Before launching headlong into writing a scientific article/journal. It is very important to prepare your scientific paper well. This course overlaps slightly with the next one on writing scientific paper, but you might as well have the information twice to assimilate it well!
An article starts with the title, abstract and keywords.
The text of the article follows the format IMRAD, which answers the following questions:
- Introduction : What did you do/what others did? Why did you do it?
- Methods: How did you do it?
- Results: what did you find?
- Discussion : What does all this mean?
The main text is followed by the conclusion, acknowledgements, references and supporting documents.
First step, prepare your materials (figures, tables, etc.)
Remember that “a number is worth a thousand words”. Therefore, illustrations, including figures and tables, are the most effective way to present your results.
Whichever you choose, no illustration should duplicate information described elsewhere in the manuscript.
The material must be self-contained, i.e. it is possible to understand the content even without relying on the text (be careful, all material must still be discussed in the text!)
Figures should not be overloaded. Understanding the message of the material is essential.
I invite you to search the site for the courses of dataviz to find the right model for your data.
Second step, write the results (see the dedicated course for more details)
At this stage, the scientific paper looks like a pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces, filling each section with lots of ideas. It's not uncommon that three quarters of what you write will end up in LaTeX comments.
In order to see more clearly the message of your paper, it is important to finalize the results and the discussion. This makes it possible in particular to enrich its introduction and to establish the Abstract.
This section answers the question "What did you find?" Therefore, only representative results of your research should be presented. The results should be central to the discussion.
For the data, decide on a logical order that tells a clear story and makes it easy to understand. Generally, this will be in the same order as presented in the methods section.
An important issue is that you should not include references in this section; you present your results, so you cannot refer to others here. If you refer to others, it is because you are discussing your results, and this should be included in the Discussion section.
Third step, write the discussion (see the dedicated course for more details)
Same remark as for the results, writing the discussion will help for the finalization of the other sections.
Here you have to answer what the results mean. This is probably the easiest section to write, but the hardest section to correct. This is because it is the most important section of your article. Here you have the possibility to sell your data.
You must make the Discussion corresponding to the Results, but do not repeat the results. Here you should compare the results published by your colleagues with your own (using some of the references included in the introduction).
Never ignore a work that disagrees with yours, in turn you have to confront it and convince the reader that you are right or better.
Consider the following tips:
- Avoid statements that go beyond what the results can support.
- Avoid the sudden introduction of new terms or ideas; you have to present everything in the introduction, to be confronted with your results here.
- Speculation about possible interpretations is allowed, but these should be rooted in fact rather than imagination
- How do these results relate to the original question or objectives described in the Introduction section?
- Does the data support your hypothesis?
- Are your results consistent with what other researchers have reported?
- Discuss weaknesses and gaps. If your results were unexpected, try to explain why
- Is there another way to interpret your results?
- What further research would be needed to answer the questions raised by your findings?
- Explain what is new without exaggerating
- Reviewing the results and discussion is not just paper work. You can do other experiments, derivations or simulations. Sometimes you can't clarify your idea in words because some critical elements haven't been researched substantially.
Fourth step, write the introduction (see the dedicated course for more details)
This is your chance to convince readers that you clearly know why your work is valuable.
A good introduction should answer the following questions:
- What is the problem to be solved?
- Are there existing solutions?
- What is the best ?
- What is its main limitation?
- What do you hope to achieve?
You should present the main scientific publications on which your work is based, citing some original and important work, including recent review articles.
Fifth step, write the Abstract (see the dedicated course for more details)
The summary tells potential readers what you did and what were the conclusions important to your research. With the title, it is the advertisement of your article. Make it interesting and easy to understand without reading the whole article. Avoid using jargon, abbreviations and uncommon references.
You must be specific, using words that convey the precise meaning of your search. The abstract provides a brief description of the perspective and purpose of your article. It gives key results but minimizes experimental details. It is very important to remember that the abstract offers a brief description of the interpretation/conclusion in the last sentence.
Sixth step, compose the title (see the dedicated course for more details)
The title should explain the general subject of the document. This is your first (and probably only) chance to grab the reader's attention.
Here you can see some examples of original titles, and how they were changed after reviews and comments:
- Original title: Preliminary observations on the effect of salinity on the distribution of benthic communities within an estuarine system in the North Sea
- Revised title: Effect of salinity on benthic distribution in the Scheldt Estuary (North Sea)
- Comments: The long title distracts readers. Remove all redundancies such as "studies on", "the nature of", etc. Never use expressions such as “preliminary”. Be precise.
Another example :
- Original title: Action of antibiotics on bacteria
- Revised title: Inhibition of the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis by streptomycin
- Comments: Titles should be specific. Think about “how am I going to search for this information” when designing the title.
One more for the road:
- Original title: Fabrication of coaxial carbon/CdS nanofibers exhibiting optical and electrical properties via electrospun carbon
- Revised title: Electrospinning of Coaxial Carbon/CdS Nanofibers with Optical and Electrical Properties
- Comments: The title does not make sense. All materials have properties of all varieties. You could examine my hair for its electrical and optical properties! You MUST be specific. I haven't read the log but I suspect there is something special about these properties, otherwise why would you report them?.
Seventh step, finalize the article
In addition to the multiple proofreading to make the article as fluid as possible, it is also necessary to find the keywords, the Acknowledgments and to find the most relevant references.