HOW TO WRITE A PAPER FOR A SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL
Author: Sue Jenkins
Publication in a reputable, peer reviewed journal should be the goal of every researcher, as this provides the most effective and permanent means of disseminating information to a large audience (Cole, 1994; Portney and Watkins, 1993). When human subjects participate in research, it is on the understanding that they are assisting with the creation and dissemination of knowledge, presenting researchers with the responsibility to communicate the outcome of their research (Cole, 1994). The aim of this paper is to provide guidelines to assist with the preparation of a manuscript for a scientific journal.
Before writing a first draft, it is important to establish that the topic of the manuscript is likely to be consistent with the focus of the journal. This may be clearly stated within the journal or may be determined by examining several recent issues. Having selected a journal, it is essential to carefully read and follow the guidelines for authors published within the journal or obtained directly from the editor or publisher. These guidelines are usually very specific and include rules about word limit, organization of the manuscript, margins, line spacing, preparation of tables and figures and the method used to cite references. Failure to comply with the guidelines may result in rejection or return of the manuscript for correction, thereby delaying the process of review and publication.
Writing the Manuscript
The art of writing a manuscript improves with practice and considerable help may be gained by asking others, especially those who have published, to critique and proofread drafts. This also provides a means of a second check of accuracy and internal consistency. Getting started is often the most difficult part and for this reason it is best to begin with the easiest sections. These are usually the methods and results, followed by the discussion, conclusion, introduction, references and title, leaving the abstract until last. If possible, try and set aside some time for writing on consecutive days. Long gaps between periods of writing interrupts the continuity of thought. To avoid frustration, ensure all the necessary information, for example all data, references and any draft of tables or figures, are at hand before starting to write. The task of writing the manuscript may seem easier if each section is viewed as a separate task. Before starting to write, it may help to prepare an outline for each section which includes a number of major headings, sub-headings and paragraphs covering different points. When writing the first draft, the goal is to get something down on paper, so it does not matter if sentences are incomplete and the grammar incorrect, provided that the main points and ideas have been captures on paper. Try to write quickly, to keep the flow going. Use abbreviations and leave space for words that do not come to mind immediately. Having finished the first draft, immediately revise it and be prepared to do this several times until you feel it is not possible to improve it further. Acceptance of a manuscript is invariably conditional on changes being made so be prepared to rewrite and revise the manuscript extensively.
Often a manuscript has more than one author and thus the writing may be shared. However, the style needs to be consistent throughout so even if sections of the early drafts are written by different authors, the first author must go through the entire manuscript before submitting, and make any necessary editorial changes.
Structure and Content of a Manuscript
A manuscript is typically composed of a number of sections: -
In order to maintain continuity between the key sections (introduction, methods, results and discussion) it is helpful to consider the...
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