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Writing a Scientific Paper

Discussion of how to understand and write different sections of a scientific paper. Discussions of how to write Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Data, and Discussion.

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Peer Review


 The peer review process is the quality control step in the publication of ideas.  Papers that are submitted to a journal for publication are sent out to several scientists (peers) who look carefully at the paper to see if it is "good science".  These reviewers then recommend to the editor of a journal whether or not a paper should be published. Most journals have publication guidelines. Ask for them and follow them exactly.
 Peer reviewers examine the soundness of the materials and methods section.  Are the materials and methods used written clearly enough for another scientist to reproduce the experiment?  Other areas they look at are: originality of research, significance of research question studied, soundness of the discussion and interpretation, correct spelling and use of technical terms, and length of the article.

What is "good" editing?

A major part of any writing assignment consists of re-writing.

Write accurately

  • Scientific writing must be accurate. Although writing instructors may tell you not to use the same word twice in a sentence, it's okay for scientific writing, which must be accurate.

  • Make sure you say what you mean.

  • Be careful with commonly confused words

Write clearly

  • Write at a level that's appropriate for your audience.

  • Use the active voice. It's clearer and more concise than the passive voice.

  • Use the first person.

  •  Instead of: The samples were analyzed

    • Write: I analyzed the samples

  • Avoid dangling participles.

    •  "After incubating at 30 degrees C, we examined the petri plates." (You must've been pretty warm in there.)

 Write succinctly

  • Use concise words and strong verbs.

  •  Use short sentences. A sentence made of more than 40 words should probably be rewritten as two sentences.

Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation

  • Use a spellchecker, but be aware that they don't catch all mistakes.

  • Your spellchecker may not recognize scientific terms. For the correct spelling, try Biotech's Life Science Dictionary or one of the technical dictionaries on the reference shelf in the Biology or Health Sciences libraries.

  • Don't, use, unnecessary, commas.

  • Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

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Helpful Hints for Peer Review