2 Why do I need to write?“A naturalist’s life would be a happy one if he had only to observe and never to write.” – Charles DarwinGoal of scientific research is publicationPublications are correlated with grant funding successPublications are required for promotion, recognition, and salary increasesNo one benefits if results are not shared
3 Science is a “Social Disease” Never aloneCommunication vs. archivingPublication vs. notebookAdvertisingYour work is important only if others see it and build on it
4 4/14/2017Scientific WritingOrganization of paper is as important as literary skillBad writing dooms “good science”Simplicity and clarityMajority of scientists are NOT native English speakersThe thinking is what really counts
5 Scientific Writing - History 4/14/2017Scientific Writing - HistoryFirst scientific journals began in 1655 in France & EnglandUntil mid-1800s all papers of a descriptive styleIn the mid-1800s Pasteur introduced experimental papers that stressed reproducibility and which are now the rule
6 Important Questions What message do I want to convey? 4/14/2017Important QuestionsWhat message do I want to convey?What question did I ask?What was my answer?NOT, What experiments did I do?
7 Organizing Your Thoughts The hardest part of the processOutlines?Everybody works differentlyNot an excuse to avoid writing!
8 Organization & Planning Help to: Identify the main pointsIdentify missing or incomplete informationGather information efficientlyMaintain continuityEstablish a reasonable time-line
9 Finding the Pieces Never trust your memory Construct figures, graphs, and tables as soon as the data are availableConsider establishing a personal literature retrieval database
10 Scientific Paper Definition 4/14/2017Scientific Paper DefinitionAllow peers to:Assess observationsRepeat experimentsEvaluate intellectual processes
11 The Reader Deconstructionism Shifting the focus from you to them It does not matter what you write (say), only what the reader sees (hears)Shifting the focus from you to themKnow your readerWhat should your writing say to the reader?
12 What should a paper say? Read me! Believe me! Care about me! Remember me!
13 4/14/2017IMRAD - What & WhyIntroduction, Materials & Methods, Results and DiscussionA standard recipe for formal papersVariations not encouragedSaves space & $$$ for journalsFacilitates review process
14 The Logic of IMRAD Introduction - What question (problem) was studied? 4/14/2017The Logic of IMRADIntroduction - What question (problem) was studied?Materials & Methods - How was the problem studied?Results - What were the findings?Discussion - What do the findings mean?
15 IMRAD Variations Descriptive field & clinical cases 4/14/2017IMRAD VariationsDescriptive field & clinical casesUnusual sections, e.g. mathematical derivations or computer analysisJournal alters order (usually M&M last)Combine M&M and Results (Experimental)Combine Results and Discussion
16 First Drafts Work with, not against, your tendencies Start with the easiest sectionBuild momentum and keep it goingIf time is short, emphasize the first draft
17 The Introduction Provides background on research topic 4/14/2017The IntroductionProvides background on research topicContains a literature review (keep it focused)Identify approach and justify it if necessaryOverall goal is to identify a significant problem and explaining how addressing it advances the field
18 Introduction: Last Paragraph An important paragraphFocus on three points:Objective(s)Hypothesis(es)SignificanceMirrors the conclusion paragraph at the end of the DiscussionProvides your measure of the criteria against which your paper should be evaluated
19 Materials Use sub-headers to guide the reader 4/14/2017MaterialsUse sub-headers to guide the readerDo not include Results hereProvide complete materials listCheck journal policy on release of materials to other researchersDeposit critical materials and sequences in internationally accessible locations
20 4/14/2017MethodsGive detailed methodology in general order used in Results, but group similar techniquesIf protocol or materials already published, then summarize general approachEvidence for reproducibilityIdentify statistical tests and data analysis protocols
21 The Results No materials; no methods 4/14/2017The ResultsNo materials; no methodsUsually should not justify experiments being conductedVery little or (preferably) no discussionUsually written in the past tenseSub-headers often helpfulData may be presented in text, tables or figuresPresent information in only one formOften the shortest text section of the paper
22 Some Guidelines for the Results Focus on data related to stated objectives and hypothesesBe selective in terms of data presentedDo not repeat table/figure titles; explain only points from tables or figures that are not obviousMake sure text/figures/tables are consistent!
23 But I Have So Much Data! The journal does not want your lab notebook! 4/14/2017But I Have So Much Data!The journal does not want your lab notebook!“The compulsion to include everything, leaving nothing out, does not prove that one has unlimited information; it proves that one lacks discrimination.” S. Aaronson (1977)“The Authors have clearly demonstrated that they can collect elegant data that they can neither interpret nor analyze.” Anonymous AEM reviewer (2003)
24 The Discussion Often the hardest section to write Does not simply recapitulate the ResultsVaries considerably in lengthShows significance of work, often in the concluding paragraphLast paragraph may parallel the last paragraph of the Introduction – objectives, hypotheses & significance – and may look forward to future papers/experiments
25 Discussion Components Do not introduce new dataPresent the principles, relationships & generalizations shown by the ResultsIdentify exceptions and unsettled pointsPlace the results in the context of previous workIdentify theoretical implications and practical applications as appropriateState the conclusions to be drawnIdentify the evidence to support each conclusion
26 Acknowledgments Courtesy, not science “We thank …” Identify external financial assistance, e.g. grantsThanks for technical assistance, for providing materials or cultures, for access to special equipmentMake sure names are correctly spelled!
27 References Cited List all significant published references All references in the text must be in the References sectionCheck every reference against the original publication – content & citation informationFollow the journal’s format very carefully
28 Supplemental Material Permitted by some journalsSupplementary material onlyFormat varies by journalOften web-site posting (usually managed by the journal)
29 When to do What Start writing while work is still in progress Identify the objectivesWork from an outline or other organizational planA common order:Materials and MethodsResults (with Tables and Figures)Introduction and DiscussionAbstractMake frequent back-ups
30 Now That You’ve Started… Write in blocks, but never stop at the end of one. Adding a few sentences or thoughts to the next section makes it easier to start again the next time.If stuck in one place, switch to another section, or even another paperLooking for a word – insert a placeholderKeep at it – regularly and often
31 The 2nd Draft (The 1st Revision) Allow time to pass before beginningFirst draft = rough draft – disjointed, wordy, grammatically incorrect, jargonFirst drafts are often conversation-style – written as we would speakOften organized in a historical mannerGoal now is structural alteration
32 Overall Editing Three target areas (not equally important): 1. Editing for content (1st revision)Is it accurate?Does it achieve its purpose?2. Editing for organization (1st revision)How well is the message presented and communicated?Organization may be as important as content3. Editing for format (2nd & subsequent revisions)Affects efficiency and authority of the messageFind things that distract
34 VoiceActive voice - Subject of the sentence performs the action; more precise and less wordyYour friends wrote this sentence.Passive voice – Subject of the sentence undergoes the action; usually the scientist’s favoriteThis sentence was written by your friends.Active voice preferred form for scientific writing
35 The Third Revision How come I’m not finished? Scientific writing should keep reader’s interestMake the manuscript readable and interestingThe writing should not interfere with the message“Good prose is like a window pane.” – George Orwell
36 Revisions Are the Rule Every writer must do them Want to have the reader think the same as youRevisions will be accompanied by new thoughts and insightsMust also know when to stopMore eyes the better