Scientific Writing: Articles and Other Formats

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

As there are different purposes of publishing a scientific article you can find different kinds of texts. Every text type has its own statements, advantages and characteristics. The content and message of a publication should be clear before getting started. Following different text forms are shortly presented.

Research Paper

A research paper is meant to communicate your recent research results with your scientists all over the world. Therefore you need to include different kind of information and traditionally it contains the following points:

  • Introduction: The introduction is written to give an overview about your research area and should point out the problem you are dealing with to the reader. It should interest the reader to your results and the importance of your work. Always keep in mind not everyone reading your paper is as familiar with the topic as your are.
  • Material & Methods: It explains how you provided your data. It is important to state good laboratory practice and make all your research reliable and reproducible. As you are reporting actions you did in the past, use past tense.
  • Results: Here you present the data that you have provided. The most common way is to do this in tables and figures, but make sure they are necessary and self explanatory. Also add the statistical data and interpret them but do not discuss them. Also use past tense in the result section.
  • Discussion/Conclusion: The discussion should give answers to the problems and questions you asked in the introduction. Compare your results to the findings of others. Are they confirming the hypothesis of others or do they reject it?
  • Abstract: The abstract is said to be one of the most important parts of a scientific paper. The abstract is the first thing a reader is reading and on which basis he will decide whether to read your paper or not. You have to point out what the aim of your work was and what your conclusion was. Make sure the reader sees why your paper is providing new and important information to him.

 

Review article

Compared to a research article a review article is secondary literature which is evaluating and interpretation of a specific field of research. It is often read to give an overall view on a topic to a reader that might be new to the field. The author of a review article is comparing different opinions and sites of a topic and is evaluating the different theories and points out where information is missing and more research needs to be done. It does not provide any new data or new findings. Therefore the content differs a bit, as the material & method, and the result parts are missing.

  • Introduction: Like in a research article the introduction is giving an overview about the actual state of research and gives background information to present a big picture.
  • Main analysis section: The different theories are compared to each other in a logical order, may it chronological, thematical or methodological. The similarities, differences, contrasts, gaps in knowledge are pointed out and described.
  • Conclusion: The whole topic is summarized and a general interpretation is given, same as possible work of the future.

 

Poster

Posters usually are presented on scientific conferences and provide a fast communication within a small group of people who are interested in your field of work. This is an advantage especially for young scientist who can present their latest data or their theses. It also allows the presenting person to communicate and discuss his/her topic with other people of this field.

A poster follows the same requirement of other scientific work does and should contain Introduction, Material and Methods, Results and Conclusion. As most of the conferences ask for an abstract for the posters it is not necessary to repeat it on the poster. Always keep in mind a poster is presenting your data in a very visual way, so try to present most of the content in visuals: graphs, pictures etc. In every section of a poster one point is being presented. Keep the text short, if possible write keywords and pay attention to type size (not to small, but also not to big). Highlight important parts with colours but do not make it look like a rainbow (it will distract the reader)

You should always be prepared to shortly present your poster and point out the most important parts. People may ask questions and discuss about your results and discussion. Prepare some handouts of your poster so readers can remember your poster and contact you if they are interested in your research.

 

Talk

A talk gives an overview about your most recent research. The structure is similar to writing a scientific paper. It contains the background or context of your problem, the purpose of your question, the experimental approach to answer this question, the results and a conclusion/ answer to your question. You also shortly can go into detail about following experiments and work.

As this is an oral presentation use spoken English. You should not read out a prepared text or your slides. Prepare well and practice your presentation over and over until you are familiar with the order and content of your slide. Also watch your body language: do not hide behind a lectern or your notes, do not play with your hair, beard, fingers, clothes, pens or whatever you may find. Stay straight, show confidence and speak up so everyone can hear you.

It may also good to film yourself holding the presentation and review it afterwards, so you see how others see you and what you should improve.

It is possible to learn how to give a good talk or presentation but a key point to this is practice. To do so, try to give as much presentations as possible (Maybe starting with department presentation like the Tuesday Seminar).

 

Proposal writing

Proposal writing is important as every researcher needs funding for projects and his work. So it is not possible to generalize writing a proposal as every institution you are applying for has different requirements for their applications, but everyone need information in your further research plans and how you are going to use the money they are giving to you. So it is important to point out the significance of your research and explain why it is standing out.

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