Writing scientific papers is the one thing that unites scientists from every discipline, culture, and country across the world. Whether you love it or hate it, there's no escaping writing up your research. Clarity, simplicity, and accuracy are three of the most important attributes of a well-written scientific paper, but when you're sitting in front of a lab book full of results and a blank computer screen, just getting started is often challenging enough. You want everyone to share in the successful columns and the HPLC breakdowns, the pristine spectra and the failed calculations, the sparkling white crystals and the sticky brown gloop that have been your research project for many months or even years. But although at times your research may feel much like a drama, when it comes to scientific breakthroughs, your manuscript does not have to be Shakespeare or Schiller to be a real classic.
Great science always speaks for itself and does not need to be "dressed up" in complicated words or an incomprehensible list of acronyms. Just looking across the 13 chemical societies that make up the Asian Chemical Editorial Society (ACES), which publishes the Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry (AsianJOC) together with the Korean Society of Organic Synthesis and Wiley-VCH, we can see the global reach of science today. In real terms, this means that anyone from anywhere in the world might eventually read your paper. Therefore, however complex the names of chemicals, species, or analytical techniques might get, explaining the underlying concepts of your research in simple language is a definite advantage for you and for the community.
There is also another and perhaps more hidden advantage to good communication in science papers. Science has an image problem. Many people believe that science is a difficult subject to study at school or university, and that science is inaccessible to people who don't speak "science". For this very reason we should not be hiding research away behind an impenetrable wall of jargon. A great science communicator takes difficult ideas and expresses them in a simple way, which makes science more accessible and gives people a hunger to learn about how the amazing discoveries that are made in basic research every day affect their world.
It is very easy to talk about good writing skills, but they are perhaps not so easy to put into practice when you are actually writing up your results for publication. Or are they?
The 14 Tips series was written by Richard, Editor of the AsianJOC, and published in collaboration with Vera, Editor of ChemistryViews.org, a comprehensive free-to-view news and information site from ChemPubSoc Europe with close links to society journals like the AsianJOC, to guide you through each part of your submission to a journal. The aim is to help you to identify easy steps that you can take to improve your writing skills, as well as the outcome of the publication process.
From the time you type "Dear Editor" at the top of your cover letter, there are countless opportunities to simplify, clarify, and get people as excited about your work as you are. You'll find out how descriptive titles, concise abstracts, uncluttered graphics, and simple language can all play a vital part in opening up all the fantastic developments that happen in science to a wide audience, as well as making editors, referees, and readers sit up and take notice of your work. This way, the result is better for everyone. It's that simple.
07 November 2013
Step-by-step guide to composing an exciting and thought-provoking manuscript which will impress journal editors, referees and readers
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