

?The protecting groups underwent hydrolysis in the presence of dilute hydrochloric acid, while attempts to hydrolyse under basic conditions were unsuccessful because decomposition occurred.?

  • The bulk of a paper, including the experimental method and results, is normally written in the past tense. Avoid changing between the past and present tenses in the middle of a description:

‘The resulting mixture was centrifuged at 15,000 g in order to remove unwanted solids. This gives a largely clear peptide solution. The peptide was further purified by preparative reversed-phase HPLC.?

In the above example, ?gives? should be replaced with ?gave?.

In an introduction, you can write in the present tense about established ?facts? or uncontentious theories, e.g. ?Proteins are often purified by ion-exchange chromatography.? However, where there is controversy between scientists in a particular field, it?s best to use the past tense, e.g. ?Whereas Bloggs et al. (5) claimed that the antibiotic adopted a dimeric structure in basic solutions, Mustermann et al. (6) claimed that the trimer was the main form present.? Here there is no consensus, so neither claim should be reported as established fact, although both should be referenced if there is reasonable doubt about who is correct.

  • Avoid overblown prose with unnecessary adjectives. A sentence such as ?The ever-changing past decades have seen a tremendous, continuous augmentation in the overall powers of chromatographic resolution? sounds less pompous if rewritten as ?Chromatographic resolution has greatly improved over recent decades.?

TWENTY COMMON MISTAKES

1. Leaving out ?the? or ?a?: ?We removed obtained precipitate with Büchner filtration apparatus? should be ?We removed the obtained precipitate with a Büchner filtration apparatus.?

2. Putting in ?the? when not needed. In English, most nouns referring to physical objects have either ?a? or ?the? in front of them (alternatively, appropriate words such as ?some?, ?any?, ?each?, ?no?, ?both?, ?either?, ?neither?, ?this?, ?that?, ?these?, ?those?, ?every?, ?few?, ?all? or a particular number can be used instead). However, there are some cases, typically when discussing a class of objects in general, where no article or equivalent is needed. So ?The chromatographic methods are essential for modern biochemistry? should be ?Chromatographic methods are essential for modern biochemistry.? On the other hand, ?The chromatographic methods used by us were IEC and GPC? is correct, since it refers to specific methods, not methods in general.

3. Putting adjectives after a noun, not before, such as ?The precipitate above-mentioned was centrifuged?, when it should be ?The above-mentioned precipitate was centrifuged.?

4. Misplaced apostrophes, such as ?Alzheimers? disease? (should be ?Alzheimer?s disease?) or the ?Both precipitate?s were?? (this should be ?Both precipitates were??). Note that in statistics it should be ?Student?s t-test? with a capital letter and an apostrophe, since ?Student? was a pseudonym.

5. Makes of instrument placed after the model, such as ?HPLC was carried out with a 1290 Infinity II Agilent? should be ?HPLC was carried out with an Agilent 1290 Infinity II.? Think ?Volkswagen Golf? not ?Golf Volkswagen?.

6. Decimal points as commas, not full stops (periods). This can be dangerous. Writing ?Carefully add 1,250 g of the unstable catalyst?, when it should be 1.250 g, might lead to one thousand two hundred and fifty grams being added when it should be one and a quarter grams. All English-speaking countries use full stops (periods) for decimals.

7. Misuse of ?during?. ?The mixture was heated during 5 hours? should be ?The mixture was heated for 5 hours.? ?During? normally refers to something that happened within a particular period of time, for example ?The mixture was heated for 5 hours; during this time a yellow solid precipitated.?

8.The misuse of ?made? where ?carried out? or ?run? is needed: ?The experiment was made under both acidic and basic conditions? should be ?The experiment was run under both acidic and basic conditions.? In English we make a cake or make a noise, but carry out or run experiments.

9. The use of ?of? where ?in? is needed: ?An increase of weight of 2 g? should be ?An increase in weight of 2 g?. Similarly, ?A rise of temperature of 2?C? should be ?A rise in temperature of 2?C?.

10. Use of verbs such as ?allow? or ?permit? with an infinitive (this has to be done carefully in English): ?Cooling the mixture allowed to obtain the product as a yellow precipitate? should be ?Cooling the mixture allowed us to obtain the product as a yellow precipitate? or ?Cooling the mixture allowed the product to be obtained as a yellow precipitate.? Take care with ?allowed to obtain?, ?allowing to obtain?, ?permitting to succeed?, etc. Normally just add ?us? to the phrase to turn it into correct English.

11. Using ?what? where ?which? is needed: ?The macrocycle contains unstable bonds, what result in its gradual decomposition when removed from the cell? should be ?The macrocycle contains unstable bonds, which result in its gradual decomposition when removed from the cell.?

12. Using plural verbs where a singular is needed: ?The examination of plasma and urine samples give useful information? should be ?The examination of plasma and urine samples gives useful information.? Similarly, ?A subset of these samples were analysed? should be ?A subset of these samples was analysed.? Think about which word is the subject of the sentence.

13. Misuse of ?however? as a conjunction: ?The protein was unstable in aqueous methanol, however it was stable in aqueous DMSO? should be ?The protein was unstable in aqueous methanol; however, it was stable in aqueous DMSO.? The word ?however? can?t be used as a conjunction, although one often finds this misuse, even with native English writers.

14. Using ?in? for columns, evaporators, etc.: ?The glycosides were separated in an HPLC column.? Here ?in? should be replaced by ?on?, ?with? or ?by? (any of these is fine for columns). Similarly, we remove solvent ?on a rotary evaporator? or ?with a rotary evaporator?. However, we do dry solids ?in an oven?, stir substances ?in a flask? and work ?in a glovebox? when necessary.

15. Use of a verb before the subject: ?For determining viral structure is useful electron microscopy? should be ?Electron microscopy is useful for determining viral structure.? In English verbs come before their subjects in some questions (?Was it possible??) or in some conditional phrases (?Only when the crystals fail to form should the anti-solvent be added?). In general, keep to the usual ?subject-verb-object? word order.

16. Use of ?works? to mean papers, studies or references: ?Various works have reported abnormal bacterial flora? should be ?Various papers have reported abnormal bacterial flora.?

17. Confusion between ?lead? and ?led?; ?These results lead us to change our approach, and so we started using platinum catalysts? should be ?These results led us to change our approach, and so we started using platinum catalysts.? ?Lead? is the present tense, while ?led? is the past tense and the form you?ll normally need to use.

18. Not using the perfect tense when it?s needed: ?Despite impure extracts being used for many years, the pure trisaccharide was not yet isolated? should be ?Despite impure extracts being used for many years, the pure trisaccharide has not yet been isolated.? The perfect tense often refers to past actions or situations where the time is not specified and continues into the present, e.g. ?Protein crystallization has been a challenge for many years.?

19. Using the perfect tense where the simple past is needed: ?The addition of acetic acid gave a precipitate, which has been removed by filtration? should be ?The addition of acetic acid gave a precipitate, which was removed by filtration.? Experiments are normally reported using the simple past (i.e. use ?was? or ?were? not ?has been? or ?have been?).

20. Use of double negatives. In English, two negatives words, such as ?not? or ?no?, make a positive statement. So ?We didn?t obtain no crystals on adding ammonia solution? means that some crystals were obtained. The sentence should be ?We didn?t obtain any crystals on adding ammonia solution.?  Pink Floyd may have sung ?We don?t need no education?, but such phrases are best avoided in formal writing.

CONCLUSIONS

Writing technical English is a complex process, and an article such as this cannot possibly cover all the issues that can arise. Fortunately, there are many useful web resources dealing with English grammar and spelling, along with a large number of books published in many languages. However, so long as your meaning is unambiguous, a good proofreader will correct any mistakes, so you don?t have to write perfectly.

The more you practice writing in English, the more enjoyable the process will become.

Article Writing Guide for Molecular Biology

Article Writing Guide for Molecular Biology

This guide is designed for authors intending to submit their work for publication in international peer-reviewed journals. This edition of the guide focuses on molecular biology and provides useful information that will assist authors as they prepare their manuscripts for submission. This guide provides an overview of the main sections of a standard manuscript (abstract, introduction, methods, results, figures and discussion). Advice on how each section should be arranged, as well as certain things to avoid, can be found in the guide.

TITLE

  • The article title should be self-explanatory.
  • The title should make the work clear without having to read the paper itself.
  • The title should be a firm, declarative statement. Avoid using phrases such as “Studies of?” or “Investigation of?”
  • An example of a good title is as follows: “The Effects of Light and Temperature on the Growth of Populations of the Bacterium, Escherichia coli”.

The title reports what the author has done by addressing three things:

  1. The environmental factors that were manipulated (light, temperature).
  2. The parameter that was measured (growth).
  3. The specific organism that was studied (Escherichia coli).
  • If the title had been only “Effects of Light and Temperature on Escherichia coli“, the reader would have to guess which parameters were measured. (Were the effects on reproduction, survival, dry weight or something else?)
  • If the title had been “Effect of Environmental Factors on Growth of Escherichia coli “, the reader would not know which environmental factors were manipulated.
  • If the title had been “Effects of Light and Temperature on the Growth of an Organism”, then the reader would not know which organism was studied.

ABSTRACT

  • In general, abstract addresses the following questions.
    • What is the importance of the manuscript? (potential connection to human interest, disease, process discovery, long-standing questions, etc.)
    • What is the question being posed in the article?
      • This will be related to the introduction. Make sure to clearly state the purpose in the first or second sentence.
    • What were approaches taken to answer the question?
      • This will be further expanded in the methods section. Name or briefly describe the key methodology without going into excessive detail.
    • What are the results?
      • Report the results related to the question that was asked.
    • Why do the results matter? (connection to the big picture)

An abstract should not contain:

  • Lengthy background information
  • References to other literature
  • Abbreviations or terms that would be confusing to the reader
  • Any form of illustrations, figures, tables, or references to them
  • Since the abstract can have a word limit, it is important for it to be succinct while providing the most information possible. Below is an example of how to keep the information direct and easy to understand.
    • Problem example: Taken together, these results represent the first demonstration of silencing of a metabolic gene central to pathogenesis by aberrant DNA methylation, offering a possible explanation for the less malignant phenotype of XX cells relative to YY-dependent cells.
    • Improved example: Our results demonstrate silencing of a metabolic gene central to pathogenesis by aberrant DNA methylation, offering a possible explanation for the less malignant growth phenotype of XX cells relative to YY-dependent cells.
    • Best example: Here we provide the first direct link between metabolic gene silencing by aberrant DNA methylation and pathogenesis. Importantly, these findings offer a possible molecular explanation for the less malignant phenotype of XX cells relative to YY-dependent cells.
  • Since the abstract is a precise summary of the manuscript, it should be written last.

INTRODUCTION

The manuscript introduction serves several functions.

  1. To establish the context of the work. It is important to discuss relevant primary research literature, including proper citations, and summarizing the current understanding of the investigated problem.
  2. States the purpose in the form of a hypothesis.
  3. Explains the rationale, approach, and possible outcomes that the study provides.

The information contained in the introduction should flow in a logical manner that is easy for the reader to process. An example structure is as follows.

  1. Begin the introduction by clearly identifying the subject area of interest.
    • Use key words from the title in the first few sentences of the introduction to focus the topic. This allows for focus on the manuscript subject without becoming too general.
    • For example, in an animal behavior paper, the words behavior and hormone would appear in the first few sentences of the introduction.
  2. Provide a brief review of relevant, published literature.
    • Give a general review of the primary research literature with citations. However, do not include lengthy background explanations.
    • Begin with a general idea then narrow the focus to the specific topic. For example, use the literature to start broadly (hormonal modulation of behaviors) to the specific topic of interest (effect of studied reproductive hormone on mating behavior in mice).
    • Cite articles specific to the study and not general background references.
  3. Clearly state the hypothesis/purpose of the manuscript.
  4. Give a clear rationale for your approach to the problem presented.
    • For example, state briefly how you approached the problem. This typically follows the hypothesis statement.  The rationale for the study can address why you chose this type of experimental design, the scientific merits of your particular model system, and the advantages of using your system to explore the issue.

Do not include specific techniques in the introduction as they will be discussed in the materials and methods section.

MATERIALS & METHODS

This section serves as a guideline to experimental design and execution. It should be written in such a way that other researchers can repeat your experiments with little difficulty.

The materials and methods section follows a general structure and organization.

  1. It discusses the organism(s) studied (human, animal, etc.) and their pre-experiment handling and care.
  2. It gives experimental/sample design. For example, list how the experiment was structured.  Give controls, treatment conditions, the measured variable, the number of samples collected, replicates, etc.
  3. List the protocol used for data collection and explain how the experimental procedures were carried out.
  4. Report how the data were analyzed. This can be qualitative analyses, statistical procedures, or whatever is applicable for the experiments performed.

It is common for the materials and methods section to be too wordy. It is important to avoid repeatedly using a single sentence to describe a single action.  There are simple ways to make your method descriptions more concise but still easily understandable.

  • Problem example: The petri dish was placed on the turntable. The lid was then raised slightly. An inoculating loop was used to transfer culture to the agar surface. The turntable was rotated 90 degrees by hand. The loop was moved lightly back and forth over the agar to spread the culture. The bacteria were then incubated at 37o C for 24 hr.
  • Improved Example: Each plate was placed on a turntable and streaked at opposing angles with fresh overnight coli culture using an inoculating loop. The bacteria were then incubated at 37o C for 24 hr.
  • Best example: Each plate was streaked with fresh overnight coli culture and incubated at 37o C for 24 hr.
  • Include the company information (company, location) for uncommon, purchased reagents.

RESULTS

  • The body of the results section is a text-based presentation of the key findings which includes references to each of the figures and/or tables.
  • It is easiest to write the results based off of figures and/or tables. The structure of the text should follow the sequence of the figures and/or tables.
  • Present the experimental results in a sequence that will logically support the hypothesis.
  • The results are essential for the discussion, so only present the data. It will be further expanded in the discussion section.
  • The key results that are presented depend on the questions that were asked. They may include obvious trends, critical differences, similarities, correlations, etc.

Easy ways to keep the results understandable and simple for the reader:

  • Do not reiterate the exact values from a figure or table. Only convey the key result or trend.
  • Do not report raw data values when they can be generalized in the text.

It?s important to include negative results even if they don?t support your hypothesis.

FIGURES & TABLES

  • As a general rule, figures are used for comparison of experimental results while tables give actual experimental results.
  • Figures and tables should be self-explanatory and able to be understood without reference to the text.
  • Figures and table should be sequentially numbered.
  • Figures and tables are assigned numbers separately and in the sequence they are referred to in the text.

Each figure or table must include a brief description of the results being presented in a legend.

  • Figure legends are positioned below the figure.
  • Table legends are positioned above the table.

Appearance is critical.

  • Avoid crowded plots and use well-selected graph scales.
  • Use an appropriate axis label size for easy readability.
  • Include clear symbols and data sets that are easy to distinguish.
  • Do not add extensive, cumbersome tables as they can be included in the supplementary material.

DISCUSSION

  • The point of the discussion is to interpret your results in light of what was already known about the investigation subject and to explain how your results give a new understanding of the problem.
  • The discussion will connect to the introduction through the hypothesis but will not repeat the introduction. Instead, it tells how your particular study has moved the field forward from what was known in the introduction.

There are fundamental questions that can be addressed in the discussion.

  1. Do your results provide answers to your hypothesis? How do you interpret those findings?
  2. Do your findings agree with the published literature? If not, do they suggest an alternative explanation?
  3. Given your findings, what is the new understanding of your investigated hypothesis presented in the introduction?
  4. If warranted, what are the next experiments in your study, e.g., what experiments would you perform next?
  • Do not introduce new results in the discussion section. However, you can introduce a schematic diagram showing how your findings contribute to the current knowledge.  For example, if you were studying a membrane-bound transporter, and you discovered new information about its mechanism, you might present a diagram showing how your findings help to explain the transporter?s mechanism.
  • Don?t oversell the future. Try not to over-interpret your findings or the implications of the study.  This makes it easier for reviewers to find fault with your manuscript.

GENERAL

  • Make sure to know and understand the Instructions to Authors for the your journal of interest. They often give word/page limits, figure guidelines, and reference styles.  It is crucial to adhere to their guidelines.
  • Have several people (both in your field and out) read over the manuscript. Make sure it is readily understandable to a broader audience.

Article Writing Guide: the Chemical Sciences

Article Writing Guide: the Chemical Sciences

This guide is designed to assist authors and editors in the preparation of scholarly articles in the chemical sciences. The overall aims of a research article should be that it gives a comprehensive overview of the research it describes, presenting information clearly and accurately without excessive repetition or embellishment. This guide will give an overview of the main objectives of each article section, and pointers for how they should be constructed. Finally, the visual presentation and formatting of articles will also be discussed.

Ideally an article is presented neatly, consistently, error-free and ultimately as if it has been prepared with due care and attention to detail. These details are often treated as of secondary importance, but can affect how your paper is perceived, especially by editors and reviewers who may be pressed for time, so it is important to give the best impression possible.

TITLE

The title of an article should use the fewest number of words possible that clearly and accurately reflect the contents of the article. It should describe what the research is about, also ideally mentioning the key result, e.g. ?The use of lithium salts as electrolytes in Li?S batteries leads to increased cell capacity and stability? is better than ?Investigation into the use of lithium salts as electrolytes for use in Li?S batteries?. Avoid the use of undefined acronyms (unless very well known, e.g. NMR, SEM, etc.) and try to include relevant keywords that will help your article to appear in relevant searches.

Authors will often write their title first. Once you?ve finished your article, make sure to go back and re-read your title:

  • Is it clear and concise?
  • Does it accurately describe the key focus of the article?
  • Does it allude to a key or interesting result?
  • If somebody in your field was looking for a paper on this topic, what would they be typing into a search engine ? would the title of your paper be easy to find?
  • Is it free from errors and formatted correctly? Are chemical formulae correct, e.g. CO2 vs. CO2? (See formatting section)

ABSTRACT

The abstract should be a brief, clear summary of your entire paper in approximately 100?250 words, containing a quick background of the topic and explaining the motivation for the research presented, how it was performed, the headline results and a concluding remark about implications for future research, potential applications and/or the field in general. As with the title, it is really important to get this part of the manuscript right, as it is often the only part a reviewer will have access to before deciding whether or not to review. It is also the first part any reader will look at, informing them of the quality and content of the paper. Again, it is beneficial to try and include keywords that will help your article to appear in relevant searches.

Once you have finished your whole article, it is very useful to return to the abstract to check that is still describes the text of the paper, clearly and accurately:

  • Is it clear and concise?
  • Does it accurately describe the key focus of the article?
  • Does it accurately describe the main results of the paper and what has been achieved?
  • Is it free from errors and formatted consistently and correctly? (See formatting section)

INTRODUCTION

An introduction should set your research into the context of the wider literature, explaining the background of the problem that you are trying to solve. The first paragraph should be a very broad introduction to the problem and why it is interesting in general (is it related to energy storage, drinking water, pharmaceuticals, specific diseases, consumer technology, sustainability, food production etc.?). The next 2?3 paragraphs should then describe in more detail the previous research in the literature surrounding this problem, and what has been achieved so far by both others and indeed your own previous research (try to reference this work in an appropriately balanced manner). By the end of these paragraphs it should be apparent that there is a shortcoming in our knowledge that needs to be addressed, which leads into the final paragraph outlining the aims and objectives of the article, and the overall hypothesis that you originally wanted to test.

When you have finished your introduction, read it through with the following questions in mind:

  • Will the reader understand the significance of the work and why the research has been carried out?
  • Does it provide the reader with an understanding of how the work fits into the broader literature?
  • Are the aims and hypothesis of the research clearly explained?
  • Are the references appropriate and balanced?
  • Is it free from errors and formatted consistently and correctly? (See formatting section)

EXPERIMENTAL

The most important aspect of the experimental section is that it contains all of the necessary information required for another scientist to replicate your experiments and reproduce your results. Of course, knowledge of standard procedures can be assumed (e.g. drying of solvents, standard reaction setups, separation and purification techniques, etc.). However, precise conditions must be reported if relevant (e.g. temperature, pressure, mass, concentration, solvent, atmosphere, etc.). It is also acceptable to reference previously reported procedures, as long as this is done accurately and the reference given contains the complete information required.

Common practice is to have an initial subsection (1. Materials) describing a comprehensive list of the materials that were used in the research, their purity and where they were obtained from, as well as any appropriate discussion of further purification or storage procedures that were necessary. Then a subsection describing analytical procedures (2. Characterisation) should be included, detailing all characterisation techniques that were employed, the make and model number of instrumentation used as well as the exact operating parameters where appropriate (e.g. temperature, flow rate, wavelength, etc.). The following subsections should list experiments in a logical order, including all relevant experimental details and characterisation data for any compounds made. Finally, if any ethical statement is required, for example due to the use of laboratory animals or human volunteers, this should be included in the experimental section also.

When you have finished your experimental section, go back and read through it:

  • Does it contain the details of all of the materials and instrumentation that were used?
  • Does it contain all of the information required to replicate the complete set of experiments, in order that another scientist could produce the same results?
  • Does it contain all necessary characterisation data? If necessary, does it contain an ethical statement?
  • Is it free from errors and formatted consistently and correctly? (See formatting section)

RESULTS & DISCUSSION

Though other parts of the article have a certain importance with respect to gaining the attention of your readers, the Results & Discussion section is the heart of the article, containing the most important information detailing the outcome of your research and what the results mean. The results should be ordered logically and can either be presented in isolation prior to discussion, or interspersed with the discussion if this is more appropriate. While figures and tables can be used to include more complete data, only the data that bears direct relevance on the discussion should be included in the main text (if complete data are also lengthy and not required to read and understand the article, consider removing them from the article and instead submitting them as supplementary information).

As you discuss your results make sure to keep the original purpose of the paper in mind and try to bring the discussion back to this point wherever possible. This will make the paper more focussed and reinforce the relevance of the work to the reader. While discussing the impact of your results, try also to compare them to other recent work, referencing as appropriate. Of course you should highlight the positive attributes of your research, but try also to be self-critical and clearly explain any shortcomings or areas that require improvement. Try also to avoid excessive repetition, and keep the discussion concise and to the point.

Reading back through your Results & Discussion section, ask yourself:

  • Is it presented in a logical order that tells a complete story to the reader?
  • Are complex arguments clearly explained and backed up by evidence?
  • Is the impact of the work clearly explained and put into context with the wider literature?
  • Are any potential points for improvement clearly discussed?
  • Are any discussion points repeated too often?
  • Does the focus of this section clearly relate back to the aims of the paper as outlined in the abstract and introduction?
  • Is it free from errors and formatted consistently and correctly? (See formatting section)

CONCLUSIONS

The conclusions should ideally be a short and concise account of the key results of the paper and what has been achieved, with emphasis on why this is novel and the corresponding impact. It is customary to end this section with a few closing remarks on the broader significance and future directions of the presented research.

FORMATTING

Often overlooked and sometimes considered of secondary importance, formatting and consistency are important to present your research clearly to editors and reviewers, and instil confidence in them that the work has been prepared carefully and accurately. Make sure to thoroughly check through your manuscript for consistency in numbering and formatting of section headings and subheadings, spelling of chemical names, use of punctuation, use of font size and typeface, numbering of figures and tables, formatting of references, and consistency in use of American vs. British English (e.g. ?polymerise? vs. ?polymerize?). Always check for and follow any relevant guidelines supplied by the publisher of the journal to which you are going to submit your work. In general, here are some common pitfalls to try and avoid:

  • Hyphenated terms ? check your whole manuscript to ensure that you have not alternated between e.g. ?supercapacitor?, ?super capacitor? and ?super-capacitor?. Make sure these terms are consistent throughout the manuscript. In this example case, only one is correct, but the mistake stands out much more if it is inconsistent with the rest of the text.
  • Compound name spelling errors are not usually picked up by spell checking software unless you have added the spellings to your dictionary. Make sure to go through your paper and check that there are no hidden typos in chemical names and formulae.
  • Acronyms and definitions ?define an acronym once the first time that it is used in the article, then ensure to consistently use the acronym alone throughout the rest of the article. E.g. ?The monomer was polymerised using nitroxide mediated polymerisation (NMP). NMP was employed as it allowed careful control over the resulting molecular weight.?
  • Use of hyphen (-), minus sign (?), en dash (?) and em dash (?). These symbols are not the same and they are not usually interchangeable. Try to make sure that they are used appropriately and consistently throughout your manuscript, particularly in the title and abstract. A hyphen is used when breaking a word between two lines, in a hyphenated phrase e.g. a benzene-derived compound, or in compound names e.g. 1,2,3-trimethylbenzene. A minus sign is a mathematical symbol and so should be used in units and equations, e.g. ??G or mol dm?3. An en dash is used to indicate a range, e.g. ?samples were centrifuged at 3000?6000 rpm?, it can indicate a conflict or connection between two words, e.g. ?reversible addition?fragmentation transfer polymerisation? or ?dose?response curve?, and it is also commonly used as a single chemical bond (whereas the equals sign, =, can be used as a double bond) in written chemical notation, e.g. CH3?CH=CH2. The em dash can be used parenthetically, e.g. ?the previously synthesised compound ? 3,5-dihydroxybenzyl alcohol ? was added to the stirring solution?, and it can also be used in place of a colon, e.g. ?the anode possessed excellent stability ? it retained 95% of its initial capacity after 1000 cycles?.
  • When stating temperatures, units are °F, °C or K (Kelvin does not have a degree symbol). Additionally, try to consistently use the degree symbol, and not superscript ?o? or ?0? as this can lead to formatting issues in publication.
  • Variables should always be in italics e.g. ?pV = nRT? or ?n, where n is equal to a value between 1 and 3?.
  • Latin abbreviations such as et al., e.g., i.e. or etc. should be in italic typeface ? again, check for consistency.
  • Double check all citations in the main text to numbered figures, tables, equations and references to ensure that they refer to the correct piece of information.
  • Try to cite tables and figures consistently, i.e. do not alternate between ?Figure 1?, ?Fig. 1? and ?Fig 1?.
  • Try to cite references with a consistent format, using en dashes to indicate a range of references, e.g. ??has already been demonstrated in several recent studies.[12?15]? Usually citations should go on the outside of punctuation, e.g. ?studies.[12?15]? and not ?studies [12?15].?
  • References should be formatted consistently. Check for missing information (e.g. volume or page numbers, missing spaces or punctuation, incorrectly formatted text, etc.) and remember to use en dashes for page ranges. Make sure authors? names are presented consistently and spelled correctly, including diacritical marks (e.g. é, ö, ?, etc.).

FIGURES

Figures contribute significantly to the overall appearance of a manuscript and also contain much of the key data. As such, try to present them clearly, neatly and consistently. Where appropriate make sure to include axes labels, units, scale bars, error bars, legends and any other information that would be expected in a certain figure type. Check the spelling of any text contained in an image file, as these are often where spelling mistakes can creep in. Try to be consistent with use of typeface, font size, notation, alignment and scale where possible.

Guide to Academic Writing in the Social Science

Guide to Academic Writing in the Social Science

The guide regarding the academic writing in the social science has been prepared by B. Schultz, PhD, a qualified sociologist. The publication elaborates upon crucial, yet often neglected aspects of editing papers in social sciences. It covers all stages of preparing a scientific publication and helps to avoid certain mistakes and improve the quality of the paper.

General Tips on Social Sciences Writing

Unlike in the hard sciences, many publications in the social sciences allow and even encourage the use of first-person ?I? and ?we? statements to avoid the passive voice. Write in an active and direct manner as much as possible. Although first-person language is permissible, however, it is important to maintain a professional and objective tone throughout.

Some sub-disciplines have their own conventions that do not necessarily reflect the format suggested here. More theoretical approaches, for example, may not have methods that yield results, and therefore do not require sections labeled as such. Prior to writing, be sure to survey the publications in your field to get an idea of what conventions and styles they expect. Develop a list of possible publications where you could submit the article.

Using quotes from relevant literature is acceptable, but only do so if the quote in its original form is crucial to your thesis or argument. Always include a page number when using a quote.

Every publication has its own style requirements that must be followed. In addition to basic concerns like spacing, font type and size, and margins, there will be requirements concerning indentation, capitalization, citations, the use of headings and subheadings, and the like. Tables and figures will have their own requirements.

Basic Article Layout Title

KEY ADVICE: The title is the ?face? of your article, and should be carefully considered. Keep it concise and informative, and avoid jargon and abbreviations that are not common knowledge. Social sciences titles follow three basic conventions:

The most common convention is to place a descriptive sentence after brief keywords, punctuated with a colon:

  • ?Competitive authoritarianism: Applying theory to understand the resurgence of populist strongmen in Eastern Europe.?
  • Conversely, the keywords may come at the end of the title:
  • ?Applying theory to understand the resurgence of populist strongmen: Competitive authoritarianism and Eastern Europe.?

A second convention is to ask a provocative question and follow it with a descriptive sentence:

  • ?Is liberal democracy doomed? Explaining the rise of competitive authoritarian politics in Eastern Europe.?

Finally, a single descriptive sentence explaining the purpose of the study is completely acceptable:

  • ?Using comparative political analysis to explain the rise of Eastern European populism.?

ABSTRACT

KEY ADVICE: In addition to the title, the abstract is the portion of your article that that will determine the extent to which it is read. After reading the abstract, a reader should have an idea of the paper?s purpose, the methods used, and the major findings. Most publications in the social sciences do not want you to break up your abstract into defined sections (methods, results, conclusions). The text should read as one continuous paragraph that concisely and seamlessly presents information.

Most publications limit abstracts to between 250 and 300 words. Do not exceed the word limit.

Abstracts with typos or poor drafting reflect negatively on the rest of the article.

Begin with two or three sentences situating your study within the relevant literature and debates in the field. Citations are not usually necessary, unless the paper is explicitly about a prior publication.

Present your argument or thesis, and state how you address the issue or issues raised in the paper.

Conclude by summarizing the most important findings, making a reference to how your paper resolves the issues presented.

Choose three to five keywords that are commonly used in your sub-discipline to accompany your abstract.

INTRODUCTION

Most introductions should be two or three paragraphs long. Although you should include citations that situate your work within the existing literature, there is no need to elaborate upon prior work. Keep the content brief and guide the reader through the layout of the paper.

The first few sentences should set up the central issue you of the paper.

In the first paragraph, cite the work that has already been done, indicate what is inconclusive or missing or unknown, and state how your paper addresses those gaps.

In the final paragraph of the introduction, explicitly state the purpose of the paper using sentences like, ?The aim of this paper is??

Follow the statement of purpose with the research questions. They may be posed in the form of a question, or simply stated as areas of interest.

State how you address those questions through the literature and methods that you chose.

Writing the introduction last can be beneficial because you can offer a more complete overview of the content.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The perceived relevance of your paper depends upon your ability to situate it within the established literature. In addition, you should demonstrate how your findings build upon existing knowledge. To do that effectively, you need a thorough review of the most relevant literature. In many instances, you are likely to receive reviewer comments about the quality of this section more than any of the others. Although there are several ways in which to organize your literature review, there are three common approaches:

Divide the literature into dominate arguments or schools of thought

  • This is most helpful when your argument or thesis depends upon a specific theoretical perspective, such as Marxism or neoliberalism.
  • Write a brief paragraph outlining the different approaches or schools of thought.
  • Review the approaches in the order you presented them.
  • Let the literature have the debate, not you. For example: Although Johnson (2011) contends that neoliberalism increases the GDP, Hawkins (2013) uses empirical data from Peru to show that such policies hurt the middle class.
  • Conclude by firmly stating which approach you are following and justify your choice.
  • You may use sub-headings to divide the themes or approaches, but this is not necessary.

Divide the literature into themes

  • This is most helpful when you are addressing gap in the literature
  • As in the previous approach, use an introductory paragraph to outline the themes.
  • Conclude the section by situating your paper within one of the themes, and address how you are extending the literature to include your contribution.

Address the literature chronologically

  • This is most helpful when your paper deals with historical matters or traces the evolution of a social issue.
  • Point out when and how paradigms shifted, and state what new direction your field took after that shift.
  • Conclude the section by stating where the literature is now

METHODS

Including a distinct methods section is not appropriate for every paper in the social sciences, especially if there is an explicitly theoretical or rhetorical focus. However, papers that follow established scientific methods should dedicate a separate section detailing the approaches used.

Be sure to link your research questions to the methods you include.

Anticipate the questions or comments that could come from someone unfamiliar with your research and address them up front. For example, if using qualitative methods, be clear about how participants were recruited, the setting in which the data was collected, and any other factors that could influence the results. These things may be obvious to you, but will not be clear to a reviewer unless explicitly stated.

Cite previous studies that have used similar methods to justify your design.

RESULTS

In this section, avoid getting into the meaning or analysis of the results. Instead, present them in a straightforward manner, keeping in mind that insignificant or unexpected results still have meaning and should not be omitted. The way in which the results section is presented depends upon the methods used.

Quantitative results should be presented in a well-organized table.

  • Rather than discussing each statistic, refer the reader to the table and highlight the aspects that are most relevant to your thesis.

The presentation of qualitative results could take a few forms:

  • Identify themes that emerged from your interviews and observations, organize the evidence according to those themes
  • Organize the results according to the questions asked, present the answers the questions in paragraph form
  • Assign the participants pseudonyms and refer to them throughout

ANALYSIS OR DISCUSSION

Here is where you discuss the meaning of the results presented in the previous section. To do so, you need to link them to the foundational knowledge presented in the literature review.

Emphasize what you did differently to arrive at your conclusions, especially if they challenge previous work

  • Although Smith (2010) found that artists in urban areas supplement their sales online, the present study demonstrated that the same cannot be said for those in rural areas.

Guide the reader through how your results confirm or challenge the literature you included in the review:

  • The positive and significant relationship between immigration and property values challenges previously held assumptions, particularly those by Brooks (2008) and Jones (2001).

CONCLUSIONS

In the conclusion, avoid simply reviewing the findings. After a brief summary, consider including the following points as well:

Address limitations and the ways in which they may have impacted the results

Emphasize the ways in which your work builds upon that of others

Acknowledge the work still needs to be done. Ideally, the work that still needs to be done is another component of your own research program, which will give you the chance to extend your work in the future. Further, if you have a large project such as a dissertation or a thesis, it provides a useful way to publish your full results in multiple outlets.

Be careful not to surprise the reader with new information in the final section.