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Writing scientific Research Articles strategy and steps

how to write scientific research papers and how to write a scientific journal article review summary and how to write research article for journals
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Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_2_toc Final Proof page 5 13.1.2009 1:18pm Compositor Name: KKavitha Contents Preface ix Section 1A 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 Aims of this book 6 1.4 How the book is structured 7 2 Research article structures 9 2.1 Conventional article structure: AIMRaD (Abstract, Introduction, Materials and methods, Results, and Discussion) and its variations 9 3 Referees’ criteria for evaluating manuscripts 15 3.1 Titles as content sign posts 16 Section 2 When and how to write each article section 19 4 Results as a ‘‘story’’: the key driver of an article 21 5 Results: turning data into knowledge 23 5.1 Figure, table, or text? 24 5.2 Designing figures 24 5.3 Designing tables 27 5.4 Figure legends and table titles 29 6 Writing about results 31 6.1 Functions of results sentences 31 6.2 Verb tense in Results sections 32 7 The Methods section 35 7.1 Purpose of the Methods section 35Contents Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_2_toc Final Proof page 6 13.1.2009 1:18pm Compositor Name: KKavitha vi 7.2 Organizing Methods sections 35 7.3 Use of passive and active verbs 36 8 The Introduction 41 8.1 Five stages to a compelling Introduction 41 8.2 Stage 1: Locating your project within an existing field of scientific research 43 8.3 Using references in Stages 2 and 3 44 8.4 Avoiding plagiarism when using others’ work 48 8.5 Indicating the gap or research niche 49 8.6 Stage 4: The statement of purpose or main activity 49 8.7 Suggested process for drafting an Introduction 50 8.8 Editing for logical flow 51 9 The Discussion section 55 9.1 Important structural issues 55 9.2 Information elements to highlight the key messages 56 9.3 Negotiating the strength of claims 57 10 The title 61 10.1 Strategy 1: Provide as much relevant information as possible, but be concise 61 10.2 Strategy 2: Use keywords prominently 61 10.3 Strategy 3: Choose strategically: noun phrase, statement, or question? 62 10.4 Strategy 4: Avoid ambiguity in noun phrases 63 11 The Abstract 65 11.1 Why Abstracts are so important 65 11.2 Selecting additional keywords 65 11.3 Abstracts: typical information elements 65 Section 3 Getting your manuscript published 67 12 Considerations when selecting a target journal 69 12.1 The scope and aims of the journal 69 12.2 The audience for the journal 69 12.3 Journal impact 70 12.4 Using indices of journal quality 70 12.5 Time to publication 71 12.6 Page charges or Open Access costs 71 13 Submitting a manuscript 73 13.1 Five practices of successful authors 73 13.2 Understanding the peer-review process 73 13.3 Understanding the editor’s role 74 13.4 The contributor’s covering letter 75 13.5 Understanding the reviewer’s role 76 13.6 Understanding the editor’s role (continued) 78 14 How to respond to editors and referees 79 14.1 Rules of thumb 79Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c01 Final Proof page 3 12.1.2009 6:36pm Compositor Name: KKavitha CHAPTER 1 How the book is organized, and why 1.1Getting started with writing for international publication Welcometotheprocessofwritingyourresearchresultsasapaperforsubmission toaninternationalrefereedjournalYoumayspeakandwriteEnglishasyourfirst language,orasanadditionallanguage:wehavewrittenthisbookforallinexperi- encedauthorsofscientificpapers,andforallauthorswantingimprovedstrategies for writing effective papers in an efficient way. Inthis book wewilluse other termsas wellas paper for whatyou areaiming to write: it may be called a manuscript,a journal article,ora research article. (See Chapter2forcommentsonothertypesofscientificarticle.)Allofthesetermsare in use in books and websites providing information and advice about this type of document: this genre. The concept of genre is important for the way this book works, as we have based our approach in writing it on the findings of researchers who work in the field of genre analysis. These researchers study documents of a particular type to identify the features that make them recognizable as what they are. Oneofthekeyconceptsinuseinthisfieldofresearchistheideaofthe audience for a document as a key factor in helping an author write effectively. Whenever youwriteanydocument,itishelpfultothinkfirstaboutyouraudience:whomdo youseeinyourmind’seyeasthereaderofwhatyouarewriting?Sowewillbegin now by thinking about the audience for a scientific research article. Who is your audience? Oftentheaudiencethatyouthinkoffirstisyourscientificpeers–peopleworking in areas related to yours who will want to know about your results – and this is certainly a primary audience for a research article. However, there is another ‘‘audience’’ whose requirements must be met before your peers will even get a chance to see your article in print: the journal editor and referees (also called reviewers; see Chapters 3, 13, and 14 for more information). These people are oftenthoughtofasgate-keepers(orasafilter),becausetheirroleistoensurethat only articles that meet the journal’s standards and requirements are allowed to Writing Scientific Research Articles: Strategy and Steps, 1st edition. By M. Cargill and P. O’Connor. Published 2009 by Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4051-8619-3 (pb) and 978-1-4051-9335-1 (hb)A framework for success Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c01 Final Proof page 4 12.1.2009 6:36pm Compositor Name: KKavitha 4 enter or pass through. Therefore it can be useful from the beginning to find out and bear in mind as much information as you can about what these requirements are.Inthisbookwerefertotheserequirementsasrefereecriteria(seeChapters3 and 14 for details), and we use them as a framework to help unpack the expec- tations that both audiences have of a research article written in English. We aim to unpack these expectations in two different but closely interrelated ways: in terms of . the content of each article section and its presentation; and . the English language features commonly used to present that content. Todo this,the bookuses aninterdisciplinary approach, combininginsightsfrom experiencedscienceauthorsandrefereesaboutcontent,withthosefromspecialist teachers of research communication in English about the language. Elements of languagethatarebroadlyrelevanttomostreadersofthebookwillbediscussedin eachchapter.Inaddition,Chapter17focusesonwaysinwhichusersofEnglishas an additional language (EAL) can develop the discipline-specific English needed towriteeffectivelyforinternationalpublication.Thischaptercanbestudiedatany stage in the process of working through the book, after you have completed Chapter 1. 1.2 Publishing in the international literature If you are going to become involved in publishing in the international literature, thereareanumberofquestionsitisusefultoconsiderattheoutset:Whypublish? Why is it difficult to publish? What does participation in the international scientific community require? What do you need to know to select your target journal? How can you get the most out of publishing? We consider these questions in turn below. Why publish? Wehavealreadysuggestedthatresearcherspublishtoshareideasandresultswith colleagues. These are some other reasons for publishing: . to leave a record of research which can be added to by others; . to receive due recognition for ideas and results; and . to attract interest from others in the area of research. However, there are two additional reasons that are very important for inter- nationally oriented scientists: . to receive expert feedback on results and ideas; and . to legitimize the research; i.e. receive independent verification of methods and results. These reasons underscore the importance of the refereeing process we discussed above. However, there are difficulties associated with getting work published: difficulties that operate for all scientists, plus some that are specific to scientists workingincontextswhereEnglishisaforeignorsecondlanguage,whichtogether are known as EAL contexts.Ch 1 How the book is organized, and why How the book is organized, and why Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c01 Final Proof page 5 12.1.2009 6:36pm Compositor Name: KKavitha 5 Why is it difficult to publish? In addition to the language-related barriers that spring to mind, it is also impor- tant to realize that writing is a skill, whatever the language. Many of the points coveredinthisbookareequallyimportantforEALscientistsandthosewhospeak English as their first language. Gettingpublishedisalsoaskill:notallwritersarepublished.Somereasonsfor this fact include the following. . Not all research is new or of sufficient scientific interest. . Experiments do not always work: positive results are easier to publish. . Scientific journals have specific requirements which can be difficult to meet: publishing is a buyer’s market. These issues will be addressed as you proceed through the book. Anotherreasonthatresearchersfindthewritingandpublicationprocessdifficult is that communicating your work and ideas opens you up to potential criticism. The process of advancing concepts, ideas, and knowledge is adversarial and new resultsandideasare often rigorouslydebated. Authors facingtheblank page anda potentially critical audience can find the task of writing very daunting. This book offersframeworksforyoutostructureyourthinkingandwritingforeachsectionof a scientific article and for dealing with the publishing process. The frameworks provided will allow you to break down the large task of writing the whole manu- script into small tasks of writing sections and subsections, and to navigate the publishing process. What does participation in the international scientific community require? A helpful image is to think about submitting a manuscript to an international journal as a way of participating in the international scientific community. You are,ineffect,joininganinternationalconversation.Tojointhisconversation,you needtoknowwhathasalreadybeensaidbytheotherpeopleconversing.Inother words, you need to understand the ‘‘cutting edge’’ of your scientific discipline: whatworkisbeingdonenowbytheimportantplayersinthefieldinternationally. This means: . getting access to the journals where people in the field are publishing; . subscribing to the e-mail alert schemes offered by journal publishers on their websitessothatyoureceivetablesofcontentswhennewissuesarepublished;and . developing skills for searching the Internetand electronic databases in libraries to which you have access. Without this, it will be difficult to write about your work so as to show how it fitsintotheprogressbeingmadeinyourfield.Infact,thisknowledgeisimportant when the research is being planned, well before the time when the paper is being written:youshouldtrytoplanyourresearchsoitfitsintoadevelopingconversation inyourfield. Active involvement in international conferences is an important way to gain access to this international world of research in your field. Therefore you need both written and spoken English for communication with peers. This book aims to help with the written language, and some ideas for developing spoken science English are given in Chapter 16. As you become a member of the international research community in your field in these ways, you will develop the knowledgeA framework for success Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c01 Final Proof page 6 12.1.2009 6:36pm Compositor Name: KKavitha 6 base you need to help you select the most appropriate journal for submission of your manuscript: we call this your target journal. What do you need to know to select your target journal? . Does the journal normally publish the kind of work you have done? Check severalissuesandsearchthejournalwebsite,ifithasone.Itishelpfulifyoucan citeworkfromthejournalintheIntroductionofyourmanuscript,toshowthat you are joining a conversation already in progress in the journal. . Doesthejournalrefereethepapers?Thisisabsolutelyimperativeforenhancing theinternationalcredibilityofyourwork.Itmayalsobeimportanttocheckthe journal’s impact factor, if this measure is important for assessing research outcomes in your country or research context. (See Chapter 12 for more information on impact factor, citation index, and other similar measurements.) . Doesthejournalpublishreasonablyquickly?Manyjournalsincludethedateswhen amanuscriptwasreceivedandpublishedunderneaththetitleinformation,soyou cancheckthelikelytimeline.Othersincludethisinformationontheirwebsites. . Are there page charges? Some journals charge authors a fee to publish, or to publishcolouredillustrations. Checkwhetherthisisthecase. Ifso,youcan ask whetherthejournaliswillingtowaivethesechargesforauthorsinsomepartsof the world. . Are members of the editorial staff efficient and helpful? Some journals have information on their website with targeted advice for authors from EAL back- grounds,oryoumaybeabletoaskcolleagueswhohavesubmittedtoparticular journalsabout theirexperiences. It canbe especiallyusefulto sharethis kindof information among colleagues in your laboratory group or work team, perhaps aspartofaprogramtoencourageinternationalpublicationoftheworkofyour institution or group. Moredetailaboutevaluatingdifferentjournalsandselectingyourtargetjournalis given in Chapter 12. How can you get the most out of publishing? Publishing quickly is often helpful. In addition, publishing in a widely read journal is better for you (higher citation index; see Chapter 12). However, if youaimtoohighinrelationtotheinternationalvalueoftheworkyouhavedone, youmayberejected,andresubmissiontakesmoretime.Thesetwoissueshaveto be balanced carefully to determine an optimal strategy for your own situation. Finally, publishing where your peers will read the paper is important. Once you have thought about the issues raised above, and made some prelim- inary decisions about a possible target journal, you are ready to move on to consider the aims of this book. 1.3 Aims of this book The aims of the book are to provide you, the reader, with: . an improved understanding of the structure and underlying logic of scientific research articles published in English in the international literature;Ch 1 How the book is organized, and why How the book is organized, and why Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c01 Final Proof page 7 12.1.2009 6:36pm Compositor Name: KKavitha . an overall strategy for turning a set of results into a paper for publication; 7 . skills for analysing the structure and language features of scientific articles in your own discipline, and for using the results of this analysis to improve your own scientific writing; . knowledge of the stages involved in the process of submitting an article for publication, and strategies for completing each stage; . knowledge and basic mastery of the specific English language features com- monly used in each section of published articles; . strategiesandtoolsforimprovingyourowndrafts,suchasstructuredchecklists, ways to strategically re-use relevant language elements, special-purpose soft- ware, and discipline-specific writing groups; and . a process for completing a draft of an article on your own research results, prepared in the style of the journal to which you wish to submit. 1.4 How the book is structured Twoprinciplesunderliethewaywehaveorganizedthisbook:thatpeoplelearnbest bydoing,andthatyouwillwanttocontinuedevelopingyourskillsonyourownor with colleagues in the future, even if you first encounter the book in a classroom environment. Therefore we aim to show you how you can use examples ofjournal articles, fromyour own fieldandalso fromothers, tolearn more aboutwriting for publication. To achieve this goal, the book will often invite you to discuss examples with a colleague and then report to a larger group. This assumes that you are using the book in a class situation. However, if you are using it for individual study, you can note down your answers and then revise them once you reach the end of a section.Aswemovethroughthebook,youwillalsohavetheopportunitytodraft (or substantially revise)your ownarticle, section by section,if thisis appropriate. Instructions for activities in the book will use the following terms to refer to different categories of example articles: . Provided Example Article(s) (PEAs): these are two articles chosen by the authors of the book and included in full at the back (Chapters 18 and 19). You will use both in the early sections of the book and then be asked to select one to use in more detail. . SelectedArticle(SA): thisisan article that youwillchoose from yourown field ofresearch,andthatmay befromyourtargetjournal. Youwillchoose yourSA as you continue with Chapter 1. . Own Article (OA): this is the draft manuscript you will write using your own results as you progress through the book. If you do not yet have your own results, you can skip the tasks relating to the OA and come back to them later. The following sections of the book work like this. . We present information about the structure of research articles, section by section, which has been summarized from the work of scholars in the field of applied linguistics over the last 20years. We present this as a description, not a prescription: i.e. ‘‘this is what the scholars have found’’, not ‘‘this is what you should do’’. We do this because there are many effective ways to write articles,A framework for success Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c01 Final Proof page 8 12.1.2009 6:36pm Compositor Name: KKavitha 8 Task 1.1 Selecting an article to analyze Select an article in your own field of research to use as your SA (Selected Article), preferably from your target journal and preferably written by a native speakerofEnglish(checkauthors’namesandthelocationoftheirworksitesto help identify an author’s language background). We suggest that you do not choose your SA from Nature (UK) or Science (USA), as these two journals use conventions that are very different from most other journals. It will be more useful to learn the more usual conventions first, and then adapt them later if you need to. (See Chapter 2 for more details on the differences in article structure.) not just one way. Our aim is to help you develop a repertoire (a range of effective possibilities) to select from, depending on the goals you have for a given article section. . Then we ask you to look at the relevant section of the PEA (Provided Example Article)andcheckwhetheryoucanfindthedescribedfeaturesthere(answersto the Tasks can be found in the Answer pages at the end of the book). . Next,weaskyoutoanalyseyourownSAforthesamefeatures,andthinkabout possible reasons for what you find. . Finally, we ask you to work on the draft of your OA (Own Article), using the new information you have gained from the analysis. (These sections are optional for readers who do not have their own results ready to write up.) . As well as this analysis of structural features, the book includes teaching, analysis, and exercises on elements of English language usage that are particu- larly relevant to each section of a research article. Again, answers are in the Answerpages.IfEnglishisyourfirstlanguage,youmaychoosetoskipsomeor all of these sections. . After all the sections of a research article have been covered in this way, we focus on the process of submitting the manuscript to the journal, and how to engage in correspondence with the editor about possible revisions. . Chapter 15 summarizes a process for preparing a manuscript from first to last, with strategies for editing and checking. . Chapter 16 focuses on techniques and strategies for ongoing development of your skills for writing, publishing, and presenting your research in English. . Chapter 17 provides advice about specific features of science writing that often causeproblemsforauthorswithEAL.Itcanbestudiedatanystageofareader’s progress through the book. . The final section of the book (Chapters 18 and 19) contains the two PEAs. . Attheendofthebookyouwillfindanswerstothetasksthatappearintheother chapters, and the Reference list.Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c02 Final Proof page 9 13.1.2009 12:39pm Compositor Name: KKavitha CHAPTER 2 Research article structures Wewillnowlookattheoverallstructureofresearcharticlesinscience.Ingeneral, this follows a set of conventions that have developed over the years from 1665, when the first issue of Philosophical Transactions appeared in England. It is impor- tant to recognize that, within a common core structure, there are variations from field to field and from journal to journal: always check the specific requirements of your target journal before finalizing the structure of any article you write. Before we look at the results of research into article structure, complete the introductory task below. Task 2.1 Article headings and subheadings Read quickly to find the headings of the sections of the PEAs (Chapters 18 and 19): . How is each paper organized? . What are the main headings and subheadings? Make brief notes. Check your answers in the Answer pages. NowlookattheheadingsofyourSA(aSelectedArticlefromyourownresearch field) andthe SAof a colleague. Note the similarities and differences you find. 2.1 Conventional article structure: AIMRaD (Abstract, Introduction, Materials and methods, Results, and Discussion) and its variations Beforewe explore article structurein detail, it is importantto notethatour focus inthisbookisonresearcharticlesbasedonexperimentalresearch.Otherresearch paradigms, for example in humanities and social science fields, use different structures for their papers. Similarly, papers other than research articles use different structures. Of particular relevance to scientists are review articles (or reviews), which do not present new data from fresh experimentation, but rather selectively discuss and compare the findings of other scientists, in order to advance thinking in the area of interest. We will think more about these other typesofscientificarticleinlatersubsections.First,wewill considerthehourglass Writing Scientific Research Articles: Strategy and Steps, 1st edition. By M. Cargill and P. O’Connor. Published 2009 by Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4051-8619-3 (pb) and 978-1-4051-9335-1 (hb)A framework for success Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c02 Final Proof page 10 13.1.2009 12:39pm Compositor Name: KKavitha 10 (a) The whole structure is governed by the Abstract Results box; everything in the article must relate to and be connected with the data and analysis presented in the Results section. (b) Introduction (1) (b) (1) The Introduction begins with a broad focus. The starting point you select for your (2) Introduction should be one that attracts the lively interest of the audience you are aiming (3) to address: the international readers of your target journal. (3) The Introduction ends with a focus exactly parallel to that of the Results; often this is a statement of the aim or purpose of the work (c) Methods presented in the paper, or its principal findings or activity. (2) Between these two points, background information and previous work are woven together to logically connect the relevant problem with the approach taken in the work (a) Results to be presented to address the problem. (c) The Methods section, or its equivalent, establishes credibility for the Results by showing how they were obtained. (d) The Discussion begins with the same breadth of focus as the Results – but it ends (d) Discussion at the same breadth as the starting point of the Introduction. By the end, the paper is addressing the broader issues that you raised at the start, to show how your work is important in the ‘bigger picture.’ Fig. 2.1 AIMRaD: the hourglass ‘‘shape’’ of a generic scientific research article and key features highlighted by this shape. diagram (Figure 2.1) commonly used to represent the structure of an AIMRaD article, and what it can tell us about English-language research articles. In this diagram, it is the width and shape of the segments, rather than their depth, that tell us something important about scientific articles. Here we represent an experimental article in terms of different component shapes put together into an hourglass configuration. This enables us to highlight several important features of such articles in a way that is easy to remember. The right-hand part of Figure 2.1 summarizes the features to focus on at this stage. Task 2.2 Does the diagram match your understanding? Discuss: Does this hourglass shape also represent the understanding of a researcharticleinyourcultureorworkplace?Ifnot,canyousuggestadiagram that shows how your understanding of a research article is different? Ofcourse,notallscientificresearcharticlesfollowthesimplestructuregivenin Figure 2.1. There are two major variations that we will introduce here; these are presented visually in Figures 2.2 and 2.3. Study these figures now, before doing Task 2.3. Other research article formats The highly cited journals Nature (UK) and Science (USA) use variations of the common conventionsfortheir articlecategories, reflecting the fact thattheir aimCh 2 Research article structures Research article structures Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c02 Final Proof page 11 13.1.2009 12:39pm Compositor Name: KKavitha 11 Abstract Introduction (a) The Methods section, often renamed Procedure or Experimental, is presented after the Discussion, sometimes in a smaller type face than the rest of the paper. (b) Results (b) This change means that more details may need to be given in the Results section to explain how the results were obtained. Discussion (a) Methods Fig. 2.2 AIRDaM(Abstract,Introduction,Results,Discussion,andMethodsandmaterials): astructurevariationthatoccursinarticlesinsomejournalswithafocusonmolecularbiology. Abstract Introduction Methods (a) (a) (a) Results Results Results Discussion Discussion Discussion (b) Conclusions (a) The Results and Discussion are presented together in a single combined section; each result is presented, followed immediately by the relevant discussion. (b) This change means that a separate section is needed at the end to bring the different pieces of discussion together; it is often headed Conclusions. Fig. 2.3 AIM(RaD)C (Abstract, Introduction, Materials and methods, repeated Results and Discussion, Conclusions): a structure variation that is permitted in some journals, usually for shorter articles.A framework for success Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c02 Final Proof page 12 13.1.2009 12:39pm Compositor Name: KKavitha 12 Task 2.3 Structure of the PEAs Check the notes you made in answer to Task 2.1. . Which of the three structures presented so far matches most closely the structure of the PEAs? (Check your answer in the Answer pages.) . Which most closely matches your SA? is to present highly significant new advances in science in ways that are very accessible to scientists who are not necessarily specialists in the areas covered by the articles. These articles typically begin with a carefully structured initial section introducing the background and rationale of the work to the wide range of expected readers, followed by a concise report of the findings and a short discussion. Methods are often only summarized in the main article, with full details appearing on a linked website. Full details on the structures required by these journals can befound on the journals’ websites. Competition for publication in these journals is intense, and they are not likely to be realistic targets for most beginningscientists.Forthisreasonwedonotfocusontheirstructureinthisbook. Many journals offer alternatives to the article format for reporting research findings. Important among these are brief notes (also called research notes or notes), and letters. These may not include any section headings at all, but if you read them with an analytical eye you will be able to find the same types of information as are contained under the conventional AIMRaD headings in a full article. Task 2.4 Prediction Identify which part of a research paper the following phrases came from. Write one of the following letters at the end of each line: I¼ Introduction, M¼ Materials and methods, R¼ Results, or D¼ Discussion. Example: It is very likely that...because... (D) ...yielded a total of... ( ) The aim of the work described... ( ) ...was used to calculate... ( ) There have been few long-term studies of... () The vertical distribution of...was determined by... ( ) This may be explained by... ( ) Analysis was carried out using... ( ) ...was highly correlated with... ( ) Check your answers in the Answer pages. Now we begin to think in more detail about what information appears in the different sections of a research article. It is likely that you already know quite a lot about this, from reading articles for your own work. Task 2.4 focuses on this pre-existing knowledge. It is likely that the clues you used to help you answer the questions in Task 2.4 related both to the vocabulary in the phrases and to elements of the grammar,Ch 2 Research article structures Research article structures Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c02 Final Proof page 13 13.1.2009 12:39pm Compositor Name: KKavitha especially the tense of the verbs (simple past, present perfect). We will build on 13 this knowledge in later sections. InChapter3wewillconsidertherelationshipbetweenthestructureofresearch articles and the expectations of the gatekeeper audience that you, as an article submitter,areaimingtomeet.Theconventionalstructureswehavebeenlooking at in Section 2 have been maintained in science journals for a long time: we can assume that they must still serve the purposes of the journal editors effectively, andmeettheneedsofthejournalreaders.Itisinterestingtothinkabouthowand why that is the case.Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c02 Final Proof page 14 13.1.2009 12:39pm Compositor Name: KKavithaCargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c03 Final Proof page 15 12.1.2009 6:37pm Compositor Name: KKavitha CHAPTER 3 Referees’ criteria for evaluating manuscripts As discussed in Chapter 1, the first audience for your manuscript is the editor of the journal you have selected. In recent years, with the advent of electronic submission by uploading files on a computer, the very first audience may be a person who checks that formatting and other requirements have been met, but this fact does not alter the editor’s initial filtering role in terms of the article’s content. If the manuscript is judged suitable for refereeing (see Chapters 13 and 14 for more details of this process), the editor sends it to (usually) two peer reviewers or referees for comment. These referees are probably working in the same field as the manuscript authors: perhaps their names are in the list of references of the manuscript. However, the refereeing process is ‘‘blind’’, meaning that the manuscript authors do not know who reviews their paper. (Double-blind refereeing, where the referees also do not know who authored the manuscript they are reviewing, is less commonly practised in the sciences.) Each journal has its own set of instructions for referees and sometimes these are available on the journal’s website. You should check and see whether this is the case for the journal you are targeting, and obtain a copy if possible. For thepurposesofthisbook, wehaveconstructed acomposite listofrefereecriteria that includes the sorts of questions referees are commonly asked to respond to (Figure 3.1). In addition to ‘‘ticking the boxes’’ to provide yes/no answers to the questions, referees are asked to write their comments about any problems with the manuscript or any suggestions for improvement that need to be followed before the manuscript can be considered suitable for publication in the journal. Increasingly, as the number of manuscripts submitted to journals has grown, referees are asked to give some numerical rating of the paper’s novelty or quality as well (e.g. Does this manuscript fall within the top 20% of manuscripts you have read in the last 12months?). Referees return their comments to the editor. Complete Task 3.1 now. As we discuss each section of a research article in detail, we will keep these refereecriteriainmind,andpayattentiontothepresentationfeaturesandEnglish expressionsthatarecommonlyusedtohighlightthefactthatevidencerelevantto referee criteria is being presented. We will begin by considering the question: Does the title clearly indicate the content of the paper? Writing Scientific Research Articles: Strategy and Steps, 1st edition. By M. Cargill and P. O’Connor. Published 2009 by Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4051-8619-3 (pb) and 978-1-4051-9335-1 (hb)A framework for success Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c03 Final Proof page 16 12.1.2009 6:37pm Compositor Name: KKavitha Typical questions included on Referee’s Evaluation Forms for 16 science journals 1. Is the contribution new? 2. Is the contribution significant? 3. Is it suitable for publication in the Journal? 4. Is the organization acceptable? 5. Do the methods and the treatment of results conform to acceptable scientific standards? 6. Are all conclusions firmly based in the data presented? 7. Is the length of the paper satisfactory? 8. Are all illustrations required? 9. Are all the figures and tables necessary? 10. Are figure legends and table titles adequate? 11. Do the title and Abstract clearly indicate the content of the paper? 12. Are the references up to date, complete, and the journal titles correctly abbreviated? 13. Is the paper excellent, good, or poor? Fig. 3.1 Typical questions that referees are asked to answer when reviewing manuscripts for science journals. Task 3.1 Where would referees look? Read the list of questions in Figure 3.1. For each question, decide where in a manuscript a referee would expect to find evidence on which to base their answer.Writeoneormoreofthefollowingabbreviationsbesideeachquestion: A,I,M,R,D,orRef(meaningreferencelist).Forexample,forquestion5you would write M and R. Check your answers in the Answer pages. 3.1 Titles as content sign posts Good titles clearly identify the field of the research, indicate the ‘‘story’’ the results tell, and raise questions about the research in the mind of the reader. We will return to a more detailed consideration of titles in Chapter 10. For now, consider this example. Title:BirduseofricefieldstripsofvaryingwidthintheKantoPlainofcentralJapan Information: The focus is on birds in relation to rice fields. The width of rice field strips was varied in the study. Width of strips was correlated with the number and species of birds using them. The research took place in central Japan.Ch 3 Referees’ criteria Referees’ criteria Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c03 Final Proof page 17 12.1.2009 6:37pm Compositor Name: KKavitha Possible questions: 17 Why was the width of the strips an important variable? Did the width of the rice field strips affect which birds used it? If so, which field strip width was used most by which birds? How did the researchers measure bird use? Would the experiment be worth repeating for rice field strips in other places? Task 3.2 Information extracted from titles Look at the following titles and list the information about the research and its results you can deduce from the titles. What questions might you, as a reader, expect to answer by reading the article? (The questions will depend on the individual reader’s reason for reading the text.) 15 Title A: Use of in situ N-labelling to estimate the total below-ground nitrogen of pasture legumes in intact soil-plant systems Information: Questions: TitleB:Short-andlong-termeffectsofdisturbanceandpropagulepressureona biological invasion Information: Questions: Title C: The soybean NRAMP homologue, GmDMT1, is a symbiotic divalent metal transporter capable of ferrous iron transport Information: Questions: Check your answers with the suggestions provided in the Answer pages. Choosing one of the example articles as your focus for analysis tasks Titles B and C above are the titles of the PEAs included at the back of the book. Youwillneedtoselectoneofthemtouseasthebasisoftextanalysisexercisesas we proceed through the sections of the book. The answers you gave to the questions in Task 3.2 should help you to decide which of these two articles will be more interesting and relevant to you. Task 3.3 Unpacking the title of your SA Now, repeat Task 3.2 for the title of your SA. Title: Information: Questions:Cargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c03 Final Proof page 18 12.1.2009 6:37pm Compositor Name: KKavithaCargill / Writing Scientific Research Articles 9781405186193_4_c04 Final Proof page 19 12.1.2009 6:37pm Compositor Name: KKavitha SECTION 2 When and how to write each article section