Have you ever struggled to write up your results into a publishable paper only to get it rejected? Richard Threlfall, Managing Editor, Asian Journal of Organic Chemistry, gives some insider tips on how to improve each section of your article and increase your chances of getting published.
The introduction is a little different from the short and concise abstract. The reader needs to know the background to your research and, most importantly, why your research is important in this context. What critical question does your research address? Why should the reader be interested?
Many manuscripts begin with generic statements like:
“X structure is ubiquitous in natural products and it is also important in medicinal chemistry.”
This may be true, but does it grab the attention of the reader? Why is structure X important in medicinal chemistry? Which natural products can this structure be found in and why does that matter? What does structure X do that structure Y doesn’t? Setting the scene well for your reader is vital so that the reader knows the importance of your research. However, try also to avoid making claims that are too bold, like “this is a potential cure for all cancers” (unless it really is, then you really can shout about it!).
A good thing to avoid is making your introduction into a minireview. There is a huge amount of literature out there, but as a scientist you should be able to pick out the things that are most relevant to your work and explain why. This shows an editor/reviewer/reader that you really understand your area of research and that you can get straight to the most important issues.
Many people start with a broad statement and then narrow the subject matter down gradually to their specific area of interest. This is not necessarily wrong, but why bother discussing things that are not really that relevant? For example, if you are writing about C–H activation, avoid sentences like:
“C–H activation has been heavily studied in the past decade.[1a-y]“
Then include massively diverse examples of C–H activation in references 1a-y. Everyone knows that C–H activation has been intensively studied and there are thousands of examples of it. Better is to draw the attention of the reader to exactly the question you want to answer in your research. Consider instead:
“Among many examples of C–H activation, such reactions at the C5 position of X compounds have not been extensively studied. This is because …”
In this example, you begin to show your knowledge of the literature and your research straight away in one or two sentences. A great impact!
Don’t forget that the first impressions of the editor and reviewers when they very first read your manuscript are important too, so if you can convey why your project is so exciting to them, this can only be a good thing!
- Next month: We look at how to lay out tables and graphics to the best effect.
- See all Tips for Writing Better Science Papers