The question, “how to write a scientific paper ?” is a very common one, and the answer varies depending on the type of writing assignment.
This guide will outline some key steps for completing a standard scientific paper that reports research results.
How to write a scientific paper
Step 1: Identify the scope
The first step to writing a scientific paper is identifying the scope of your paper.
What is the focus of your paper? What are you trying to achieve with your paper?
Is it to determine the effect of an experimental variable? Is it to test a hypothesis? Is it to compare two groups or show how variables interact?
All these things need consideration when answering this question.
Once you have identified what you want your paper to do, then ask yourself what population should be studied.
The scope of a scientific paper needs to be narrow enough so that the data can reasonably answer the question posed.
For example, if your goal is to find out if there is an effect of changing color on fruit flies’ lifespans then there needs to be sufficient data gathered from each fruit fly population studied.
If your goal is to measure the impact of color on lifespan, then instead of just studying fruit flies, you would also need information about other populations like mice or cows.
In either case, this means you would also study animals other than fruit flies in order to get meaningful statistics.
Once you know what kind of animal population you are working with, think about why people might not be able to answer your question themselves.
Here are steps to help you identify the scope of your project and make sure you don’t miss anything.
- What am I trying to learn?
- What population should I work with?
- How many individuals/groups should I work with? (Consider using similar groups)
- What else could I use as comparison populations?
- Do any confounding factors exist that might affect my study outcomes (e.g., emotional stress)?
- How much time will this take me?
- Will I have enough time to complete all the experiments within this time frame?
- Who else is currently conducting studies on this topic and what information do they already have?
- Can I combine their datasets with mine to increase statistical power?
- Should I try and duplicate their methods to see if we come up with the same conclusions?
When considering questions like these, you may realize that your original idea may not be feasible due to limited resources.
Don’t let this stop you though!
As long as your new idea has a good chance of answering the original question asked, go ahead and start formulating your plan based on what resources are available to you.
Step 2: Develop a tentative scientific paper title
Create a tentative title for your paper that is concise and tells readers what the scope of your paper is.
Make sure you also mention what population(s) was/were studied in your study.
The title doesn’t need to contain every detail, but it does need to give readers a general idea of what the content will be.
A general guideline for writing a good scientific paper title is to limit the number of words to fewer than 20.
Follow these steps to formulate a scientific paper title:
- Start with a word related to the main idea of your paper.
- Then, include a short description of what you’re going to talk about.
- Use keywords related to your topic.
- Make sure the title is concise and gets straight to the point.
- Be mindful of the specific details of your paper, but also keep it broad enough to encompass the rest of your research.
- It is best to choose a unique, descriptive title rather than a vague one.
Here are scientific paper title examples:
- How Light and Temperature Affect the Growth of E. coli Populations
- Pattern Formation Across Nonlinear Differential Equations
- The Effects of Temperature Change on Plant-Insect Interactions
- Robotic and Automated Systems Engineering Applications to Robotics and Control Engineering
- Motion Planning; Combinatorial Optimization.
- Developing Robots That Play Musical Instruments: An Exploratory Study
Step 3: Get peer and Supervisor feedback
Once you’ve decided on a potential title, share it with friends or colleagues who are knowledgeable about your topic area to get feedback.
They can tell you whether or not your title seems accurate and whether or not they understand what the content will be.
Feedback from peers can help you figure out how clear your purpose is to other people, so listen carefully and make changes accordingly.
Remember that a title should be written with the audience in mind, so it’s important to show what the outcome of your paper will be.
Here are five tips for getting the most out of feedback
- Make sure that you provide clear instructions on what type of feedback you would like
- Give detailed explanations about why it is necessary to provide certain types of feedback
- Pay attention to their comments and questions, even if they seem trivial or unimportant
- Be mindful that their comments can be very different than what you intended.
- Ask for clarifications if necessary.
Supervisors’ feedback can be particularly valuable because they know how research should be presented.
They might also have experience with your subject matter which can offer insight into ways to make improvements.
In contrast, peer feedback might include suggestions on how you could conduct research better or more efficiently which may not be applicable to all subjects.
For these reasons, it’s best to get both supervisors and peer feedback before submitting any papers.
Step 4: Gather research material
Gathering research material includes locating sources, reading articles, and compiling data.
A good place to start is by looking at the bibliography of your professors and what resources they used for their own work.
If you do this, be careful to only use sources that are available to you.
You don’t want to plagiarize someone else’s work or use something that you can’t cite.
If you are struggling to find information, the internet is a great resource for finding books, journal articles, and scholarly reviews.
It is always a good idea to take time to read about the source of your information and ensure that it is credible.
Here are five rules of thumb when you are gathering research materials:
- Find credible sources of information.
- Avoid using Wikipedia or sites that don’t have a lot of credibility.
- Seek out multiple perspectives on the same topic.
- Keep an open mind and consider all perspectives, including those that are opposite to your original opinion.
- Choose the right time to look for information based on your level of understanding and available resources.
Remember that resources for a scientific paper can be found in many places, and the key is to make sure that you are citing your sources correctly.
Also, remember that a single article or book can be helpful for gaining perspective on a subject, but it’s worth considering research from a variety of sources.
Step 5: Design a sample outline for your scientific paper
A sample outline can be a useful tool for organizing your ideas and tracking the progress of your paper.
Here are three features to include in your outline:
- Purpose statement
- Methodology and Materials
- Discussion and Conclusion.
Each section should be described briefly with one or two sentences that summarize what you plan to cover in that section.
The order of the sections should be consistent and related to the logical progression of your research.
The introduction section typically includes background information that sets up the problem or hypothesis that you are testing.
The methodology and materials section describes the steps you took for your experiment and the instruments or tools you used to collect data.
Finally, the results section describes what happened during your experiments, such as a change in volume, temperature, pH levels, etc. and the discussion section offers possible conclusions.
There are a few important things to keep in mind while designing your outline.
First, the purpose of the study should be clearly stated and you need to discuss the limitations of your research.
Second, it is important to ask yourself who will be reading your research. This can help you decide which language or vocabulary to use.
Third, you should always state the outcome of your research in a clear and concise manner.
Finally, be mindful that formatting is just as important for a scientific paper.
Step 6: Create a draft of your scientific paper
Now that you have a complete and well-organized outline, it is time to create a draft.
The draft of your research needs to be written in the present tense and should not contain any personal pronouns (e.g., I, me).
When writing the first draft, leave space for edits and cross-outs if necessary.
Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation mistakes; there will be plenty of time for editing later!
A good draft for a scientific paper is similar to a rough sketch of a painting.
Your goal is to lay down the most basic and essential elements of your research so that you can get feedback and begin the process of revision.
Follow the following guidelines to create a draft of your research.
- Define the overall goals of your project and set a timeline for completion.
- Include a title that summarizes your research and provides some context.
- State the problem, hypothesis, or issue you are addressing.
- List the reasons why you chose this particular topic to explore.
- Describe the methods you used to conduct your research and the challenges you faced.
- Share your findings and analysis, paying attention to how they relate to your initial hypothesis.
- Ask readers for their thoughts and opinions by providing contact information at the end of your paper.
Step 7: Revise your draft
Before you begin revising your draft, it is important to take time away from your project and let it settle.
Don’t set it aside for too long; two weeks should be sufficient.
After that time, come back to your paper with fresh eyes and reread what you’ve written.
Do you find errors or areas that are hard to understand? If so, revise accordingly.
While rewriting and editing, remember that clarity is key.
Be careful not to write sentences that are overly complicated or confusing. Use peer and supervisor feedback to revise your draft.
It is important to address all of the comments you receive.
You should be able to answer the questions What was the main finding of your research? and Why is it significant? In addition, you should be able to tell a story.
This means that your research is worth telling.
Remember that storytelling is the oldest form of communication and it has been around for centuries.
Research is no different. It is important to provide an overarching narrative that answers the question, Why? behind your research.
Step 8: Format your scientific research paper
The style of formatting you choose for your research may vary depending on the journal that you plan to submit to.
For example, one journal might require double spacing and 12-point font, whereas another might only require single spacing and an 11-point font.
Check the submission guidelines for the specific journal you plan to submit to before beginning to format your research.
Some journals also require cover letters, abstracts, and summaries.
These items do not always apply to every type of article, but you should check the publication’s guidelines to determine whether these items are needed.
Some journals also ask authors to include a list of references in alphabetical order, while others ask for them to be listed according to relevance.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry, for instance, asks authors to list references alphabetically within each section.
Determine the appropriate referencing and citation style for your paper. There are many systems, including APA, MLA, and the Chicago Manual of Style.
Each style has its own rules and advantages. Whatever system you decide to use, ensure that your citations and references are accurate and up-to-date.
Pay close attention to the details of your bibliography, since editors will closely scrutinize them.
Step 9: Final edits
Before submitting your paper, double-check all of your work.
You want to be sure that you haven’t made any typographical errors or mistakes. If possible, have someone else read over your scientific paper as well.
They can offer a second opinion on your paper and help you find errors that you might not have seen.
Remember that you should never publish anything until it has been thoroughly reviewed.
Many universities and scientific journals offer a pre-submission service that allows you to send your paper to be reviewed anonymously by experts.
This is a great way to make sure that your paper is free of errors or gaps in logic. If you’re lucky, the reviewers might even find ways for you to improve your research.
Step 10: Submit your scientific paper
This is the last step to publishing your research.
This is when you send your paper to your supervisor, journal or journal editor, or a member of your department.
Make sure that you are sending it to the right person!
Reviewers are typically professors or researchers in the same field of study as you. If you aren’t sure who to send your paper to, look on the journal’s website for more information.
Most websites will specify what kind of author they are looking for, such as medical doctors or graduate students.
Follow their instructions carefully and you’ll be able to successfully submit your research.
The standard format of scientific paper writing
The standard format for a scientific paper is IMRAD: Introduction, Methods, Results, And Discussion.
Your paper should be organized in this order because it flows logically from one section to the next.
Here are the key components of each section:
- Introduction: What do you want to study? Why does it matter? What did you do? Include any statistical information or citations as well.
- Methods: How did you do your experiment/analysis? Was there any bias? Did you account for confounding variables? What controls did you use? How many participants were involved and what were their demographics? Include any statistical information or citations as well.
- Results: What did you find out? Do these results support your hypothesis? What other experiments could you do to either confirm or reject your hypothesis?
- Discussion: What implications does this study have for future research? Do these results contradict previous studies in the field? If so, why might that be happening and how can we reconcile these findings with others’ research? Were there any limitations to this study? Is there anything that would make the results stronger?
- Here are more questions to consider for the discussion:
- What additional experiments could be done to test your hypothesis further?
- Did any limitations occur during the study that may have affected the accuracy of the data collected?
- What unanswered questions still remain after conducting this study?
- Here are more questions to consider for the discussion:
Finally, the format of a scientific paper will vary slightly depending on which discipline the researcher belongs to.
However, all papers follow the same basic structure outlined above.
For example, some disciplines may require a Methodology or Literature Review chapter before beginning the introduction.
Check with your professor if you are unsure about formatting requirements.
A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether or not a layperson (i.e., someone who has no background knowledge in your field) would understand what you are talking about when reading the paper.
Remember that they know nothing about your project so strive to provide the following :
- A clear explanation of what you wanted to do and why it matters, followed by detailed descriptions of how you went about doing it.
- An analysis showing the results of your experiment, along with appropriate statistics and tables where needed.
- A summary of what you found out and concluded, including possible extensions to the work beyond those already presented in the paper.
- Any new thoughts or ideas on a topic related to the paper that came up during your work but was not directly related to the goal of the original study.
- Limitations of the study could potentially affect conclusions drawn from the research.
- Future implications of your findings for other researchers in the field.