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Writing Scientific Research Articles: Strategy and Steps, 2nd Edition

ISBN: 978-1-118-57070-8
236 pages
June 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
Writing Scientific Research Articles: Strategy and Steps, 2nd Edition (1118570707) cover image


This book shows scientists how to apply their analysis and synthesis skills to overcoming the challenge of how to write, as well as what to write, to maximise their chances of publishing in international scientific journals.

The book uses analysis of the scientific article genre to provide clear processes for writing each section of a manuscript, starting with clear ‘story’ construction and packaging of results. Each learning step uses practical exercises to develop writing and data presentation skills based on reader analysis of well-written example papers. Strategies are presented for responding to referee comments, and for developing discipline-specific English language skills for manuscript writing and polishing.

The book is designed for scientists who use English as a first or an additional language, and for individual scientists or mentors or a class setting. In response to reader requests, the new edition includes review articles and the full range of research article formats, as well as applying the book’s principles to writing funding applications.

Web support for this book is available at www.writeresearch.com.au

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Table of Contents

Preface to the second edition ix

Preface to the first edition xi

Section 1: A framework for success 1

1 How the book is organized, and why 3

1.1 Getting started with writing for international publication 3

1.2 Publishing in the international literature 4

1.3 What do you need to know to select your target journal? 6

1.4 Aims of this book 7

1.5 How the book is structured 8

2 Research article structures 11

2.1 Conventional article structures: AIMRaD (Abstract, Introduction, Materials and methods, Results, and Discussion) and its variations 11

3 Reviewers’ criteria for evaluating manuscripts 17

3.1 Titles as content signposts 18

Section 2: When and how to write each article section 21

4 Results as a “story”: the key driver of an article 23

5 Results: turning data into knowledge 25

5.1 Figure, table, or text? 26

5.2 Designing figures 26

5.3 Designing tables 29

5.4 Figure legends and table titles 31

6 Writing about results 33

6.1 Structure of Results sections 33

6.2 Functions of Results sentences 34

6.3 Verb tense in Results sections 34

7 The Methods section 37

7.1 Purpose of the Methods section 37

7.2 Organizing Methods sections 38

7.3 Use of passive and active verbs 39

8 The Introduction 43

8.1 Argument stages towards a compelling Introduction 43

8.2 Stage 1: Locating your project within an existing field of scientific research 43

8.3 Using references in Stages 2 and 3 47

8.4 Avoiding plagiarism when using others’ work 50

8.5 Indicating the gap or research niche 51

8.6 Stage 4: The statement of purpose or main activity 52

8.7 Stages 5 and 6: Highlighting benefit and mapping the article 52

8.8 Suggested process for drafting an Introduction 53

8.9 Editing for logical flow 54

9 The Discussion section 59

9.1 Important structural issues 59

9.2 Information elements to highlight the key messages 60

9.3 Negotiating the strength of claims 62

10 The title 65

10.1 Strategy 1: Provide as much relevant information as possible, but be concise 65

10.2 Strategy 2: Use keywords prominently 65

10.3 Strategy 3: Choose strategically: noun phrase, statement, or question? 66

10.4 Strategy 4: Avoid ambiguity in noun phrases 67

11 The Abstract 69

11.1 Why Abstracts are so important 69

11.2 Selecting additional keywords 69

11.3 Abstracts: typical information elements 69

12 Writing review articles 73

12.1 What editors want to publish 75

12.2 The “take-home-message” of a review 75

12.3 The structure of review articles 83

12.4 Visual elements in review articles: tables, figures, and boxes 84

12.5 Checklist for review article manuscripts 86

12.6 Submission and revision of review articles 86

Section 3: Getting your manuscript published 89

13 Submitting a manuscript 91

13.1 Five practices of successful authors 91

13.2 Understanding the peer-review process 92

13.3 Understanding the editor’s role 93

13.4 The contributor’s covering letter 93

13.5 Understanding the reviewer’s role 94

13.6 Understanding the editor’s role (continued) 97

14 How to respond to editors and reviewers 99

14.1 Rules of thumb 99

14.2 How to deal with manuscript rejection 99

14.3 How to deal with “conditional acceptance”or “revise and resubmit” 101

15 A process for preparing a manuscript 109

15.1 Initial preparation steps 109

15.2 Editing procedures 110

15.3 A pre-review checklist 113

Section 4: Developing your writing and publication skills further 115

16 Skill-development strategies for groups and individuals 117

16.1 Journal clubs 117

16.2 Writing groups 118

16.3 Selecting feedback strategies for different purposes 118

16.4 Becoming a reviewer 120

16.5 Training for responding to reviewers 121

17 Developing discipline-specific English skills 123

17.1 Introduction 123

17.2 Error types and editor expectations of language use 123

17.3 Strategic (and acceptable!) language re-use: sentence templates 125

17.4 More about noun phrases 128

17.5 Concordancing: a tool for developing your discipline-specific English 129

17.6 Using the English articles (a/an, the) appropriately in science writing 133

17.7 Using “which” and “that” 136

18 Writing funding proposals 139

18.1 Introduction 139

18.2 A process for preparing and submitting a funding proposal 140

18.3 Easy mistakes to make 143

Section 5: Provided example articles 145

19 PEA1: Kaiser et al. (2003) 147

20 PEA2: Britton-Simmons and Abbott (2008) 159

21 PEA3: Ganci et al. (2012) 171

Answer pages 185

Appendix: Measures of journal impact and quality 213

A.1 Journal impact 213

A.2 Using indices of journal quality 214

References 217

Index 219

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Author Information

Margaret Cargill is an applied linguist with over 20 years experience as a research communication educator. Her current research centres on innovative collaborative methods for helping scientists develop high-level skills for communicating their research findings effectively in the international arena. She has worked extensively in Australia, Europe and Asia with scientists of many language and cultural backgrounds.

Patrick O’Connor is a research ecologist, environmental consultant and science educator. His work over the last 15 years has focussed on the use of scientific principles in designing and evaluating environmental programs for governments and statutory authorities in Australia. His research interests and scientific publications span fields of terrestrial ecology and detection of change in plant and animal communities.

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“This volume will be useful for upper-level undergraduates, ESL students, and graduate students who need assistance in writing for publication.  Summing Up: Recommended.  Upper-division undergraduates and graduate students.”  (Choice, 1 November 2013)

“As was the case with its predecessor, the second edition of Writing Scientific Research Articles will be of most value to early-career scientists with little writing experience. It should also be read by research scientists who do not have English as their first language. The book could also serve as a refresher in scientific writing for experienced scientists, and it contains a lot of sound advice that should be heeded by English-speaking researchers.”  (Aquaculture International, 1 August 2013)

"I liked many aspects of this book. The text is well written and easy to read, as you would hope with a book on writing. The tone is formal, and I had no trouble imagining the authors presenting the material in a series of lectures." ( Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Canada 2013)

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