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Writing English-language science articles – increasing your chances of success. Andrew Smith Soil & Land Systems, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences The University of Adelaide, Australia

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writing english language science articles increasing your chances of success
Writing English-language science articles – increasing your chances of success

Andrew Smith

Soil & Land Systems, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences

The University of Adelaide, Australia

Honorary Professor, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

- with thanks to Margaret Cargill

Adelaide Graduate Centre

andrew smith relevant experience
Andrew Smith: relevant experience
  • Many refereed publications: plant science & soil science (especially soil biology)
  • Referee (reviewer): plant science & soil science (especially soil biology)
  • Journal editing (Mycorrhiza, Plant & Soil)
  • ‘International’ PhD students – not native English-speakers
  • ‘English-language science writing’: 5-day workshops and short presentations – mostly in China
writing english language science articles
Writing English-language science articles
  • Part 1: writing the article
  • Part 2: afterwards (dealing with reviews and the journal editor)
  • Part 3: writing “Science English” – some hints

Andrew Smith

why do we publish research
Why do we publish research?
  • Tell the world about new research discoveries
  • Satisfy requirements of institutes & funding agencies
  • Meet PhD degree requirements (some programs)
  • Improve our personal scientific reputation
  • Increase career prospects and chances of promotion
why do we publish research1
Why do we publish research?
  • Tell the world about new research discoveries
  • Satisfy requirements of institutes & funding agencies
  • Meet PhD degree requirements (some programs)
  • Improve our personal scientific reputation
  • Increase career prospects and chances of promotion

Is the research worth publishing?

  • There should be clear aims (not a ‘data collection’)
  • Results should be ‘reliable’ (good methodology)
  • Outcomes should be clear (a ‘take-home story’)
  • It should interest others (in your field, at least)
major reasons why articles are rejected
Major reasons why articles are rejected
  • The paper (article) is unsuitable for this journal
  • The work does not seem important enough for this journal
  • The purpose of the work is not at all clear
  • The work does not appear to be novel (new, original)
  • There are major errors in calculations
  • Too few samples have been taken*
  • There are major errors in experimental design*
  • More work is required for the research to be publishable*

*These issues relate to the start of the research

how to increase the chance of success
How to increase the chance of success
  • Select a suitable ‘target journal’ and use its style
  • Emphasize the aims of your research
  • Make clear that it is novel (new, original) and important
  • Present only relevant results (use good statistics)
  • Make your ‘story’ consistent throughout the paper
  • Write well-constructed Introduction and Discussion sections
  • Give an attractive Title and Abstract (Summary)
  • Write correct English – as much as possible!

These are the ‘take-home’ messages in this presentation

the story is all important
‘The story’ is all-important!

What is the scope of the proposed paper – the ‘story’ you are going to present?

In other words:

  • Why did you do the research described in this paper?
  • What are the aims (‘questions are you asking’) in this paper?
  • As presented, these may not be the same as when you started the research…

[The reader only knows what you tell them.]

Be clear in your mind about the story (aims) before you start writing

choosing a target journal
Choosing a ‘target journal’
  • Do this as soon as possible
  • Check its style, using the latest instructions to authors, & some of its published papers as examples for style
  • High rating journals (high impact factors): turn-around is quick, but acceptance rates are low - is the risk worth taking? There may be pressures from supervisors & institute to submit to a ‘top’ journal!

Example: New Phytologist

2000 Impact factor: 2.2; ~50% acceptance

2006 Impact factor: 4.2; ~24% acceptance

(only ~13% of papers from China are being accepted)

  • Page charges? [e.g. some US journals; but these may be waived – if in doubt contact the editor]
journal style for submission
Journal style for submission
  • Select the ‘target’ journal and check its style, using the latest instructions to authors, & some of its published papers as examples
  • Methods - after Introduction, or at end?
  • Results and Discussion - separate or combined?
  • What is the text format required? [Often 12 point Times New Roman, double-spaced, with 2.5 cm margins]
  • English or American style? [‘sterilise’ or ‘sterilize’? ‘centre’ or ‘center’?]
  • Are there any restrictions on length or numbers of illustrations?
more on style of presentation
More on style of presentation
  • Select the journal and check its style, using the latest instructions to authors, and some of its published papers as examples.
  • Check the text abbreviations used, e.g.

- (Ray et al., 1998), (Ray et al. 1998) or (Ray et al 1998)?

- mg.kg-1 or mg kg-1?

- mmol.l-1 or mmol l-1 or mmol.L-1 or mM? …etc

  • Use standard spacing, e.g.

- 55%, not 55 %

- 3 cm, not 3cm

- 5oC, not 5 oC… etc

Errors & inconsistencies irritate reviewers (referees) & editor!

the imrad paper
The ‘IMRAD’ paper

Title

‘Broad’ to ‘focused’

text

Abstract

Introduction

Methods

Results

‘Focused’ to ‘broad’

text

Discussion

References

From M. Cargill

the imrad paper variations
The ‘IMRAD’ paper: variations

Title

Abstract

Introduction

Methods

Results & Discussion

sometimes combined

Results

R & D

Discussion

R & D

R & D

References

the imrad paper variations1
The ‘IMRAD’ paper: variations

Title

Abstract

Introduction

Methods

Results

Methods

sometimes after Discussion

Discussion

Methods

References

suggested order of writing
Suggested order of writing…

6

Title

5

Abstract

Introduction

3

Information needed for ‘the story’

Methods

2

‘The research story’

Results

1

Discussion

4

References

(2,3,4)

From M. Cargill

results first step
Results: first step
  • Select the results relevant to the ‘story’ as a whole in your paper: write a ‘dot-point’ summary of experiments, field trials etc, to be described, for reference as the paper is written. List Tables and Figures to be included.
writing the results section
Writing the Results section
  • Select the results relevant to the ‘story’ as a whole…
  • Do not include material to go in Methods
  • If Results section is separate from Discussion, do not discuss results at length here (very brief ‘comments’ are OK)
  • Use Tables, Figures or both? Be consistent as much as possible – take into account the ‘impact’ of data as presented
  • Do not include both a Table and a Figure that show the same data
  • In the text, mention the results in the same order as in the Table or Figure; do not repeat detailed information (e.g. numerical values)
  • Use sub-headings if the target journal allows this
tables or figures
Tables or Figures?

Tables:

  • Do not ‘clutter’ (e.g. too many columns too close together; too many decimal places (e.g. ‘plant weight 7.350’ g)

Figures:

  • Figures can have more impact; e.g. ‘bar diagrams’ or graphs with time-courses – but can also be cluttered (e.g. too many narrow bars too close together)

If results show no significant differences between some treatments, just say so in text; e.g. ‘shoot P concentrations were 3.0-3.5 mg kg-1; there were no significant differences between treatments (results not shown)’ – this simplifies Tables or Figures.

Check your ‘target journal’ for its preferred styles

more on results
More on Results
  • What to do with other ‘useful’ results(long lists of plants, animals, micro-organisms, soil types & properties, gene-sequences, etc)?
  • Published appendices: not popular with most journals
  • Electronic on-line ‘supplementary material’? (check to see if the journal offers this, and how easily available it is to readers)
materials methods
Materials & Methods
  • May be at the end of the paper (check Journal)
  • Allow the reader to 1) understand what you did, and 2) repeat it, using the same methods
  • Explain details that may be unfamiliar (e.g. soil types & source; analytical methods, locations of field-work)
  • Explain replication & also sampling methods (e.g. in field surveys)
  • Tables may be helpful to summarize complex nutrient solutions, soil properties etc
  • Give equations used in calculations
  • Explain statistical procedures
  • Give appropriate references
the introduction

1

The Introduction
  • The first ‘broad’ sentences are important to attract the editor, reviewers and readers
  • They set the scene – the ‘context’ and the aims, or questions that will be asked
  • They depend on the target journal: specialist or more general; e.g.

‘Mycorrhizal fungi colonize the vast majority of plants worldwide and are important in transferring phosphate to plants. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are the most common type (Smith & Read 1997). However, the role of mycorrhizas in the transfer of other nutrients is not well established, and this is especially the case for toxic soil elements such as cadmium. Cadmium pollution of soils is an increasing problem in many countries, including China.’

[Six information elements]

the introduction1

1

The Introduction

‘Mycorrhizal fungi colonize the vast majority of plants worldwide and are important in transferring phosphate to plants. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are the most common type (Smith & Read 1997). However, the role of mycorrhizas in the transfer of other nutrients is not well established, and this is especially the case for toxic soil elements such as cadmium. Cadmium pollution of soils is an increasing problem in many countries, including China.’

The first two sentences are not needed for the specialist journal ‘Mycorrhiza’. The paper can start: ‘The role of mycorrhizas in transfer to plants of soil nutrients other than phosphorus is not well established…’ etc.

the introduction2

1

The Introduction
  • For a journal specializing in environmental pollution, the paper might start:

‘Cadmium pollution of soils is an increasing problem in many countries, including China. Many of the plants both in natural and managed ecosystems are colonized by mycorrhizal fungi that transfer a range of mineral nutrients to their hosts. It is not yet well established if cadmium affects mycorrhizal colonization, or is transported via mycorrhizas.’… etc.

Write the Introduction bearing in mind the research speciality (expertise & interests) of the readers - and also make the title of the paper ‘fit’ the journal [later]

the introduction3

2

3

The Introduction…

4

  • 2: Review briefly previous research relevant to your paper, then:
  • 3: Highlight ‘gaps’, uncertainties or inconsistencies in previous research – to show why you did your research.
  • Mention (e.g.) plant species used, important techniques, the location, type of survey, and why it was done. Emphasize what is special about your work: Soil types? Crop plants? Location? Climate?
  • 4: End with a statement giving the aims of the research (‘questions asked’, ‘hypothesis being tested’)
  • When you have written the paper go back to the Introduction - check that it leads into the rest of the paper
  • Especially: re-read the first sentences: can you think of a better startto set the scene – probably!
the discussion

1

2

3

The Discussion

The most difficult part!

  • 1:Summarize your main results – do not repeat them in detail; the reader can remember the details
  • 2: Discuss results in relation to the relevant issues raised in the Introduction (the ‘gap’ in knowledge and your aims statement)
  • Do not write a long review with many new references (or repeat the Introduction)
  • 3: Emphasize interesting differences, or developments from, earlier work, e.g.

- ‘Whereas Smith (1990) found that additional Zn decreased Cu uptake by wheat, we have found [or: the present study showed] that additional Zn increased Cu uptake by barley. The reasons for this difference are unresolved. They may be due to…’ etc. [Keep speculation limited.]

more on the discussion

1

2

3

More on the Discussion…

4

  • 1-3: Some journals allow sub-headings; useful if you have a lot of results that you want to discuss separately, e.g.

Growth responses

Mycorrhizal colonization

Phosphorus uptake

  • But do not go into results in detail – discuss their relevance to your aims in the Introduction
  • Now go back to the Introduction to check the aims stated
  • Possibly – suggest useful future work
  • 4: Give (briefly) the main conclusions(with ‘Conclusions’ subheading if the journal allows this).
results discussion combined

R & D

Results & Discussion combined…

R & D

More difficult to write! Use sub-headings if possible

  • I suggest you write the results paragraphs first (i.e. the results ‘story’), then fill in the discussion sentences
  • Make sure the ‘discussion’ sentences lead into the next ‘results’ paragraph
  • Remember your aims in the Introduction
  • Last, give (briefly) the main conclusions (with ‘Conclusions’ subheading if the journal allows this)…
  • And possibly – suggest useful future work
acknowledgments
Acknowledgments
  • Thank technical staff, colleagues for helpful advice or use of their facilities, and providers of financial support (usually in that order)

References

  • Check and follow carefully the style required by the journal (style for authors, title, journal etc) – errors greatly irritate reviewers and editor!
  • Check all references carefully for spelling, especially names of organisms and journals
  • Citing literature you have not read is dangerous, in case the author from whom you are really citing got it wrong
summary abstract
Summary = Abstract
  • Check the style in the journal: length, bullet points, etc
  • Make clear the aims or questions being asked – reasons for the experiments, field surveys, etc
  • Summarize main results and conclusions [details depend on length restrictions]
  • Do not go into detail not necessary to make the story clear (e.g. lots of numerical values) - length restrictions will influence detail that can be given
  • Look at Summaries in your target journal
choosing your title
Choosing your title
  • Check styles in the journal, using some published papers as examples. Some options for style:
  • ‘Descriptions’, e.g. ‘Estimation of phosphorus fertilizer requirements of wheat in southern Australia’
  • Descriptions to be avoided: ‘Effects of….’ e.g. ‘Effects of applied calcium on salinity tolerance of wheat’ - very ‘general’ & gives little information!
choosing your title1
Choosing your title
  • Check styles in the journal, using some published papers as examples. Some options:
  • ‘Descriptions’, e.g. ‘Estimation of phosphorus fertilizer requirements of wheat in southern Australia’
  • ‘Statements’, e.g. ‘Applied calcium can improve salinity tolerance of field-grown wheat’
  • Two-part descriptions or statements, e.g. ‘Ectomycorrhizas of the Myrtaceae: fungal fruit-body production in forest plantations in southern China’.
  • To be avoided: ‘Ectomycorrhizas of the Myrtaceae. 1: Fungal fruit-body production’… etc[Part 2 may never appear]
choosing your title2
Choosing your title
  • Check styles in the journal, using some published papers as examples. Some options:
  • Descriptions, e.g. ‘Estimation of phosphorus fertilizer requirements of wheat in southern Australia’
  • Statements, e.g. ‘Applied calcium can improve salinity tolerance of field-grown wheat’
  • Two-part descriptions or statements, e.g. ‘Ectomycorrhizas of the Myrtaceae: fungal fruit-body production in forest plantations in southern China’
  • ‘Questions’, e.g. ‘Does applied calcium improve salinity tolerance of field-grown wheat?’ [Possibly can be used if previous literature is inconclusive or controversial]

Check your title after you have finished writing the paper: can you improve it?

keywords or phrases
Keywords or phrases
  • Usually about 5 (check journal); can be added (usually after the Summary) after you have written the paper
  • No need to repeat words or phrases in the title, unless you like to be absolutely ‘safe’ [computer search engines should find keywords in titles]
  • Avoid general words or phrases : e.g. ‘plant nutrition’ is better than just ‘nutrition’, ‘soil pollution’ is better than just ‘pollution’… etc
  • You can give information not in titles, e.g. names of plants studied, additional mineral elements measured, even locations of surveys
  • Imagine yourself doing a search for information about the field of your paper: are your keywords helpful?
lists of tables figures
Lists of Tables & Figures
  • Table headings & Figure captions must ‘stand alone’: say what is shown even if this is repetitive, so name plants or soils used, number of replicates etc, unless you say: ‘Other details as for Table 1,’ or ‘… as for Fig. 1’)

Tables & Figures

  • Each goes on a separate page (usually Tables first)
  • Check for clarity and visual impact (no ‘cluttering’)
  • Include statistical information as appropriate (standard errors, superscriptsa,b, or both)– check journal for preferences
  • Poor quality Tables & Figures irritate reviewers and editor
the last check for quality
The last check for quality
  • Read the paper very carefully for inconsistencies of style or abbreviations, e.g.

- if you defined phosphate as ‘P’; did you then use ‘P’ or ‘phosphate’ in the text, or both at random?

- if you defined P treatments as e.g. P0, P20, P40; did you then use these abbreviations consistently?

- if you used ‘specific Zn uptake’; did you define this term?

  • Check that references are included in the list, and that the style in the list is consistent and as required by the journal
  • When submitting (online or mailing) – what is needed? Cover page with title, authors, addresses, & e-mail of the ‘author for correspondence’?

Andrew Smith

if the article is rejected
If the article is rejected..
  • Overcome your feelings of humiliation, anger etc.
  • Can the paper be submitted elsewhere without more research? If so:
  • Can you make the story clearer – emphasize better why the work is important? Or:
  • Is more work needed?
  • If so, is this possible?
  • If you completely rewrite the paper is it possible to resubmit (‘new submission’) to the original journal? (Write to the editor to ask)
writing english language science articles1
Writing English-language science articles
  • Part 1: writing the article
  • Part 2: afterwards (dealing with reviews and the journal editor)
  • Part 3: writing “Science English” – some hints

Andrew Smith

how to increase the chance of success1
How to increase the chance of success
  • Select a suitable ‘target journal’ and use its style
  • Emphasize the aims of your research
  • Make clear that it is novel (new, original) and important
  • Present only relevant results (use good statistics)
  • Make your ‘story’ consistent throughout the paper
  • Write well-constructed Introduction and Discussion sections
  • Give an attractive Title and Abstract (Summary)
  • Write correct English – as much as possible!

These are the ‘take-home’ messages in Part 1

the editor s first impressions
The Editor’s first impressions

Common style problems:

  • The text is too small (e.g. 10 point, single space)
  • There is no cover page (title, authors & addresses)
  • The Tables and Figures are poor
  • References are not in the correct style
  • The English is poor

If there are many of these problems the Editor may return the paper without sending out to reviewers (referees)

Other issues:

  • The paper is not suitable for the journal
  • The paper is not ‘important’ enough [high-ranked journals]
reviewers reports common criticisms
Reviewers’ reports: common criticisms
  • The paper is too long
  • The Summary does not accurately summarise the results
  • The Introduction is not well focused [is ‘too broad’]
  • The Methods section does not describe all methods
  • The sampling method is unclear
  • The statistical treatment is unclear [or ‘inadequate’]
  • Results are duplicated in Tables, Figures and text
  • Not all Tables or Figures are needed
  • The Discussion does not focus on the results
  • The authors have not cited all relevant literature
  • The English needs much attention

These criticisms may result in the paper being rejected – or requiring major revision. Most can often be covered by revision, if the editor decides to allow this.

editor s decisions
Editor’s decisions
  • Accept without change
  • Accept after minor revision
  • Might be acceptable, subject to major revision*
  • Reject, but encourage re-submission*
  • Reject

[*Individual journals don’t usually use both of these – they can` be considered as alternatives]

returning the paper after revision
Returning the paper after revision
  • Include a covering letter that lists the reviewers’ comments (or copies of the reports with criticisms numbered)
  • Say how you have dealt with major issues, one by one
  • Indicate other changes that you have made [‘minor text changes have been made’]
  • If you think that the reviewer is wrong, say so (but politely)!
  • Thank the editor and (unknown) reviewers for their helpful suggestions
  • Say that you believe that the paper is now greatly improved and that you hope it is now acceptable

There is a high chance that a paper that the editor decided ‘might be acceptable subject to revision’ will now be accepted – but check the new material (& English) very carefully!

major reasons why papers are rejected
Major reasons why papers are rejected
  • The paper is unsuitable for this journal
  • The work does not seem important enough for this journal
  • The purpose of the work is not at all clear
  • The work does not appear original
  • There are major errors in calculations
  • Too few samples have been taken
  • There are major errors in experimental design
  • More work is required for the research to be publishable
  • The work needs rewriting, and only as a short communication
after rejection
After rejection…
  • Overcome your feelings of humiliation, anger etc.
  • Can the paper be submitted elsewhere without more research? If so:
  • Can you make the story clearer – emphasize better why the work is important? Or:
  • Is more work needed?
  • If so, is this possible?
  • If you completely rewrite the paper is it possible to resubmit (‘new submission’) to the original journal? (Write to the editor to ask)
the take home messages again
The take-home messages again…
  • Select a suitable ‘target journal’ and use its style
  • Emphasize the aims of your research
  • Make clear that it is novel (new, original) and important
  • Present only relevant results (use good statistics)
  • Make your ‘story’ follow the aims throughout the paper
  • Write well-constructed Introduction and Discussion sections
  • Give an attractive Title and Abstract (Summary)
  • Write correct English – as much as possible!
english
English…

…is a difficult language for scientific writing. Some hints:

Verb tenses

  • Use the present tense for ‘established facts’, e.g.

- ‘Addition of calcium usually lowers NaCl toxicity.’

- ‘Most tropical forest trees are mycorrhizal (Janos 1995).’

  • Use the past (‘imperfect’) tense to describe results that may not be ‘general’, e.g. ‘Brown & Jones (2002) found that phosphate uptake by maize was not decreased by addition of arsenic’.
  • In the Results use the past tense (‘were’, or ‘was’), e.g. ‘Arsenic uptake was higher at lower P levels (Fig. 1)’. Or: ‘Plant dry weight depended on soil Zn levels (Experiment 1).’
  • BUT: ‘Table 1 (or Fig. 1 etc) shows that…’
science english compound noun phrases
Science English: compound noun phrases

- Common in scientific writing, e.g.

  • ‘phosphate [or ‘P’] ‘uptake’ – for ‘uptake of phosphorus’ [‘P’]
  • ‘root weight’ [not ‘roots weight’] – for ‘weight of the roots’
  • ‘day temperature’ – for ‘temperature during the day’
  • ‘Mycorrhiza-specific P transporter’ – for ‘a transporter for P that is only found in mycorrhizas.’ …etc

However, use adjectives where they exist, e.g.

  • ‘environmental conditions’ – not ‘environment conditions’
  • ‘fungal biomass’ – not ‘fungus biomass’
  • ‘analytical method’ – not ‘analysis method’ …etc
sample summary noun phrases verb tenses
Sample Summary: noun phrases & verb tenses

Assunçao et al. (2003). Differential metal-specific tolerance and accumulation patterns among Thlaspi caerulescens populations from different soil types. New Phytologist 159: 411-419; slightly modified.

  • Thlaspi caerulescens populations from contrasting soil types (serpentine, calamine and nonmetalliferous) were characterized with regard to tolerance, uptake and translocation of zinc (Zn), cadmium (Cd) and nickel (Ni) in hydroponic culture.
  • High-level tolerances were apparently metal-specific and confined to the metals that were enriched at toxic levels in the soil at the population site.
  • With regard to metal accumulation, results suggested that, unlike Zn hyperaccumulation, Cd and Ni hyperaccumulationwere not constitutive at the species level in T. caerulescens.
  • In general, the populations exhibited a pronounced uncorrelated and metal-specific variation in uptake, root to shoot translocation, and tolerance of Zn, Cd and Ni. The distinct intraspecific variation of these characters provides excellent opportunities for further genetic and physiological dissection of the hyperaccumulation trait.
science english avoiding repetition
Science English: avoiding repetition

Unnecessary repetition is common, e.g.

  • ‘Roots of the rice plants grew very poorly in the presence of As. Roots of the rice plants grew much better when P was added to the nutrient solution.’
  • If the paper is entirely about rice there is no need to say ‘rice plants’.
  • No need to repeat the detail at the beginning of the second sentence. The following is OK:
  • ‘Roots grew very poorly in the presence of As. They grew much better when P was added to the nutrient solution.’ Or:
  • Roots grew very poorly in the presence of As, but grew much better when P was added to the nutrient solution.’
science english articles
Science English: ‘articles’

The ‘definite article’ [‘the’] and the indefinite article [‘a’, ‘an’]

  • ‘The’ is used to refer to a particular (‘definite’) object or situation (or particular objects or situations), e.g.

- ‘The journal needs a statement certifying that all the authors have been consulted and agree with the paper as submitted.’

- ‘The roots grew much better when P was added to the nutrient solution.’

  • ‘A’ or ‘an’ is used for one of many possible objects or situations – it is not used for plural ‘indefinite’ nouns, e.g.

- ‘Phosphorus is an essential element for pIants.’

- ‘Soil pH is a major variable and can stress... .’

[There are other essential elements and variables.]

articles complications
‘Articles’: complications

They are often omitted, e.g.

- ‘The journal needs a statement certifying that all authors have been consulted and agree with the paper as submitted.’ [‘All authors’ means all the authors of this paper: the other ‘the’s’ must remain.]

- ‘Roots grew much better when P was added to the nutrient solution (Fig. 1).’ [‘Roots’ refers to the roots in the experiment – not roots of all plants in the world.]

- ‘Soil pH is one of the important environmental variables that affect plant growth.’

[Here it is understood that ‘soil pH’ and ‘growth’ are ‘general’ properties; ‘the important…’ is there because some variables are less important.]

sample summary
Sample Summary

Assunçao et al. (2003). Differential metal-specific tolerance and accumulation patterns among Thlaspi caerulescens populations from different soil types. New Phytologist 159: 411-419. [No articles]

  • Thlaspi caerulescens populations from contrasting soil types (serpentine, calamine and nonmetalliferous) were characterized with regard to tolerance, uptake and translocation of zinc (Zn), cadmium (Cd) and nickel (Ni) in hydroponic culture. [No articles]
  • High-level tolerances were apparently metal-specific and confined to the metals that were enriched at toxic levels in the soil at the population site.
  • With regard to metal accumulation, results suggested that, unlike Zn hyperaccumulation, Cd and Ni hyperaccumulation were not constitutive at the species level in T. caerulescens.
  • In general, the populations exhibited a pronounced uncorrelated and metal-specific variation in uptake, root to shoot translocation, and tolerance of Zn, Cd and Ni. The distinct intraspecific variation of these characters provides excellent opportunities for further genetic and physiological dissection of the hyperaccumulation trait.
science english singulars and plurals
Science English: singulars and plurals

The more complicated the sentences, the more difficult it is to get them right, e.g.

- ‘Soil pH is one of the important environmental variables that affect plant growth.’ [‘is’ (singular) and ‘affect’ (plural) refer to the singular and plural nouns: ‘pH’ and ‘variables’.]

- ‘The journal needs a statement certifying that all authors have been consulted and agree with the paper as submitted.’ [‘needs’ (singular), refers to ‘journal’; ‘have’ & ‘agree’ (plural) refer to ‘authors’]

- ‘The high arsenic content of the soils collected from mine sites in northern China was responsible for the poor plant growth.’ [‘was’ is correct because it refers to ‘content’, singular.]

science english connections
Science English: connections

Connecting words & phrases - use with care

  • Do not start paragraphs (or sentences) with ‘And’, ‘But’, ‘Meanwhile’, ‘As for’ etc.
  • Use ‘but’, ‘However’, ‘Although’, ‘In contrast, etc to foreshadow a change or difference in emphasis.

Examples:

‘Smith (2002) showed..., but Jones (2003) showed [something else]’

‘Smith (2002) showed...; however, Jones (2003) showed [something else]’; or:

‘Smith showed….. However, Jones …’ - depends on sentence length.

‘Although Smith (2002) showed..., Jones (2003) showed [something else]’

‘Phosphate uptake by wheat was decreased when As was present. In contrast, P uptake by barley was not decreased by As.’

science english connections1
Science English: connections
  • Use ‘Therefore’, ‘Thus, Hence’, ‘Further, ‘Furthermore’ etc to foreshadow agreement or continuation of the same theme.

Examples:

[At the end of several sentences about Cd toxicity. ‘…and lastly it was found that the soils contained very high levels of Cd. It is therefore [or ‘thus’] likely that this was the cause of the human health problems.’ Or - ‘Hence, it is likely that…’

‘Soils in the area around the mines were very high in Cd, Ni and Pb. Furthermore, As levels in the soils were unexpectedly high. In contrast, soils from control sites did not contain…’ etc.

  • Avoid over-use of ‘then’. Do not say: ‘Plants were harvested. Then roots and shoots were separated, then weighed and then dried.’ You can say ‘After plants were harvested, roots and shoots were separated, dried and weighed.’ Or: for longer procedures, use lists: Plants were 1) … 2) … 3) … etc

Look in journals for useful sentence ‘templates’

the take home messages again1
The take-home messages again…
  • Select a suitable ‘target journal’ and use its style
  • Emphasize the aims of your research
  • Make clear that it is novel (new, original) and important
  • Present only relevant results (use good statistics)
  • Make your ‘story’ follow the aims throughout the paper
  • Write well-constructed Introduction and Discussion sections
  • Give an attractive Title and Abstract (Summary)
  • Write correct English – as much as possible!