Basic Concepts For Writing A Scientific Paper
A scientific work is a writing in which the researcher communicates the achievement of certain information and explains how he did to obtain it. Achieving this goal requires not only good science, but good writing as well.
Unfortunately, few of us have been instructed on how to write a scientific work, for which we have learned by emulating the available literature, often imperfect 1,2,3,4 & write essay today. That is why the slow and difficult process of writing and publishing a scientific work often confronts us with a series of questions: What should be included in the introduction? How much literature should be reviewed? What verb tense should be used? For this, two components are necessary: one technical and one creative (related to the author’s literary capacity).
This presentation is based on the most common form of scientific work: hypothesis test, in which the author describes the experiment carried out and presents the results obtained.
The standard form is divided into four sections: Introduction, material and method, results, and discussion. To ensure that a coherent message emerges, each section must be thought about in relation to the question or hypothesis of the work. In this way, the Introduction formulates the question, in Material and Methods the experiments carried out to answer said question are described, in Results the results obtained are reported, and in Discussion the question asked is answered.
The purpose of this work is not to impose rigid concepts on the subject, but to contribute a series of ideas to write a scientific work.
- a) arouse interest in the topic.
- b) provide enough information to be understood by the reader, whether he is a specialist or not.
Content: The axis of the introduction is constituted by the question. It is important to explain where it came from, that is, why, the author raises it. This arises from the known aspects of the subject and what remains to be known.
- Material, animal or population: the introduction should name the material studied (eg cells); and the organism from which they come (animal or human), except in the case of human beings, where it is not usually necessary (unless it is a particular population).
- Retrospective vs. Prospective: if the study was retrospective, it is useful to mention it in the introduction, otherwise it is not necessary.
- References: it is suggested to include references to what is known. These should be kept to a minimum (if there are many jobs choose the first, the most important and the most recent). In general, no more than 25 per job is recommended.
- New / Important: Scientific journals publish “new”, “important”, “true” and “understandable” work. The introduction is the place where to emphasize the new and important that constitutes the work (not existing within it a specific place to do it). This can also be done in discussion.
This section does not include answers or results, otherwise it sounds like a summary. The answer of the paper should not be included: the objective of the section is to introduce and not to close the discussion.
This section follows a standard structure, which is graphically described as a funnel, (a broad beginning that progressively narrows until it focuses on a point).
- The known: constitutes the first step. It usually includes several sentences. It places the subject in its context by establishing what is known about it.
- Unknown: it is the 2nd step. It is generally a sentence. It establishes what remains to be known, therefore it indicates that the work is new and links the known with the question: they are virtually the same.
- Question: is the specific topic of the job. It must be clear because the rest of it depends on it. It can be formulated as a question or as a hypothesis, which is more scientific. Mention the variables and use present tense. They are rarely more than 2 or 3 (1 is ideal) (order from highest to lowest importance).
- Experimental method: although the introduction usually concludes with the question, the experimental method can be included after it (eg “this is our question, and this is what we did to answer it”) in case the method is new, unusual or complicated.
- Try to keep it as short, consistent, clear and informative as possible. For a typical publication, a double-spaced page (250-300 words) is sufficient, failing which two pages maximum.
- Do not review the subject, for that there are bibliographic review articles. The purpose of the introduction is to spark interest, not being too long or confusing.
- Verb tense: The general rule is to use the Present Tense for the question, because it asks if something is true in general and not in the experiment. But depending on the structure it can be used, sometimes the Past tense: ”in previous studies we examined…” or “our objective was….”.
- Person: The writing becomes more emphatic if the 1st person is used (I / we)
2. MATERIAL AND METHOD
It is the first section that is written.
Its function is to describe the experiments carried out to answer the question posed in the introduction. It should provide enough information to allow another scientist to assess the credibility of the work and to repeat the experiment as it was performed.
The fundamental content of this section is a detailed description of the materials and methods used.
This section should not include results. However, intermediate results can be included, that is, figures that were used to obtain the final results that answered the question asked. Furthermore, they should be included in this section, because they are more relevant here than in the results.
- Drugs (generic name, manufacturer, purity, infusion rate, etc.)
- Experimental materials (molecules, cells, tissues)
- Animals (species, breed, weight, sex, age if they are important). Details of sedation and anesthesia.
- Human beings (age, sex, race, height, weight, state of health or disease). This information can be presented in tables. Explain how they were selected. Clarify that the study was approved by the appropriate committee of the institution)
- What was done?
Study design: It consists of a description of everything carried out. It can constitute a subsection also called, experimental protocol, or experimental design.
Include the question, the independent and dependent variables, and the controls.
Clarify what the experiment consisted of, the order and duration of the interventions, measurements and experiments, as well as the size of the sample.
The study design may overlap the information provided in the experimental design subsection (within the introduction). Either way, the first is much more detailed, and this overlap helps to give continuity to the story.
- How it was made?
Method: the level of depth of the description of the method will depend on its degree of diffusion.
Data analysis: The statistical method used must be described.
Mention the value of p for which statistically significant differences were considered.
- Why was it done?
It is not always obvious to the reader why certain procedures were carried out, so it is important to emphasize the reason for these procedures, mainly if its relationship with the question of the work is not obvious.
The natural organization is chronological. As it is a long section, and includes different types of information, you may consider dividing it into subsections, based on those types of information. These subsections are located in chronological order, and each one has its respective subtitle.
- inclusion criteria (indicate which individuals can be included in the study.
- They have a characteristic that is related to the problem that the research generated)
- Exclusion criteria (indicate who are those who, even though they were eligible, for some reason were left out of the study)
- study design
- measurement methods
- data analysis
- In certain types of works, some subsections can be omitted, because they are not necessary.
Length: It should be long enough to describe what was done and how it was done. In any case, the details of little relevance should be ignored.
- sample size: when there are numerous subgroups, check that they add up correctly and establish a clear relationship between the different samples (eg. “.4 of the 39 totals ..” and not “4 only”)
It is written in the past (eg “.. was measured ..”) To describe the data presented in the work, use present, because that information is still true (the data are summarized with M and DS)
Point of view:
This section can be written both from the point of view of the experiment, as well as the one who performs it.
- Point of view of the experiment: It has the advantage of putting the topic as the subject of the sentence, thus emphasizing what is important (eg methods, variables)
Disadvantage: Most sentences are written in the passive voice, which is weak and monotonous.
But since the advantage is very important, it is a respectable point of view.
- Examiner’s point of view: When using the active voice it is more vivid and emphatic. Sacrifice the topic as the subject of the sentence. Many sentences will begin with “we”, which is pretentious, so try to reduce these sentences to a minimum by modifying their structure.
- As both are valid, you can choose the one that is most comfortable for the author.
- At high levels of complexity, different points of view can be chosen for different sub-sections (eg “we for study design and the other for measurement methods).
Function: Its function is to present the results obtained in the experiment described in the material and methods section. It is also suggested to refer the reader to the tables and figures that present said data.
The essential information in this section is the results. However, not all the results obtained should be reported. Only those that are pertinent to the hypothesis of the work will be so. The results must be included, whether or not they support the hypothesis postulated. And both those from the experimental group and those from the control group should be included. Although data can be included, these can be presented in tables and figures, because that way they are more graphical.
They should not include comparisons with other scientific works.
Give a clear idea of the magnitude of the differences reported in percentages (apart from presenting the absolute values).
- RESULTS is not synonymous with DATA
DATA are numbers obtained from experiments and observations (raw data eg “blood lipid concentration” or summarized “median or ds”) RESULTS: Represent the interpretation of the data (eg “concentration decreased …”).
It is normally organized in chronological order, according to the order in which the experiments were carried out. The most important thing can also be placed first, to continue with the least relevant (the results that respond to the work hypothesis are placed first).
It is important to emphasize the results in this section. There are different techniques:
- Skip data / condense results: Data belongs to figures and tables. In the text, try to summarize them to a minimum. Those data presented in tables and figures should be omitted from the text, unless they are of great importance; in this case they can be repeated for emphasis. Try to condense the results. For example, if several variables have the same result, this is written only once and it is clarified that the others had the same value.
- Refer to tables and figures: Do not expect the reader to infer important results from the data in the tables and figures. Give the result first and then refer the reader (in parentheses) to tables and figures.
- Results of the control group Compare the experimental results with the control cases. These should preferably be placed in the background.
- Important results first Important results place them at the beginning of the paragraph, which represents a higher-ranking position.
Many authors think that it is the axis of the work and they put all the information there. This is not the case, it is important that it be short and orderly, so that the reader sees “the forest and not the trees”. The analysis of the results belongs to the discussion.
Verb tense: It is written in PAST (in hypothesis test) because it describes events that happened in the past.
Its most important function is to answer the question posed in the introduction. Another function is to explain how the results support the answer, and evaluate if there are coincidences between it and the previous knowledge on said topic.
Includes the answer to the question posed in the introduction, and information that supports, explains and defends it.
Answering the question Write it exactly as it was asked, using the same keywords, the same verb tense, and the same point of view. It is written in PRESENT tense, because the answer is true for the entire population for which the work was designed. Before being written, it must be pointed out, so that the reader can identify it (eg “The study shows that …” or “In this study we show …”)
- Population It is important that the response is limited to the appropriate population. When the answer is about human beings, it can be generalized about the population from which the sample comes. When the experiment was carried out on animals, mention if the answer applies only to them, or also to humans.
- Endorsement of the answer If the answer is short and simple, for example a “value”, it is unnecessary to endorse it with results. But generally answer is not equal to results; Furthermore, the answer is a generalization based on the results. The reader should then be convinced that the answer is valid, highlighting the relevant results after answering the question (tables and figures can be cited for this purpose).
Creating a transition that links results to response is challenging. Don’t just use “. because .. ”use eg. “The evidence that (answer) is that ..”
Credibility: If other works support the answer, mention them with their respective references. Do not overestimate or underestimate our contribution, or that of others.
- Explanation of the answer Many times, in addition to supporting the answer, it is necessary to explain it, and compare it with previously published literature.
- Defend the answer If other answers have been proposed for the question posed; or if other answers are easy to imagine, explain why the chosen answer is more satisfactory than the others. Explain both why it is and why the others are not.
- Explanation of conflicting results Mention the results that do not support the answer and explain them in the best possible way.
- Establish the novelty The novelty is marked first in the introduction. If it is desired to emphasize it here, one way is to contrast our point of view with the previously known. Avoid claiming priority over others (eg “This is the first work on …” since it is very likely that an equal or similar work has been previously published in another country or in another language. If you are certain to the contrary, be very cautious with words (eg “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report ..”)
- Explanation of discrepancies Discrepancies with other studies that do not coincide with the results obtained should be explained in the best possible way.
- Explanation of unexpected findings When describing an unexpected finding, state it at the beginning of the paragraph that it was unexpected, and then explain it to the best of your ability. Many times they are minor data, but sometimes they are of such relevance that they overshadow the fundamental hypothesis of the work.
- Limitations of the method, Weakness of the study design Validity of assumed aspects Mention them and explain why they are acceptable.
- Establish the importance. Importance is often deduced from novelty (eg, the cause of a disease is discovered). But if it must be mentioned, it can be done both in the introduction and in the discussion. Here it is done by marking the applications, implications, recommendations and speculations based on the answer.
To ensure the organization of the discussion, think of it as a story that revolves around the question of work, and divide it into three parts: beginning, middle and end.
- How to start the discussion? (Answer the question)
- The discussion should begin with the answer, continuing immediately with the results that support it. The reason the answer is placed first is because it is the most important position. This is the most direct way to start the discussion.
- Another less abrupt way to start the discussion is to rephrase the question, followed by the answer.
- Another rather abrupt alternative is to first provide a brief context, followed by the answer (eg “Some researchers suggested … Our results showed …”)
- The discussion should not begin with a second introduction (it is counterproductive. It occupies an important position and expresses things that have already been written) Nor with a summary of the results (this goes in results), nor with secondary information (this is placed later in the discussion).
How to continue the discussion?
- Organization of the topics: Once the question is answered, the problem is how to continue the discussion. If there is a reason to put a topic first, follow that logic. Otherwise, they are ranked from highest to lowest importance, which is related to the answer. A common order would be: GUARANTEE, EXPLANATION, DEFENSE. It can be divided into sub sections.
How to end the discussion?
- The discussion should not just end; it must come to a clear and definitive end. There are two standard ways to conclude the discussion: one is to repeat the answer to the work question, which is the most direct way, it is a good resource when there are several answers; and the other is to indicate the importance of the work through its applications, recommendations and speculations. Or you can do both.
- Conclude by saying that “further studies will be necessary.” It is not particularly a
- emphatic way to conclude a scientific work; if it is, mark the contribution of the work.
- Indicate the importance of the work (Applications, Recommendations, Speculations): they can be seen as a continuum: application is the most certain, recommendations are somewhat less certain, the implications are even less certain, and speculations are the least certain of all.
- Applications: are the uses to which the answer contributes (eg “can be used ..”)
- Recommendations: these are suggestions based on the answer (eg use one technique instead of another. “.. I recommend ..”)
- Speculation: It is a logical sequence that follows the answer. It is not certain. This represents an imaginative leap; but they can be very productive. (eg “probably reflects” or “may influence”)
should be long enough to state the answer, support it and defend it clearly and completely. In any case, to avoid dissipating the message, try to keep it as short as possible.
PRESENT, because the answer is true for the entire population for which the work was designed.
- Express the fundamental theme of the work.
- Attract the reader.
- Independent variable.
- Dependent variable.
- Population / for human beings can be omitted unless it is a particular population.
May also include
- The conditions of the animal during the experiment.
- Experimental method.
- Precise. For this, the same keywords must be used in the title and in the text. Do not use abbreviations, because they are usually read out of context, for example in an index, and because they can be read by a non-specialist. 2 exceptions.
- Full. It should include all the necessary information.
- Concise. Short titles have a greater impact than long titles, so it is recommended that they do not exceed 100 characters / include spaces and letters.
It is important to write the references according to the requirements of the journal and trying to avoid errors in the data entered.
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