WRITING A SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ARTICLEFORMAT 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:
1. The person who did the work and wrote the paper is generally listed as the first author of a research paper.
2. The prinipal investigator (PI) is listed last
3. Other people who made substantial contributions to the work are also listed as authors in between your name and the PI.
Make sure to ask everyone you list for permission before including his/her name as co-author.
1. An abstract, or summary, is published together with a research article, giving the reader a "preview" of what's to come. 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 200-300 words, which summarizes the background, purpose, results (sometimes mentioning what method was used to obtain those 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
Why is your research interesting? Make sure to spend sometime discussing the significance of your research. If your research has a know medical application, discuss this even if the research would only be tranlated to the clinic years from now. What question did you ask in your experiment? Explain the logic behind the experimental setup. The introduction summarizes the relevant literature so that the reader will understand why you were interested in the question you asked. Make sure to explain the specific protein(s), signalling pathways, molecules, etc. you worked with .End with a paragraph describing your results. This will be a restating of the results portion of your abstract. Try to change the wording enough or add a few details to keep it interesting.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. If you used someone elses published protocol, cite this but then list the modifications you implimented to complete the specific protocol, e.g. probe hybridization temperature.
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.
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?
5. Make sure to explain what all controls were testing. You can not just state that "gDNA was used as a positive control." A positive control for what?RESULTS
1. This is where you narrate the results you've gotten. State off each results paragraph explaining why you did the following experiment. Then describe your results. Don't worry that some of this may repeat parts of your figure legend. Finish off the paragraph by interpreting your results.
2. Make it obvious what part of the data you collected.
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, start off the legend with a title, which states the result, such as"Enzyme activity increase with temperature", not "My results".) For graphs, be sure to 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.
3. Make sure figure legends are contain the information necessary so that a person can look at a figure and understand what all the components are including lettering subfigures, abbreviations, error bars, scale, organism, technique and what each colored bar represents.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 your 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 but aren't authors, 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.
A major part of any writing assignment consists of re-writing.
Instead of: The rats were injected with
the drug. (sounds like a syringe was filled with drug and ground-up rats and both were
Temperature has an effect on the
I used solutions in various concentrations. (The
solutions were 5 mg/ml, 10 mg/ml, and 15 mg/ml)
Less food (can't count numbers of food)
A large amount of food (can't count them)
The erythrocytes, which are in the blood, contain
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 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
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,
Robert S. Day, How to Write and Publish a
Scientific Paper, 4th edition, Oryx Press, Phoenix, 1994.
William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The
Elements of Style, 3rd ed. Macmillan, New York, 1987.