How To Write a Scientific Paper – a general Guide Presentation Sources



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How To Write a Scientific Paper – A General Guide

Presentation Sources

  • Significant portions were adapted from a 2005 Elsevier Presentation
  • Additional material adapted from “Journal Development” – Authors’ workshop material: INASP June 2005

Overview

  • Task of writing a research paper can be daunting
  • Even with groundbreaking research, unless the paper is correctly written:
    • at best, publication will be delayed
    • at worse, never published
  • Presentation will provide an overview of ‘how to write a well-structured research paper for publication’

Background: Author’s Perspective

  • Motivation to publish:
    • Dissemination (54% 1st choice)
    • Career prospects (20% 1st choice)
    • Improved funding (13% 1st choice)
    • Ego (9% 1st choice)
    • Patent protection (4% 1st choice)
    • Other (5% 1st choice)
  • Bryan Coles (ed.) The STM Information System in the UK, BL Report 6123, Royal Society, BL, ALPSP, 1993

Author Publishing Priorities

  • Quality and speed
    • Top items were
      • Refereeing speed
      • Refereeing standard
      • Journal reputation
  • Editor/board, physical quality and publication services

Author versus Reader Behaviour

  • Author behaviour
    • Want to publish more
    • Peer review essential
    • Other journal functions crucial
    • Wider dissemination
  • Reader behaviour
    • Want integrated system
    • Browsing is crucial
    • Quality information important
    • Want to read less
  • Elsevier study of 36,000 authors (1999-2002) presented by Michael Mabe at ALPSP Seminar on “Learning from users” 2003; www.alpsp.org

Reader’s priorities

  • Authoritative quality articles
  • Ease of access
  • Rapid delivery
  • Convenient format
  • Linking of information - clustering
  • Low or no cost
  • Up-to-date information

Differences: Authors and Readers

  • Authors are journal focused
  • Readers are article focused
  • Publish more/read less dichotomy

Priorities for Readers in Low-Income Countries (discussion)

    • Rank on a Scale of 5:1 -
    • 5 (very useful), 4 (somewhat useful), 3 (average), 2 (somewhat not useful), 1 (not useful)
    • Authoritative quality articles
    • Ease of access
    • Rapid delivery
    • Convenient format
    • Linking of information - clustering
    • Low or no cost (Open Access or HINAGOA publisher)
    • Up-to-date information
    • Other

Key Elements of Publishing

  • Ethical Issues
  • Style and language
  • Structure of paper
  • Components of paper
  • Article submission/journal selection
  • Publisher’s process/peer review

Ethical Issues

  • Disclosure of Conflict of Interest
  • Acknowledgment of funding sources
  • Image manipulation guidelines
  • Online submission - supplemental information (datasets, videos)
  • For Health Sciences
    • Submission of a Clinical Trials to a Central
    • Registry
    • Institutional Review Board approval
    • See: Blackwell Science - Best Practice Guidelines on Publishing Ethics
    • http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/Publicationethics/

Style and Language

  • Refer to the journal’s author guide for notes on style (see Publishing Skills Web-Bibliography for examples)
    • Some authors write their paper with a specific journal in mind
    • Others write the paper and then adapt it to fit the style of a journal they subsequently choose
  • Objective is to report your findings and conclusions clearly and concisely as possible

Style and Language

  • If English is not your first language, find a native English speaker (if possible) to review the content and language of the paper before submitting it
  • Regardless of primary language, find a colleague/editor to review the content and language of the paper
  • See: Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals: Writing and Editing for Biomedical Publication http://www.icmje.org/
  • “I don’t care what you think”, George said,
  • “my paper is dynamic and stimulating.”

Structure of a Paper

  • Scientific writing follows a rigid structure –
  • a format developed over hundreds of years
  • Consequently, a paper can be read at several levels:
    • Some people just will refer to the title
    • Others may read only the title and abstract
    • Others will read the paper for a deeper understanding

Components of a Paper

Authors Listing

  • ONLY include those who have made an intellectual contribution to the research
  • OR those who will publicly defend the data and conclusions, and who have approved the final version
  • Order of the names of the authors can vary from discipline to discipline
    • In some fields, the corresponding author’s name appears first

Title

  • Describes the paper’s content clearly and precisely including keywords
  • Is the advertisement for the article
  • Do not use abbreviations and jargon
  • Search engines/indexing databases depend on the accuracy of the title - since they use the keywords to identify relevant articles

Abstract

  • Briefly summarize (often 150 words) - the problem, the method, the results, and the conclusions so that
    • The reader can decide whether or not to read the whole article
  • Together, the title and the abstract should stand on their own
  • Many authors write the abstract last so that it accurately reflects the content of the paper
  • See: The Structured Abstract: An Essential Tool for Research http://research.mlanet.org/structured_abstract.html

Introduction

  • Clearly state the:
    • Problem being investigated
    • Background that explains the problem
    • Reasons for conducting the research
  • Summarize relevant research to provide context
  • State how your work differs from published work
  • Identify the questions you are answering
  • Explain what other findings, if any, you are challenging or extending
  • Briefly describe the experiment, hypothesis(es), research question(s); general experimental design or method

Methods

  • Provide the reader enough details so they can understand and replicate your research
  • Explain how you studied the problem, identify the procedures you followed, and order these chronologically where possible
  • Explain new methodology in detail; otherwise name the method and cite the previously published work
  • Include the frequency of observations, what types of data were recorded, etc.
  • Be precise in describing measurements and include errors of measurement or research design limits
  • Gerald had begun to think that his
  • methodology was too detailed.

Results

  • Objectively present your findings, and explain what was found
  • Show that your new results are contributing to the body of scientific knowledge
  • Follow a logical sequence based on the tables and figures presenting the findings to answer the question or hypothesis
  • Figures should have a brief description (a legend), providing the reader sufficient information to know how the data were produced

Discussion/Conclusion

  • Describe what your results mean in context of what was already known about the subject
  • Indicate how the results relate to expectations and to the literature previously cited
  • Explain how the research has moved the body of scientific knowledge forward
  • Do not extend your conclusions beyond what is directly supported by your results - avoid undue speculation
  • Outline the next steps for further study

References

  • Whenever you draw upon previously published work, you must acknowledge the source
  • Any information not from your experiment and not ‘common knowledge’ should be recognized by a citation
  • How references are presented varies considerably - refer to notes for authors for the specific journal
  • Avoid references that are difficult to find
  • Avoid listing related references that were not important to the study

Harvard Reference Style

  • Uses the author's name and date of publication in the body of the text, and the bibliography is given alphabetically by author
    • Adams, A.B. (1983a) Article title: subtitle. Journal Title 46 (Suppl. 2), 617-619
    • Adams, A.B. (1983b) Book Title. Publisher, New York. 
    • Bennett, W.P., Hoskins, M.A., Brady, F.P. et al. (1993) Article title. Journal Title 334 , 31-35. 

Vancouver Reference Style

  • Uses a number series to indicate references; bibliographies list these in numerical order as they appear in the text
    • 1. Adams, A.B. (1983) Article title: subtitle. Journal Title 46 (Suppl. 2), 617-619. 
    • 2. Lessells, D.E. (1989) Chapter title. In: Arnold, J.R. & Davies, G.H.B. (eds.) Book Title , 3rd edn. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, pp. 32-68.
    • 3. Bennett, W.P., Hoskins, M.A., Brady, F.P. et al. (1993) Article title. Journal Title 334 , 31-35. 

Summaries/Examples of Styles

  • International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals: Sample References
    • http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/uniform_requirements.html
  • How to Cite References/Vancouver Style, Murdoch University, Australia
    • http://wwwlib.murdoch.edu.au/find/citation/vancouver.html
  • Blackwell Publishing Online/References
    • http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/authors/reference_text.asp
  • BMA Reference Styles
    • http://www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/Content/LIBReferenceStyles
  • Jane suddenly realised that her reference
  • list had too many self citations…

Article Submission

  • Select your journal carefully
  • Read the aims and scope
  • Think about your target audience and the level of your work – do you have a realistic chance of being accepted?
  • Follow the guidelines in the notes for authors and include everything they ask – it makes the editor’s job easier…
  • Articles should not be submitted to more than one journal at a time
  • See: Instructions to Authors in Health Sciences
  • http://mulford.mco.edu/instr/

Online Submission

  • Many publishers now offer a completely electronic submission process
  • Article is submitted online and all of the review procedure also happens online
  • Speeds up the editorial process
  • Is invaluable for authors in low-income countries

Author Priorities for Journal Selection (Elsevier)

  • Key (Determining) factors
    • Impact Factor
    • Reputation
    • Access to the target audience
    • Overall editorial standard
    • Publication speed
    • International coverage
    • Open Access or HINARI participating publisher
  • Marginal (Qualifying) factors
    • Experience as a referee
    • Track record
    • Quality and colour illustrations
    • Service elements

Author Priorities for Journal Selection (INASP)

  • Quality / prestige
  • Collection / specialisation
  • Habit / previous publication
  • Speed / time delay

Journal Selection for Authors from Low-Income Countries (discussion)

    • Rank on a Scale of 5:1 -
    • 5 (very useful), 4 (somewhat useful), 3 (average), 2 (somewhat not useful), 1 (not useful)
    • Impact Factor
    • Reputation or quality/prestige
    • Access to the target audience or specialization
    • Overall editorial standard
    • Publication speed
    • International coverage
    • Habit/previous publication
    • Open Access or HINARI/AGORA/OARE participating publisher
    • Other

After Submission

  • Most journal editors will make an initial decision on a paper - to review or to reject
  • Most editors appoint two referees
  • Refereeing speed varies tremendously between journals
  • Authors should receive a decision of Accept, Accept with Revision (Minor or Major), or Reject
  • If a paper is rejected, most editors will write to you explaining their decision
  • After rejection, authors have the option of submitting the paper to another journal - editor’s suggestions should be addressed

Overview of Peer Review Process

  • Paper Submitted
  • Initial Decision by Editor
  • Confirmation of Receipt
  • Rejection
  • Decide to Review
  • Assign Reviewers
  • Reviewers Accept Invite
  • Reviews Completed
  • Reject
  • Accept
  • Notification to Author
  • Revise
  • Paper sent to Publisher
  • Accept
  • Revise
  • Revision Received
  • Revision Checked

Publishing Tips

  • Editors and reviewers are looking for original and innovative research that will add to the field of study; keys are:
    • For research-based papers, ensure that you have enough numbers to justify sound statistical conclusions
    • For a larger study, it may be better to produce one important research paper, rather than a number of average incremental papers

Call for Papers – Elsevier 06 2008

  • ELSEVIER: BUILDING INSIGHTS; BREAKING BOUNDARIES/MANUSCRIPTS SUBMISSION On behalf of all the Editors-in-chief of Elsevier journals, we wish to Communicate to you that we are currently accepting manuscripts in all fields of human endeavour. Authors are invited to submit manuscripts reporting recent developments in their fields. Papers submitted will be sorted out and published in any of our numerous journals that best fits…
  • The submitted papers must be written in English and describe original research not published nor currently under review by other journals. Parallel submissions will not be accepted.

Our goal is to inform authors about their paper(s) within one week of receipt. All submitted papers, if relevant, will go through an external peer-review process. Submissions should include an abstract, 5-10 key words, the e-mail address of the corresponding author. The paper length should not exceed 30 double-spaced pages including figures and references on 8.5 by 11 inch paper using at least 11 point font. Authors should select a category designation for their manuscripts (article, short communication, review, etc.). Papers should be submitted electronically via email in Microsoft Word or PDF attachments and should Include a cover sheet containing corresponding Author's name, Paper Title, affiliation, mailing address, phone, fax number, email address etc. Would-be authors should send their manuscript to: elsevierpublications@live.co.uk Kind Regards, Philip Mcgregor (Prof.)

  • Our goal is to inform authors about their paper(s) within one week of receipt. All submitted papers, if relevant, will go through an external peer-review process. Submissions should include an abstract, 5-10 key words, the e-mail address of the corresponding author. The paper length should not exceed 30 double-spaced pages including figures and references on 8.5 by 11 inch paper using at least 11 point font. Authors should select a category designation for their manuscripts (article, short communication, review, etc.). Papers should be submitted electronically via email in Microsoft Word or PDF attachments and should Include a cover sheet containing corresponding Author's name, Paper Title, affiliation, mailing address, phone, fax number, email address etc. Would-be authors should send their manuscript to: elsevierpublications@live.co.uk Kind Regards, Philip Mcgregor (Prof.)

Further Resources

  • Davis, Martha (2005) “Scientific Papers and Presentations”, 2nd Edition. Academic Press (ISBN 0-12-088424-0)
  • Grossman, Michael (2004) “Writing and Presenting Scientific Papers”, 2nd edition, Nottingham University Press, (ISBN 1-897676-12-3).
  • Clare, J & Hamilton, H (2003) “Writing research transforming Data into Text”, Churchill Livingstone (ISBN 0443071829).
  • HINARI Publishing Skills Web-bibliography 11 2007
  • Essential Health Links/Publishing Skills
  • http://www.healthnet.org/essential-links/publishing-skills.html

Hands On Activities

  • Any Questions?
  • We now will proceed to the ‘Hands On Activities’ for ‘How to Write a Scientific Paper’
    • Structured Abstract
    • Bibliographic citations
    • Journal selection
    • Other?
  • Last Updated 06 2008

Appendix: How To Submit a Journal Article

  • This is a list compiled by Grace Ajuwon, an author from Nigeria:
    • Read the instructions for authors carefully
    • Format manuscript in line with the journal style
    • Send the manuscript to the journal editor and await for the acknowledgement
    • Wait for reviewers comments
    • Address all the comments of the reviewers

Keep to deadline for submission of revised manuscript

  • Keep to deadline for submission of revised manuscript
  • Return the revised manuscript to the editor with a point-by-point response to the reviewers’ comments
  • Read the proof sent by the editor and ensure that everything is okay
  • Return the proof back to the editor before the deadline
  • Complete and return copyright form to the editor (some journals need this before publication)
  • Wait to see the article in print or online
  • If the manuscript is rejected at the peer review level, revise it using the reviewers comments and send to another journal


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