How to write a scientific article: a step-by-step guide
The question “How to write a scientific article?” will probably be on the minds of many budding and new researchers.
According to LuxRender, a scientific article is an original report that presents and describes experimental results, new knowledge or experiments based on known facts.
It’s a way for you to share your discoveries with students, scientists, researchers and doctors. They share and compare your results with their research or work in progress. In short, your article contributes to the development of science.
Now that you know what a scientific paper is, how do you start writing one? Based on information from Elsevier, we have prepared a guide to writing a scientific paper below:
How to write a scientific article
First steps: what to do before writing one?
Before any writing can begin, you will need to do enough preparatory work that will help you write a scientific paper. Some pointers include:
- Develop an understanding of the chosen topic
- Do background research
- Identify your target medical journal to publish your study
- Identifying your target audience. Is it a specialist group or a general audience?
- Decide on the objectives of your study
- Determine the methods you will use for the study
These guidelines will give you a clear picture of what needs to be done. You can follow the “IMRAD” format (most scientific journals use it), which includes an introduction followed by several sections: methods, results and discussion.
As with every journal, you should include a bibliography, as well as tables and legends for all issues.
Step 1: Presentation
Your introduction should explain the topic you have chosen and why you have chosen it. You will also need to indicate what you hope to achieve from the study.
Here are some things to consider when writing your introduction:
- Consider whether you need to share simplistic or specific background details of your topic. It depends on your target audience. If you are targeting a group of specialists, your journey can be more technical and detailed.
- Each sentence should have a purpose, as many journals have a limit on paragraph or page length.
- Be sure to use the correct tenses for your sentences.
Step 2: Methods
This section should explain the methods used during the study, describing in detail what you did.
Here’s what your methods should specify (in order):
- The design of your method
- Your study population, including procedures to identify it
- The primary and secondary endpoints of the study
- Every blood test, intervention, operation, questionnaire, imaging technique, etc.
- A Brief Note Regarding Ethical Considerations
- If applicable, include contact details of the manufacturer
- Statistical analysis of your study
When it comes to tenses, you should mainly describe your methods using the (imperfect) past tense (eg we played, we recorded, we measured, we tested). Use only the past perfect to describe events before your study (for example: “when thrombolysis failed, we started”.
Step 3: Results
This is a section to state your observations on the methods used without any comment or discussion. When stating your observations, avoid using expressions such as “interesting” or “surprisingly”. Be clear about which method you are referring to.
If you want to include a table for your results, the general rule is that your table should contain the most important results to give your readers a clear idea of your conclusions. It can be data consisting of baseline characteristics, outcomes, or treatments, where the same variables are described for two or more groups.
Elseview also notes that it is essential to describe a result for each method described in the methods section. To facilitate the understanding and reading of the article, it is also recommended to present the results in the same order as the methods. Subheadings can also be useful for breaking results down into easy-to-follow sections.
Step 4: Discussion
In this section, you should begin your paragraph with a brief summary of your main findings from the study, followed by your interpretation and rationales for your results, and how they fit into the larger picture of what has been reported on the same subject.
You should too also cite and compare results from other reports. However, remember to be diplomatic and avoid criticizing the work of other editors. Use precautionary and softer terms such as may, maybe, and probably.
Think about any new findings from your study and how they contribute to the state of knowledge; don’t be afraid to write an article reporting negative results as they still contribute to the current body of evidence.
Step 5: Summary
This section is a summary of your paper that usually includes background, methods, results, and conclusion. Its primary use is for reference purposes in online bibliographic databases.
That said, a well-written abstract is essential, as it is the first thing an editor will read to determine if your article is suitable for their journal.
When writing your abstract, remember to keep it short, simple, and engaging while giving the editor an overview of your article.
Step 6: the title of your article
Your title should contain keywords that reflect your topic and make your article visible in search results.
Tip: Look at the titles of articles in highly reputable journals for inspiration on how to write one.
Step 7: References
You probably know references or a section of all the sources you used to prepare and construct your research.
It could include books, journals, essays and articles. Whenever possible, avoid citing websites, personal communications and unpublished data.
Follow the SEO format of the journal you plan to submit your article to, so check the guidelines and instructions.
Ultimately, writing a scientific paper can seem daunting if it’s your first time, but these tips can ensure you cover important sections of your paper.