Essay: The Scientific Writing Process

For the purpose of this summary, I will consider the two papers by Jaeger and Toft as one extended paper regarding the scientific writing process. In the first part, I will discuss how to write a proper scientific paper that is fit for publishing (Toft and Jaeger 1998), and in the second part, I will describe the peer-review process as well as the primary mistakes found in every paper (Jaeger and Toft 1998).

One of the most important aspects of science is publishing your findings in a public medium that is available to all. But in order to do so, you must also be able to communicate effectively. Therefore, you must be able to tell a clear story with your paper. When preparing your paper, decide on a couple of major points you want to make that are supported by your research. Then, plan out your paper and create an outline. Proceed by searching for sources that support your research and connect your paper to them. Next, choose which journal you would like to publish in, and learn their preferred format. When you begin writing, your primary goal should be to write as clear and concise as possible. But be interesting, so that your reader is captivated throughout the entire paper. There are several rules to follow that will ensure your paper satisfies your goal. Write in the active voice, and take advantage of the basic rules of grammar. Do not use jargon, and use simple words that get your meaning across, but leave no room for misinterpretation. When writing your paper, give yourself plenty of time to write, and make sure you stay on topic. Start by constructing your Introduction, which should be detailed but not too long. Keep your Results section short, and interpret your data appropriately in the Discussion, which should connect your research to your sources. After writing and revising your paper, have it reviewed by several people before attempting to get it published. Make sure your paper is perfect, and then you may send it for review. After getting it back, go over the referee’s comments and begin revising your paper. After sending it back in and getting accepted, make sure your finalized paper is perfect. Follow these rules, and your papers will become something people look forward to reading.

Now, I will explain the peer-review process, and address the most common mistakes found in every paper. This process is usually strict and highly critical, as journals hold themselves to a very high standard. It begins with the editor going over your paper, and deciding whether to pass it on to an associate editor. The associate editor then selects referees to evaluate your paper. The referees will provide their evaluation to the associate editor, who will then advise the editor to either accept or reject your paper. The editor will be presented with both the referee’s and the associate editor’s evaluations, and make a decision about your paper. This is where the common mistakes common mistakes become important. If your evaluators find your paper confusing, to the point where they cannot identify your hypotheses or follow your methods, then your paper will most likely not be approved. If you do not use statistics appropriately, or simply repeat your data, you are likely to be rejected. In addition, keep your Discussion concise, and stay away from speculation. Instead, identify how your paper makes a greater contribution to the scientific community. Don’t leave anything up to the reader’s interpretation, do all the work so that your message can be easily understood. Use these tools to edit your own papers, before the journals are able to.

Toft, C. A. and R. G. Jaeger. 1998. Writing for Scientific Journals I: The Manuscript. Herpetologica 54:S42-S54
Jaeger, R. G. and C. A. Toft. 1998. Writing for Scientific Journals II: The Review Process. Herpetologica 54:S54-S63

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