Writing Tips

Writing for Academia, Literary Criticism & Analysis, Literature Reviews, and Annotated Bibliographies

Writing a Scientific Research Article

Title

  1. Make your title specific enough to describe the contents of the paper, but not so technical that only specialists will understand. The title should be appropriate for the intended audience.
  2. The title usually describes the subject matter of the article: "Effect of Smoking on Academic Performance"
  3. Sometimes a title that summarizes the results is more effective: "Students Who Smoke Get Lower Grades"

Authors

  1. The person who did the work and wrote the paper is generally listed as the first author of a research paper.
  2. For published articles, other people who made substantial contributions to the work are also listed as authors. Ask your mentor's permission before including his/her name as co-author.

Abstract

  1. An abstract, or summary, is published together with a research article, giving the reader a "preview" of what's to come. Such abstracts may also be published separately in bibliographical sources, such as Biological Abstracts. They allow other scientists to quickly scan the large scientific literature, and decide which articles they want to read in depth. The abstract should be a little less technical than the article itself; you don't want to dissuade your potential audience from reading your paper.
  2. Your abstract should be one paragraph, of 100-250 words, which summarizes the purpose, methods, results and conclusions of the paper.
  3. It is not easy to include all this information in just a few words. Start by writing a summary that includes whatever you think is important, and then gradually prune it down to size by removing unnecessary words, while still retaining the necessary concepts.
  4. Don't use abbreviations or citations in the abstract. It should be able to stand alone without any footnotes.

Introduction

What question did you ask in your experiment? Why is it interesting? The introduction summarizes the relevant literature so that the reader will understand why you were interested in the question you asked. One to four paragraphs should be enough. End with a sentence explaining the specific question you asked in this experiment.

Materials and Methods

  1. How did you answer this question? There should be enough information here to allow another scientist to repeat your experiment. Look at other papers that have been published in your field to get some idea of what is included in this section.
  2. If you had a complicated protocol, it may helpful to include a diagram, table or flowchart to explain the methods you used.
  3. Do not put results in this section. You may, however, include preliminary results that were used to design the main experiment that you are reporting on. ("In a preliminary study, I observed the owls for one week, and found that 73% of their locomotor activity occurred during the night, and so I conducted all subsequent experiments between 11 pm and 6 am.")
  4. Mention relevant ethical considerations. If you used human subjects, did they consent to participate. If you used animals, what measures did you take to minimize pain?

Results

  1. This is where you present the results you've gotten. Use graphs and tables if appropriate, but also summarize your main findings in the text. Do NOT discuss the results or speculate as to why something happened; that goes in the Discussion.
  2. You don't necessarily have to include all the data you've gotten during the semester. This isn't a diary.
  3. Use appropriate methods of showing data. Don't try to manipulate the data to make it look like you did more than you actually did.

"The drug cured 1/3 of the infected mice, another 1/3 were not affected, and the third mouse got away."

Tables and Graphs

  1. If you present your data in a table or graph, include a title describing what's in the table ("Enzyme activity at various temperatures", not "My results".) For graphs, you should also label the x and y axes.
  2. Don't use a table or graph just to be "fancy". If you can summarize the information in one sentence, then a table or graph is not necessary.

Adapted from Columbia University

How to Report Scientific Research

Learn how to report scientific research in APA Style according to Journal Article Reporting Standards, including what key elements to include in the title, author note, abstract, introduction, method, results, and discussion.

APA Style CENTRAL

© 2016 American Psychological Association.

Original Research Studies

Original research is a methodical investigation into a subject in order to discover facts, to establish or revise a theory, or to develop a practical application based on the newly discovered or revised facts or theories. As research is a first-hand account of the systematic methodological process, observation, and analysis, it qualifies as a primary source.

Typical Organization of Research Articles:

• Introduction – announces purpose statement and, when applicable identifies the problem
• Literature Review – identifies what has previous research examined, overlooked, found, and concluded
• Methodology – describes the research procedures
• Results – conveys research findings
• Discussion – provides analysis and interpretation of the results
• Conclusion – discusses implications of the results and/or suggests future directions for research or application
• Bibliography or Reference List – lists the articles, books, and other resources consulted in the article