Scientific research articles are an important way for scientists to communicate with others about their research. To get your research papers published, there are at least two conditions: good science and good writing (Bordage, 2001).
It sounds very simple, but it’s actually a little more complex
than that. Let’s look at ways you can develop a good quality research manuscript.
To fit into the criteria of good science, other scientists must accept the validity of your findings, and they should be able to perform the experimental methods in your study.
For these reasons, based on your writing, the reviewers and the editor for your target journal will evaluate the quality of your study.
To write well, you must present your research in an orderly and logical manner. By doing so, other scientists will be able to follow what you did in your study.
What is the Common Structure of a Scientific Paper?
Most scientific articles of peer-reviewed journals have these sections: Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, and Results and Discussions.
Before starting, make sure you check the submission guidelines of the journal of your interest. It’s also possible your target journal may require you to include an additional section, such as a Conclusions section.
How to Write a Manuscript
When writing your manuscript, the content in each section of your manuscript should answer some of the questions below:
- What are the main takeaways of your research?
- Why is your study important?
- What was the background information of your study?
- What was the connection between previous research and your research?
- What were your research hypotheses, questions and methods?
- What did you find from your study?
Materials and Methods
- What were the experimental methods you used to answer your research questions
- How did you validate your findings?
- What were your findings?
- How did your results answer your research questions?
- What were the interpretations of your findings?
- What were some limitations of your study, if any?
- What was the significance of your study?
For even more details about how to write each section, find and download our handbook below:
After you finish writing, the next important step is editing your manuscript to achieve the good writing objective.
Why is Editing Important?
Editing a manuscript before submission helps avoid misinterpretation and misunderstanding by the readers, editors and reviewers.
Editors of your target journal usually receive a big list of manuscripts to go through. When a manuscript is written well, both editors and reviewers will understand what the paper tries to convey without difficulty.
Another reason to edit your manuscript is to help the reviewers make the right decision about the fate of your paper.
The responsibility of the reviewers is mainly to evaluate the science in the manuscripts. Spelling mistakes, unclear sentences, grammar errors and typos might annoy the reviewers; as a result, they are more likely to reject the manuscript for publication (Bordage, 2001).During the editing process, you can follow these common steps: revise the organizations and content, check the logical flow, proofread, and check the format.
How to Edit a Manuscript
The four common steps of editing scientific manuscripts are:
1.Revise the Organization and Content
Revising your manuscript should start from the biggest structure, such as organization of each section and the content of each section (Hofmann, 2013, pg. 114).
The introduction section should follow a funnel shape, starting with the background information, gap analysis, hypothesis/research goal, and result and the significance of the findings.
The materials and methods section should be in a chronological and logical order. Consequently, your results should follow this order as well.
The discussion section should follow a triangle shape, starting with the answers of your research questions, the interpretations of your findings, and the significance of your research.
Then, make sure you have included all necessary points and information for each section.
To learn more about how to write each section of a research manuscript, download our handbook below:
2.Check for the Logical Flow
After you finish revising the organization and the content of each section, check the logical organization and the flow of sections and subsections (Hoffman, 2013, pg. 116). Oftentimes, reading your writing aloud can help you find problematic paragraphs, particularly when you stumble upon them.
Start from checking the logical flow of your paragraphs, and then work on your sentences.
Below are some common guidelines for this step:
Use one idea for each paragraph
Make sure each paragraph only supports one idea. This is important to make it easy for your reader to read your paragraph. If you find your paragraph containing multiple ideas, try to reorganize this paragraph by breaking it into more paragraphs.
Check for smooth transitions
The next step involves checking for effective transitions between paragraphs. Transitions are words, phrases, or sentences, linking your ideas together (Hoffman, 2013, pg. 51).
Smooth transitions guide your readers into the next topic and follow your train of thought.
There are three types of transitions:
- Between sections: use a quick summary of a section, before you move on to the next section.
- Between paragraphs: use a word in the end of the first paragraph, or the beginning of a second paragraph. These words include however, for example, in addition, similarly, although, or furthermore.
- Within paragraphs: use a word or a phrase. This type of transitions acts as a signal to prepare the readers for the next sentence.
Check the journal’s guidelines
Scientific journals have certain guidelines to help you shape your writing. For example, your target journal may ask the abstract should contain no more than 250 words and the length of the manuscript should be between 2000 to 2500 words. If your paper exceeds these limits, trim some words, modify your sentences and make sure the logical flow between your paragraphs still makes sense.
Avoid a run-on sentence
Pay attention to any run-on sentences within paragraphs. A run-on sentence is a sentence containing multiple complete sentences without any conjunctions or punctuations. The idea of this type of sentence is hard to follow so here is an example:
“One experimental result of our study was inconclusive and it needs to be repeated by increasing the sample size which will reduce the possibility of sampling bias.”
To fix this type of sentences, you can break it into two sentences.
“One experimental result of our study was inconclusive, thus the experiment needs to be repeated by increasing the sample size. The increased sample size will then reduce the possibility of sampling bias.”
Simplify your sentence
Simplify your sentences by removing any unnecessary words and details, excessive jargon, repeating words, and even unclear words (Hoffman, 2013, pg. 117). When your readers stumble upon these hurdles, they tend to slow down, reread the sentence to understand, and even worse, give up completely.
3.Proofread the paper
For this step, proofread your manuscript word-by-word, including finding grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and typos (Hoffman, 2013, pg 117).
It’s also helpful to find extra pairs of eyes to help you proofread your manuscript, for example your mentor and lab mates.
Some journals may ask for a particular language style, either American English or British English, but not a mixture of the two. For non-native English speakers, it’s hard sometimes to tell the difference. You can find native English editors from editing services in your university to help proofread your paper.
Otherwise, you can also use scientific manuscript editing services to ensure high quality editing.
4. Check the Format
After you finish with the other three steps, you can check the format of your manuscript again. Make sure the format is consistent throughout your paper.
For example, use the same fonts for the whole paper, check the line spacing and bold the headings and subheadings.
In addition, pay attention to the required format for figure legends, figure citations in text, table legends, table captions, table body, and table footnotes.
Finish your first revision and take a quick break before editing and proofreading your paper again. When you feel extremely tired, you can easily lose your focus and interest during editing. Furthermore, this break helps you switch from the writing mode to the editing mode, so you tend to be more careful.
When you are satisfied with your revisions, you can submit your manuscript.
Tips to survive writing and editing a manuscript
- Set up realistic goals during both processes.
- Set up a timeline for each goal.
- Reward yourself after finishing each goal.
- Make sure you have all information ready before writing.
- Avoid procrastinating and making excuses to ignore your writing.
- Find feedback from your mentor and lab mates.
- Accept feedback from others as a way to improve your writing.
- Make edits only when you are in the editing mode.
- Take a break between revisions.
Bordage, G. (2001). Reasons reviewers reject and accept manuscripts: the strengths and weaknesses in medical education reports. Academic medicine, 76(9), 889-896.
Collins, J. C. (2015). Writing for Publication While in Graduate School: An Accessible Reality. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, 27(1), 51–55. https://doi.org/10.1002/nha3.20094.
Hofmann, A. H. (2013). Writing in the biological sciences: a comprehensive resource for scientific communication. New York: Oxford University Press.
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