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Scientific Writing 101

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Information about Scientific Writing 101

Published on March 6, 2009

Author: pmirshahpanah

Source: slideshare.net

Description

A general overview of composing a scientific article for publication in a peer reviewed journal
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Scientific Writing 101 “ In science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.” -Sir Francis Darwin Parham Mirshahpanah 20 July, 2007

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Journal Selection Aims & Scope Reference Relevance Impact Factor Editorial Board Scientific class: i.e. biology, chemistry, etc… Clinical application: derm, oncology, cardiology, etc… Quality of data: novelty, value to scientific community Utilize familiar names: references & associations Correspondence type: letter, original article, review… Similar journal as the majority of your references

Getting started: formatting Refer to journal home page for individual formatting styles; varies by journal Immunity Title Authors & Affiliations; corresponding author Running Title (displayed in Journal TOC) Abstract/ Summary Introduction Results Discussion Materials & Methods References Figure Legends Tables & Figures Total number of display items High resolution images (300-500 dpi minimum) color versus b/w MS Word/ Excel/ PPT/ PDF Display item configuration: heading, body, description References: textual reference and bibliography formatting Additional factors to consider:

Title

Authors & Affiliations; corresponding author

Running Title (displayed in Journal TOC)

Abstract/ Summary

Introduction

Results

Discussion

Materials & Methods

References

Figure Legends

Tables & Figures

Total number of display items

High resolution images (300-500 dpi minimum)

color versus b/w

MS Word/ Excel/ PPT/ PDF

Display item configuration: heading, body, description

References: textual reference and bibliography formatting

Getting started: formatting JBC Contact Dermatitis Gene Therapy Different journals have varying aesthetic properties that are handled by publisher and not to be considered by author

Getting started: formatting Submission Proof

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Getting started: data Choose the course of presentation based on the highest added value to the scientific community, which will also yield the optimal journal Develop an outline & order data to support story What information do you have and how can you best present it? Animal model Chemistry Molecular biology

Figures: basics After your abstract, readers will look to figures to gain the most information with the least time investment; therefore your figures should accurately depict and explain your findings in the simplest possible form Consider: axes/ titles labeling values breaks to amplify points of interest balanced amount of information consistency (c o l o r s and symbols) Mirshahpanah et al. Exp Dermatol 2007 light gray = MF dark gray = MPA

Consider:

axes/ titles

labeling

values

breaks to amplify points of interest

balanced amount of information

consistency (c o l o r s and symbols)

Figures: breaks & dual axes Thickness Weight no info small window Dual axes allows incorporation of two relevant parameters into a single graph, which allows for better comparison break decreases the amount of space used for irrelevant info and allows for expansion of point of interest sparse graph

Figures: tables Maintain consistency, simplicity, and completeness Mirshahpanah et al. Exp Dermatol 2007 Informative title clear labeling across headings (along with measurement parameters) consistent presentation of information: mean ± SD Legend describes fundamental properties necessary to read table

Informative title

clear labeling across headings (along with measurement parameters)

consistent presentation of information: mean ± SD

Legend describes fundamental properties necessary to read table

Figures: titles & legends First sentence summarizes results of figure Followed by a brief “materials and methods” explanation specific for this figure Then describes actual results with values and significance where appropriate ( p- values) Ends with statistical evaluation methods and representative value definition Zollner et al. JCI 2002

First sentence summarizes results of figure

Followed by a brief “materials and methods” explanation specific for this figure

Then describes actual results with values and significance where appropriate ( p- values)

Ends with statistical evaluation methods and representative value definition

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Results: basics Describes findings that are presented in figures, without duplicating the figures DO provide guided description of findings, including trends or correlations DO cite other papers that are directly relevant to your data; not in terms of implications but pure results DO provide basic interpretation of results without alluding to larger implications DO NOT simply restate that which is clearly presented in the figures DO NOT discuss the role of results in the greater scheme of your paper – save this for the discussion Language : use past tense to describe events that have occurred in your experiment and present tense for conclusions you draw from the results

Describes findings that are presented in figures, without duplicating the figures

DO provide guided description of findings, including trends or correlations

DO cite other papers that are directly relevant to your data; not in terms of implications but pure results

DO provide basic interpretation of results without alluding to larger implications

DO NOT simply restate that which is clearly presented in the figures

DO NOT discuss the role of results in the greater scheme of your paper – save this for the discussion

Results: example Zollner et al. JCI 2002 Leading sentence summarizes results Transitory sentence from previous section links different paragraphs and guides reader in the intended direction and flow of information (data presentation) References used to support results Minimal interpretational statements allow for unbiased presentation of data with subtle guidance from the author to address the issue: why do I care? Only data points that are relevant to the point of the study are discussed, not every single point needs to be mentioned Correlations may be drawn to support other data or to gain support from other results

Leading sentence summarizes results

Transitory sentence from previous section links different paragraphs and guides reader in the intended direction and flow of information (data presentation)

References used to support results

Minimal interpretational statements allow for unbiased presentation of data with subtle guidance from the author to address the issue: why do I care?

Only data points that are relevant to the point of the study are discussed, not every single point needs to be mentioned

Correlations may be drawn to support other data or to gain support from other results

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Materials & Methods: basics Accurately and concisely summarizes materials and methods used to carry out experimental procedures Animals and models employed along with appropriate authorization statement Reagents used including company name and location (city, state/country) Provides enough detail to reproduce results in another lab of similar capacity; write with a general scientific audience in mind: not necessary to write: We poured 50% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) buffer into a graduated cylinder until the bottom of the meniscus was at the 20ml line. We then poured 80ml de-ionized water to make 10% SDS buffer and divided it into five equal tubes. instead summarize: We aliquoted 20ml of 10% SDS to 5 tubes. You may cite other papers for detailed explanation of methods and briefly state the main points to align the reader Order methods according to the logical flow of the experiment, often paralleling the order of results and figures Include Statistics – these are methods used to evaluate data Language : past tense, passive voice (the reader is not interested in who did the experiment, but instead what was done) - i.e. avoid “we”

Accurately and concisely summarizes materials and methods used to carry out experimental procedures

Animals and models employed along with appropriate authorization statement

Reagents used including company name and location (city, state/country)

Provides enough detail to reproduce results in another lab of similar capacity; write with a general scientific audience in mind:

not necessary to write:

We poured 50% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) buffer into a graduated cylinder until the bottom of the meniscus was at the 20ml line. We then poured 80ml de-ionized water to make 10% SDS buffer and divided it into five equal tubes.

instead summarize:

We aliquoted 20ml of 10% SDS to 5 tubes.

You may cite other papers for detailed explanation of methods and briefly state the main points to align the reader

Order methods according to the logical flow of the experiment, often paralleling the order of results and figures

Include Statistics – these are methods used to evaluate data

Materials & Methods: example Concise descriptions Approval for animal model statement Topic sentence summarizing subsequent method description Referencing of detailed descriptions instead of re-writing it Brief description summarizing main experimental procedure Statistics used in various steps; often involves several procedures; again, referencing other sources saves space and allows reader to locate detailed description if necessary Mirshahpanah et al. Exp Dermatol 2007

Concise descriptions

Approval for animal model statement

Topic sentence summarizing subsequent method description

Referencing of detailed descriptions instead of re-writing it

Brief description summarizing main experimental procedure

Statistics used in various steps; often involves several procedures; again, referencing other sources saves space and allows reader to locate detailed description if necessary

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Introduction: format Basic background: what clinical implication does your study fit into? Introduce history Past studies and their results; what information is still unknown/ what questions arose? Description of specific parameters addressed in your study, align reader with language and readouts State your objective, process and allude to the significance your results aim to provide

Introduction: basics Guides reader into the specific material you are about to discuss Where does the clinical implication of your study lay? disease-specific? Basic biological process? Drug discovery? Introduce basic background and concepts: history and references characterize the background of the issues you will address in your study outline the evolution of the topic of interest by discussing previous study’s results and conclusions; use primary references i.e. drug/ therapy development, animal models, molecular biology, etc… What studies already exist that are similar to your investigation what were their conclusions? what are they lacking; what still requires elucidation? describe how your study fits into the larger picture of these previous findings The final paragraph should briefly describe what you did, why you did it, and how you did it – all with relevance to the previous studies you have mentioned allude to your broader implicated findings: what have you done that makes this an important study that adds value, what gap have you filled? Intro should give reader a working knowledge of history, implications, some specifics, and providing the reason your study adds value

Guides reader into the specific material you are about to discuss

Where does the clinical implication of your study lay?

disease-specific?

Basic biological process?

Drug discovery?

Introduce basic background and concepts: history and references

characterize the background of the issues you will address in your study

outline the evolution of the topic of interest by discussing previous study’s results and conclusions; use primary references

i.e. drug/ therapy development, animal models, molecular biology, etc…

What studies already exist that are similar to your investigation

what were their conclusions?

what are they lacking; what still requires elucidation?

describe how your study fits into the larger picture of these previous findings

The final paragraph should briefly describe what you did, why you did it, and how you did it – all with relevance to the previous studies you have mentioned

allude to your broader implicated findings: what have you done that makes this an important study that adds value, what gap have you filled?

Intro should give reader a working knowledge of history, implications, some specifics, and providing the reason your study adds value

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Discussion: constituents results literature theory clinical applications Discussion contradictions patterns future studies

Discussion: format Summarize your findings Discuss each major result in the context of previous studies, pointing out supportive and contradictory findings Suggest implications and practical applications of results; extend to other species if appropriate Provide “big picture” conclusion of results; integrating results, literature, theory and future direction for further studies

Discussion: basics Innovative facet of scientific article, allowing for guided interpretation of results First paragraph summarizes findings in a clear manner Draw conclusions from each major result Briefly describe results without repeating previous sections Cite literature that your results build upon or contradict Explain possible reasons for your findings (appropriately supported by data or references); provide reasons for deviations Provide evidence for conclusions combining previous work with current findings Suggest future studies to further elucidate or verify your results Be open about your results, describe deviations from hypothesis or expected results, what future experiments would clarify these issues? Broader implications Suggest theoretical implications of your results Suggest practical application of your results Discuss findings in a broader topic – extend to clinical situations if applicable The final paragraph should state what your findings added to the scientific community (why is this study important?) and provide suggestions for future direction

Innovative facet of scientific article, allowing for guided interpretation of results

First paragraph summarizes findings in a clear manner

Draw conclusions from each major result

Briefly describe results without repeating previous sections

Cite literature that your results build upon or contradict

Explain possible reasons for your findings (appropriately supported by data or references); provide reasons for deviations

Provide evidence for conclusions combining previous work with current findings

Suggest future studies to further elucidate or verify your results

Be open about your results, describe deviations from hypothesis or expected results, what future experiments would clarify these issues?

Broader implications

Suggest theoretical implications of your results

Suggest practical application of your results

Discuss findings in a broader topic – extend to clinical situations if applicable

The final paragraph should state what your findings added to the scientific community (why is this study important?) and provide suggestions for future direction

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Abstract Most frequently read section of your paper; must be concise and complete Brief introductory sentence to topic – i.e. clinical issue addressed Background/ purpose of experiment Methods – brief description of study design Results – using actual values or stating major trends and findings from results Conclusion – summary of discussion stating the major contribution of your study Notes: Do not include brand names and try to avoid abbreviations

Brief introductory sentence to topic – i.e. clinical issue addressed

Background/ purpose of experiment

Methods – brief description of study design

Results – using actual values or stating major trends and findings from results

Conclusion – summary of discussion stating the major contribution of your study

Notes: Do not include brand names and try to avoid abbreviations

Abstract: example Introduction – topical glucocorticoids Purpose – assessment of two leading compounds: function & side effects Methods – in vitro and in vivo rodent models for compound atrophogenicity Results – one compound superior to the other in both respects Conclusions – better drug in this test system, must be tested in clinic to confirm Mirshahpanah et al. Exp Dermatol 2007

Introduction – topical glucocorticoids

Purpose – assessment of two leading compounds: function & side effects

Methods – in vitro and in vivo rodent models for compound atrophogenicity

Results – one compound superior to the other in both respects

Conclusions – better drug in this test system, must be tested in clinic to confirm

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Formatting & Submission Order Cover Page Key Words Abstract Introduction Materials & Methods Results Discussion References Figure Legends Figures Supplemental data Submission Cover letter to the editor Online electronic submission & correspondences

Order

Cover Page

Key Words

Abstract

Introduction

Materials & Methods

Results

Discussion

References

Figure Legends

Figures

Supplemental data

Submission

Cover letter to the editor

Online electronic submission & correspondences

Formatting & Submission: cover letter Properly address the editor Introduce manuscript including title Provide a brief paragraph about your study relevance scope results Conclude with reasoning for choosing this journal Why is your study relevant and important for the readership of this particular journal? What conclusions can you draw from your study?

Properly address the editor

Introduce manuscript including title

Provide a brief paragraph about your study

relevance

scope

results

Conclude with reasoning for choosing this journal

Why is your study relevant and important for the readership of this particular journal?

What conclusions can you draw from your study?

Process Journal Data & Figures Results Materials & Methods Introduction Discussion Abstract Formatting & Submission Reviewer Response

Journal

Data & Figures

Results

Materials & Methods

Introduction

Discussion

Abstract

Formatting & Submission

Reviewer Response

Reviewer Response Thank each reviewer for his/her contributions, they volunteer their time to review papers and are ultimately responsible for accepting your manuscript Provide complete point-by-point response to detail exactly how you have adapted your manuscript or fully refuted comments; if necessary, break up reviewer’s paragraph to respond to each query Follow guidelines for review process in each journal; generally, track changes in MS Word and be prepared to provide original, changed, and revised versions Resubmit as soon as possible to ensure timely publication

Thank each reviewer for his/her contributions, they volunteer their time to review papers and are ultimately responsible for accepting your manuscript

Provide complete point-by-point response to detail exactly how you have adapted your manuscript or fully refuted comments; if necessary, break up reviewer’s paragraph to respond to each query

Follow guidelines for review process in each journal; generally, track changes in MS Word and be prepared to provide original, changed, and revised versions

Resubmit as soon as possible to ensure timely publication

 

EndNote: reference manager Create a new library for each publication; allows for simple reformatting when necessary Many available journal styles, which may be further formatted for those missing from the database connect to PubMed to search and directly download into database format bibliography specifically for each journal

Create a new library for each publication; allows for simple reformatting when necessary

Many available journal styles, which may be further formatted for those missing from the database

EndNote: remote searches Multi-field searching capacity allows for specific location of topics by various search fields and associations

EndNote: output styles Edit  Output Styles  Edit “current style” (use the style closest to your journal of interest)

SigmaPlot: basics Scaling Axes Breaks Grouping Error bars

Scaling

Axes

Breaks

Grouping

Error bars

SigmaPlot: scaling resize scales to maximize data presentation

insert break to enhance differences SigmaPlot: breaks

SigmaPlot: enhancement Basic Plot (original) Aesthetically Enhanced Plot

General Tips Use consistent tenses – don’t switch between past, present and future Simple is preferred over complex – words/ sentences/ structure Use the active voice (except in methods) We found correlations… (active voice) Correlations were found… (passive voice) Subject-verb agreement (The mice from each study were sacrificed.) Use affirmative (+) rather than negative (-) constructions Numbers beginning a sentence must be spelled (Twenty-five vs. 25) Avoid phrases such as: four different groups absolute essential in close proximity very close to zero much better

Use consistent tenses – don’t switch between past, present and future

Simple is preferred over complex – words/ sentences/ structure

Use the active voice (except in methods)

We found correlations… (active voice)

Correlations were found… (passive voice)

Subject-verb agreement (The mice from each study were sacrificed.)

Use affirmative (+) rather than negative (-) constructions

Numbers beginning a sentence must be spelled (Twenty-five vs. 25)

Avoid phrases such as:

four different groups

absolute essential

in close proximity

very close to zero

much better

General Writing: flow Simple is better ; writing should be easy to read Flow of paper should follow an hourglass shape Introduction starts broadly (top), narrows to specific point(s) addressed (neck) Materials, Results & Figures detail exactly what was observed (grains) Discussion applies findings in a broader setting (base)

Simple is better ; writing should be easy to read

Flow of paper should follow an hourglass shape

Introduction starts broadly (top), narrows to specific point(s) addressed (neck)

Materials, Results & Figures detail exactly what was observed (grains)

Discussion applies findings in a broader setting (base)

General Writing: example A good paragraph generally possesses several key features that contribute to its clarity and effectiveness in presenting information. The first feature is a topic sentence that provides the reader with a general overview of the topic covered in the ensuing paragraph. The body of the paragraph should provide substantial information with references and evidence supporting the topic sentence. The final sentence serves to wrap up the ideas and prepare the reader for material to follow in the next paragraph, also known as a transition sentence. Upon reading the final sentence, the reader should be able to name the topic of the following paragraph. Topic Sentence Body: supporting evidence Concluding/ transition sentence

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