How to write a scientific paper

If you have been asked to write a scientific paper and you have never written one before, you may be a little worried, and perhaps confused about how to start. You probably have some very good ideas about what you need to include in the article but are wondering how to begin and end it.

Before starting to write a scientific paper

The good thing about being asked to write a scientific paper for a research journal, or for a conference presentation, is that your work is getting the recognition you deserve. When you have a paper published, it will stand you in good stead when you come to apply for a job in academia. You need to have as much of your work published as possible, as these days competition for academic jobs is tough.

 

You may need help to write a scientific paper because researchers are not often trained to write scientific papers by their supervisors and tutors, Students whose first language is not English also require specialist help from well-qualified teachers of English as a second language and these are not always available.

There are several points to consider before you begin writing a scientific paper.

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If you can honestly answer ‘Yes’ to these questions, then your paper should be worth publishing.

You will need to think about the following too: -

  1. Will your paper contain enough new material to warrant its publication?
  2. Will your topic fall within the scope of the conference or journal? Or should you rethink it.
  3. Have you designed your tables and figures adequately?
  4. Will you be able to present the results in an appropriate manner?
  5. Will the language you use be acceptable? Often non-native speakers of English need proof readers and editors before submitting a scientific paper to a journal. Although the journal will have editor, they often don’t have the time to spend on editing articles which are written in English as a Lingua Franca rather than Standard English.
  6. Which journal should you submit your paper to? Don’t send your paper to multiple journals. Submit it to one and wait for the editor’s and reviewers’ responses. You can choose an appropriate journal to submit your paper to by thinking about the articles you used in your research. It’s likely that you mainly used articles from just one or, perhaps two journals. Send your manuscript to one of these.

Let’s now consider how to write a scientific paper, starting with its contents. Think IMRAD (Introduction, Methodology, Results, And Discussion!

  • Before the paper starts there needs to be the title of the paper, an abstract, and perhaps a list of Keywords.
  • In the Introduction, you should explain what you did and why you did it.
  • Next comes the Methodology section, in which you explain how you conducted your research.
  • In the results section, you detail what you found.
  • And then comes –
  • the Discussion – what is the significance of your research?
  • Next comes the Conclusion which will be in a separate section.
  • You will also have to provide references and a Bibliography, along with any supporting materials and an Acknowledgement section.

It is important to note that although this is generally the order that sections are presented in, it is not necessary to write your paper in this order. You can put it together when you have completed your writing. If you want to, you can start with the findings and then go on to write the discussion.

Having done your research, you will have to prepare any figures and tables that you intend including in your paper. It might be best to write the introduction after you have finalised your results and discussion sections. You might find that your discussion section is a little on the thin side, in which case you will need to revisit it and beef it up. You need to demonstrate the scientific importance of your work in your introduction and unless the discussion is thoroughly presented, this can’t be done.

You will need to come up with a compelling title for your paper. This should be concise but descriptive, so that readers understand precisely what topic you have written about.

It is probably best to write the abstract last because it needs to explain the results, discussion and so on. The abstract should tell your readers exactly what was done and explain the most important findings. This, along with the title of your paper, will be the ‘advertisement’ for your scientific paper. The abstract should be easily comprehensible and interesting. If it is it will encourage people to read the paper in full. Try to avoid the use of jargon, references and uncommon abbreviations.

Your abstract must be brief and accurate. It should impart the exact meaning of your study. It should give a brief description of the purpose and perspective of your scientific paper. It will give the most important results, but it shouldn’t go into detail about any experiments conducted. In the last sentence, the abstract should give a brief description of the purpose and perspective of the scientific paper.

Remember that the abstract will probably be the deciding factor regarding whether readers will continue reading the paper or not. You need to be very concise when writing your abstract. Most journals expect them to be somewhere in the region of 250 words. For a more precise description of what is required, study the authors’ guidelines in the journals.

Remember to ask and answer these two questions when writing the abstract: -

  • What is it that has been done?
  • What are the most important findings?

Before you begin writing you should think about your topic and hypothesis. Also consider your objectives. Both your hypothesis or research question(s) will need to go in the Introduction.

Again, before you start writing you should review the literature surrounding your topic. Next select about 30 papers that you can cite and put them in the References section. Bear in mind that this is a paper, not a dissertation or thesis, so don’t select too many.

They say that a picture or image is worth a thousand words, so the most efficient way of presenting your results is through tables and figures. The differences between these are fairly obvious, but let’s make the distinction clear: -

  • Tables usually give the actual results of experiments and so on.
  • Figures are used when you make comparisons or when you contrast your results with those found in previous work.

It is most important that you describe in detail, the methods you used, especially if you have come up with a new method of doing an experiment, for example. There has to be sufficient information to ensure that another knowledgeable researcher can replicate an experiment.

Your results section should answer the question ‘What have I found?’ Your results are integral to the discussion section. You should not, in this section, give results from other studies.

You should read the journal’s guidelines very carefully, as most journals allow authors to include supporting materials along with their papers. These can be used for data which is of secondary importance.

Remember to use subheadings so that you can ensure that the same type of results are together. Doing this makes them easier to read and review. Your data should be presented in a logical manner so that they present a clear narrative that is simple to comprehend. Usually the order will be the same as was presented in the Methodology section.

It is important to remember here that you are presenting your results. In other words, don’t refer to results from other authors and their studies. Any references to the results of other studies should go in the Discussion section.

The next section is the Discussion. This is probably the easiest section to write. However, editors sometimes complain that authors don’t get this section right. This is somewhat unfortunate as it is arguably the most important section of any scientific paper. It is in this section that an author ‘sells’ his or her data.

Your Discussion section should correspond to the Results section, although it would be inadvisable to reiterate them. It is in this section that you compare and contrast your results with those of other academics. If some have disagreed with your findings, then say so and attempt to persuade your readers that your study is correct and even better than those that disagree with you.

Sometimes an author gets carried away and makes statements which cannot be supported by his or her results. Bear in mind that you have to be precise and provide quantified data (rather than simply saying, for example, that an experiment was carried out at a ‘higher’ temperature than a previous one).

In this section you should not present new ideas or terms. The place for introducing these is the Introduction.

You can speculate on possible interpretations of your data, but they must be based on fact rather than imagination. In order to do this, you may wish to consider the following: -

  • How do your results match up to the hypothesis or research question(s) posed in your Introduction?
  • Do all your data support the hypothesis?
  • Are your results in line with those reported by other researchers?
  • You will need to thoroughly discuss any weaknesses or discrepancies you found in your study. You will also need to explain why your results were unexpected (if they were).
  • Can you think of an alternative way to interpret the results of your study? If you think this is possible, suggest what further research could be undertaken to clarify your results.
  • Finally you need, without any exaggeration, to explain what is new about your study.

Now that you have clarified your thoughts, you need to write up the introduction. Think about the answers to these questions: -

  • What was the problem that you study endeavoured to solve?
  • Did solutions to the problem exist before you conducted your study?
  • Which solution, not including yours, is best?
  • What are the limitations of the study?
  • What precisely do you wish to achieve?

Think carefully about the title of your scientific paper. Long titles are cumbersome and may alienate readers. The title should clearly indicate what your paper is about. Your title should be topic specific and reflect the contents of your paper. You may need to spend some considerate time on thinking about an appropriate title, but ultimately this will be time well spent if your paper is cited by many other researchers.

Never believe that out first draft will be perfect, especially if you are not a native English speaker. If you are working to a strict deadline leave sufficient time to make all the necessary corrections. Don’t fall into the trap of relying on a spell check to highlight your errors. For example, if you intended to write ‘any’ but wrote ‘ant’ the spell check would not highlight this because ‘ant’ is a word.

If you need your writing, of whatever kind, proof read and edited, contact us. Also, if you are still in doubt about how to write a scientific paper, contact us. Our fully professional writers can write your paper for you, or they can proof read and edit your work. No one but you will ever know from us that you did not write your scientific paper.

Why not contact us right now and find out more about our services and how we can assist with your writing?

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