|Year : 2018 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 75-82
Art of crafting a scientific paper for IJVES
Kalkunte R Suresh
Editor – IJVES Director JIVAS (Jain Institute of Vascular Sciences), Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
|Date of Web Publication||3-May-2018|
Kalkunte R Suresh
Editor – IJVES Director JIVAS (Jain Institute of Vascular Sciences), Bengaluru, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Suresh KR. Art of crafting a scientific paper for IJVES. Indian J Vasc Endovasc Surg 2018;5:75-82
| I. The Art|| |
“All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary – it's just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.” The words of erudite writer Somerset Maugham.
* “Less is more - Good writing begins with a profound respect for words, their precise denotations, and their connotations. Do not use three or four words when one will suffice. Every word of every sentence should work for maximum efficiency to achieve clarity and brevity. What looks like a natural gift to write is really great persistence, compulsiveness, and discipline. Along with brevity and clarity, accuracy is the third element of good scientific writing. The words 'scientific' and 'data' themselves suggest knowledgeable, documented, and organized information.”
*“Scientific writing is a form of writing called expository. Its primary goal is to explain. Implicit in any expository writing is another goal: to persuade. The two go hand in hand, for it is hard to explain a scientific fact without taking a position on it. The goal, then, is both to have your readers understand you and to convince them that your interpretation of your data is the only correct one.”
*“A cardinal rule is that all elements of the paper must flow continuously and uni-directionally ……. Compulsiveness is a trait of good writers. When you think that you have a finished product, go back over it several times to check the specific points.”
It would be apt recall a segment of interview of famed American author Ernest Hemingway by George Plimpton (The Paris Review Interviews):
Plimpton: How much rewriting do you do?
- Hemingway: It depends. I rewrote the last page of “Farewell to Arms” 39 times before I was satisfied.
Plimpton: Was there some technical problem? What was it that stumped you?
- Hemingway: Getting the words right.
| II. The Style|| |
- “There is no single, correct way to write. The trick, then, is not to copy someone else's voice, but rather to study what works – and what does not – in your own writing and that of others to formulate your own guide to effective communication.”
- The goal of good writing is straightforward: to make your reader's job as easy as possible.
- “Word choice directly impacts the readability of your writing. First and foremost is the observation that jargon is one of the greatest enemies of clear scientific writing.”
- Develop a vocabulary by reading the existing literature to become familiar with, if not fluent in the style of language and presentation used in writing a scientific paper
- If possible, avoid abbreviations (unless they are “standardized”). If used, make them meaningful.
- “Word choice also impacts the precision of your writing, which affects the ease with which it is read: any ambiguity in your writing forces your reader to work to understand your meaning.”
- Use past tense in most of your descriptions, since what you are presenting is already done. Use future tense in certain areas, if results of your research are to be reproduced by others.
- A well-written sentence usually leads with the action, i.e., a simple sentence should take the reader into the crux of the matter without meandering
- Beware of long sentences. While it is good to vary your sentence length across a paragraph, longer sentences are generally harder to analyze than their shorter forms. Indeed, average sentence length is a key predictor of reading difficulty in most of the commonly employed measures of “readability.”
- The first sentence of each paragraph should tell the reader what you expect them to get out of the paragraph that follows, which makes their job of following it far easier. Put another way, use the opening sentence of your paragraph to state your argument, and the rest of the paragraph to make your argument 
- A paragraph should discuss only a single idea and thus should have a single, unifying theme running throughout it 
- If you have conveyed another idea/argument, use another paragraph.
The above are not my words and have borrowed few thoughts in this article. I strongly urge you all to read the articles from which these are extricated and quoted verbatim., These personify how well-written articles are easy to read and understand!
“State your facts as simply as possible, even boldly. No body wants flowers of eloquence or literary ornaments in a research article. – R. B. McKerrow”
- Before you compose your scientific article, read the instructions provided by the journal/publisher and follow these stringently. These clearly outline the editorial policies, instructions to authors about the required content and composition of an article.
- Pay attention to language, grammar, and typographical errors. The computer suggests corrections, but still, most of the articles submitted to IJVES have significant flaws in language, as seen below:
- Poorly constructed sentences, grammatical and spacing errors, and rambling description (in the abstract) would provide enough grounds for rejecting the paper. Although the “computer” has clearly identified many of these errors, authors submitted without any corrections
- An excellent idea that is well researched can still be doomed by poor presentation. Equally, a poorly designed study cannot be saved by excellent presentation of the work.
An average of four revisions is required for the articles submitted to IJVES, mostly because of language and presentation deficits. Some have required over eight revisions!
Components of Research Paper: Follow conventional format
A scientific research paper should be written in a standardized format, including following sections.
- Title - Specific subject and what aspect of the subject studied
- Abstract: Short summary of the paper
- Main body of the article in IMRaD structure
- Introduction - why was the study done
- Methods and Material -how was the study undertaken
- Results - what were the outcomes
- Discussion - why is the study significant; how does the study compare with similar studies; what does it add or supplement existing results; this should flow into a short conclusion.
Acknowledgements, if any Conclusions - what was learnt from this study References/citations Appendix/additional information - if needed.
“A bad beginning makes a bad ending – Euripides”
- Should be short, specific, and succinct. This should reflect the “concept” of your entire article and the scientific content should be aimed proving, disproving, this concept in the title
- Title page lists the authors and their affiliations, corresponding author, about five keywords, and running title. Might vary with each journal
- There is a frequent “disconnect” between the title and the article. The following submitted to IJVES: “ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS - AN ALARMING RISK OF VENOUS THROMBOEMBOLIC DISEASE.” The author appears to be creating a dramatic headline by adding “alarming risk of VTE” and the article describes routine management without presenting or stating why Ankylosing spondylitis is “alarming” risk for VTE. Rejected by a review because of this “disconnect” and the article offered no new data.
“Abstract is the entire paper in brief. It is perhaps the single most important element in a paper; it will, after all, be read far more often than the paper it describes. Indeed, a badly written abstract almost guarantees that no one will read the paper itself.”
It is apt to invoke Euripides again – “ A bad beginning makes a bad ending”
- Perhaps, it would be best write the abstract after you have completed writing the main article since this summarizes the entire article. Present couple of important sentences/data from each segment of your article. A well-wriitten abstract will draw the readers to peruse the main paper and this in turn can earn citations in peer-reviewed journals.
A poorly written abstract of a case report (partially quoted earlier):
- The above abstract contains the entire technique of surgical procedure, contradicts the title, does not follow any methodology.
Below is an example well-written abstract of an “Original Article:”
- Below is another example of an unpretentious, effective abstract of a case report. These abstracts (of case reports) are shorter and do not necessarily follow the format an original or review article. Note that the words/phrases “redlined” by our helpful computer are not always grammatical or language errors:
- The abstract should be about 3–4 paragraphs, between 250 and 400 words
- To reiterate – this perhaps is the only part read by most and it should be well written.
Main Body of the Article in IMRaD Structure
The components of the main article:
The “stem wine glass” appearance of algorithm and the shapes of different segments depict the methodology of the system, as will be seen later.
- It should be crisp and succinct; not more than 3 or 4 paragraphs
- It should satisfy your readers that you have raised an important scientific question and you have some answers, or at least suggestions, to these questions
- The descriptive details should be in the form of inverted pyramid or a cone, where you start off with broader perspectives of your topic, leading them through specific area addressed in your paper and finally narrowing down to what exactly was done to achieve the results
- The first paragraph is broad based – begin by using some keywords in your title and summarize the pertinent literature on the topic you are addressing, with citations. These should be few important papers from peer-reviewed journals. This summarizes the current understanding of the problem you are investigating, without lengthy explanations, which should be reserved for discussions.
- The second paragraph should describe the specific area you have addressed within the broader summary provided above
- The last paragraph should outline the rationale and approach to your study – summarize briefly what exactly you have done in this part of introduction.
Illustration of “Introduction” from IJVES articles from the previous issues
The above introduction is rambling with no focus on any set norms and no references are cited; reviewers and readers are unlikely to read beyond this.
Comment: A simple, succinct introduction, taking lesser space than allocated, referenced and connects well with the reader.
Example 3: Another well-written Introduction on an uncommon topic
Materials and Methods,
This section should be straightforward description of how you conducted the study. There should be adequate information for the reader to reproduce the study. Each method should be described in separate section, in chronological order.
- Study design: Procedures should be listed and described. If following an already defined method, the original paper should be referenced
- Each method and technique/procedure should be briefly described; any modifications should be mentioned
- State materials and equipments used, including brand name, manufacturer, and/or vendor
- There should be a linear, logical flow of experiments or procedures and/or techniques
- The description should be in the past tense with step-by-step approach
- Describe the statistical analysis, methods and software used, including the probability level at which you determined significance (usually at 0.05 probability).
Couple of examples
Above do not truly describe the “Methods,” apart from grammatical mistakes. Readers are directed to read several well-written “Methods” in this and other peer-reviewed journals.
This section presents the facts and findings of your study without interpretation and discussion. It always starts with text, and section is text based, proceeds in logical sequence, using both illustrations and tables, supporting each section of the results presented.
- Use each paragraph to report results of a section of your result. Consider using the first sentence of each paragraph as “summary” of the result presented. This is supported by tables and figures, which are referenced in the text sequentially
- Effective use of figures and tables, along with the text, will make it easier to understand the data and key results presented in each paragraph
- Statistical analysis are reported in the text, in parenthesis, and/or also in relevant tables or figures
- Appropriate use of short, crisp legends should be used with tables and figures. This should convey your results effectively along with the text.
- Figures and tables provide a second mechanism of communicating your results and their captions/legends outline what the readers are expected to learn from the figure
- Key statistics such as the number of samples (n), the index of dispersion (standard deviation, standard mean of the error), and the index of central tendency (mean, median, or mode) must be stated. Include any statistical analysis that was performed, and make sure to indicate specific statistical data, such as P-values.
- Appropriate use of graphs and bar diagrams will add value to this section and will offer better “visual” impact than “word” description in the text
- Many papers submitted are quite boastful of their impact on the existing literature. This will augur well neither with reviewers nor with readers.
- The results lead to discussion where you “defend” your results.
It is beyond the scope (and space) of this paper to provide illustrative examples, which can be found in references and even better learned by reading articles in IJVES and other peer-reviewed journals.
Discussion: Last segment of IMRaD
- Discussion part is like an upright cone or pyramid – most specific result on top, broadening to encompass wider areas and ideas
- Again, it needs to crisp and succinct, presented in about 5–6 paragraphs. This is where you prove (or disprove) your hypothesis
- It is perhaps the most difficult to write; however, if the first three parts of IMRaD are well written, it would be easier, since this a summary of those three parts to begin with.
- Begin with an overview of your work and summarize the most important findings of your research
- Identify the most interesting, significant, remarkable findings that were presented in the Results section, and contrast these findings in light of other studies reported in the literature. Consider how your work contributes to the overall field of your study
- Tabulate these to help reader for a quick view, along with meaningful legends
- Outline potential strengths and weaknesses in your study and comment on the future direction of your study.
It should include a short introduction to your study, state the major results, salient points of your discussion, and finally how it contributes to overall field of your study. It should not be more than one or two paragraphs.
- Use the format required by the journal
- Should be cited correctly and in the proper order as referenced in the text.
VI. Originality and Plagiarism
- Plagiarism can be a serious problem
- Be certain of all your sources/citation
- If any part quoted, extracted, mentioned, be sure the source is appropriately cited and credits are given to those publications.
The last word
Scientific publication is a very important aspect of learning and teaching. It is a true intellectual stimulant. To quote Sir William Osler, “…. The killing vice of young doctor is intellectual laziness…. and the most dangerous foe is academic apathy and indifference from whatever cause….”. Hence, to use an old cliché, we should publish or perish!
I urge all the young, especially “ first-time contributors” not only go through this article but also go through the references which are “open access” online.
I like to sign off (like I did in my last editorial) by invoking Thomas Macaulay – “Every generation enjoys the use of a vast hoard of knowledge bequeathed to it by antiquity, and transmits that hoard, augmented by fresh acquisitions, to future ages.”
| References|| |
Potera C. The basic elements of writing a scientific Paper:The art of scientific style. J Chem Educ 1984;61:246-8.
Plaxco KW. The art of writing science. Protein Sci 2010;19:2261-6.
Fisher, et al
. Guidelines for Writing Research Publications. [Note: not accessible now. The citation, quotes taken from my notes. Hence citations not presented].
- How to write and publish a scientific paper; Barbara Gastel, Robert A Day; 8th edition; 2016.