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Writing a good manuscript

Writing a good manuscript

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Writing a good manuscript

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  1. Writing a good manuscript Lena Qiying Ma Professor Biogeochemistry of Trace Metals Soil and Water Science Department University of Florida

  2. A scientific paper • Title • Abstract • Introduction • Methods • Results • Discussions • Conclusions • Acknowledgement • References

  3. Title • Fewest words to describe the content • Avoid • A study of • Investigations of • Observations on • Include • A particular species • A region

  4. Title • Statement of the question or problem • How smoking affects students’ grade? • Specific enough to describe the contents or subject matter but not too technical • Effect of smoking on academic performance • Summarizing the results can be effective • Students who smoke get lower grades

  5. Abstract • Short summary of the paper • Purpose • Methods • Results • Conclusions • Include likely “search words” • Less technical than the article • Don't use abbreviations or citations • Avoid use of “in this paper”

  6. Abstract • A shortened version of a paper • Most read section of a paper • Contain all information necessary for the reader to determine: • The objectives of the study-Introduction; • How the study was done-Methods; • What results were obtained-Results & Discussions; • The significance of the results-Conclusion. • Write the abstract last writingguide/scientificpaper.htm

  7. Introduction • Provide • Background information • Significance of the problem • Lead reader to understand the hypothesis and means of testing it • Provide the context for your investigation • State the question and hypothesis • Hypothesis = tentative explanation • Research is to prove a hypothesis false

  8. Introduction • Introduction • Discuss how the data will add knowledge to the field • What specific questions you tried to address • Don’t introduce literature in general terms: need to be informative • Why is this study of scientific interest and what is your objective • Move from general to specific information • The last sentences should be a statement of objectives and a statement of hypotheses

  9. Introduction • Creates a context for the paper • Plants are constantly exposed to a myriad of environmental and biological stresses • States a question or poses a problem • How plants respond to drought stress is of major concern, not only to researchers but also to farmers • Indicates the consequences and importance of the question • By understanding the biochemical and physical changes induced by drought, researchers may be more able to target processes which could enhance drought tolerance • Presents a hypothetical answer or course of action • It is likely that no single factor is responsible for conferring drought tolerance in plants but that it is an integrative process involving a number of signaling pathways

  10. Methods • Report what you did to repeat the findings • No laundry list • Assume readers have the same basic skills • Target graduate students • Last paragraph provides statistical tests used

  11. Results • Focus on • Describe the results in sufficient details to establish their validity • Identify the novel aspects of the results • What is new and what makes it non-obvious; • Identify the significance of the results • Implicated improvements and impact. • Things to avoid • Do not include the same data in a table and a figure • Too much motivational material • Describe obvious results • Describe unnecessary details

  12. Results • General approach • Briefly describe experiment without details • A sentence or two • Report main results • Representative: most common • Best case: best example of ideal or exception • Additional tips • Order multiple results logically • Most to least important • Simple to complex • Organ by organ, chemical class by chemical class

  13. General rules for figures • Must have a caption • Using a capitalized name • Figure 1. Ethylene glycol process flow sheet • Should stand alone as much as possible • Compare multiple plots, put them on one graph • If the result is too cluttered, use different graphs • Keep the scales consistent to compare • Use different symbols and line types to distinguish multiple plots on the same graph • Include error bars • Use "scatter" or "x-y" plots, not "line" plots

  14. Discussion • Interpret data in light of published results • What principles have been established or reinforced? • What generalizations can be drawn? • How do your findings compare • To the findings of others • To expectations based on previous work? • Are there any theoretical/practical implications of your work?

  15. Discussion • Highlight the most significant results • How do these results relate to the original question? • Do the data support your hypothesis? • Are your results consistent with the literature?

  16. Discussion • Summarize the results in first paragraph • Start with the specific • Criticize your data and place your observations in the context of the field • Then address the larger significance of the work to the field in general

  17. Discussion • Explain what the results mean or why they differ from the literature • Interpret your results in light of published results • Include information from sources you cited in the Introduction and introduce new sources • Relate to the objectives in the Introduction • Make statements synthesizing all the evidence • Suggest future directions for research, new methods, explanations for deviations from the literature writingguide/scientificpaper.htm

  18. Discussion • Steps to organize discussion • Restate your question, hypothesis, and prediction. • Answer the question. • Write down the specific data, e.g. statistical tests. • State whether your results confirm the prediction and support the hypothesis. • Write down what you know in your experiment. How do your results fit in with what you know? What is the significance of your results? • List weaknesses you have identified in your experimental design. • List any problems that arose during the experiment itself. writingguide/scientificpaper.htm

  19. Effective discussion • Move from specific to general • Your findings  literature, theory, practice • Don't ignore or bury the major issue • Did the study achieve the goal presented in the Introduction? • Resolve the problem • Answer the question • Support the hypothesis • Make explanations complete • Give evidence for each conclusion. • Discuss possible reasons for expected & unexpected findings. • What to avoid • Don't over-generalize. • Don't ignore deviations in your data. • Avoid speculation that cannot be tested in the foreseeable future.

  20. Effective discussion • What do your observations mean? • Summarize the most important findings at the beginning. • What conclusions can you draw? • Describe the patterns, principles, & relationships results show. • Explain how your results relate to expectations and to literature cited in your Introduction. Do they agree, contradict, or are they exceptions to the rule? • Explain plausibly any agreements, contradictions, or exceptions. • Describe what additional research might resolve contradictions or explain exceptions. • How do your results fit into a broader context? • Suggest the theoretical implications of your results. • Suggest practical applications of your results? • Extend your findings to other situations or other species. • Give the big picture: do your findings help us understand a broader topic?

  21. Scientific writing • Writing order • Method • Results • Introduction • Discussion • Abstract • Title • Rules for what needs a citation • All direct quotations from another author • All substantial information taken from another source • One does not give a reference for well-known facts • Newton's Three Laws of Motion

  22. Use of tense • Verb tense and voice • All formal technical writing uses the past tense • Describing methods and results • Use present tense for things that are true when the author writes about them and will still be true in the future when the text is read • Published information or accepted facts • Background information presented in the Introduction • Discuss your results and conclusions • Use of past tense • Abstract • Materials and Methods • Results sections • Introduction and Discussion sections when referring to your experiment

  23. A scientific paper • Title • Abstract • Introduction • Methods • Results • Discussions • Conclusions • Acknowledgement • References

  24. References • Scientific writing • Penn State University • • Craft of scientific writing: a book • Michael Alley, Penn State • • Communicating our work • Brenda S. Hoffma, Harvard Medical School • • Scientific writing • Natalie H. Kuldell • • Writing a scientific research article •