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Scientific research is not a solitary endeavor. Rather, science is a communal effort. Scientists use findings and ideas of other scientists as the basis for their own studies, and in turn report their findings back to the scientific community. Thus, communication of findings is part of the scientific process. In fact, only by writing papers, presenting seminars, or reporting findings in some other way, does one become a full participant in the scientific or research community. In other words, a good scientist is also a good communicator.
A scientific research paper normally follows a standard outline and format (bolded below). A common problem in many scientific papers is that the author does not organize material into the appropriate sections. Thus, pay close attention to the functions of the various sections described herein.
TITLE. The title of your paper is very important. It should be a clear and concise description of the content of the paper. When creating a title, express the subject but do not try to impress the reader with technical jargon. Sometimes a clever, informed phrase can attract readers, but wittiness is not the goal. Remember, your goal is to communicate information. A simple, direct title is usually best.
ABSTRACT. The abstract summarizes the essentials of the paper. It briefly describes the purpose, any unusual methodology, and key results of the project. Abstracts are often limited to a few hundred words, so they need to be concise. The abstract is best written after a paper is completed. (For more information on writing a good abstract, see the Abstract UFI.)
INTRODUCTION. Good scientific papers explain how the specific study being described is related to other research and ideas on the same topic. Good papers not only report on the specific details of a particular project but also help illuminate larger issues of interest to readers of the discipline. The introduction is where the author helps the reader see the larger context for the specific study. This is accomplished by briefly reviewing some of the relevant literature and explaining how the current project is related to the existing body of work. Interpretations made earlier and now known to be incorrect are disqualified here as well. This is also the time to describe the goals and objectives of the study, e.g., to test certain hypotheses or answer a set of questions.
METHODOLOGY. The methodology section, sometimes called "Materials and Methods", is where the author describes how the study was conducted. The description should be complete enough so that the reader can evaluate the appropriateness of the methods to answer the questions or test the hypotheses as presented in the Introduction. If you employed some methods that others have used, you should cite the publications in which those methods are described. In many cases, it is appropriate for geologists to include a subsection (or even a separate section) in which you describe your study site. Headings often used include “Geologic Setting”, or “Location”, or (“Stratigraphic”, “Depositional” or “Structural”) “Setting”. If some statistical analyses were performed on the data, they should be described completely and accurately in the Methodology section. Another worker should be able to easily repeat your methods.
RESULTS. In the Results section, one should report, but not discuss, the primary results. In other words, "Just the facts, please". The verbal report of results is supplemented with tables of data and/or figures (graphs, diagrams, photographs, etc.). Remember, it is not the reader's job to figure out what the various tables and figures are trying to illustrate. An author needs to summarize the key findings verbally first and then refer the reader to relevant tables and figures for more a more detailed, or graphic, representation of the results. Figures and tables should each be numbered consecutively so that the reader may refer to them when intended, e.g., „The results show a strong correlation between rate of uplift and rate of erosion (Fig. 3)'. All tables should have a descriptive title, and a caption for each figure should be provided. The caption should include the subject or title of the figure and all other information that will help the reader understand or interpret what is being illustrated.
Notice that much of this discussion of “Results” is focused on Figures and Tables. This is no accident. In geological writing, it is as important (more important?) to carefully plan illustrations and tables as it is the text. Poor illustrations can negate very sound research by failing to clearly illustrate one‟s discoveries. In fact poor graphing skills can fail to demonstrate scientific relationships that are present in one‟s data. Researchers are responsible for learning how best to graph relationships and how to work with graphics to best illustrate their scientific results (see the related handout on “Preparing Scientific Posters for Geologic Conferences.”).
DISCUSSION. The discussion is the section of the paper in which the author describes what the results mean. Were the original hypotheses supported, or questions answered? How are unexpected results explained? Do findings support or contradict findings from similar studies? These are some of the sorts of questions you might address. If most of the discussion is confined to the specific results of your study, the section may be better titled “Interpretations” or “Analysis of Results”. However, it is usually appropriate to comment on the larger significance and ramifications of your findings as part of a “Discussion” of the implications of the work. This section should include thorough citation of the works of others that are involved in your discussion.
CONCLUSIONS. It is often important to extract the main conclusions from the text and summarize them as the “take home” ideas of the paper. This is frequently done with a numbered list of the points made.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. Most scientific articles include a brief, but important, section in which the authors thank various people, granting agencies and institutions who have contributed in some way to the work. These contributions could be in helping to form the original hypotheses, collecting data, aiding data analysis, providing financial resources or collecting permission, or reviewing an earlier draft.
LITERATURE CITED. This section is sometimes called “References Cited”. Here one provides full citations for all works mentioned in the body of the paper and only those works mentioned in the paper. Every research paper follows one or another bibliographic style. Check with professors (or journal editors) to learn the style, or apply a digital style editor, and use it consistently for all citations.
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS. Contrary to what most students have been taught, there is no hard and fast rule about the use of active vs passive voice in scientific articles. Likewise, there is no standard format for citing other sources or for citation style in the Literature Cited section. This means you need to consult with the editor or professor ahead of time to find out the specific instructions for the paper you are writing. Above all strive to be direct and clear. Ultimately, you are trying to persuade the readers about the significance of your findings. Only in very rare circumstances do results speak for themselves. In most cases they need an ardent and articulate advocate- -you!
This UFI (Useful Flyer of Information) was developed and written by Mark A. Davis for the benefit of students. It has been modified by J. M. Erickson and the Geowriting class at St. Lawrence University. For other UFIs see the Geology Dept.UFI webpage
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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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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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How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper (Project-Centered Course)
Taught in English
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Instructor: Mathis Plapp
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There are 4 modules in this course
What you will achieve:
In this project-based course, you will outline a complete scientific paper, choose an appropriate journal to which you'll submit the finished paper for publication, and prepare a checklist that will allow you to independently judge whether your paper is ready to submit. What you'll need to get started: This course is designed for students who have previous experience with academic research - you should be eager to adapt our writing and publishing advice to an existing personal project. If you just finished your graduate dissertation, just began your PhD, or are at a different stage of your academic journey or career and just want to publish your work, this course is for you. *About Project-Centered Courses: Project-Centered Courses are designed to help you complete a personally meaningful real-world project, with your instructor and a community of learners with similar goals providing guidance and suggestions along the way. By actively applying new concepts as you learn, you’ll master the course content more efficiently; you’ll also get a head start on using the skills you gain to make positive changes in your life and career. When you complete the course, you’ll have a finished project that you’ll be proud to use and share.
In this section of the MOOC, you will learn what is necessary before writing a paper: the context in which the scientist is publishing. You will learn how to know your own community, through different exemples, and then we will present you how scientific journal and publication works. We will finish with a couple of ethical values that the academic world is sharing!
8 videos 4 readings 5 quizzes 2 discussion prompts
8 videos • Total 28 minutes
- Introduction by Mathis Plapp • 1 minute • Preview module
- Let me walk you through the course • 3 minutes
- French version of the class • 0 minutes
- Why is publishing important? • 3 minutes
- "KYC": Know Your Community • 4 minutes
- How journals work: the review process • 4 minutes
- Presentation of scientific journals • 4 minutes
- Ethical Guidelines • 5 minutes
4 readings • Total 40 minutes
- Teaching team • 10 minutes
- Breakthroughs! • 10 minutes
- Additional contents • 10 minutes
- Examples of guidelines • 10 minutes
5 quizzes • Total 150 minutes
- Why is publishing important? • 30 minutes
- Know your community • 30 minutes
- How journals work: the review process • 30 minutes
- Communication with the editorial board • 30 minutes
- Ethical Guidelines and intellectual property • 30 minutes
2 discussion prompts • Total 20 minutes
- Your thoughts • 10 minutes
- Compatibility between paper submission and editorial board • 10 minutes
Before writing: delimiting your scientific paper
A good paper do not loose focus throughout the entirety of its form. As such, we are going to give you a more detailed view on how to delimit your paper. We are going to lead you through your paper by taking a closer look at the paper definition which will ensure you don't loose focus. Then we will explain why the literature review is important and how to actually do it. And then we will guide you with advices as to how to find the so-what of your paper! This is important as research is all about so-what!
6 videos 1 reading 5 quizzes 4 discussion prompts
6 videos • Total 26 minutes
- Paper definition "KYP", Know Your Paper • 3 minutes • Preview module
- How to: the literature review 1/2: find a good literature review • 3 minutes
- How to: the literature review 2/2: construction of your own literature review • 6 minutes
- How to: the research design • 3 minutes
- How to: the gap • 4 minutes
- Presentation of Zotero: aggregate references • 4 minutes
1 reading • Total 10 minutes
- Books and tools • 10 minutes
- So, what? • 30 minutes
- Think about it • 30 minutes
- Literature Review • 30 minutes
- Main ideas • 30 minutes
- The Gap? • 30 minutes
4 discussion prompts • Total 40 minutes
- Compatibility between paper and journal • 10 minutes
- Understanding how the literature review is structured • 10 minutes
- Finding Useful References: Difficulties & Strategies for Success. • 10 minutes
- Comparing different research designs on the same subject • 10 minutes
Writing the paper: things you need to know
In this part of the MOOC, you will learn how to write your paper. In a first part, we will focus on the structure of the paper, and then you will be able to see how to use bibliographical tools such as zotero. Finally you will be required to write your own abstract and to do a peer review for the abstract of the others, as in real academic life!
5 videos 2 readings 2 quizzes 1 peer review 2 discussion prompts
5 videos • Total 27 minutes
- The structure of an academic paper • 7 minutes • Preview module
- On writing an academic paper, preliminary tips • 6 minutes
- How to: the bibliography • 3 minutes
- The abstract • 6 minutes
- Zotero: online features • 3 minutes
2 readings • Total 20 minutes
- Important readings before writing a paper • 10 minutes
- More detailed information on how to write your article • 10 minutes
2 quizzes • Total 60 minutes
- Please, try by yourself • 30 minutes
- The bibliography • 30 minutes
1 peer review • Total 60 minutes
- Peer reviewing of an abstract • 60 minutes
- Comparing different constructions of papers • 10 minutes
- Discussing abstracts • 10 minutes
After the writing: the check list
After writing the paper comes the time of reading your paper a few times in order to get everything perfect.In this section you will learn how to remove a lot of mistakes you might have been writing. In the end, you will have to build your own checklist corresponding to your own problems you want to avoid. After this, your article can be submitted and will hopefully be accepted!!
5 videos 3 readings 1 peer review 1 discussion prompt
5 videos • Total 36 minutes
- How to avoid being boring? • 5 minutes • Preview module
- The main mistakes to look for: format • 3 minutes
- 1. The researcher • 9 minutes
- 2. The editor • 13 minutes
- Constructing your checklist • 4 minutes
3 readings • Total 30 minutes
- Avoiding mistakes • 10 minutes
- Format and Writing Readings • 10 minutes
- Tips • 10 minutes
- Now it is your turn: the checking list • 60 minutes
1 discussion prompt • Total 10 minutes
- Several content worth taking a look at • 10 minutes
We asked all learners to give feedback on our instructors based on the quality of their teaching style.
École polytechnique combines research, teaching and innovation at the highest scientific and technological level worldwide to meet the challenges of the 21st century. At the forefront of French engineering schools for more than 200 years, its education promotes a culture of multidisciplinary scientific excellence, open in a strong humanist tradition.\n L’École polytechnique associe recherche, enseignement et innovation au meilleur niveau scientifique et technologique mondial pour répondre aux défis du XXIe siècle. En tête des écoles d’ingénieur françaises depuis plus de 200 ans, sa formation promeut une culture d’excellence scientifique pluridisciplinaire, ouverte dans une forte tradition humaniste.
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This course has well-structured content, it guides me to have a complete view of how to publish a academic paper and it also shares useful tips of how to get a paper well-organized.
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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.)
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.)
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.
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.
- Manuscript Preparation
How to Write a Scientific Article for Publication
- 4 minute read
Table of Contents
There are few things more exciting than getting a scientific article published , right? However, the world of academic publishing changes exponentially. So, what you might have done in the past may not work today. Or, perhaps you’re just learning how to write a scientific article for publication. In previous articles, we’ve covered the different sections of your paper. Today we’re going to go over your findings and conclusion in research submissions, scientific illustration, research ethics and how to get your paper seen by setting it up as an SEO research paper.
Findings and Conclusion in Research
Your manuscript needs to wrap everything up in its findings and conclusion in a way that is concise and clear. The approach is similar to writing your abstract, where you avoid extraneous phrases and words. Basically, try to keep it simple.
The quality of your writing here is critical as well. For instance, you’ll want to make sure you’re using an active voice. An active voice is generally considered stronger and more direct. Consider the passive, “10g of the feed was consumed by the chicken,” versus the more active, “The chicken consumed 10g of feed.”
Tense is also important. Use the present tense when including hypotheses and known facts. For instance, “the average weight for leghorn layer chickens is 4.5 lbs.” Use the past tense when you’re referring to prior experiments and results. For example, “the average weight of the eggs produced in our experimental environment was 63 grams.”
Scientific Illustration and Other Enhancements
Using professionally produced illustrations to explain complex ideas can improve the readability of your article. Scientific illustrations are a way to better communicate your subject matter, allowing for a much greater understanding of the topic. You don’t have to be an artist to include scientific illustrations in your manuscript. We provide custom illustration services, including full-color and realistic images made from sketches. We can also take photorealistic illustrations and simplify them into line drawings.
You can also enrich your article by including references to external sources, like a virtual microscope or interactive map. A graphical abstract can be included as well. This is essentially a visual summary of your main findings and conclusion. These enrichments can show up in online search results, increasing your potential to reach your audience and help people, at a glance, understand the main points of your article. Finally, your graphical abstract can be used as a promotional tool on social media and your website. Don’t forget to add a link to the full-length article.
Your research can be added to the knowledge-base that can be easily accessed and used. By utilizing established repositories, you’ll also receive deserved credit for your work. Any data you upload to one of many repositories can be linked to your published article. You’ll not only ensure that your work can be found, but you’ll also be supporting other researchers in your field, as well as providing an opportunity for your readers to delve deeper into your topic.
Ethical Considerations in Research
- Competing interests (e.g. not disclosing a direct or indirect conflict that may prevent you from keeping an unbiased perspective)
- Author disputes (e.g. misrepresenting a scientist’s contribution to the research and/or published manuscript)
- Plagiarism (e.g. representing someone else’s idea as your own)
- Simultaneous submission (e.g. submitting a manuscript to more than one journal at a time)
- Fraud (e.g. fabricating data, manipulating research results, data, data or images)
- Salami slicing (e.g. “slicing” up research that would normally form one paper into several).
Some of the above breaches can be committed inadvertently. But to make sure you have no issues with your manuscript, double and triple-check that you’re not participating in scientific misconduct, knowingly or unknowingly.
The SEO Research Paper
It can be argued, perhaps, that it’s easier to write your manuscript than it is to get it seen and read by your audience. One way you can improve your chances is to do a SEO optimization of your manuscript. What this means, in a nutshell, is to use keywords in the title and abstract, add SEO-driven captions with keywords for all photographs, tables, graphs and images. You can also add titles and subheadings within your paper. In addition to your research paper, you can place links to your article in other materials, like your research institute’s website, Wikipedia pages, blogs and articles, and social media, including your own website and/or LinkedIn page.
Know more: How to choose keywords for a manuscript?
Language Editing Plus
It doesn’t matter how well your research is done, if your manuscript isn’t well-written, clear and focused, it will not be accepted by any leading journal. Take advantage of Elsevier’s Language Editing Plus services to ensure proper flow and logic, absolutely correct English grammar, unlimited rounds of language review, and manuscript formatting specific to your desired journal. We also include a reference check and a customized cover letter. Use the simulator below to check the price for your manuscript, using the total number of words in the document.
Tips for a Manuscript in Preparation
- Publication Recognition
Using Social Media to Promote Research
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- Knowledge Base
- Research paper
How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example
Published on August 7, 2022 by Courtney Gahan . Revised on August 15, 2023.
A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process , providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized.
A quality outline can make writing your research paper more efficient by helping to:
- Organize your thoughts
- Understand the flow of information and how ideas are related
- Ensure nothing is forgotten
A research paper outline can also give your teacher an early idea of the final product.
Table of contents
Research paper outline example, how to write a research paper outline, formatting your research paper outline, language in research paper outlines.
- Definition of measles
- Rise in cases in recent years in places the disease was previously eliminated or had very low rates of infection
- Figures: Number of cases per year on average, number in recent years. Relate to immunization
- Symptoms and timeframes of disease
- Risk of fatality, including statistics
- How measles is spread
- Immunization procedures in different regions
- Different regions, focusing on the arguments from those against immunization
- Immunization figures in affected regions
- High number of cases in non-immunizing regions
- Illnesses that can result from measles virus
- Fatal cases of other illnesses after patient contracted measles
- Summary of arguments of different groups
- Summary of figures and relationship with recent immunization debate
- Which side of the argument appears to be correct?
Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting
Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:
- Academic style
- Vague sentences
- Style consistency
See an example
Follow these steps to start your research paper outline:
- Decide on the subject of the paper
- Write down all the ideas you want to include or discuss
- Organize related ideas into sub-groups
- Arrange your ideas into a hierarchy: What should the reader learn first? What is most important? Which idea will help end your paper most effectively?
- Create headings and subheadings that are effective
- Format the outline in either alphanumeric, full-sentence or decimal format
There are three different kinds of research paper outline: alphanumeric, full-sentence and decimal outlines. The differences relate to formatting and style of writing.
An alphanumeric outline is most commonly used. It uses Roman numerals, capitalized letters, arabic numerals, lowercase letters to organize the flow of information. Text is written with short notes rather than full sentences.
- Sub-point of sub-point 1
Essentially the same as the alphanumeric outline, but with the text written in full sentences rather than short points.
- Additional sub-point to conclude discussion of point of evidence introduced in point A
A decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline, but with a different numbering system: 1, 1.1, 1.2, etc. Text is written as short notes rather than full sentences.
- 1.1.1 Sub-point of first point
- 1.1.2 Sub-point of first point
- 1.2 Second point
To write an effective research paper outline, it is important to pay attention to language. This is especially important if it is one you will show to your teacher or be assessed on.
There are four main considerations: parallelism, coordination, subordination and division.
Parallelism: Be consistent with grammatical form
Parallel structure or parallelism is the repetition of a particular grammatical form within a sentence, or in this case, between points and sub-points. This simply means that if the first point is a verb , the sub-point should also be a verb.
Example of parallelism:
- Include different regions, focusing on the different arguments from those against immunization
Coordination: Be aware of each point’s weight
Your chosen subheadings should hold the same significance as each other, as should all first sub-points, secondary sub-points, and so on.
Example of coordination:
- Include immunization figures in affected regions
- Illnesses that can result from the measles virus
Subordination: Work from general to specific
Subordination refers to the separation of general points from specific. Your main headings should be quite general, and each level of sub-point should become more specific.
Example of subordination:
Division: break information into sub-points.
Your headings should be divided into two or more subsections. There is no limit to how many subsections you can include under each heading, but keep in mind that the information will be structured into a paragraph during the writing stage, so you should not go overboard with the number of sub-points.
Ready to start writing or looking for guidance on a different step in the process? Read our step-by-step guide on how to write a research paper .
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
Gahan, C. (2023, August 15). How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example. Scribbr. Retrieved November 7, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-paper/outline/
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How to Write a Scientific Paper
Last Updated: March 29, 2019 Approved
This article was co-authored by Bess Ruff, MA . Bess Ruff is a Geography PhD student at Florida State University. She received her MA in Environmental Science and Management from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016. She has conducted survey work for marine spatial planning projects in the Caribbean and provided research support as a graduate fellow for the Sustainable Fisheries Group. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 94% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 110,446 times.
Even if you are not planning to publish a scientific paper, you may be asked to write in this format for a college course or other program. Because scientific papers are written in a specific format, it is both easy and necessary to learn how to write them well . Following the style guide and knowing the necessary content of each section will help you to develop your skills as a scientific writer.
Formatting the Paper
- Since it is a technical paper, you will need to use some technical language, but avoid jargon for the sake of jargon and use acronyms only when absolutely necessary.  X Research source
- Define all acronyms the first time you use the full word or phrase, then use the acronym throughout the rest of the paper.
- Any restrictions on table/figure sizes or table/figure legends will also be included in the style guide.
- Some journals move the materials and methods to the end of the paper and/or combine the results with the discussion section. Check the style guide for the specific journal you are submitting to.
- Although this is the order the paper will be published in, it is not necessarily the best order to write each section. Follow the steps in the “Writing the Sections” for the best way to compose the paper.  X Research source
Writing the Sections
- Materials used for each method should be included, with references to the company and catalog number for purchase.
- You should include a description of all statistical methods used in the paper.
- You should also include explanations of any ethical approvals needed for the completion of the studies.
- You don’t need to include every experiment you performed or result you observed, just the information needed to convince the audience of your findings.  X Trustworthy Source Nature Respected Multidisciplinary Scientific Journal Go to source
- This is not the section to speculate or draw conclusions. That comes later in the discussion.
- Avoid making wild claims that can’t be supported by the data.  X Research source
- Don’t ignore other papers that contradict your findings; discuss them and convince the reader why your data is correct despite the other information out there.
- Some journals combine the results and discussion into 1 larger section. Check with the journal before you begin writing.  X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
- State your hypothesis and objectives at the end of the introduction.  X Research source
- Avoid long introductions; you want to be comprehensive, but succinct.
- Think of the abstract as an advertisement to encourage people to keep reading.
- Avoid technical jargon and abbreviations/acronyms.
- Consider which keywords you want to tag so that readers searching for articles on a specific topic will be directed to your work.
Making the Figures and Tables
- Tables are frequently used to provide information about the makeup of a study group or the concentrations used within a study.
- Figures are used to compare the experimental results of the different groups in a visual way.
- Don’t include tables if they are not referenced in the text. You can add these tables to an appendix if absolutely necessary.
- Position the legend directly above the table.
- Avoid adding more than 3-4 datasets per graph.
- Label all axes properly and use the appropriate scales.
- If the image is dark, make the scale bar white. If the image is light, make the scale bar a contrasting dark. If the reader can’t see the scale bar, it is not useful.
- If you do use color, use complementary mute colors that don’t scream off the page.
- The figure legend should be positioned underneath the figure itself.
Citing Your Sources Properly
- Cite peer-reviewed literature, manuscripts, and published data.
- Avoid personal communications, submitted, but unpublished manuscripts, and articles not in English.  X Research source
- Some journals use an inline citation of (Author, Publication Year) with an alphabetical list at the end. Other journals simply use superscript numbers within the paper and have the numbered list of references at the end.  X Research source
- Paraphrase the source and avoid direct quotes. If you must quote directly, put the information in quotation marks and specify the page the quote came from.  X Research source
- If something is considered to be common knowledge in the field, it is not necessary to cite it. For example, stating that DNA is the genetic material of an organism does not need a citation.
- Reference managers help avoid incorrect citations and save you hours of work updating the list of citations individually as you go.
- For more information on citation programs, check out https://subjectguides.library.american.edu/c.php?g=175008&p=3205957 .
- You may choose to write the sections differently or in a different order, depending on how your research is structured, what the journal expectations are, and what your results are. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ http://www.scidev.net/global/publishing/practical-guide/how-do-i-write-a-scientific-paper-.html
- ↑ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474301/
- ↑ https://www.elsevier.com/connect/11-steps-to-structuring-a-science-paper-editors-will-take-seriously#step4
- ↑ http://www.columbia.edu/cu/biology/ug/research/paper.html
- ↑ http://www.nature.com/scitable/ebooks/english-communication-for-scientists-14053993/118519636#headerAndCitation
- ↑ https://www.elsevier.com/connect/11-steps-to-structuring-a-science-paper-editors-will-take-seriously#step11
- ↑ http://abacus.bates.edu/~ganderso/biology/resources/writing/HTWcitations.html
About This Article
To write a scientific paper, start with an abstract that briefly summarizes the paper and leads into your introduction. In the introduction, review the available literature on your topic, and discuss the gap your work is trying to fill. At the end of the introduction, clearly state your hypothesis and objectives. Next, list your materials and methods, followed by your results. Then, conclude your paper with a discussion section and a list of references. To learn how to write the abstract for your paper, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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Ten simple rules for reading a scientific paper
Maureen a. carey.
Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, Department of Medicine, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America
Kevin L. Steiner
William a. petri, jr, introduction.
“There is no problem that a library card can't solve” according to author Eleanor Brown [ 1 ]. This advice is sound, probably for both life and science, but even the best tool (like the library) is most effective when accompanied by instructions and a basic understanding of how and when to use it.
For many budding scientists, the first day in a new lab setting often involves a stack of papers, an email full of links to pertinent articles, or some promise of a richer understanding so long as one reads enough of the scientific literature. However, the purpose and approach to reading a scientific article is unlike that of reading a news story, novel, or even a textbook and can initially seem unapproachable. Having good habits for reading scientific literature is key to setting oneself up for success, identifying new research questions, and filling in the gaps in one’s current understanding; developing these good habits is the first crucial step.
Advice typically centers around two main tips: read actively and read often. However, active reading, or reading with an intent to understand, is both a learned skill and a level of effort. Although there is no one best way to do this, we present 10 simple rules, relevant to novices and seasoned scientists alike, to teach our strategy for active reading based on our experience as readers and as mentors of undergraduate and graduate researchers, medical students, fellows, and early career faculty. Rules 1–5 are big picture recommendations. Rules 6–8 relate to philosophy of reading. Rules 9–10 guide the “now what?” questions one should ask after reading and how to integrate what was learned into one’s own science.
Rule 1: Pick your reading goal
What you want to get out of an article should influence your approach to reading it. Table 1 includes a handful of example intentions and how you might prioritize different parts of the same article differently based on your goals as a reader.
1 Yay! Welcome!
2 A journal club is when a group of scientists get together to discuss a paper. Usually one person leads the discussion and presents all of the data. The group discusses their own interpretations and the authors’ interpretation.
Rule 2: Understand the author’s goal
In written communication, the reader and the writer are equally important. Both influence the final outcome: in this case, your scientific understanding! After identifying your goal, think about the author’s goal for sharing this project. This will help you interpret the data and understand the author’s interpretation of the data. However, this requires some understanding of who the author(s) are (e.g., what are their scientific interests?), the scientific field in which they work (e.g., what techniques are available in this field?), and how this paper fits into the author’s research (e.g., is this work building on an author’s longstanding project or controversial idea?). This information may be hard to glean without experience and a history of reading. But don’t let this be a discouragement to starting the process; it is by the act of reading that this experience is gained!
A good step toward understanding the goal of the author(s) is to ask yourself: What kind of article is this? Journals publish different types of articles, including methods, review, commentary, resources, and research articles as well as other types that are specific to a particular journal or groups of journals. These article types have different formatting requirements and expectations for content. Knowing the article type will help guide your evaluation of the information presented. Is the article a methods paper, presenting a new technique? Is the article a review article, intended to summarize a field or problem? Is it a commentary, intended to take a stand on a controversy or give a big picture perspective on a problem? Is it a resource article, presenting a new tool or data set for others to use? Is it a research article, written to present new data and the authors’ interpretation of those data? The type of paper, and its intended purpose, will get you on your way to understanding the author’s goal.
Rule 3: Ask six questions
When reading, ask yourself: (1) What do the author(s) want to know (motivation)? (2) What did they do (approach/methods)? (3) Why was it done that way (context within the field)? (4) What do the results show (figures and data tables)? (5) How did the author(s) interpret the results (interpretation/discussion)? (6) What should be done next? (Regarding this last question, the author(s) may provide some suggestions in the discussion, but the key is to ask yourself what you think should come next.)
Each of these questions can and should be asked about the complete work as well as each table, figure, or experiment within the paper. Early on, it can take a long time to read one article front to back, and this can be intimidating. Break down your understanding of each section of the work with these questions to make the effort more manageable.
Rule 4: Unpack each figure and table
Scientists write original research papers primarily to present new data that may change or reinforce the collective knowledge of a field. Therefore, the most important parts of this type of scientific paper are the data. Some people like to scrutinize the figures and tables (including legends) before reading any of the “main text”: because all of the important information should be obtained through the data. Others prefer to read through the results section while sequentially examining the figures and tables as they are addressed in the text. There is no correct or incorrect approach: Try both to see what works best for you. The key is making sure that one understands the presented data and how it was obtained.
For each figure, work to understand each x- and y-axes, color scheme, statistical approach (if one was used), and why the particular plotting approach was used. For each table, identify what experimental groups and variables are presented. Identify what is shown and how the data were collected. This is typically summarized in the legend or caption but often requires digging deeper into the methods: Do not be afraid to refer back to the methods section frequently to ensure a full understanding of how the presented data were obtained. Again, ask the questions in Rule 3 for each figure or panel and conclude with articulating the “take home” message.
Rule 5: Understand the formatting intentions
Just like the overall intent of the article (discussed in Rule 2), the intent of each section within a research article can guide your interpretation. Some sections are intended to be written as objective descriptions of the data (i.e., the Results section), whereas other sections are intended to present the author’s interpretation of the data. Remember though that even “objective” sections are written by and, therefore, influenced by the authors interpretations. Check out Table 2 to understand the intent of each section of a research article. When reading a specific paper, you can also refer to the journal’s website to understand the formatting intentions. The “For Authors” section of a website will have some nitty gritty information that is less relevant for the reader (like word counts) but will also summarize what the journal editors expect in each section. This will help to familiarize you with the goal of each article section.
Research articles typically contain each of these sections, although sometimes the “results” and “discussion” sections (or “discussion” and “conclusion” sections) are merged into one section. Additional sections may be included, based on request of the journal or the author(s). Keep in mind: If it was included, someone thought it was important for you to read.
Rule 6: Be critical
Published papers are not truths etched in stone. Published papers in high impact journals are not truths etched in stone. Published papers by bigwigs in the field are not truths etched in stone. Published papers that seem to agree with your own hypothesis or data are not etched in stone. Published papers that seem to refute your hypothesis or data are not etched in stone.
Science is a never-ending work in progress, and it is essential that the reader pushes back against the author’s interpretation to test the strength of their conclusions. Everyone has their own perspective and may interpret the same data in different ways. Mistakes are sometimes published, but more often these apparent errors are due to other factors such as limitations of a methodology and other limits to generalizability (selection bias, unaddressed, or unappreciated confounders). When reading a paper, it is important to consider if these factors are pertinent.
Critical thinking is a tough skill to learn but ultimately boils down to evaluating data while minimizing biases. Ask yourself: Are there other, equally likely, explanations for what is observed? In addition to paying close attention to potential biases of the study or author(s), a reader should also be alert to one’s own preceding perspective (and biases). Take time to ask oneself: Do I find this paper compelling because it affirms something I already think (or wish) is true? Or am I discounting their findings because it differs from what I expect or from my own work?
The phenomenon of a self-fulfilling prophecy, or expectancy, is well studied in the psychology literature [ 2 ] and is why many studies are conducted in a “blinded” manner [ 3 ]. It refers to the idea that a person may assume something to be true and their resultant behavior aligns to make it true. In other words, as humans and scientists, we often find exactly what we are looking for. A scientist may only test their hypotheses and fail to evaluate alternative hypotheses; perhaps, a scientist may not be aware of alternative, less biased ways to test her or his hypothesis that are typically used in different fields. Individuals with different life, academic, and work experiences may think of several alternative hypotheses, all equally supported by the data.
Rule 7: Be kind
The author(s) are human too. So, whenever possible, give them the benefit of the doubt. An author may write a phrase differently than you would, forcing you to reread the sentence to understand it. Someone in your field may neglect to cite your paper because of a reference count limit. A figure panel may be misreferenced as Supplemental Fig 3E when it is obviously Supplemental Fig 4E. While these things may be frustrating, none are an indication that the quality of work is poor. Try to avoid letting these minor things influence your evaluation and interpretation of the work.
Similarly, if you intend to share your critique with others, be extra kind. An author (especially the lead author) may invest years of their time into a single paper. Hearing a kindly phrased critique can be difficult but constructive. Hearing a rude, brusque, or mean-spirited critique can be heartbreaking, especially for young scientists or those seeking to establish their place within a field and who may worry that they do not belong.
Rule 8: Be ready to go the extra mile
To truly understand a scientific work, you often will need to look up a term, dig into the supplemental materials, or read one or more of the cited references. This process takes time. Some advisors recommend reading an article three times: The first time, simply read without the pressure of understanding or critiquing the work. For the second time, aim to understand the paper. For the third read through, take notes.
Some people engage with a paper by printing it out and writing all over it. The reader might write question marks in the margins to mark parts (s)he wants to return to, circle unfamiliar terms (and then actually look them up!), highlight or underline important statements, and draw arrows linking figures and the corresponding interpretation in the discussion. Not everyone needs a paper copy to engage in the reading process but, whatever your version of “printing it out” is, do it.
Rule 9: Talk about it
Talking about an article in a journal club or more informal environment forces active reading and participation with the material. Studies show that teaching is one of the best ways to learn and that teachers learn the material even better as the teaching task becomes more complex [ 4 – 5 ]; anecdotally, such observations inspired the phrase “to teach is to learn twice.”
Beyond formal settings such as journal clubs, lab meetings, and academic classes, discuss papers with your peers, mentors, and colleagues in person or electronically. Twitter and other social media platforms have become excellent resources for discussing papers with other scientists, the public or your nonscientist friends, or even the paper’s author(s). Describing a paper can be done at multiple levels and your description can contain all of the scientific details, only the big picture summary, or perhaps the implications for the average person in your community. All of these descriptions will solidify your understanding, while highlighting gaps in your knowledge and informing those around you.
Rule 10: Build on it
One approach we like to use for communicating how we build on the scientific literature is by starting research presentations with an image depicting a wall of Lego bricks. Each brick is labeled with the reference for a paper, and the wall highlights the body of literature on which the work is built. We describe the work and conclusions of each paper represented by a labeled brick and discuss each brick and the wall as a whole. The top brick on the wall is left blank: We aspire to build on this work and label this brick with our own work. We then delve into our own research, discoveries, and the conclusions it inspires. We finish our presentations with the image of the Legos and summarize our presentation on that empty brick.
Whether you are reading an article to understand a new topic area or to move a research project forward, effective learning requires that you integrate knowledge from multiple sources (“click” those Lego bricks together) and build upwards. Leveraging published work will enable you to build a stronger and taller structure. The first row of bricks is more stable once a second row is assembled on top of it and so on and so forth. Moreover, the Lego construction will become taller and larger if you build upon the work of others, rather than using only your own bricks.
Build on the article you read by thinking about how it connects to ideas described in other papers and within own work, implementing a technique in your own research, or attempting to challenge or support the hypothesis of the author(s) with a more extensive literature review. Integrate the techniques and scientific conclusions learned from an article into your own research or perspective in the classroom or research lab. You may find that this process strengthens your understanding, leads you toward new and unexpected interests or research questions, or returns you back to the original article with new questions and critiques of the work. All of these experiences are part of the “active reading”: process and are signs of a successful reading experience.
In summary, practice these rules to learn how to read a scientific article, keeping in mind that this process will get easier (and faster) with experience. We are firm believers that an hour in the library will save a week at the bench; this diligent practice will ultimately make you both a more knowledgeable and productive scientist. As you develop the skills to read an article, try to also foster good reading and learning habits for yourself (recommendations here: [ 6 ] and [ 7 ], respectively) and in others. Good luck and happy reading!
Thank you to the mentors, teachers, and students who have shaped our thoughts on reading, learning, and what science is all about.
MAC was supported by the PhRMA Foundation's Postdoctoral Fellowship in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics and the University of Virginia's Engineering-in-Medicine seed grant, and KLS was supported by the NIH T32 Global Biothreats Training Program at the University of Virginia (AI055432). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries? pp 193–199 Cite as
How to Write the Introduction to a Scientific Paper?
- Samiran Nundy 4 ,
- Atul Kakar 5 &
- Zulfiqar A. Bhutta 6
- Open Access
- First Online: 24 October 2021
An Introduction to a scientific paper familiarizes the reader with the background of the issue at hand. It must reflect why the issue is topical and its current importance in the vast sea of research being done globally. It lays the foundation of biomedical writing and is the first portion of an article according to the IMRAD pattern ( I ntroduction, M ethodology, R esults, a nd D iscussion) .
I once had a professor tell a class that he sifted through our pile of essays, glancing at the titles and introductions, looking for something that grabbed his attention. Everything else went to the bottom of the pile to be read last, when he was tired and probably grumpy from all the marking. Don’t get put at the bottom of the pile, he said. Anonymous
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1 What is the Importance of an Introduction?
An Introduction to a scientific paper familiarizes the reader with the background of the issue at hand. It must reflect why the issue is topical and its current importance in the vast sea of research being done globally. It lays the foundation of biomedical writing and is the first portion of an article according to the IMRAD pattern ( I ntroduction, M ethodology, R esults, a nd D iscussion) [ 1 ].
It provides the flavour of the article and many authors have used phrases to describe it for example—'like a gate of the city’ [ 2 ], ‘the beginning is half of the whole’ [ 3 ], ‘an introduction is not just wrestling with words to fit the facts, but it also strongly modulated by perception of the anticipated reactions of peer colleagues’, [ 4 ] and ‘an introduction is like the trailer to a movie’. A good introduction helps captivate the reader early.
2 What Are the Principles of Writing a Good Introduction?
A good introduction will ‘sell’ an article to a journal editor, reviewer, and finally to a reader [ 3 ]. It should contain the following information [ 5 , 6 ]:
The known—The background scientific data
The unknown—Gaps in the current knowledge
Research hypothesis or question
Methodologies used for the study
The known consist of citations from a review of the literature whereas the unknown is the new work to be undertaken. This part should address how your work is the required missing piece of the puzzle.
3 What Are the Models of Writing an Introduction?
The Problem-solving model
First described by Swales et al. in 1979, in this model the writer should identify the ‘problem’ in the research, address the ‘solution’ and also write about ‘the criteria for evaluating the problem’ [ 7 , 8 ].
The CARS model that stands for C reating A R esearch S pace [ 9 , 10 ].
The two important components of this model are:
Establishing a territory (situation)
Establishing a niche (problem)
Occupying a niche (the solution)
In this popular model, one can add a fourth point, i.e., a conclusion [ 10 ].
4 What Is Establishing a Territory?
This includes: [ 9 ]
Stating the general topic and providing some background about it.
Providing a brief and relevant review of the literature related to the topic.
Adding a paragraph on the scope of the topic including the need for your study.
5 What Is Establishing a Niche?
Establishing a niche includes:
Stating the importance of the problem.
Outlining the current situation regarding the problem citing both global and national data.
Evaluating the current situation (advantages/ disadvantages).
Identifying the gaps.
Emphasizing the importance of the proposed research and how the gaps will be addressed.
Stating the research problem/ questions.
Stating the hypotheses briefly.
Figure 17.1 depicts how the introduction needs to be written. A scientific paper should have an introduction in the form of an inverted pyramid. The writer should start with the general information about the topic and subsequently narrow it down to the specific topic-related introduction.
Flow of ideas from the general to the specific
6 What Does Occupying a Niche Mean?
This is the third portion of the introduction and defines the rationale of the research and states the research question. If this is missing the reviewers will not understand the logic for publication and is a common reason for rejection [ 11 , 12 ]. An example of this is given below:
Till date, no study has been done to see the effectiveness of a mesh alone or the effectiveness of double suturing along with a mesh in the closure of an umbilical hernia regarding the incidence of failure. So, the present study is aimed at comparing the effectiveness of a mesh alone versus the double suturing technique along with a mesh.
7 How Long Should the Introduction Be?
For a project protocol, the introduction should be about 1–2 pages long and for a thesis it should be 3–5 pages in a double-spaced typed setting. For a scientific paper it should be less than 10–15% of the total length of the manuscript [ 13 , 14 ].
8 How Many References Should an Introduction Have?
All sections in a scientific manuscript except the conclusion should contain references. It has been suggested that an introduction should have four or five or at the most one-third of the references in the whole paper [ 15 ].
9 What Are the Important Points Which Should be not Missed in an Introduction?
An introduction paves the way forward for the subsequent sections of the article. Frequently well-planned studies are rejected by journals during review because of the simple reason that the authors failed to clarify the data in this section to justify the study [ 16 , 17 ]. Thus, the existing gap in knowledge should be clearly brought out in this section (Fig. 17.2 ).
How should the abstract, introduction, and discussion look
The following points are important to consider:
The introduction should be written in simple sentences and in the present tense.
Many of the terms will be introduced in this section for the first time and these will require abbreviations to be used later.
The references in this section should be to papers published in quality journals (e.g., having a high impact factor).
The aims, problems, and hypotheses should be clearly mentioned.
Start with a generalization on the topic and go on to specific information relevant to your research.
10 Example of an Introduction
An Introduction is a brief account of what the study is about. It should be short, crisp, and complete.
It has to move from a general to a specific research topic and must include the need for the present study.
The Introduction should include data from a literature search, i.e., what is already known about this subject and progress to what we hope to add to this knowledge.
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Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplantation, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, India
Department of Internal Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, India
Institute for Global Health and Development, The Aga Khan University, South Central Asia, East Africa and United Kingdom, Karachi, Pakistan
Zulfiqar A. Bhutta
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Nundy, S., Kakar, A., Bhutta, Z.A. (2022). How to Write the Introduction to a Scientific Paper?. In: How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries?. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5248-6_17
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Making sense of research: A guide for critiquing a paper
- 1 School of Nursing, Griffith University, Meadowbrook, Queensland.
- PMID: 16114192
- DOI: 10.5172/conu.14.1.38
Learning how to critique research articles is one of the fundamental skills of scholarship in any discipline. The range, quantity and quality of publications available today via print, electronic and Internet databases means it has become essential to equip students and practitioners with the prerequisites to judge the integrity and usefulness of published research. Finding, understanding and critiquing quality articles can be a difficult process. This article sets out some helpful indicators to assist the novice to make sense of research.
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- 06 November 2023
‘ChatGPT detector’ catches AI-generated papers with unprecedented accuracy
- McKenzie Prillaman
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A new AI detection tool can accurately identify chemistry papers written by ChatGPT. Credit: Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa via Alamy
A machine-learning tool can easily spot when chemistry papers are written using the chatbot ChatGPT, according to a study published on 6 November in Cell Reports Physical Science 1 . The specialized classifier, which outperformed two existing artificial intelligence (AI) detectors, could help academic publishers to identify papers created by AI text generators.
“Most of the field of text analysis wants a really general detector that will work on anything,” says co-author Heather Desaire, a chemist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. But by making a tool that focuses on a particular type of paper, “we were really going after accuracy”.
The findings suggest that efforts to develop AI detectors could be boosted by tailoring software to specific types of writing, Desaire says. “If you can build something quickly and easily, then it’s not that hard to build something for different domains.”
The elements of style
Desaire and her colleagues first described their ChatGPT detector in June, when they applied it to Perspective articles from the journal Science 2 . Using machine learning, the detector examines 20 features of writing style, including variation in sentence lengths, and the frequency of certain words and punctuation marks, to determine whether an academic scientist or ChatGPT wrote a piece of text. The findings show that “you could use a small set of features to get a high level of accuracy”, Desaire says.
How ChatGPT and other AI tools could disrupt scientific publishing
In the latest study, the detector was trained on the introductory sections of papers from ten chemistry journals published by the American Chemical Society (ACS). The team chose the introduction because this section of a paper is fairly easy for ChatGPT to write if it has access to background literature, Desaire says. The researchers trained their tool on 100 published introductions to serve as human-written text, and then asked ChatGPT-3.5 to write 200 introductions in ACS journal style. For 100 of these, the tool was provided with the papers’ titles, and for the other 100, it was given their abstracts.
When tested on introductions written by people and those generated by AI from the same journals, the tool identified ChatGPT-3.5-written sections based on titles with 100% accuracy. For the ChatGPT-generated introductions based on abstracts, the accuracy was slightly lower, at 98%. The tool worked just as well with text written by ChatGPT-4, the latest version of the chatbot. By contrast, the AI detector ZeroGPT identified AI-written introductions with an accuracy of only about 35–65%, depending on the version of ChatGPT used and whether the introduction had been generated from the title or the abstract of the paper. A text-classifier tool produced by OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, also performed poorly — it was able to spot AI-written introductions with an accuracy of around 10–55%.
The new ChatGPT catcher even performed well with introductions from journals it wasn’t trained on, and it caught AI text that was created from a variety of prompts, including one aimed to confuse AI detectors. However, the system is highly specialized for scientific journal articles. When presented with real articles from university newspapers, it failed to recognize them as being written by humans.
What the authors are doing is “something fascinating”, says Debora Weber-Wulff, a computer scientist who studies academic plagiarism at the HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences. Many existing tools try to determine authorship by searching for the predictive text patterns of AI-generated writing rather than by looking at features of writing style, she says. “I’d never thought of using stylometrics on ChatGPT.”
But Weber-Wulff points out that there are other issues driving the use of ChatGPT in academia. Many researchers are under pressure to quickly churn out papers, she notes, or they might not see the process of writing a paper as an important part of science. AI-detection tools will not address these issues, and should not be seen as “a magic software solution to a social problem”.
Desaire, H., Chua, A. E., Kim, M.-G. & Hua, D. Cell Rep. Phys. Sci. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrp.2023.101672 (2023).
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Desaire, H. et al. Cell Rep. Phys. Sci . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrp.2023.101426 (2023).
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Computer Science > Artificial Intelligence
Title: ai alignment: a comprehensive survey.
Abstract: AI alignment aims to make AI systems behave in line with human intentions and values. As AI systems grow more capable, the potential large-scale risks associated with misaligned AI systems become salient. Hundreds of AI experts and public figures have expressed concerns about AI risks, arguing that "mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority, alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war". To provide a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the alignment field, in this survey paper, we delve into the core concepts, methodology, and practice of alignment. We identify the RICE principles as the key objectives of AI alignment: Robustness, Interpretability, Controllability, and Ethicality. Guided by these four principles, we outline the landscape of current alignment research and decompose them into two key components: forward alignment and backward alignment. The former aims to make AI systems aligned via alignment training, while the latter aims to gain evidence about the systems' alignment and govern them appropriately to avoid exacerbating misalignment risks. Forward alignment and backward alignment form a recurrent process where the alignment of AI systems from the forward process is verified in the backward process, meanwhile providing updated objectives for forward alignment in the next round. On forward alignment, we discuss learning from feedback and learning under distribution shift. On backward alignment, we discuss assurance techniques and governance practices that apply to every stage of AI systems' lifecycle. We also release and continually update the website ( this http URL ) which features tutorials, collections of papers, blog posts, and other resources.
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How the Cloud Is Changing Data Science
Here’s what leaders need to know in this shifting landscape.
Cloud tools and technologies are influencing the future of data science work in two key areas: scaling resources and improving workforce agility. If organizations want to make use of these capabilities, though, they also need to develop strong data security and privacy frameworks when operating in a cloud environment. The author shares some examples of how organizations are doing this work.
The role of “ data scientist ” is among the top 20 fastest-growing occupations in the U.S., with 36% projected growth by 2031. These data professionals fuel the growth and innovation that’s needed to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, from climate change to chronic disease. Yet common infrastructure issues, such as critical data being unavailable or unsecured, often stall an organization’s ability to innovate.
Peter Wang is the CEO and co-founder of Anaconda , an operating system for AI.
- ChatGPT Alternatives
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- ChatGPT vs Bing Chat
ChatGPT lets you build your own chatbot without coding. Here’s how
Did you like my idea for a board game rule chatbot ? OpenAI did, so they made it into a custom bot and now you can make one of your own custom GPT models, share them with others, and later this month, even start selling them to people. You can bring in APIs and plugins, web access, and the latest training data up to April 2023.
Create a custom GPT
How to share your custom gpt, why can't i make custom gpts.
Here's how to make your own custom GPT chatbot.
What You Need
Desktop PC, laptop, or smart device with the ChatGPT app
You will need a GPT-Plus subscription to use the new Custom GPT feature, so be sure to sign up (or borrow a free trial from someone) if you want to give it a go.
From now on, most of the time when you use ChatGPT, you'll be using a custom GPT model that you or someone else has made. Here's how to get started with your own.
Step 1: Navigate to the ChatGPT website , or open the ChatGPT app and log in.
Step 2: Select the Create a GPT button at the top of the page.
Note: If you just see the standard ChatGPT window you've been used to, it's possible you don't have access to the Custom GPT feature yet. It's being rolled out globally at the time of writing, so just wait a day or two and try again.
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Step 3: Give your Custom GPT a name, a description, and its custom instructions. Think of this like the instructions you've been able to give ChatGPT for a while as a preamble to your prompt, but a preamble that only this custom GPT will use.
Use the Preview window on the right-hand side to see what the AI will look and perform like. You can give it a prompt to see how it performs, and then adjust the instructions of it on the left to tweak the way it works until you're happy with it.
Step 4: You can also add specific data for the AI to draw from, such as documents and files. Do so, and judge again how this effects the way the AI operates. You may want to adjust the instructions after giving it data access.
Step 5: You can tweak the potential functions of the AI, too. Select whether you want it to have DALL-E art generation abilities, Bing search engine access, or deeper data analytics. You can also customize what plugins it has access too, if any.
Step 6: When you're satisfied with the way your new custom GPT operates, select the green Publish or Update button to finalize it. You'll then be able to find your new custom GPT in the left-hand menu with the OpenAI GPTs and any other of your creations.
One of the coolest features of the new, custom GPT creations, is that you can share them with anyone. In the future, when the OpenAI custom GPT shop is created, you'll even be able to monetize these AIs.
Step 1: Create a new custom GPT as above, or select the three-dot menu next to your existing custom GPT and select the edit function.
Step 2: Make any changes to your custom GPT that you want, but instead of selecting the green Update buttons straight away, select the three-dot menu icon next to it, first.
Step 3: From the pop-out menu, select whether you want the AI to be usable by only you, everyone who uses those plugins, or anyone with a link.
To share it with anyone you want, select Anyone with a link
Step 4: Once you've published or updated the custom GPT, you can now share it with anyone by sharing the custom link.
If you find that your ChatGPT page looks like the screenshot above, tough luck. You can't make a custom GPT just yet as you don't have access to the future.
As long as you have a ChatGPT Plus subscription, though, you will get access in the near future. Just hang on a few more days and you should be able to start making your own models.
Now you can create your own custom GPTs. Let us know about some of your favorite creations, we'd love to showcase them.
Keep an eye on that OpenAI GPT shop, too. There's a potentially new lucrative career in creating functional chatbots for all who want them.
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Ever since the first generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools exploded onto the tech scene, there have been questions over where they’re getting their data and whether they’re harvesting your private data to train their products. Now, ChatGPT maker OpenAI could be in hot water for exactly these reasons.
According to TechCrunch, a complaint has been filed with the Polish Office for Personal Data Protection alleging that ChatGPT violates a large number of rules found in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It suggests that OpenAI’s tool has been scooping up user data in all sorts of questionable ways.
Generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT have gotten a bad rep recently, but Google is apparently trying to serve up something more positive with its next project: an AI that can offer helpful life advice to people going through tough times.
If a fresh report from The New York Times is to be believed, Google has been testing its AI tech with at least 21 different assignments, including “life advice, ideas, planning instructions and tutoring tips.” The work spans both professional and personal scenarios that users might encounter.
GPT-4 -- the large language model (LLM) that powers ChatGPT Plus -- may soon take on a new role as an online moderator, policing forums and social networks for nefarious content that shouldn’t see the light of day. That’s according to a new blog post from ChatGPT developer OpenAI, which says this could offer “a more positive vision of the future of digital platforms.”
By enlisting artificial intelligence (AI) instead of human moderators, OpenAI says GPT-4 can enact “much faster iteration on policy changes, reducing the cycle from months to hours.” As well as that, “GPT-4 is also able to interpret rules and nuances in long content policy documentation and adapt instantly to policy updates, resulting in more consistent labeling,” OpenAI claims.