In this monthly series, Dr. Angel Borja draws on his extensive background as an author, reviewer and editor to give advice on preparing the manuscript author's view , the evaluation process reviewer's view and what there is to hate or love in a paper editor's view. This article is the second in the series. The first article was: " Six things to do before writing your manuscript. Learn more about publishing at Elsevier. When you organize your manuscript, the first thing to consider is that the order of sections will be very different than the order of items on you checklist.
Next, I'll review each step in more detail. But before you set out to write a paper, there are two important things you should do that will set the groundwork for the entire process. Finally, keep in mind that each publisher has its own style guidelines and preferences, so always consult the publisher's Guide for Authors.
Remember that "a figure is worth a thousand words. Your data are the driving force of the paper, so your illustrations are critical! How do you decide between presenting your data as tables or figures? Whatever your choice is, no illustrations should duplicate the information described elsewhere in the manuscript.
If you are using photographs, each must have a scale marker, or scale bar, of professional quality in one corner. In photographs and figures, use color only when necessary when submitting to a print publication. If different line styles can clarify the meaning, never use colors or other thrilling effects or you will be charged with expensive fees.
Of course, this does not apply to online journals. For many journals, you can submit duplicate figures: one in color for the online version of the journal and pdfs, and another in black and white for the hardcopy journal Figure 4. Another common problem is the misuse of lines and histograms. Lines joining data only can be used when presenting time series or consecutive samples data e. However, when there is no connection between samples or there is not a gradient, you must use histograms Figure 5.
Sometimes, fonts are too small for the journal. You must take this into account, or they may be illegible to readers Figure 6. This section responds to the question of how the problem was studied. If your paper is proposing a new method, you need to include detailed information so a knowledgeable reader can reproduce the experiment. However, do not repeat the details of established methods; use References and Supporting Materials to indicate the previously published procedures.
Broad summaries or key references are sufficient. Reviewers will criticize incomplete or incorrect methods descriptions and may recommend rejection, because this section is critical in the process of reproducing your investigation. In this way, all chemicals must be identified.
Do not use proprietary, unidentifiable compounds. Present proper control experiments and statistics used, again to make the experiment of investigation repeatable. List the methods in the same order they will appear in the Results section, in the logical order in which you did the research:. Again, look at the journal's Guide for Authors, but an ideal length for a manuscript is 25 to 40 pages, double spaced, including essential data only. Here are some general guidelines:.
This section responds to the question "What have you found? The results should be essential for discussion. However, remember that most journals offer the possibility of adding Supporting Materials, so use them freely for data of secondary importance. In this way, do not attempt to "hide" data in the hope of saving it for a later paper.
You may lose evidence to reinforce your conclusion. If data are too abundant, you can use those supplementary materials. Use sub-headings to keep results of the same type together, which is easier to review and read. Number these sub-sections for the convenience of internal cross-referencing, but always taking into account the publisher's Guide for Authors. For the data, decide on a logical order that tells a clear story and makes it and easy to understand.
Generally, this will be in the same order as presented in the methods section. An important issue is that you must not include references in this section; you are presenting your results, so you cannot refer to others here. If you refer to others, is because you are discussing your results, and this must be included in the Discussion section. Here you must respond to what the results mean.
Probably it is the easiest section to write, but the hardest section to get right. This is because it is the most important section of your article. Here you get the chance to sell your data. Take into account that a huge numbers of manuscripts are rejected because the Discussion is weak.
You need to make the Discussion corresponding to the Results, but do not reiterate the results. Here you need to compare the published results by your colleagues with yours using some of the references included in the Introduction. Never ignore work in disagreement with yours, in turn, you must confront it and convince the reader that you are correct or better. Avoid unspecific expressions such as "higher temperature", "at a lower rate", "highly significant".
Avoid sudden introduction of new terms or ideas; you must present everything in the introduction, to be confronted with your results here. Speculations on possible interpretations are allowed, but these should be rooted in fact, rather than imagination.
To achieve good interpretations think about:. Revision of Results and Discussion is not just paper work. You may do further experiments, derivations, or simulations. Sometimes you cannot clarify your idea in words because some critical items have not been studied substantially.
This section shows how the work advances the field from the present state of knowledge. In some journals, it's a separate section; in others, it's the last paragraph of the Discussion section. Whatever the case, without a clear conclusion section, reviewers and readers will find it difficult to judge your work and whether it merits publication in the journal. A common error in this section is repeating the abstract, or just listing experimental results.
Trivial statements of your results are unacceptable in this section. You should provide a clear scientific justification for your work in this section, and indicate uses and extensions if appropriate. Moreover, you can suggest future experiments and point out those that are underway. You can propose present global and specific conclusions, in relation to the objectives included in the introduction.
Editors like to see that you have provided a perspective consistent with the nature of the journal. You need to introduce the main scientific publications on which your work is based, citing a couple of original and important works, including recent review articles. However, editors hate improper citations of too many references irrelevant to the work, or inappropriate judgments on your own achievements. They will think you have no sense of purpose. The abstract tells prospective readers what you did and what the important findings in your research were.
Together with the title, it's the advertisement of your article. Make it interesting and easily understood without reading the whole article. Avoid using jargon, uncommon abbreviations and references. You must be accurate, using the words that convey the precise meaning of your research. The abstract provides a short description of the perspective and purpose of your paper.
It gives key results but minimizes experimental details. However, the abstracts must be keep as brief as possible. Just check the 'Guide for authors' of the journal, but normally they have less than words. Here's a good example on a short abstract. In an abstract, the two whats are essential. Here's an example from an article I co-authored in Ecological Indicators :. The title must explain what the paper is broadly about.
It is your first and probably only opportunity to attract the reader's attention. In this way, remember that the first readers are the Editor and the referees. Also, readers are the potential authors who will cite your article, so the first impression is powerful! We are all flooded by publications, and readers don't have time to read all scientific production.
They must be selective, and this selection often comes from the title. Reviewers will check whether the title is specific and whether it reflects the content of the manuscript. Editors hate titles that make no sense or fail to represent the subject matter adequately. Hence, keep the title informative and concise clear, descriptive, and not too long.
You must avoid technical jargon and abbreviations, if possible. This is because you need to attract a readership as large as possible. Dedicate some time to think about the title and discuss it with your co-authors. Here you can see some examples of original titles, and how they were changed after reviews and comments to them:. Keywords are used for indexing your paper. They are the label of your manuscript. It is true that now they are less used by journals because you can search the whole text.
However, when looking for keywords, avoid words with a broad meaning and words already included in the title. Some journals require that the keywords are not those from the journal name, because it is implicit that the topic is that. Only abbreviations firmly established in the field are eligible e.
Again, check the Guide for Authors and look at the number of keywords admitted, label, definitions, thesaurus, range, and other special requests. Here, you can thank people who have contributed to the manuscript but not to the extent where that would justify authorship. For example, here you can include technical help and assistance with writing and proofreading.
Probably, the most important thing is to thank your funding agency or the agency giving you a grant or fellowship. In the case of European projects, do not forget to include the grant number or reference. Also, some institutes include the number of publications of the organization, e. Typically, there are more mistakes in the references than in any other part of the manuscript. It is one of the most annoying problems, and causes great headaches among editors.
Now, it is easier since to avoid these problem, because there are many available tools. In the text, you must cite all the scientific publications on which your work is based. But do not over-inflate the manuscript with too many references — it doesn't make a better manuscript!
Avoid excessive self-citations and excessive citations of publications from the same region. Minimize personal communications, do not include unpublished observations, manuscripts submitted but not yet accepted for publication, publications that are not peer reviewed, grey literature, or articles not published in English.
In general, you should minimize personal communications, and be mindful as to how you include unpublished observations. These will be necessary for some disciplines, but consider whether they strengthen or weaken your paper. You might also consider articles published on research networks prior to publication, but consider balancing these citations with citations of peer-reviewed research. When citing research in languages other than English, be aware of the possibility that not everyone in the review process will speak the language of the cited paper and that it may be helpful to find a translation where possible.
You can use any software, such as EndNote or Mendeley , to format and include your references in the paper. Most journals have now the possibility to download small files with the format of the references, allowing you to change it automatically. Also, Elsevier's Your Paper Your Way program waves strict formatting requirements for the initial submission of a manuscript as long as it contains all the essential elements being presented here.
Make the reference list and the in-text citation conform strictly to the style given in the Guide for Authors. Remember that presentation of the references in the correct format is the responsibility of the author, not the editor. The conclusion should be concise and engaging. Aim to leave the reader with a clear understanding of the main discovery or argument that your research has advanced.
Table of contents Discussion vs conclusion Length of the conclusion Answer the research question Summarise and reflect on the research Make recommendations Emphasise your contributions Finish your dissertation Checklist. The conclusion contains similar elements to the discussion , and sometimes these two sections are combined especially in shorter papers and journal articles.
The conclusion chapter should be shorter and more general than the discussion. Instead of discussing specific results and interpreting the data in detail, here you make broad statements that sum up the most important insights of the research. An empirical scientific study will often have a short conclusion that concisely states the main findings and recommendations, while a humanities dissertation might require more space to conclude its analysis and tie all the chapters together in an overall argument.
Learn more. The conclusion should begin from the main question that your dissertation aimed to address. In a dissertation that set out to solve a practical problem with empirical research, the conclusion might begin like this:. This research aimed to identify effective fundraising strategies for environmental non-profit organisations. Based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of donation intention in response to campaign materials, it can be concluded that social distance and temporal distance are important factors to consider when designing and targeting campaigns.
The results indicate that potential donors are more receptive to images portraying a large social distance and a small temporal distance. In a dissertation that set out to make a theoretical argument based on an analysis of case studies, it might begin like this:. By analysing changing representations of migration and UK border policy in the past ten years, this dissertation has shown how media discourse can directly and indirectly shape political decision-making.
Note that in the second example, the research aim is not directly restated, but is implicit in the statement the research aimed to analyse the relationship between media discourse and migration policy. To avoid repeating yourself, it is helpful to reformulate your aims and questions into an overall statement of what you did and how you did it. The conclusion is an opportunity to remind the reader why you took the approach you did, what you expected to find, and how well the results matched your expectations.
It should give an overview of the steps you took in conducting your research or building your argument. To avoid repetition , instead of just writing a summary of each chapter, you can write more reflectively here. You might consider how effective your methodology was in answering your research questions, and whether any new questions or unexpected insights arose in the process. You might already have made recommendations for future research in the discussion, but the conclusion is a good place to elaborate and look ahead, considering the implications of your findings for theory and practice.
Avoid exaggerating the applicability of your research. Make sure your reader is left with a strong impression of what your research has contributed to knowledge in your field. Some strategies to achieve this include:. Pick out the most important points and sum them up with a succinct overview that situates your project in its broader context. The end is near!
Then you need to make sure your reference list is complete and correctly formatted. Finally, read through the whole document again to make sure your dissertation is clearly written and free from language errors. Finished your dissertation? We wrote a useful article on printing and binding your dissertation in which we explain all available options.
You've written a great conclusion! Use the other checklists to further improve your dissertation. I would like to express, how grateful I am.
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