Scientific Training for Enhanced Postgraduate Studies (STEPS)

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PG6001: STEPS – Scientific
writing and communication
(Day 1)
Professor Alan Kelly
Dean of Graduate Studies and
School of Food
and Nutritional Sciences
Extn. 3405/2810, Room FSB315, WW2.04,
[email protected]
Who am I?
o Dean of Graduate
Studies, UCC
o Food scientist
o Editor, International
Dairy Journal (IF 2.4)
o Editor, The Boolean
o Author > 150 scientific
papers
Who are you and why are you here?
o Students engaged in research at postgraduate
level
o Taught and research Masters and PhD
o Need to understand research process and the
scientific process
o Need to write a high-level thesis (short or
long)
o Need to publish
o Need to communicate/present about your work
What is this course for?
o Understand the scientific landscape and how
research is published and disseminated
o Learn how to write your own scientific
documents
abstracts
papers
thesis
o Learn how to make a scientific presentation
o Learn different styles of communication for
different audiences
o Get practice on real journal systems
o Practice your skills and get direct feedback
Two parts: now and April 24/25
Day 1 schedule
9.30
10.50
11.15
12.30
1.10
2.00
2.50
3.30
3.45
5.00
Introduction and an overview of the scientific literature
Break
Good scientific writing principles
Writing workshop 1: editing and discussing prepared texts
Break
When to publish and when to patent (Dr David
Corkery)
Writing workshop 2: editing and discussing student
abstracts
Groups of 15-20 will break out in rooms as follows:
AL G02; AL G18; AL G32; Block A level 1
Break
The structure of a scientific paper (part 1)
End
Why is communication important to scientists?
The two most important elements of
research
Experimentation plus Communication
Experimentation means:
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Planning research and reading
Doing your research
Analysing the results of the research
Ensuring the reliability of what you find
Communication means:
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Communicating locally and informally
Communicating globally and formally
Research doesn’t exist without communication
At the end of the day, you have to write and perhaps defend a thesis
Get used to talking about your research (hugely beneficial) and selling it
(e.g., at conferences)
Secret of communication: CONSIDER YOUR AUDIENCE
Writing: a key activity for scientists
What will I be writing?
Some or all of the following:
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o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
A thesis
Research notes
Scientific papers
Research articles
Chapters in books
Books
Student notes and teaching materials
Review papers
Reviews of papers or books
Papers for conference proceedings
Popular articles
Research funding reports
Project proposals
Newspaper articles
Letters and e-mails (lots)
Idea
Experiments
or studies
Success?
Communication
through
publication
Addition to knowledge
Recognition
More ideas!
Science and publication
• If science is an industry,
publications are its products
• Publishing is good for research
and good for researchers
• Multiple motivations for
publishing
• Core principles:
Clarity
Honesty
Fairness
Quality above all
The publishing chain
Scientist does
research,
writes paper
•
•
Paper submitted
to journal, if
good enough is
published
Research is not complete until it has been recorded and
passed on clearly to those who will benefit
Communication a key activity for researchers
Why do scientists publish papers?
1.
Scientific validitation of your work (peer-review)
2.
Add your work to body of knowledge of the field
3.
Fulfill thesis requirements
4.
Establish priority in an area
5.
Advance your career
6.
Keep your supervisor happy!
Publication makes one’s results available for others to build upon,
and it allows one to become more widely known.
Unpublished results are useless in a very real sense, and are
certainly not worth the investment required to obtain them.
(NB what are exceptions?)
One word of advice for PhD students
PUBLISH
“A recommendation for the award of the Degree of PhD will not
be made unless the Examiners report that the work is worthy
of publication, in whole or in part, as a work of serious
scholarship”
When do scientists publish?
As soon as you have significant and clearly reliable research results,
when all essential data have been collected and interpreted and sound
conclusions have been reached (NB timing for thesis also – try and
publish early!)
Starting to write is a great way to:
 Focus your thinking – see what is missing
 Get a break from lab work
 Feel like you are getting something done
It is always easier to edit text than to write new stuff so get
something on paper
Start with a plan for the paper and put bullet points under each
heading and fill in then as you go along (note Journal rules)
Results can be a good place to start, or Materials and Methods
What kinds of publication are there?
1.
Short communication/letter (may be peer-reviewed)
2.
Non-peer reviewed paper
3.
Peer reviewed paper
4.
Review paper
5.
Book chapter
6.
Conference paper
7.
Abstract – journal/conference proceedings
Publishing has come a long way since Galileo
Published his theory about the earth
orbiting the sun as a book about a
debate between two philosophers and
a layman (Dialogue concerning the two
chief world systems) , for fear of the
Inquisition
The modern academic literature
• Complex
• Competitive –journals compete for best papers,
authors compete for best journals
• Analytical – papers, journals, researchers
• Evolving – open access, electronic journals
• Core principles of honesty and peer review
Where should you publish a paper?
Factors that may influence choice of journal:
1.
Nature of the work and perceived ‘importance’
2.
Field and audience of particular journal
3.
Editorial policy of particular journal
4.
Ranking of particular journal
5.
Publication frequency (publication lag)
6.
Page charges
If you choose the wrong journal:
1. It may be rejected as unsuitable
2. The reviewers may not be familiar with papers of its type and
give it a hard time
3. If published, it could remain unknown because relevant experts
will not read that journal (less of an issue today)
One
journal
at a
time
How are journals ranked and how do I find
out which are the best ones?
One method (although limited and dangerous) is…..
Thomson (Web of Knowledge) Journal citation reports
-rank journals based on:
A. Impact factor
(roughly a measure of how often an average article is cited)
B. Todal number of citations
C. Cited half-life
(how old 50% of citations are)
Estimated that 10% of papers get 90% of citations (25% never cited)
How do journals rank?
Where do scientists publish?
How are journals ranked?
No. Journal
Impact
1 CA-Cancer J Clin
101.8
2 New Eng J Med
53.3
3 Ann Rev Immunol
52.7
4 Rev Mod Phys
43.9
5 Chem Rev
40.2
6 Nat Rev Mol Cell Bio 39.1
7 Lancet
38.3
8 Nat Rev Genetics
38.1
9 Nat Rev Cancer
37.5
10 Adv Phys
37.0
11 Nature
36.3
12 Nature Genetics
35.5
13 Ann Rev Biochem
34.3
14 Nat Rev Immunol
33.3
15 Nat Mater
32.8
16 Cell
32.4
17 Energy Educ Sci Tech 31.7
18 Science
31.2
19 Nat Rev Neurosci
30.4
20 JAMA
30.0
Leading International
Journals (2011)
What are the most cited papers?
Methods papers and reviews.
How are citations calculated?
= (cites to articles in 2009+2010)/
(papers published in 2009+2010)
Citations usually peak 2-3 years
after paper appears
Nutrition Journals
No. Journal
Impact
1 Prog Lipid Res
12.3
2 Ann Rev Nutr
10.5
3 Am J Clin Nutr
6.56
4 Int J Obesity
4.06
5 J Nutr
4.01
6 Crit Rev Food Sci
3.81
7 Curr Opin Clin Nutr 3.68
8 Obes Res
3.49
9 P Nut Soc
3.41
10 J Nutr Biochem
2.95
11 Nutr Rev
2.94
12 Brit J Nutr
2.71
13 J Am Diet Assoc
2.56
14 Nut Res Rev
2.49
15 Clin Nutr
2.47
Food Science Journals
No. Journal
Impact
1 Crit Rev Food Sci
3.81
2 Trends Food Sci Tech2.86
3 Mol Nutr Food Res 2.69
4 Int J Food Micro
2.61
5 Int Dairy J
2.52
6 Food Chem
2.43
7 Food Chem Toxicol 2.39
8 J Agr Food Chem
2.32
9 Food Hydrocolloids 2.28
10 J Dairy Sci
2.28
11 Aust J Grape Wine R 2.23
12 Food Microbiol
2.14
13 Comp Rev Food Sci 2.12
14 Biotechnol Prog
2.10
15 J Cereal Sci
2.05
Notes of caution about Impact Factors:
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Depend heavily on size of field
Do not reflect individual articles
Includes self-citations (journal and author)
Review articles skew impact factors
No correlation between citation rate and journal impact factor
by authors
Includes letters, editorials etc. in numerator but not
denominator
Linked to publication time of journal (2 year timeframe)
Covers 3200 out of 126000 worldwide journals!
Publishing in high-impact journal does not guarantee high
citations
What clues could you use to judge whether it
is a risk to send a paper to a new journal (no
impact factor for 5 years)?
The gray literature
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That which is not peer-reviewed and easily located
“Information produced on all levels of government, academics, business
•
May include
Theses
Conference proceedings
Patents
Government or other reports
Citations in such sources not tracked
May be followed up by related peer-reviewed publication
Efforts to make searchable increasing every year
•
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and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by
commercial publishing i.e. where publishing is not the primary activity
of the producing body."
Open access journals
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o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
Rapidly increasing cost of journals to librarys and researchers
Libraries forced to lose subscriptions (not in Ireland - SFI!)
Publishers own work and dictate terms of use
Open access: author (or funder) pays (€500-2500 but can
reduce if can’t pay), online for free, anyone can read and use in
any way
Authorship must be attributed; author retains copyright
Public Library of Science (http://www.plos.org/ ) high standards,
impact factor 14.7, rigorous editing and peer-review
Biomed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/ ) is another
open access biomed journal
Bill Gates set up Neglected Tropical Diseases
(http://www.plosntds.org/)
Also repositories of published papers on-line, e.g.,
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/ and http://arxiv.org/
Around 700 open-access journals today
Open access journals: some issues
o Open access seeks to break the monopoly of the publishers by
making scientific information freely available to everyone (e.g.,
patients, funders, industry)
o Give institutions the right to highlight their publications
o May be run by publishers or by consortia of researchers
o May involve
- self-archiving
- central deposit with free access for anyone
- standard publication but free access
o May involve making much more than the paper available (e.g., raw
data, reviews, comments by readers) – how do you define the final
article?
o However, debate over costs and value remain (author bears cost
burden)
o Institutes may lose external reader subscriptions (e.g., industry)
o Societies who use journal income to run activities will suffer
o How safe can archives be made as permanent hosts of papers?
You should be reading the literature!
Why read the literature?
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Avoid re-inventing the wheel (and wasting time and money)
Get ideas and inspiration
Learn about methods
Get models for your own publications
Be aware of the context of your own work
Be aware of leading groups and researchers working in your field
Be able to cite literature appropriately in your thesis and papers
But be selective in your reading – get advice on classic papers and
reviews that are the key ones to concentrate on, consider issues
to do with age and currency of papers
‘If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’ –
Isaac Newton
Rapid changes in our access to scientific articles
How to read a scientific paper
Remember – not everything published in the literature is
correct, well-written or correctly interpreted
Q. How do I know if a paper is any good?
Clues can come from pedigree of researchers, quality of journal,
subsequent citations of article by other authors and recommendations
of more experienced researchers
Also, ask:
- Is the paper interesting and important?
- Is the main argument of the paper relevant to your work?
- Is there a small section of the paper that is relevant to you?
- Is there a comment, idea or speculation that is of interest to your
review?
- What is the contribution of the paper to the field?
- What specific contribution does the paper make?
- Does the paper conflict with other papers in the field?
- How does the paper fit in with previous and subsequent research?
Literature review
The aim of a literature review is to review previously
published research and put it into some kind of
perspective
- should be more than a mere summary of a body of
knowledge
- should carry critical discussion and novel thinking or
interpretation of the published work
Look for opportunities to:
• Compare results and conclusions of different authors
• Contrast results that appear to lead to different
conclusions
• Reassess results in the light of new information that
may not have been available to the original authors
Other strategies:
• Be very clear on the scope of the review
• Prepare a plan/outline first
• Evaluate the literature, do not just describe
• Be selective – not everything needs to be cited, concentrate
on most recent references and work in chronological order
Common problems with literature reviews:
• Limited critical analysis of cited literature
• Concepts not explained correctly
• Limited scope of reading, limited range of references
• Absence of key recent references
• Over-reliance on textbooks and web sites (always be wary of
solely web-based information sources)
Key issues in scientific publishing today
 Plagiarism
 The minimum publishable unit
 Ethics and authorship
 Ownership and open access
The art of scientific writing
Writing will take practice….and honest feedback
What is the key characteristic of a scientific paper?
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Its key characteristic is clarity
“The best English is that which gives the sense in the fewest short
words”
“The extent to which a word or idea reaches the audience with the
same meaning it had when it left the sender”
A published scientific paper is useless unless it is both received
and understood by its target audience.
A scientific experiment is not complete until the results have been
published and understood.
Use everyday English as much as possible instead of jargon
It should be clear, for example, to
(i) peers of the author
(ii) students or starting researchers
(iii) scientists reading outside their own discipline
(iv) readers whose native language is not English (most!)
Writing should be invisible!
Some basic scientific writing principles
 Keep your sentences short – avoid unnecessary
complexity
 If a sentence requires several readings to be
understood, it is badly written and must be re-written
 Avoid unnecessary use of words
 Do not invent words (e.g., flexibilisation, activisation)
 Usually avoid use of personal pronouns (e.g., We, I…)
 Normal to refer to your own work in the past tense, but
that of others may be referred to in the present tense
‘The sample was analysed....’
‘DNA is a double helix....’
What is wrong with “I saw the man with a
telescope”?
Some reading about language
might be helpful
Look at styles in the literature
(and elsewhere) – what papers do
you think are well written and why?
Use them as your models
Get in touch with your inner
pedant
Be aware of punctuation
Proof-read everything
Problem can be with the complex scientific terms but the
small words can be the problem with readability
Get phrasing right before you add complicated words
and jargon (sometimes writing without jargon at first to
get it right helps)
“The reaction of partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil
with deep-fried fully-hydrated semi-purified microwaveheated hamster blood was….”
“The reaction of A with B was….’
Scientific versus ‘normal’ writing
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Different objectives to most other forms of writing
and communication
Clarity is the key
Style is not a concern
Meaning must be unambiguous
Presentation must be objective
Audience will have range of language skills and levels
Standardisation important
Finding the balance between ‘too formal’ and ‘too
chatty’ (informal)
Some basic scientific writing norms
 Don’t start a sentence with a number
e.g., use ‘Four litres of milk…’ or ‘Milk (4 L)….’ instead of
‘4 L of milk’
 Spell out single digit numbers in text
 Italicise latin terms (e.g., in vivo – others?)
 Always have a space between a digit and a letter (e.g., 4
L, not 4L)
 Careful with use of ‘e.g.,’ and ‘i.e.,’ (correct as written
there)
 Be very careful of the difference between ‘and’ and ‘or’
e.g., what is the difference between ‘Milk samples were
heated at 65 and 70ºC’ and ‘Milk samples were heated
at 65 or 70ºC’
 Avoid waste words or sentences
e.g., ‘It was found that’, ‘It can be seen that’
Ransom’s rules for scientific writing
1. If it can be interpreted in more than one way,
it’s wrong
2. Know your audience; know your subject; know
your purpose
3. If you can’t think of a reason to put a comma in,
leave it out
4. Keep your writing clear, concise and correct
5. If it works, do it.
My main rule
If in doubt, read it out!
Some key things to watch out for
The comma
•
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Most misused part of punctuation in scientific writing!
Use to
- separate items in a list instead of ‘and’ or ‘or’
- use before ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘yet’, ‘while’ or ‘but’ if these are
followed by a complete sentence
- use to bracket (two commas or a comma and a full stop) a
bit of a sentence that can be removed without affecting
the point of a sentence
- use to distinguish between defining and commenting
e.g., students who are lazy fail exams (defining clause)
students, who are lazy, fail exams (commenting clause)
Put in a comma where you take a breath when reading aloud
I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and
took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again. Oscar Wilde
Examples: good or bad commas, or commas needed?
o Hydrogen, the lightest element is a combustible gas
o Just before mixing the sample was heated
o The rings of Saturn, which can be seen with a small
telescope, are made of tiny particles of dust and rock
o The last question on the exam was harder, and took longer
to complete than the others
o The results, as shown in Fig. 1, clearly indicate that……
o Physicists need to use mathematics a lot in their research,
biologists do not tend to do so as much.
o Thus the composition of the sample was clearly different
from that of the control
o The sample, however was destroyed by the treatment used
o But Kelly (2004) who studied the same phenomenon did not
draw similar conclusions from their experiments.
o Frequently adjusted totals need to be checked
o For example, sodium acetate, is a commonly used buffering
salt
The colon and the semi-colon
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A colon (:) divides a general statement from a specific one
A semi-colon(;) divided two complete sentences that are so closely
related that it makes sense to present them together
If a colon is followed by a list, and items in list have more than one
word, can divide by semi-colons
Examples are as follows (good or bad use?)
- There is one huge biology project today: the Human Genome
Project
- I would like to acknowledge the following for their help; Jim and Mary
- It was the best of times: it was the worst of times
- I would like to thank Jim and Mary; their help was invaluable
- Saturn was long thought to be the only ringed planet: this is now known
not to be the case
- The principal requirements for postgraduate study are: an
independent mind; good communication skills; and enthusiasm for
research
Two more dodgy grammatical elements
The apostrophe
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Does not appear in plurals!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (element’s, experiment’s etc.)
Indicates possession and rarely used in scientific writing
Is ‘The compound and it’s properties’ correct?
The hyphen (the anti-comma)
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Use to join together words you are combining in meaning
Particularly useful in making an adjective (especially of a noun and verb)
Allows you to rearrange words for brevity and still make sure the order
and sense is correctly conveyed
If you say the words quickly together, put in a hyphen
If first word ends in ‘ly’ do not need a hyphen (e.g., badly drawn boy)
Which are right of this list?
- a light green box
- high quality journal
- low-resolution camera
- high pressure-treatment
- large metal container
- high temperature treated medium
- the low temperature sensitivity of the detector
- 20-, 40- and 80-mL containers
Sentences and paragraphs
o Start a sentence with old information or a link (however, as a
result, thus)
o Introduce the subject of the sentence about first (topic
position)
‘Bees disperse pollen’ is about bees
‘Pollen is dispersed by bees’ is about pollen
o Keep new information to be emphasised until the end of the
sentence (stress position)
o Provide context for the reader before introducing new
information
o Do not make sentences too long
o Semi-colons allow multiple stress positions in a sentence
o Paragraphs collect related sentences under a coherent theme
(imagine they have an invisible header) and should not be
- too short (no one-liners!)
- too long (no multi-page paragraphs)
Make the subjects of your sentences active
"It can be seen from the ICP data that . . ."
vs.
"The ICP data show that . . ."
"From the trace element data follows an interpretation . . .",
vs.
"The trace element data show . . .",
"By looking at satellite images you can see . . ."
vs.
"Satellite images show . . ."
"Based on these results, it appears that . . ."
vs.
"These results suggest that . . ."
"At Locality 23, it was observed that brachiopods are common."
vs.
"Brachiopods are common at Locality 23."
"An increase in abundance of MgO is noticed going up the section."
vs.
"MgO increases in abundance upwards through the
section."
"Comparing the older basalts with the Holocene ones shows that the
older ones have more Mg."
vs.
"The older basalts have more Mg than the Holocene
ones."
Avoid waste words
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It could be seen that DNA is a double helix
Results showed that DNA is a double helix
It is apparent that DNA is a double helix
DNA is a double helix
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Heating the sample resulted in an increase in its viscosity
Heating the sample increased its viscosity
…heated to a temperature of 75ºC…….
The death has taken place of……
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Due to the fact that = because
In the near future = soon
In spite of the fact that = despite
In combination with = with
Example from paper submitted to my journal…..
These results are in agreement with those
reported by Bhatti, Veeramachaneni and Shelef
(2004), who found a maximum antilisterial
effect of nisin in skim milk and a reduced effect
in milk with 2% and 3.5% fat or higher.
Moreover, they verified that the
homogenization of milk caused changes in the
milk globules by decreasing their average
diameter and increasing their number and
surface area, which resulted in a reduction of
the antilisterial activity of nisin.
“In comparison to citrate, malate and pyruvate
are minor constituents of milk that are presented
in milk at the mM levels and analysis on their
content in milk and yoghurt were scarcely
conducted”
“However, applying monochromatic absorbance
photometry for analysis of milk and dairy
products is frequently difficult and problematic
because they are heterogeneous and compound
substances that contain fat globules of varying
size that scatters light in an unpredictable way
and contains opaque and colloidal solutions of
proteins.”
More examples of bad writing – why?
“Exposure of the sample to a treatment of 72°C for
15 minutes resulted in a decrease in its viscosity with
a concomitant increase in the number of free reactive
groups produced”
“Heating of the sample, either prior to or subsequent
to, packaging was not successful due to the fact that it
exploded”
“However, the relative density of sample A was
higher………Sample B had a higher viscosity…….Sample C
was more interesting ”
More writing examples
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
‘an abnormal occurrence report’
‘bacteria carrying dust particles’
‘a complex frequency error correction procedure’
‘Revision of the experimental design was carried out’
Drug X reduced inflammation in the lungs….or
Inflammation in the lungs was reduced by drug X
‘an increase in the concentration of sodium was
measured’
o ‘targeting of enzyme activators could be achieved by’
o ‘use of the equipment causes generation of ozone’
o ‘Filling of the tanks is accomplished by’
Where did modern impersonal scientific writing come from?
From Bayliss, W. and Starling, E. (1902) The mechanism of
pancreatic secretion. Journal of Physiology
“IV. The crucial experiment
The introduction of 20 c.c. of 0.4% HCl into the
duodenum produced a well-marked secretion of 1 drop
every 20 secs, lasting for some 6 minutes; this result
merely confirms previous work.
But, and this is the important point of the experiment,
and the turning-point of the whole research, the
introduction of 10 c.c. of the same acid into the
enervated loop of jujenum produced a similar and equally
well-marked effect.
……
Now, if we make repeated injections of secretin…..We
thought it possible, therefore, that…..This we have been
unable to do”
Exercise before part 2
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
Take abstract from today
Revise if appropriate
Register for eTape account
Submit on-line to eTape site
by end January 2013
You will receive an invitation
to perform an on-line peerreview of another student’s
abstract
Do so by end March 2012
I will review all abstracts
submitted
Everyone gets two reviews:
student review
my review
Review experience in part 2
What is a scientific paper?
Science is a formalised process for generating new knowledge
The scientific literature is the record of this knowledge, which is
constantly being added to (an evolving encyclopedia)
A scientific paper is a permanent entry to this encyclopedia that
anyone can make (science is a meritocracy)
Peer-review is the quality control that ensures (in theory) that only
useful and reliable contributions are published
If science is an industry – papers are its products
To researchers, papers are credibility, reputation and evidence of
personal success
What is a scientific paper?
A medium to communicate new findings.
A written and published report describing new research results
describes new experiments, reports the results and discusses their
implications.
A scientific paper (or thesis) is not just a presentation of data
collected, or an account of work carried out:
It is a well-documented and researched argument for a particular
finding or observation.
Evidence to support the case comes either from the literature or
from the results of the experiments being discussed.
The literature should be used in a paper only to support argument
or counter-argument and to more understanding forwards
A key characteristic of a scientific paper is clarity of expression
A further frequently-cited characteristic is originality
Note: this is a requirement for research in a PhD thesis
What is meant by originality?
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Setting down new information for the first time
Studying areas that have not been described before
Original research design
Original research process or methods
Applying particular techniques in new areas
Original outcomes of research
Making connections that have not been made before
Can have a single major original feature or several minor
Claims for originality should be made explicit
An important concept is establishing priority (I found it/did it first!)
But publication is a slow way to do this
- Other routes exist (e.g., conferences)
Making a case for importance
– the Cheese and Wine problem
Thousands of varieties
of cheese and wine
available
.... And lots of state of the art techniques to characterise
chemical, microbial and flavour characteristics
• A paper on any variety which has not been described
by one or more of these techniques before is by
definition original
• But
• What is the interest for the broader scientific
community?
• What does it add to knowledge?
• Local interest not enough justification
• Can results be extrapolated or generalised beyond
specific to help understand broader issues?
Two more food analogies for scientific papers....
Salami slicing
Taking a good study and slicing it thinly
to make multiple short papers when one
good long one would be better
- Quality not quantity of papers counts
- Do not seek the Minimum Publishable
Unit
Cook and look
Need to have a proper scientific
objective or hypothesis behind the
work, not just ‘see what happens if...’
(even if that is what started the work)
The glut of scientific publishing?
Concern about excessive levels of publication because
of the following:
• Huge load of refereeing for researchers
• Mountain of often redundant reading to do on any
topic
• Publication of minor/dubious papers
• Financial cost to libraries to make it available
• Consumption of paper, resources, energy and time
• Neglect of longstanding literature
• Manipulation of publication for career goals
www.nas.org/polArticles.cfm?Doc_Id=1503
What is a scientific paper - what does it say?
All papers must really say the following…..
We, or all those whose names appear at the top of this paper:
1.
Have something interesting/significant/important/useful to
report
2. Believe that something to be an original contribution to scientific
knowledge
3. Can support claims (1) and (2) following our careful and thorough
reading of the literature in the field, which we summarise in the
Introduction of the paper – in addition, re recognise and cite
important previous studies relevant to the paper
4. Have used the most appropriate scientific methodologies in our
work
5. Have provided sufficient detail on our methods and experiments
for anyone, who should so wish, to replicate them precisely
6. Have shown all experimental results that form the basis of the
novel contribution we are making, in a clear manner so that the
reader can decide if our claims are substantiated;
in addition, we have ensured that our results are reproducible
and consistent, and, where appropriate, used relevant statistical
methods to verify this
7. Have attempted to explain the observations we have made, again
by reference to appropriate prior knowledge
8. Have commented on the significance and importance of the
findings for the field.
9. Have all made significant intellectual, scientific or practical
contributions to the conduct of the research and/or the writing
of this paper and take full responsibility for its contents;
in addition, no individual has contributed to this work without due
acknowledgement
A scientific paper must contain sufficient information to
enable peers (the scientific community) to
(i) Assess observations
(ii) Repeat experiments
(iii) Evaluate intellectual processes (i.e., are the authors conclusions
and interpretations valid)
Classical structure of the paper has evolved over
time:
IMRAD
AIMRAD
Introduction, methods, results and discussion
Abstract, introduction, methods, results and discussion
If results are complex, Results and Discussion may be combined.
Keep it concise!
Elements of a scientific paper
1. The title
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First point of contact for most readers
Should be the fewest possible words that adequately describe the
contents of the paper
Title is a label, not a sentence (Assertive Sentence Titles are
disliked by many journals as being dogmatic)
All words must hence be chosen with care (including their order)
Avoid waste words (e.g., “Studies of”, “Investigation of”, “the” etc.)
However, beware of having too short and general a title
Avoid abbreviations and jargon
Should serve as a “mini-abstract” of the paper – indicating field,
goals, methods and results (if possible!)
Length: ideally more than 4 (e.g., Studies on Brucella) but less than
12 words; can use sub-titles if longer
Compare:
THE EFFECT OF TEMPERATURE ON GERMINATION OF CORN
DOES TEMPERATURE AFFECT GERMINATION OF CORN?
TEMPERATURE AND CORN GERMINATION: IMPLICATIONS
FOR AGRICULTURE
HIGH TEMPERATURES REDUCE GERMINATION OF CORN
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