How to write Agricultural Research Proposal

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Scientific writing for agricultural research scientists a training reference manual Paul Stapleton Anthony Youdeowei Joy Mukanyange Helen van Houten a training reference manual Paul Stapleton International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Italy Anthony Youdeowei West Africa Rice Development Association, Côte d'Ivoire Joy Mukanyange Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, Netherlands Helen van Houten International Centre for Research on Agroforestry, Kenya Published by the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) in collaboration with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) © WARDA/CTA, 1995 ISBN 92 9113 0699 ii Contents Acknowledgments. . . iv Introduction. . . 1 Unit 1 Avenues of communication in science. ..................... 3 Unit 2 Choosing a journal. .................................................... 8 Unit 3 The IMRAD form of presenting research papers. ..... 11 Unit 4 Writing a research paper ............................................ 20 Unit 5 Scientific style and English in a research paper......... 31 Unit 6 Numbers, units, abbreviations and nomenclature...... 47 Unit 7 References.................................................................. 63 Unit 8 Using tables to present research results ..................... 73 Unit 9 Using illustrations to present research results............ 78 Unit 10 Oral presentation of research results.......................... 88 Unit 11 Using posters to present research results ................... 91 Unit 12 Writing proposals and reports.................................... 96 Unit 13 The importance of the media and popular writing..... 101 Unit 14 Basic facts about photography................................... 109 Unit 15 Publishing ethics ........................................................ 120 Recommended reading. . . 125 Index. . . 127 iii Acknowledgements THIS BOOK IS THE RESULT of a successful collaborative effort by many individuals, organizations and donor agencies. Members of the team who first developed the training course curriculum were Jacques Faye (WAFSRN), Michelle Jeanguyot (CIRAD), Joseph Menyonga (SAFGRAD), Joy Mukanyange (CTA), Mildred Otu-Bassey (AASE), Paul Stapleton (IBPGR—now IPGRI), C. Tahiri-Zagret (University of Abidjan), Sidney Westley (ICRAF) and Anthony Youdeowei (WARDA). Special thanks go to their institutions for granting their staff permission to participate in the expert consultation and to the Ford Foundation for supporting the consultation. Funding for the series of group training courses has been provided by the following organizations, to which the authors and trainees are deeply indebted: the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Netherlands; the International Foundation for Science (IFS), Sweden; the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), France; the Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique (ACCT), France; and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Germany. We are also very grateful to Joan Baxter of ICRAF for writing unit13, 'The importance of the media and popular writing', to Kellen Kebaara, also of ICRAF, for meticulously editing and proofreading the final manuscript, and to Susan MacMillan of the International Livestock Research Institute for valuable criticism. iv Introduction THE NEED FOR TRAINING agricultural research scientists in Africa in the procedures and techniques for writing and publishing the results of their research has been independently identified by a variety of institutions, organizations and agricultural research and development networks throughout the region. Early in 1990, the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA) and the West Africa Farming Systems Research Network (WAFSRN), coordinated by the Semi-Arid Food Grains Research and Development Project (SAFGRAD), met in Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire, to discuss this training need and to formulate a joint effort to organize a series of training courses in scientific writing for agricultural research scientists in West Africa. This discussion led to an expert consultation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, supported by the Ford Foundation and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) in 1991. At this consultation, the target audience for these courses was defined, details of a training course curriculum and pattern of instruction were elaborated and a 3-year training project was developed. An important component of this project was the development and publication of a training manual to accompany these courses. Group training started in Togo in 1991 and has continued every year, with the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) collaborating from 1994. Our aim in these training courses is to achieve the following: ‰ strengthen scientific communication capabilities of agricultural research scientists in Africa ‰ encourage and promote a culture of scientific publishing among agricultural researchers □ scientific writing for agricultural research scientists ‰ create a community of agricultural researchers who regularly communicate with one another and thereby minimize scientific isolation ‰ share experiences on problems encountered by researchers in publishing their research During the training sessions, we focus attention on analysing the structure of a scientific research paper, planning the writing process, observing style and ethics in scientific writing, correctly citing bibliographic references, and presenting agricultural research results orally. We adopt a multifaceted approach, which includes a combination of lectures, a complete interactive mode between trainers and trainees and among the trainees themselves, experiential learning and feedback, hands-on practical exercises, working-group activities, group discussion and critique, demonstrations, and the use of video recording. This training reference manual has been developed and field tested as we have implemented this training project. In writing it we have endeavoured to incorporate the procedures for citing references that are specified in the revised Council of Biology Editors manual, Scientific style and format, published in 1994. We hope that it will serve as a guide to young agricultural research scientists who are starting their research and scientific publishing careers. The manual can also be used by resource people preparing curricula and course notes for in-country training courses in scientific writing. In such a case, it is strongly recommended that the course curriculum be adapted to the particular training needs of the target audience by selecting units and topics from this book and giving the necessary emphasis to ones of particular interest to the group being trained. 1 Avenues of communication in science Purpose This unit will help training participants to: ‰ recognize the different avenues of communication within scientific research ‰ choose the avenue most suitable for the audience they are addressing ‰ be aware that they must adjust their writing style to suit the needs of their audience MANY AVENUES OF COMMUNICATION are open to scientists who want to deliver information on their research and results. Vehicles for addressing scientific and general audiences include the following: Research communications Extension and popular communications research journals extension manuals research reviews newspaper reports conference papers magazine articles Theses radio broadcasts book chapters films and video annual reports □ scientific writing for agricultural research scientists newsletters audiovisual shows project proposals practical demonstrations lectures handbills meetings with individuals cartoons leaflets photographs posters Each of these vehicles has specific uses. Showing a cartoon strip would probably be inappropriate at an international conference and delivering a research paper would be useless to most farmers. Effective communication depends on delivering the right message in the right way to the right audience. Many excellent scientists do not write well because they do not take the time to try to communicate skillfully. With a little effort, all scientists can make their work more comprehensible to a general audience and can learn to adapt their presentations to given media. Every research scientist should expect to have to write for each kind of research communication listed above sometime during their career. The extension and popular material, on the other hand, is more often produced by extension or media professionals. This unit concerns itself with avenues of communication within the research field. Research journal The chief purpose of a research journal is to publish scientific papers that communicate new and original information to other scientists. The research paper takes a hypothesis that has been tested by experimental methods to come to conclusions. Research journals are the most common organ of communication in science. There are two main types of readers of research papers. One is the specialist in the field who will want to read the entire paper to partake of all its information. The other is the casual reader, who will be interested mainly in the results, or perhaps the experimental methodology employed, as background to the reader's own work. Thus, two different audiences exist even for a single type of highly specialized communication.avenues of scientific communcation □ Research review A review article is like an extended version of the discussion in a research article. An essential feature of a review is that the reader is led to the cutting edge of a given area of research. A good review gathers together all important work on a topic, but it is not simply a catalogue of facts. It synthesizes work done; it analyses and interprets existing facts and theories within a particular field. Conference paper A paper delivered orally at a conference is necessarily short. It confines itself to a brief presentation of the objectives and the methods of the work and the results, the interpretation of which may be preliminary. Its clearly stated points can be brought out in the discussion. A revised version of the oral presentation, made for publication of the proceedings, can be more thorough. Thesis or dissertation The telling characteristic of a thesis or dissertation is its length. A work of this type is the written evidence of sustained research done over a considerable period, usually 2–4 years. It generally contains an extensive review of the literature as well as the results of several experiments, all of which were aimed at testing a single hypothesis. Book chapter Chapters of scientific works tend to synthesize information about a particular subject. A book chapter rarely sets out a fundamental hypothesis. Annual report An annual report describes work completed in any 12-month period. The intent is not so much to conclusively prove a hypothesis but rather to spell out objectives, describe activities and justify budget expenditure for a piece of research undertaken in the year. □ scientific writing for agricultural research scientists Newsletter The purpose of a scientific newsletter is to disseminate information of interest to its readers quickly and in a readily digestible format. Thus the content of most contributions carries little emphasis on justification or methodology. Most newsletters address a general readership and should not be used as a substitute for publication of research results in refereed journals. Project proposal A project proposal justifies a programme of work and states the expected outputs and clearly defined objectives of that programme. Audiences Readers of agricultural and related research fall into different groups. The most common audience groups include— □ researchers within a specific □ policymakers field of research □ researchers with a peripheral □ donor agents interest in a field of research □ research managers □ members of government research committees □ university lecturers □ commercial business people □ extension agents □ technicians □ farmers □ students Intent of a research communication Research communications have different intents. That is, they take the same basic information and treat it in different ways to convey the same message to different audiences. The technical content of a given message will differ according to the audience, as shown in Table 1.1. The way in which the technical content of any publication is packaged is crucial to its understanding by an audience. If the person reading the material cannot understand it, the effect of the work is lost entirely.avenues of scientific communcation □ Table 1.1. Technical content and audience of different types of science writing Avenue Technical Audience content (1=high, 6=low) Research papers 1 researchers within and outside the discipline, university students and lecturers, senior extension workers, research managers Book chapters Technical 2 same as research papers General 4 or 5 technicians, students, extension workers Research 2 to 4 researchers outside a discipline, reviews university students and lecturers, extension workers, commercial interests Theses 1 researchers within a discipline, university students and lecturers Conference 2 or 3 researchers within and outside a papers field, university students and lecturers, research managers Annual reports Highlights 3 or 4 donors, policymakers, government committees, extension agents, institute directors Main text 1 researchers within and outside a field, university students and lecturers, research managers Newsletters 5 or 6 researchers within and outside a field, students and lecturers. extension agents, policymakers, expert farmers Project 2 donors, policymakers, research proposals managers, institute directors 2 Choosing a journal Purpose This unit will help training participants to: ‰ evaluate a journal’s policy, scope and content ‰ define the special requirements for producing an article for publication BEFORE YOU START planning an article for publication, you should target a journal for your paper. Your choice of journal will often influence the format and style of your article. Different journals have different styles and different rules of presentation for the material they publish. Most journals today receive many more papers than they can possibly publish, and the best journals have a high rejection rate. If you are a beginning writer, you stand a better chance of having your paper accepted if you select a less prestigious journal. Should you try an international journal or a local or regional one? It probably requires more effort to write a paper for an international journal, but the rewards are also greater because greater numbers of readers will come across your paper if it appears in an international journal. On the other hand, local journals need the support of good scientists and writers to increase their value and readership.choosing a journal □ You must weigh these matters. Is your paper of sufficient merit and of sufficient interest to a broad audience to send it to the very best journal? If not, it is better to send it to a less well-known journal, where you may have a better chance of getting it accepted. What are the scope and aims of the journal? A statement of a journal's purpose and scope is usually printed on the inside of the cover of the journal. Read it carefully. There is no point in sending a research paper to a journal that publishes only reviews; nor is there any point in sending a theoretical paper to a journal that publishes only practical research. How often is the journal published? Scientific publishing is usually a slow process, and a journal that is published twice a year will take much longer to publish a paper than a journal that appears once every two weeks. You have to ask yourself, 'Will a 15-month publication time affect the relevance of my article?' If the paper should be published quickly, send it to a journal that can publish it quickly; if rapid publication is not essential, the editors of a fortnightly journal are likely to reject your paper in any case. What type of articles does the journal publish? Many journals require a specific format for the articles they publish. If your article does not fit this format, the paper may be rejected. For example, if your paper when printed will be 20 pages long and the journal publishes papers only up to 5 pages, your paper will be rejected—not because of its scientific content but simply because your format did not match that of the journal. Are there any conditions to submitting to the journal? In some journals, one of the authors must be a member of the society that publishes the journal. Sometimes certain types of statistical analysis must be used, or the experiments must have been repeated a number of times. Many journals have page charges—that is, you have to pay the journal to publish the paper. The charges are based on the number of pages that comprise the published paper. These charges can be extremely high. Some journals even expect money to be sent with the manuscript to cover the cost of □ scientific writing for agricultural research scientists considering the paper.Note, however, that some journals with page charges waive this fee for authors from certain countries. Look for these conditions in the journal's 'Instructions to authors'. Does your paper have any special requirements? You might have a series of photomicrographs or electron micrographs that are important to your paper. You should then look for a journal that prints such photographs well. Many journals do not print colour photographs, because they are expensive to reproduce. If your paper requires them, you will have to find a journal that will accept them, but note that many journals that print colour photographs charge the author for the colour. Journal style Once you have decided on a journal to which you will submit your paper, you should start to prepare your manuscript in that journal's style and format. Most journals publish a detailed guide to contributors, or 'Instructions to authors', usually in the first issue of the year but sometimes as a separate booklet. Write to the journal editor requesting these instructions or photocopy them from an issue in your local library. If a person other than yourself will type your paper, make sure that the typist also reads and follows the journal's instructions and specifications. 3 The IMRAD form of presenting research papers Purpose This unit will help training participants to: ‰ define the IMRAD format ‰ recognize what belongs in each section of a research paper SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IS an organized and logical activity, and therefore reporting research must also be well organized and logical. This unit provides the basic elements of the procedures and techniques that will facilitate reporting research results. Through regular practice, using the techniques explained here, you can gradually improve your skills in writing research papers. Writing scientific papers One common question researchers often ask is, 'Why should scientists write research papers?' The many reasons include helping advance knowledge in a particular field, supporting the progression of a professional career, satisfying the donor who provided the □ scientific writing for agricultural research scientists funding for research, and of course, becoming famous. The most important reason to write research papers and reports is to communicate—because effective communication is vital for science to progress. The first questions Before starting to write a scientific paper or report, ask yourself the following questions: ‰ Has the research work advanced enough to be reported? ‰ Is this to be a progress report, a final report of the research or a paper for publication? ‰ Is the paper or report to be submitted to a donor, to an institution of higher learning for a degree or as an organizational annual report? ‰ Have you made a plan as to how to write the paper or report? Characteristics of a good scientific paper A good scientific paper should— ‰ present an accurate account of the research investigation ‰ be clearly written and easily understood ‰ follow the particular style of the scientific discipline ‰ be free of jargon and local slang ‰ have appropriate and adequate illustrative material, all of which should be relevant to the subject of the report ‰ not contain any plagiarized material (plagiarism is a serious offence and is a serious charge against an author; see unit 15) Structure of a research paper In general, a research report or paper is written using the IMRAD logic. This very simple format is universally used in scientific reporting. The acronym IMRAD is derived from— Introduction Materials and methods Results And DiscussionIMRAD form of presenting research papers □ The parts of a paper—in brief A typical scientific research paper consists of the following elements, listed here in the order in which they appear in the paper. Title: As this is the 'label' of the paper, make it brief and suitable for indexing Authors: List the names of the people who have done the work and written the paper Postal addresses: Include full addresses, to enable readers to correspond with the authors Abstract: Briefly describe the problem and the solution Introduction: What is the problem? Define your parameters Materials and methods: How did you study the problem? Enable others to repeat your experiment Results: What did you find? Present data Discussion: What do these findings mean? Discuss your results Acknowledgements: Give credit or thanks to those who helped substantially References: List your authority for statements made Guidelines for the parts of a paper These guidelines have been taken from Editing and publication: a 1 training manual ; see the recommended reading list at the end of this manual. Although the elements of a typical research paper follow one another as listed above, we will deal with them here following the IMRAD form—often the order in which the parts are written. INTRODUCTION A good introduction is relatively short. In general it— ‰ tells why the reader should find the paper of interest ‰ tells why the author carried out the research ‰ gives the background the reader needs to understand and judge the paper 1 with permission from the author, Ian Montagnes, and the publisher, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) □ scientific writing for agricultural research scientists Specifically it— ‰ defines the nature and extent of the problems studied ‰ relates the research to previous work—perhaps by a brief review of the literature, but only that which is clearly relevant to the problem ‰ explains the objectives and method of investigation, including, if necessary, the reason why a particular method was chosen ‰ defines any specialized terms or abbreviations to be used in what follows Watch that— ‰ you lead logically to the hypothesis or principal theme ‰ you state the hypothesis clearly ‰ your introduction does all that it should in no more than two typewritten pages MATERIALS AND METHODS The simplest way to organize this section is chronologically. You must provide all the information needed to allow another researcher to judge your study or actually repeat your experiment. The section includes— ‰ the design of the experiment ‰ any plants or animals involved, with exact descriptions (genus, species, strain, cultivar, line, etc.) ‰ The materials used, with exact technical specifications and quantities and their source or method of preparation. (Generic or chemical names are better than trade names, which may not be universally recognized) ‰ the assumptions made ‰ the methods followed, usually in chronological order, described with as much precision and detail as necessary. (Standard methods need only be mentioned, or may be described by reference to the literature as long as it is readily available. Modifications of standard techniques should be described. If the method is new it should be described in detail. Methods of interpreting data should be described as well as methods of finding data) IMRAD form of presenting research papers □ Watch that— ‰ there are no ambiguities in abbreviations or names ‰ all quantities are in standard units ‰ all chemicals are so specifically identified that another scientist can match them exactly in repeating the work ‰ every step is stated, including the number of replications ‰ all techniques are described, at least by name if they are standard or in as much detail as needed if you have modified a standard technique or devised a new one ‰ nothing is included that does not relate to the results that follow ‰ there are no unnecessary details that may confuse the reader RESULTS This is the core of the paper, presenting the data that you have found. It is usually easiest to follow the results if you present them in the same order as you gave the objectives in the introduction. Well presented results— ‰ are simply and clearly stated ‰ report representative data rather than endlessly repetitive data ‰ reduce large masses of data to means, along with the standard error or standard deviation ‰ report repetitive data in tables and graphs, not in the text ‰ repeat in the text only the most important findings shown in tables and graphs ‰ include negative data—what was not found —if (but only if) they affect the interpretation of results ‰ give only data that relate to the subject of the paper as defined in the introduction ‰ refer in the text to every table and figure by number ‰ include only tables, figures and graphs that are necessary, clear and worth reproducing Watch out for and avoid ‰ repetition of data ‰ unnecessary negative data ‰ unnecessary figures or graphs ‰ unnecessary words □ scientific writing for agricultural research scientists DISCUSSION Here you explain what the results mean and their implications for future study. This is the most difficult part of the paper, in which you pull everything together and show the significance of your work. Your reader should not end up saying, 'So what?' A good discussion— ‰ does not repeat what has already been said in the review of literature ‰ relates the results to the questions that were set out in the introduction ‰ shows how the results and interpretations agree, or do not agree, with previously published work ‰ discusses theoretical implications of the work ‰ states conclusions, with evidence for each ‰ indicates the significance of the results ‰ suggests future research that is planned or is needed to follow up the results Be sure that you have— ‰ dealt with each of the originally stated objectives ‰ followed the order of your original objectives ‰ introduced previously (most likely in the introduction) the subject of each conclusion, so that none comes as a surprise ‰ avoided unnecessary detail or repetition from preceding sections ‰ reported previously all methods, observations or results referred to in this section—none of these should be mentioned for the first time ‰ interpreted the results and suggested their implications or significance TITLE The title of your paper will probably be read more than any other part, both by scientists scanning the contents of a journal and by those depending on searches through secondary sources, which always carry the title and author but may or may not carry abstracts. The title may be reprinted in bibliographies and subject indexes, stored in bibliographic databases and cited in other articles. A good title may help future researchers find important information, a poor title hamper them from doing so. A good title for a research report—

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