How to improve Academic writing skills in english

how to improve your academic writing and how would you describe academic writing and what is academic writing definition
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333333 Academic Writing in English Carolyn Brimley Norris, Ph.D. Language Services University of Helsinki 2016 1 This book began to emerge in 1985, based on the wisdom of my original guru in Finland, Jean Margaret Perttunen (1916—). For decades, she offered me advice, revealing the problems that Finnish scientists face when writing in English. Peggy’s extensive 1985 book, The Words Between, was the seed of the University of Helsinki 's first English writing course for scientists, initiated in that same year. My currrent active guru is Björn Gustavii, MD, PhD, of Lund, Sweden. His slim book, How to Write and Illustrate a Scientific Paper, plus our frequent emails and now his unique 2012 guide to compilation theses have been so valuable that I cite him here very often. The European Association of Science Editors (EASE) has, since 1997, allowed me to sit at the feet of major international journal editors to gather advice to import to Finland. The EASE journal European Science Editing publishes notes and articles based on our Helsinki in-classroom “action research.” My course participants from the benefit from EASE data and repay with their views and innovations. To all of these, and to teaching colleagues Stephen Stalter and Vanessa Fuller, I offer for many reasons many years’ worth of gratitude. Carol Norris, 2016 2 Table of Contents Advice for modern academic writing ............................................................................................. 3 General advice for non-native writers………………………………………………………... 3 Basic Methodology I: Process writing ........................................................................................... 4 Basic Methodology II: Passive vs. active voice ........................................................................... 10 Basic Methodology III: The end-focus technique .......................................................................... 12 Article sections: overview, content, order of creation .................................................................... 16 Case reports .................................................................................................................................... 17 The article abstract .......................................................................................................................... 18 Titles &authors ............................................................................................................................... 21 Tables and figures and their titles & legends ................................................................................. 23 Recipe for an introduction .............................................................................................................. 26 Methods ......................................................................................................................................... 27 Results............................................................................................................................................. 29 Recipe for a discussion ................................................................................................................... 30 Reference list .................................................................................................................................. 31 PhD thesis/dissertations .................................................................................................................. 32 Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................................ 35 Permission lines…………………………………………………………...……........……..........39 Tense-choice .................................................................................................................................. 40 Citations and layout ........................................................................................................................ 41 Verbs for academic scientific writing ............................................................................................. 43 Formality levels .............................................................................................................................. 45 Words confused and misused ......................................................................................................... 46 A sample of preposition problems .................................................................................................. 49 Participle problems ......................................................................................................................... 50 A sample of article-use guidelines .................................................................................................. 51 Chief uses of the comma ................................................................................................................ 52 Punctuation terms ........................................................................................................................... 53 Exercise in punctuation .................................................................................................................. 54 Punctuation: the only logical system in English ............................................................................. 55 Handling numerals, numbers, and other small items ..................................................................... 59 Take-home messages ...................................................................................................................... 63 Sample professional cover letter..................................................................................................... 64 Second-submission cover letter ...................................................................................................... 66 Layout and lines for formal letters.................................................................................................. 66 Email suggestions ........................................................................................................................... 68 Handling reviewers/referees and editors ........................................................................................ 68 Permissions and notification .............................................................................................................71 Plagiarism ....................................................................................................................................... 72 Impact factors ................................................................................................................................. 74 Valuable resources .................................................................................................................... 75 Appendices: I. Find more than 60 problems..................................................................................76 II. Introduction exercise ......................................................................................... 77 III. Editing exercises ................................................................................................ 78 IV. Methods editing…….... ..................................................................................... 79 V. Proofreading exercise ......................................................................................... 80 VI. Discussion editing .............................................................................................. 81 VII. Table exercise........................................................................................................82 Index ......................................................................................................................................... 83 3 Advice for Modern Academic Writing In some fields, young scholars may imitate the often out-dated style of their professors or of journal articles published many years ago. Nowadays, style is evolving, because of widening democracy and internationalization, and also increased printing costs. The KISS Rule is “Keep it Short and Simple,” and less politely: “Keep it Simple, Stupid” At a conference of the Association of European Science Editors (EASE), the editor of the British Medical Journal demanded: clarity readability non-ambiguity He also wanted articles to be as short as possible. Rather than “Count every word,” we should “make every word count.” Remove every useless or extra word. Teacher-editor-author Ed Hull wants “reader-friendly” scientific writing. Authors must realize that they are no longer in school; teachers demand performances greatly different from texts meant to inform busy readers wanting only “nuggets” of precious information. Even years ago, in the EASE quarterly European Science Editing (ESE) (1998, 24, 1; 7-9), Frances Luttikhuizen criticized “exaggerated use of the passive voice and Latin-based words … that belongs to the formal style of the 17th century. It weakens scientific writing. The active voice is much more forceful than the passive . . . . For linguistic as well as cultural reasons, scientists who have English as a second language . . . tend to feel more comfortable writing in a more formal style.” Her ageless advice continues, “Readers of scientific papers do not read them to assess them, they read them to learn from them . . . . What is needed is more simplicity, not more sophistication” Aim “to inform, not to impress.” (Emphasis added.) General Advice for Non-Native Writers Never translate. Of course you can use your own language to take notes and write outlines. But word-for-word translation into English means that anyone’s mother tongue causes interference. This will damage the grammar of your English and your vocabulary, punctuation, and everything else. Some Finns can rapidly write letters and stories in correct, charming English, but when they write a text first in Finnish and then translate it, the result will be awkward, unclear, and full of errors. Accept total responsibility for being clear. If an intelligent reader has to re-read any sentence to understand it, the Anglo-American attitude is not to blame the reader, but to blame the writer. This may contrast with the direction of blame in your own culture, but think: Who has the time to re- read sentences? Bad idea The worst sin is ambiguity. Being ambiguous means accidentally expressing more than one meaning at one time, as in: “Women like chocolate more than men.” Does this mean that, given the choice between a nice Fazer chocolate bar and a man, a woman will prefer the chocolate? Or do you mean that “Women like chocolate more than men do”? Let’s hope, for the survival of humanity, that it’s the latter 4 Careful editing will shorten your texts, making them more publishable. One writer wisely said, “If I had had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.” Trust your ear. English grammar rules are many, with multiple exceptions. At your language level, in this country, depend instead on what you have heard in English, idioms especially. Your ear will tell you when an odd-looking phrase sounds right. My long experience shows that Finns’ TV- and travel-trained ears are trustworthy. Read all your written texts aloud to yourself. English is not logical. The most logical choice of words is often not what a native speaker would say. (Which is logical: “hang up,” “ring off,” or “close the phone?”How about “For the 20 last years” versus “for the last 20 years”?) In English, the most nearly logical system is punctuation, but even punctuation differs considerably from Finnish punctuation. Finno-ugric versus Anglo-American Style Finns, from a homogeneous, well-educated society, may tend to view their readers as informed colleagues who will work hard to understand a text. Good Anglo-American writers may seem to be “packaging” or even “marketing” their texts; they are actually trying to write so clearly that a busy, tired, easily bored reader can absorb their full meaning in only one rapid reading. The Anglo-American writer leads the reader by the hand, but the Finnish writer often expects readers to find their own way. In Finland, be Finnish. But Finns wishing to publish in English in journals with Anglo-American editors and reviewers must use a reader-helpful style. For instance, make the strategy of your text clear, not implicit. Present important points first, rather than gradually “sneaking up on them.” Let your readers know immediately what is going on. Note: This book benefits from a collection of essays gathered by Professor George M. Hall nd entitled How to Write a Paper, 2 edition, 1998 (British Medical Journal publishing group). Hall and his other expert contributors will be cited as appearing in “Hall 1998.” Basic Methodology I: Process Writing Write the first draft  Never translate whole sentences from your mother tongue.  Avoid trying yet to organize your items. Rather, get your ideas out in front of you first.  Pour out your thoughts in English, in the language of speech.  Write in many short, simple sentences.  Refer immediately to the main items involved; use signposts.  Write “long”: Produce a 1,000-word text that will end as 600 words.  Allow yourself to use the passive voice (see section on passives) whenever comfortable.  Let yourself use the spoken forms “there is / are / was / were.”  Use simple verbs such as “to be / have / get / see / find out.” 5 Refer immediately and clearly to all the main items involved, ones perhaps your key words. When referring to previously mentioned items with “this / these / such,” offer more than just the pronoun: Ambiguous Specific This … This disease … becomes These … These two drugs …  It … Such a program… You can often save words by adding data:“This extremely effective model / program.” Make the text talk about the text itself. English loves signposts, or connectives, because they tell readers how to receive new information. Use not only “First … second … third . . . ,” but other types of signposts: “On the other hand . . . .” “Considering this from another angle . . . .” “Similar to the last point is . . . .” Edit to avoid series of short—and thus choppy—sentences: Link some and embed others within their neighbors. Elegant (linked and embedded) Short and choppy X is expensive and is seldom available there. or do you mean: Because X is expensive, X costs a lot. You can’t get  it is seldom available there. it there often. Situation Result = end-focus X, being expensive there, is seldom available. or: Use the shortest sentences for the strongest statements: “Every mouse died.” Cut out every extra word that performs no task. Note: All X exists. are Active There is / are X. Voice, p. 44 X occurs. X appears. X arises. X emerges. Avoid repeating FACTS. Planned repetition of WORDS helps linkage. Confusion results from synonym-use. Make yourself clear by choosing one term. Do not indulge in overuse of a synonym dictionary (thesaurus). For instance, “Method / methodology / procedure / system” must never mean the same thing. We will assume that they mean four different things. 6 One paper described a group of infants with these six labels: “neonates / newborns / infants / babies / patients / subjects.” We would view these as six groups. Instead, choose two terms such as “neonates” or “infants” and then use “They / These” and other pointing words to refer to them. Convert most verbs from passive to active voice. Avoid ending sentences with passive verbs. For good writing, this is the kiss of death. Replace them with active voice. In Methods, passives can go in the middle of the sentence: To X, Y was added. Y was added to X. Change some passive verbs into adjectives: Passive verb Adjective X was evident/apparent/visible. X could be seen. X was always used. X always proved useful.  All children studied were age All two-year-old children were two. (Note end-focus in each) studied. Change the verb itself: Patients underwent surgery. Patients were operated on. Sixty were used as controls. Sixty served as controls.  Each participant received X. Each participant was given X. methodwas used onrat 13. Each participant was given X. Omit useless passive constructions: It has been found that X Aho (2001) found that X causes Y. X causes Y (Aho 2001). causes Y (Aho 2001).  Y results from X. X leads to Y. We found that Y was produced by X. X produced Y. Y was a product of X. The citation shows who (Aho) found X. Journals tire of these useless “found” phrases. Avoid for your own findings even the active-voice “We found that X produced Y.” Simply write“X produced Y.”That past tense shows that this is your finding. Present tense is for others’ generalizations: “X produces Y” (16). (See the tense section.) 7 Use MAGIC—the inanimate agent, a non-human / non-living thing performing an action. Table 3 shows . . . . Note: All Figure 5 illustrates . . . . in Active Our results indicate . . . . Voice Our hypothesis predicts X. Opinions among us vary. Upgrade most rough-draft common verbs to become more precise verbs (see verb pages): Note how much becomes be precision comes exist  see with such verbs observe have assess get measure determine possess assess confirm characterize For elegance and formality, specify meanings of “get” (“receive?” “become?” “understand?”). Change colloquial (puhekieli) expressions to more formal ones (see verb pages): Colloquial Formal whether (or not) if such as like becomes many, several a lot of, lots of, plenty  large, great big Never omit “such” with “as.” (“Treatment as such as chemotherapy . . . .”) Beware of vague“so.” “So (thus?) X occurred?” “It was so fast.” (How fast?) Avoid “too,” especially at the end of a sentence. becomes He, too, died. He died,  He died, as well. too. He also died. And how hot is “too hot?” 8 Strengthen Negatives “Not” is so common in speech that it frequently loses a letter, becoming a contraction such as “can’t / don’t / wouldn’t.” It is doubly contracted in “dunno” for “I don’t know.” In writing, “not” is always a weak word. Murder the word “not” in three ways: Substitute negatives OR Substitute negative prefixes OR Change to negative verbs or use negative adjectives Strong negatives Weak Stronger  no There was not any X. No X existed / appeared. none Not one patient survived. None of the patients survived. never They had not seen X Never had they seen X before. before. (Note: Beginning a sentence with a negative is powerful.) Strong prefixes Weak Stronger un- The cause is not known. The cause is / remains in- The text was not coherent. unknown. im- The task was not possible. The text was incoherent. non- Results were not The task was impossible. dis- significant. Results were non-significant. This drug isn’t made This drug has been anymore. discontinued. Verbs / adjectives Weak Stronger fail The plan did not work. The plan failed (to succeed). lack The solution didn’t have X. The solution lacked X. absent X was not in the samples. In the samples, X was absent. insufficient Controls didn’t have enough X. Controls had insufficient X. incomplete The test was not finished. The test was incomplete. If X is“missing,” call the police 9 Your final step in revising is to check to whether each verb agrees with its subject in number. 1. Locate every verb (Good sentences have only one or two.) 2. Scan to the left to find its subject (often located far away). Read this too-complex and difficult practice-sentence with its five substantives in bold. Which one is the subject of the verb? “The actual reason for these changes in policy that seem to alter the newest reorganization plans for these hospitals is/are surprising.” _____________________________________________________ Note more sentences with widely separated subject and verb. Mark the agent; find the subject (agent) and the verb that shows its action. Revise and reorganize these sentences so that these are closer together, and information comes in a more logical, clear order. Note the words in italics. Examples adapted from Duke University, (my alma mater) Scientific Writing Resource, 2013 Eggs, nuts, shrimp, mushrooms, milk and other foods containing lactose, and some species of tree and grass pollen are often found to act as allergens. Mapping of open chromatin regions, post-translational histone modification, and DNA methylation across a whole genome is now shown to be feasible, and by RNA sequencing, new non-coding RNAs can be sensitively identified.. Finns tend to over-use words like the adjective "present" and the verb "perform." The latter has soared in popularity in medical writing in the last 40 years. EASE leader Elise Langdon- Neuner illustrates the "fiends of academic writing: imprecision, wordiness, overuse of abstract/ nominalized nouns, and the passive voice" with this sentence: Administration of H(2) receptor antagonists was performed in patients. Slay these fiends "at the stroke of a pen." (European Science Editing, February 2015). Similarly, slay (kill) The presence of a nucleus in each cell can be observed. 10 Basic Methodology II: Passive vs. Active Voice Active and passive—like major (duuri) and minor (molli) keys in music—are the two types of voice. Tenses are unrelated to voice; tense indicates time. Note the difference between tenses—present, past, and perfect—and voice. The English passive always includes two to four verbs and allows the addition of “by” someone / something.  Present tense, active voice: “he finds.” Passive: “it is found” (by X)  Past tense, active: “he found.” Passive: “it was found” (by X)  Present perfect active: “she has found.” Passive: “it has been found” (by X)  Past perfect active: “she had found.” Passive: “it had been found” (by X) And even a future passive is possible—though horrible:“The test will have been given” As recently as 1997, Paul Leedy insisted, in his book Practical Research, Planning and Design, that “the researcher … should be anonymous. The use of the first-person pronoun or reference to the researcher in any other way is particularly taboo. … All of the action within the drama of research revolves around the data; they, and they only, speak.” (Emphasis mine, throughout.) My response: Then why not let the data speak? Here, Leedy himself elegantly states that “the action . . . revolves.” IN ACTIVE VOICE He also has “data . . . speak” in active voice. These are fine inanimate agents—non-living causes of actions. If such agents serve as subjects, we have no need for personal pronouns like “I” or “we.” Leedy continues, “The passive voice … is used to indicate Why not “the passive voice indicates”? that no identifiable subject is performing the act. It is a kind of ghostly form of the verb that causes events to happen without any visible cause being present.” Then, “Note the passive voice construction in this sentence: ‘A survey was made of the owners of the Rollaway automobiles’ or ‘The researcher made a survey of the owners of Rollaway automobiles.’ … Here we have an . . . intrusion of the researcher. … The best research reporting does not use it.” Instead of the passive verb or “the researcher made,” why not “A survey of the owners . . . showed that …”? All surveys producing results have already been “made.” In the active, this is both shorter and stronger. He adds that passive voice verbs can even “suggest events … in the future without any indication of who will do them by using the future passive form of the verb … ‘The test will have been given before the students are permitted to read the novel.’” These two passives consume eight words. Because all tests, once finished, “have been given,” why not: “After the test / after taking the test, the students will / can then read / will be able to read the novel”? Active voice and short. 11 Do you fear that journals may reject papers written mostly or entirely in the active voice? Nature Medicine, years ago, published its Methods all in active voice. This is rarely possible to maintain throughout Methods, but their authors freely used “We, we, we” in lines like “We processed the samples. Then we rinsed the residue in a solution of . . . .” Here are additional empirical data (Note: The word “data” is plural.) Back in 2001, biologist Rupert Sheldrake queried 55 journals in the biological and physical sciences. Only two still required use of the passive voice. “Most scientific journals accept papers in the active voice,” he said, “and some . . . positively encourage it.” (New Scientist, 21 July 2001) The British Medical Journal's “House Style” on the internet has for many years demanded that we “Write in the active and use the first person where necessary.” Even in active voice, however, “I/We” first-person pronouns are usually unnecessary. (Interestingly, “our” seems acceptable, even when the writer avoids “we.”) The valuable INANIMATE AGENT allows you to avoid these pronouns for active voice. The mice each received / ingested 20 mg daily. (Nonhuman agent) The reason for X remains unclear. Results indicate that our hypothesis is correct. The evidence suggests an alternative cause. All data came from X. (We know they did not walk there on their own feet.) Our laboratory provided urine samples. Save passive verbs for times when they do, in fact, prove essential, merciful, or comical. In one death notice, “Some of us will greatly miss Professor Aho.” This, however, implies that some may be pleased at this death. Avoid sending this sentence to his/her widow/widower Instead, “(The late) Professor Aho will be missed.” (“Late” is a polite adjective for deceased.) To be gentle: “You’re fired / sacked” becomes “Your candidacy / position is revoked /eliminated.” Similarly gentle, “Your breast must be removed.” “Your results will arrive after tests are run.” To maintain anonymity: “The suggestion was made today that nurses should go on strike.” Comedy:“When my great-grandmother status is achieved, greater respect will be required.” (Nancy Alexander, 1919-2015) 12 Basic Methodology III: The End-focus Technique End-focus makes sentences concise (shorter), clearer, andif linkedflowing. "The result may be excellent, as shown by our study" we re-write twice: with end-focus, it is "As shown by our study, the result may be excellent." Put into active voice, it becomes "Our study shows that the result may be excellent." Only one word in this sentence is important—only "excellent" provides new information. Every sentence should present its background information first, the WHO, WHERE, WHEN (HOW, WHY). These data orient (UK “orientate”) the reader. Then end-focus on the WHAT.  The beginning of a sentence—regardless of what some teach—is only the second most important location. Most important is the end: the fresh, new information.  In any sentence, find the most vital word or two—a key adjective, substantive, or a numerical value of interest. Put a period/full stop after it; it ends the sentence.  Moreover, be sure that each sentence ends with words that lead you to the next point, creating intra-sentence linkage; this makes the next sentence almost predictable (=flow). Remember: FOCUS and LINK A to D’s first and second sentences show end-focus with linkage (each italicized). Choose, from among sentences 1 to 6, the best-linking third sentence for each: . A. Finland has the world’s highest incidence of type 1 diabetes. This disabling disease and its treatment constitute a drain on the state's finances. (continue) B. The world’s highest incidence of type 1 diabetes occurs in Finland. Finnish diabetes researchers now discover some of the field’s most interesting new data. (continue) C. Regarding type 1 diabetes, Finland’s annual incidence is the world’s highest. Its figure for 2008 was 60/100,000. (continue) D. Finland has the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes in the world. One nation’s mean incidence in 2008 was actually below 1/100 000, which means that Finland’s was 60-fold greater, though no one knows why. (continue) 1. One important area of investigation is diabetes-associated nephritis. 2. Is sugar consumption unusually high, or is this rate mainly related to genetics? 3. Finland must continue to battle this key medical problem, despite research costs. 4. The Finnish state KELA covers medical care and supports those unable to work. 5. Such an incidence requires funding of the country’s top researchers. 6. Patients' longevity is increasing, but what about their quality of life? 13 Observe my struggle with a rough draft totaling 28 words, with four passive-voice verbs (in italics) and no end-focus. I assume that we have already heard about drug X, so X offers no excitement. Nothing was known about what happens to children who are given drug X. It was found that adults often have diarrhea if they are given / administered drug X. (3). I first edited this by removing useless, wasted words and changing to active voice, end-focused. Active voice required three inanimate agents: “effect,” “evidence,” and “X.” For clarity, these sentences needed “however” or “whereas,” but not in the vital first position. (The BMJ and I both avoid wasting the first-word position on “however” or “therefore.” These words become stronger as they move right, with maximum power when “however” serves as end-focus. Remember, it travels carrying two suitcase-like commas) The effect of drug X in children is unknown. In adults, however, evidence indicates that X frequently leads to diarrhea. (20 words) A clever student then noticed that these sentences lacked linkage; the first sentence failed to flow into the second. I therefore sacrificed the best end-focus in the first sentence (“unknown”) and instead gave focus to my second choice (“children”). Note good linkage with only 17 words. The effect of drug X is unknown in children. In adults, however, X frequently leads to diarrhea (3). Another student then noticed that I was violating a major rule—to observe strict chronology. Always describe events in chronological order—the order in which they occur or the order in which we learned about them. Now all of these data fit into one 14-word sentence. X frequently leads to diarrhea in adults (3), whereas in children, its effect remains unknown. X frequently leads to diarrhea in adults (3); in children, however, its effect remains unknown, however. (which location is better for “however”?) 14 Writing a first draft with end-focus as well as with sentence-to-sentence linkage is, however, almost impossible. Instead, first get the words onto paper; then move words and phrases around. Start all of your writing with a fast, disorganized rough draft, because such “bad” texts are the easiest to improve by means of passive-to- active voice changes, end-focus, and linkage.  Find the most vital, novel word in the sentence, the one revealing the newest information.  After this word, put a period (full-stop).  Move all the words following this end-focus word back to the left. Often the best place to insert words is after a “that” or “which,” as below: She does fine work that may win her a Nobel Prize within a few years. WHAT TOPS A NOBEL? She does fine work that, within a few years, may earn her a Nobel Prize. Now carry out these steps on sentences adapted from actual medical research articles. These have no grammar errors, just awful style. 1. In ulcerative colitis, a predisposing state for colorectal cancer, reduced TATI expression has been seen in affected areas. 18 w 2. Although this is generally accepted, there are contradictory findings, nor has any association between this mutation and survival been observed. 20 3. If enough protection is used during this procedure, infection is low, studies show. 13 15 Shrinking and revision of a paragraph. This text is intentionally silly, so ignore the fake science; concentrate only on its language.  First, locate and repair four errors frequent among Finnish writers.  Then reduce its length from 114 words; aim at a third of its present length.  Replace its 10 italicized verbs in passive voice; choose all active-voice verbs.  Freely omit, alter, or rearrange words. Each of you will edit this differently.  Finally, COUNT every word (and quantity) in your version. Length record = 26 words The effectiveness against narcolepsy of caffeine was tested on humans by our group. It was effective, as was previously shown by Smith (Smith 2006) when mice, that were found to be narcoleptic were given caffeine when they demonstrated signs of narcolepsy. Therefore, an experiment was carried out by our group. We had 100 male narcoleptics. The initial test dose of caffeine that was chosen was 300 mg two times every day. In these subjects a history of narcolepsy had been confirmed. When they were administrated a dose of 600 mg two times every day, the lowering of their symptoms of narcolepsy to a level that is considered in literature to be normal was accomplished. 16 Article Sections: An Overview Because some journals cannot afford to hire copy editors to correct manuscripts line by line, do examine articles in the target journal, but avoid blindly trusting them as models of style. What seems wiser is to trust the target journal’s own writing style.  This style is demonstrated in “Instructions to Authors” and in journal editorials.  Every journal has its own style, so study all instructions in the target journal.  Seek instructions also on the internet; these evolve and thus frequently change.  Follow each instruction exactly, checking and rechecking. If you receive a rejection and submit elsewhere, follow the next target journal’s instructions equally carefully. (See Handling Reviewers section.) Vital: Notice the style required for your references: either Harvard or Vancouver. Harvard style (from 1881) uses authors’ names: “(Aho 2000)” and an alphabetical reference list. Vancouver uses numbered references, with each journal demanding different formats. 3 3 The usual formats are“… sentence end (3).” Or “… end 3.” Or “… end. ” Or“… end .” USA UK (Vancouver Uniform Requirements are available at http://www.icmje.org/index.html.) Unlike authors in a Harvard reference list— numbered alphabetically—Vancouver style requires that the list follow the order in which citations appear in the text. In Harvard style, date precedes article or book title; in Vancouver style, the date follows it. The Hall book provides a clear pattern for the contents of a scientific article. The Introduction tells what question you will be asking, This produces the Methods tell how it was studied, acronym IMRAD or Results tells what you found, IMRaD and Discussion explains what the findings mean. In “Suggestions to Authors” in the journal Neurology (1966; 46:298-300), Daroff and colleagues describe these IMRAD sections as answering the following questions: “What did you decide to do and why? INTRODUCTION (ending with what you seek) How did you do it? METHODS What did you find? RESULTS How does it relate to current knowledge? DISCUSSION” (Beginning with main findings) 17 A wise order in which to write these sections 1. Rough version of the abstract 5. Results 2. Rough tables and figures 6. Discussion 3. End (your aim) of Introduction 7. Rest of the Introduction 4. Methods 8. The final abstract I cannot advise this too strongly: Make tables and figures before you write Results. Note: Gustavii reminds us that editors of journals and your readers have the right to ask to examine your raw data—even 5 or 10 years after publication of results Therefore, never discard your raw data. Case-Reports A case report may formulate a testable hypothesis. Present that single, deliciously unusual case. . . at a departmental seminar, says Gustavii. A case report may also prove useful—and thus deserve publication—if it reports a new diagnostic tool or a new treatment. A case report usually occupies no more than two pages (double spaced) of running text and contains about five references. Since it is too brief to constitute a literature review, do not label it as one. A case report seldom requires more than two authors, as surely only one would perform the observation of the patient. Once, an editor’s query caused a surgical case-report’s author-list to shrink from seven authors to only two (With thanks again to Björn Gustavii's first book.) 18 The Article Abstract The abstract (now generally considered the same as a summary) is the first thing seen. It may be the only part of the article that is read. The abstract “floats free,” appearing in various databases and on the internet. For easier electronic retrieval, front-focus both your title and line 1 of your abstract. According to Professor Lilleyman (Hall, 1998) an abstract should reveal:  “why what was done was done  what was done  what was found  what was concluded” And . . . the abstract must be “the most highly polished part of the paper.” His rules: Include no lines that will appear again in the Introduction. Avoid minor aspects of Methods. Never end an abstract with the vague, useless line: “the findings are discussed.” Do include confidence intervals (CI) and P-values. I add, from other sources: Short sentences No repetition of data in the article title No references or study limitations Abstracts must stand alone and be clearly understandable without the text. Always obey length-restrictions; 250 words? Write 600 words and shrink it by use of Process Writing. If the journal instead provides a box to fill, prefer short words Abbreviations in abstracts These must be few, and each full term plus abbreviation goes into the abstract. Write it out again when it first appears in the Introduction or later. Never abbreviate a short, single word. Never use “ETX” for “endotoxin” or “AR” for “arousal,” says the American Thoracic Society (ATS), but the ATS accepts “LAM for lymphangioleiomyomatosis.” Surely no one will ever need an explanation for pH, DNA, AIDS, or UN. (Note: No dots.) Check journal instructions; some abbreviations are so common in your specialty that they need no explanation; one example is “coronary heart disease (CHD)”for a circulatory journal. One way to avoid abbreviating is to refer to only part of the long term. One example: For “IRL,” meaning “inspiratory resistive load,” the ATS says, that after giving the entire term once, then “simply write ‘load’.” An abbreviations list is useful, following the abstract, if you need many abbreviations. Such a list is, however, no substitute for the required in-text explanations. 19 Structured Abstracts Many target journals require structured abstracts with subheadings for each section. These help the author to structure the abstract so that it maintains the most logical order and omits nothing. I thus suggest that you write every abstract with subheadings. Which does your target journal require? If it wants unstructured abstracts, remove subheads and make into complete sentences the incomplete sentences that most structured abstracts allow in order to save space. Popular subheadings include  Background “Incidence of X has been rapidly rising in Nordic countries—” or Hypothesis tested “This study tested whether X correlateS with latitude.” or Objective / Aim “Our aim was to compare X incidence above and below 60 degrees north latitude.”  Study design and setting  Samples / Subjects  Methods / Interventions  Measurements, Statistics, P values, CIs, SDs . . . .  Results  Conclusions (Notice: instead of a Discussion, and no Summary; see below)  Implications (answering “So what?”) Conclusions differ from summaries. Merely as a memory aid, here is a comical SUMMARY of research into diet and health: The Japanese eat very little fat and drink very little red wine, yet they suffer fewer heart attacks than do the British or Americans. The French eat much fat and drink much red wine, yet they, too, suffer fewer heart attacks than do the British or Americans. Its CONCLUSION (with clear IMPLICATIONS) Eat and drink whatever you like. It is speaking English that kills you Informative abstracts cover all of these categories, with sufficiently detailed results. Indicative abstracts introduce your work and describe what you did. These are useful for conferences, if abstracts are due many months before you have any results. You later present orally the results lacking before the abstract-submission deadline. Review-article abstracts include Purpose, Data- Because journals now seek review articles to raise identification and -extraction their impact factor, even young researchers should methods, Findings, consider a review—perhaps as a condensation of Data synthesis, Conclusions their thesis Literature section.

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