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.
Results and Discussion
So you’ve spent many, many months on your project, you’ve got some great results, and now it comes to getting them into a paper. You want to tell everybody about all the hours you’ve spent testing every solvent, catalyst, and additive you could think of and all the trouble you’ve had with the HPLC. However, if you do this, your reader is likely to get very bored very quickly. So the best advice is to keep your focus and make your R&D concise but informative.
Focus on the really important bits, not the very small details—especially if you are writing a communication and not a full paper. To put this into a simple example, if you’ve tried a reaction in several different solvents, you don’t need to discuss every single experimental result with every single solvent. Put all the data in a table, and perhaps you could comment on a general trend, such as polar versus nonpolar, and discuss why the best solvent is the best solvent in this particular case. Going through each individual result in the table is usually unnecessary.
Try and keep in mind that the R&D and the experimental sections are different. There is usually no need to discuss experimental procedures in the R&D section unless the practical aspects of the work have some direct effect on the outcome of the experiments. For example, if the order of reagent addition alters the yield or the reaction pathway, this should definitely be part of your discussion. If not, leave it until the experimental.
Use abbreviations sparingly and consistently throughout your paper. Define an abbreviation where it is first used and leave it at that—it is not necessary to re-define abbreviations in every new section. You don’t need to define the simpler things, such as NMR, AFM, or HPLC, but make sure you do define abbreviations of chemical names, as the abbreviations used for certain chemicals in other parts of the world are not necessarily the same as the ones that you use!
Sometimes, the most interesting and discussible parts of research are the anomalies or the things that don’t make sense. Don’t ignore these outliers because referees will likely ask you to comment on your strange results. Discussion of strange results is often as valuable as focusing on the expected findings, as it can help in understanding the more subtle features of a reaction, a catalyst, or a material. And who knows, your one weird result might just be enough to open up a whole new area of research!
- Next month: The Experimental Section – Possibly the easiest section to write, but there are still things you can do to make your experimental section an easy read.
- See all Tips for Writing Better Science Papers