A scientific paper or research paper is the written and published document of your original research work. Without writing, the knowledge gained and the output of your research are likely to be lost. In other words, a scientific paper is a written record of your research findings that is communicated to the scientific community and general public for their welfare.
Therefore, it must be written in a simple and grammatically correct format that communicates a clear message to its readers. However, Scientific writing is not an easy task because it differs in format and structure from the normal writing in English. Writing a scientific paper demands not only an excellent writing skill, but also a sound organizing skill. Even a well-written scientific paper can be rejected by the publisher if the contents are not well-organized.
For this, it’s necessary to focus not only on your scientific process in research, but also the scientific writing process.
If you are new to the process of scientific paper writing or fear that your writing might not match the standards of the publication journal, here is a step-by-step guide for writing an effective research paper and getting it published in your favorite journal.
The before steps of writing a scientific paper
To make scientific writing an easy task, you must:
1.Research how your work fits into the existing literature
Once you have decided upon the topic for your research, familiarize yourself with previous research work done on the topic. You must be able to answer these questions after studying the previous literature:
- What do we already know about the topic?
- What is the knowledge that we still do not know?
- Why this knowledge is important?
Answering these questions will propel your research as well as scientific writing in a positive direction where you will be able to draft a compelling story of your research to tell the readers; what literature currently exists and what else you have contributed to make it better.
2.Understand your target audience
You are writing a scientific paper for your audience because you want them to learn and understand something valuable from it and not to just document what you did or learned. So, it’s obvious you must understand and write to your audience. To do so, ask yourself:
- Who is my audience?
- What are their goals in reading my scientific paper?
- What message do I want them to convey from my writing?
Writing your scientific paper
Clear and precise scientific writing usually follows a format comprising of the following sections:
1.Introduction to the research topic
The introduction section is the most important. It sets the tone of your writing providing relevant background information on the topic that finally narrows down to the specific focus of your research. Keep in mind the following to write an effective introduction:
- Start wide to put your research into a broad context that even a layman could understand
- Clearly state the implications of your work or any societal implications it has relevant to your field of study
- Do not include any information that doesn’t fit into your story
- Include in-text citations in the format (Author name, publication year) for each paper you cite
- Explicitly state how your work will contribute in filling the knowledge gap in your study field
- Hypothesis to be tested
Define the hypothesis to be addressed by your research giving a brief overview of your experimental design and approach. Use present tense to write the hypothesis.
2.Materials and methods used with description
The aim of this section is to provide information about the methods used in the experiment and whether they were scientifically valid or not. Write this section in the past tense and organize it in sub-sections with headers for each procedure to make your writing clear.
3.Key results or findings
Depending upon the complexity of your research study, write this section using sub-sections and headers. Use tables, figures, and graphs to support your results. Be clear and specific in describing each of your research findings. Describe the results in biological terms rather than statistical; statistics should only be used to supplement the information.
4.Discussion that co-relates these findings with the broader knowledge of the topic
Remember, this section must form a self-contained story tying together the sections of Introduction and Results, with a take-home message for the readers. Highlight the following in the Discussion section:
- Explicitly state the main findings of your research
- Remind the readers about the knowledge gap you had set out to address and fill through your research and how it has done so
- Address the hypothesis with specific evidence from your results
- In case of multiple interpretations of the result, clearly explain each competing interpretation
- Also report how your results relate to the previous research studies, how they compare with them, and whether they are consistent or inconsistent with them. In case of any inconsistency, state and elaborate on the causes for it like difference in experimental design, small sample size, procedural mistakes etc.
- Conclude the section by summarizing the outcome of the study in a way that provokes new insights or questions from your research study.
- Any shortcomings or limitations in your research project must be written in the beginning of the section and not in the concluding paragraph
- End the section with a strong note or take-home message for the readers
Wrapping the guide with few concluding remarks:
- Pay attention to the flow of your paper. The reader must be able to move easily from one concept to another within sentences or paragraphs.
- Use active voice to write the paper with occasional sentences in passive voice
- Use simple words to lay across your study
Scientific writing is an art and is incomplete without giving final touches to it. Proofreading and editing your paper comprise those final touches and must form an integral part of your scientific writing process. Good luck with your writing!