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School of Life Sciences, J N U • 21 Sept. 2012 Winning the gameofpublishing research papers email@example.com
Overview • Research • Writing— Words— Numbers • Putting finishing touches— Citations and references— Formatting
Before writing and after writing • Read relevant journals; scan abstract journals. • Choose a target journal; note policy and scope. • Study instructions to authors. • Study a recent issue of the target journal. • Highlight main findings in the covering letter. • Specify category (letters, opinion, etc.). • Address the editor by name.
Tackle writing tasks systematically • Write the core message in 25 words. • Expand the core message to a 250-word abstract. • Prepare and revise an outline (the skeleton). • Flesh out the skeleton: for writing text, target at least400 words per session. Write fast; forget about errors. • Revise only after writing at least 2000 words.
Writing the title and the abstract • Realize that title and abstract work together. • Exclude references, tables, figures, etc. • Be sparing in use of abbreviations. • Do not repeat information already in the title. • For keywords, use terms other than thosealready used in the title. • Skip background information.
Writing the introduction • Answer the question W H Y. • State the problem. • Explain why the problem is important. • Review what has been done so far to solve it. • Introduce the study by pointing out what isdifferent about it compared to past research.
Writing materials and methods • Answer the question H O W. • Include enough detail for others to repeat the experiment. • Give sources of material, make and model of equipment, quantities, duration, season, etc.
Writing the results • Answer the question W H A T. • State only the results; leave comments and explanationsfor the Discussion section. • Use tables and charts as appropriate butdo not duplicate information. • If results are not significant, do not discuss them.
Writing the discussion • Answer the question S O W H A T. • Explain what the results mean and how they are important. • Compare the results with earlier findings; explaincontradictory results, if any. • Suggest future line of work. • Sum up with a conclusion.
Tips on scheduling writing • Write and revise the outline whenever convenient. • Keep large chunks of uninterrupted time for writing text. • Set the target in terms of number of words. • End a session at a point from which it is easy to resume.
Becoming a better writer • Prefer books or longish feature articles in magazinesto newspapers. • Read popular fiction to absorb correct grammar. • Read writers known for the quality of their prose. • Spend about ten hours on readingforevery hour you spend on learning to write.
Recommended reading: 1 • Silvia P J. 2007. How to Write a Lot: a practical guide toproductive academic writing. Washington, DC: AmericanPsychological Association. 149 pp. • Groopman J (ed.). 2010. The Best of the Best AmericanScience Writing [2000–2009].New York: HarperCollins. 346 pp.
Recommended reading: 2 • Dawkins R (ed.). 2008. The Oxford Book of ModernScience Writing. Oxford University Press. 419 pp. • Bryson B (ed.). 2010. Seeing Further: the story of scienceand the Royal Society. London: HarperPress. 504 pp.
All good writing is rewriting What is written without effort isin general read without pleasure. Samuel Johnson
Express numbers accurately • Always include units of measurement. • Eliminate non-significant digits. • Limit numbers to 3 digits as far as possible. • Use appropriate and familiar units.
Expression should match precision • The sheet was 16.12 mm thick. • Sand content was 20.05%. • Wathar railway station: height above msl 799.99 m • The sheet was 16 mm thick. • Sand content was 20%. • Wathar railway station: height above msl 800m
SI style for expressing quantities: 1 • Number (value) + space + unit. • Unit = affix + symbol • Affix may divide or multiply. • Multipliers: kilo, mega, giga, etc. • Dividers: deci, centi, milli, micro, pico, etc. • All dividers and multipliers up to kilo take lowercase:mm, km, but MW
SI style for expressing quantities: 2 • Units are symbols, not abbreviations. • No plural form: 1 kg, 2 kg (not 2 kgs) • Not followed by a full stop ( 1 km, not 1 km.) • Symbols named after people take uppercase: 2 kPa, 230 V • Use the symbols only with numbers; if not, use unit names(the weight was measured in kilograms; the concentrationwas expressed in grams per litre.)
About versus Approximately • Use about with multiples of 5 or 10 to indicate that values have been rounded off. • Use approximately to indicate more precise measurements. • About (UK), Around (USA) • You will require about 160 kg of sand. • You will need approximately 157 kg of sand.
Make 3-digit groups separated with space • 123 • 1234 (but 1 234 if in a column with more digits) • 12 345 • 123 456 not 1,23,456 • 1 234 567 not 12,34,567. Non-breaking space: alt + 0160
Recommended reading • Miller J E. 2004. The Chicago Guide to WritingAbout Numbers. Chicago University Press. 304 pp. • Koomey J G. 2008. Turning Numbers into Knowledge.Oakland, California: Analytics Press. 248 pp.
Making tables reader-friendly • Refer to and summarize in text. • Order rows and columns logically. • Eliminate repetitive matter; avoid numbering rows/columns • Use appropriate column alignment. • Avoid empty cells. • Mark off reference column or row: (average, standard, etc.). • Ensure that correct units are mentioned where necessary.
Align columns logically • Whole numbers only; all the rows share a common unit:right alignment • Decimal numbers; all the rows share a common unit:decimal alignment • Whole numbers or decimals; rows do not sharea common unit: left alignment • Individual cells without data: centre only those cells.
Column with no common units left-aligned Table 1 Fuel consumption in rural households: 2001/02 l Quantity Fuel Quantity Coal or soft coke (thousand tonnes) 400 Kerosene (million litres) 1863 Biogas (million cubic metres) 1360 Dung-cake (million tonnes) 95
Do not overdesign tables • Keep columns close together. A table need not fillall the available space. • Avoid vertical lines or rules; avoid shaded background. • Use minimum horizontal lines or rules. • Avoid shading alternate rows; use extra spaceafter every five or ten rows if necessary. • Do not use the space bar to align numbers.
Construct a test sentence Make a sentence out of the data given in a row andsee if it makes complete sense.This test also alerts you to missing information,especially about units of measurement.
Always supply sources of data • Author’s data if no source given • Citation (author–year) or full reference • Source or sources as appropriate • ‘Adapted from’ or ‘Modified from’ as appropriate
Molecular and Cellular Biology: instructions • Manuscripts may be editorially rejected, without review,on the basis of poor English or lack of conformity to thestandards set forth in these Instructions. • Manuscript pages should have continuous line numbers;manuscripts without line numbers may be rejected.
Molecular and Cellular Biology: announcement Beginning with the first January 2013 issue, ASM will changethe way in which references are numbered. Citations will benumbered in the order in which they appear in the article;ASM will no longer use the citation-name system with an alphabetized reference list. Also, entries in Referenceswill include all authors’ names; “et al.” will not be usedin author lines.
Writing the references • Answer the question W H O S A Y S SO. • Citations are embedded within text. • References are placed at the end of a paper. • Citations are brief pointers; references supply full details. • Citations are used for supporting claims andgiving credit where it is due.
Why citations Academic citations show that you know — work already done on your research question — major contributors to the topic — how to acknowledge their work — how to properly organize references.
Citations, references, and bibliography • Citations in text; references at the end • Citations: numbers or author/s–year • References: details of sources cited in the text • Bibliography: sources used but not specifically cited
Differences in forms of citations Numbered citationsSuperscript numbers or ‘in line’ numbers, square brackets?Placement of numbers in relation to punctuation Author/s–year citations • Punctuation within and between citations • Order of names within a citation • How many names before ‘et al.’
Differences in reference formats • Elements or parts of a reference • Sequence and details of elements • Punctuation between elements • Typography
Elements or parts of a reference • Author/s and year of publication • Title of the paper, book, presentation, etc. • Source details: title of the journal, book, conference, etc.| volume-, issue-, and page numbers | publisher andplace of publication | dates and place of the conference |Conference organizer | URL | DOI . . . • Full stop or no full stop at the end
Sequence and details of elements: 1 • Place: publisher or Publisher, placeLondon: Academic Press or Academic Press, London • Inverted names: all or only the first Patil A B, Gupta C D, and Roy E F or Patil A B, C D Gupta, and E F Roy
Sequence and details of elements: 2 • Journal names: full or abbreviatedPlant Molecular Biologyor Plant Mol. Biol. • Capitalization in journal namesCellular and Molecular Biology orCellular and molecular biology • Page numbers: full or elided vol. 25: 121–128 or vol. 25: 121–8
Punctuation between elements • Comma between surname and initials Patil, A B or Patil A B • Dots after initials; space or no space Patil A.B. or Patil A B or Patil AB • Comma or colon after volume number Building and Environment 56, 123–128 or Building and Environment 56:123–128
Typography and layout • Names: normal or capitals or capitals and small capitalsPatil or PATIL or Patil • Journal names: normal or italicsNucleic Acids Researchor Nucleic Acids Research • Volume number in normal or bold • Left-aligned or with a hanging indent