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How To Write A Research Paper

Step-By-Step Tutorial With Examples + FREE Template

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewer: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | March 2024

For many students, crafting a strong research paper from scratch can feel like a daunting task – and rightly so! In this post, we’ll unpack what a research paper is, what it needs to do , and how to write one – in three easy steps. 🙂 

Overview: Writing A Research Paper

What (exactly) is a research paper.

  • How to write a research paper
  • Stage 1 : Topic & literature search
  • Stage 2 : Structure & outline
  • Stage 3 : Iterative writing
  • Key takeaways

Let’s start by asking the most important question, “ What is a research paper? ”.

Simply put, a research paper is a scholarly written work where the writer (that’s you!) answers a specific question (this is called a research question ) through evidence-based arguments . Evidence-based is the keyword here. In other words, a research paper is different from an essay or other writing assignments that draw from the writer’s personal opinions or experiences. With a research paper, it’s all about building your arguments based on evidence (we’ll talk more about that evidence a little later).

Now, it’s worth noting that there are many different types of research papers , including analytical papers (the type I just described), argumentative papers, and interpretative papers. Here, we’ll focus on analytical papers , as these are some of the most common – but if you’re keen to learn about other types of research papers, be sure to check out the rest of the blog .

With that basic foundation laid, let’s get down to business and look at how to write a research paper .

Research Paper Template

Overview: The 3-Stage Process

While there are, of course, many potential approaches you can take to write a research paper, there are typically three stages to the writing process. So, in this tutorial, we’ll present a straightforward three-step process that we use when working with students at Grad Coach.

These three steps are:

  • Finding a research topic and reviewing the existing literature
  • Developing a provisional structure and outline for your paper, and
  • Writing up your initial draft and then refining it iteratively

Let’s dig into each of these.

Need a helping hand?

how to write a scientific research essay

Step 1: Find a topic and review the literature

As we mentioned earlier, in a research paper, you, as the researcher, will try to answer a question . More specifically, that’s called a research question , and it sets the direction of your entire paper. What’s important to understand though is that you’ll need to answer that research question with the help of high-quality sources – for example, journal articles, government reports, case studies, and so on. We’ll circle back to this in a minute.

The first stage of the research process is deciding on what your research question will be and then reviewing the existing literature (in other words, past studies and papers) to see what they say about that specific research question. In some cases, your professor may provide you with a predetermined research question (or set of questions). However, in many cases, you’ll need to find your own research question within a certain topic area.

Finding a strong research question hinges on identifying a meaningful research gap – in other words, an area that’s lacking in existing research. There’s a lot to unpack here, so if you wanna learn more, check out the plain-language explainer video below.

Once you’ve figured out which question (or questions) you’ll attempt to answer in your research paper, you’ll need to do a deep dive into the existing literature – this is called a “ literature search ”. Again, there are many ways to go about this, but your most likely starting point will be Google Scholar .

If you’re new to Google Scholar, think of it as Google for the academic world. You can start by simply entering a few different keywords that are relevant to your research question and it will then present a host of articles for you to review. What you want to pay close attention to here is the number of citations for each paper – the more citations a paper has, the more credible it is (generally speaking – there are some exceptions, of course).

how to use google scholar

Ideally, what you’re looking for are well-cited papers that are highly relevant to your topic. That said, keep in mind that citations are a cumulative metric , so older papers will often have more citations than newer papers – just because they’ve been around for longer. So, don’t fixate on this metric in isolation – relevance and recency are also very important.

Beyond Google Scholar, you’ll also definitely want to check out academic databases and aggregators such as Science Direct, PubMed, JStor and so on. These will often overlap with the results that you find in Google Scholar, but they can also reveal some hidden gems – so, be sure to check them out.

Once you’ve worked your way through all the literature, you’ll want to catalogue all this information in some sort of spreadsheet so that you can easily recall who said what, when and within what context. If you’d like, we’ve got a free literature spreadsheet that helps you do exactly that.

Don’t fixate on an article’s citation count in isolation - relevance (to your research question) and recency are also very important.

Step 2: Develop a structure and outline

With your research question pinned down and your literature digested and catalogued, it’s time to move on to planning your actual research paper .

It might sound obvious, but it’s really important to have some sort of rough outline in place before you start writing your paper. So often, we see students eagerly rushing into the writing phase, only to land up with a disjointed research paper that rambles on in multiple

Now, the secret here is to not get caught up in the fine details . Realistically, all you need at this stage is a bullet-point list that describes (in broad strokes) what you’ll discuss and in what order. It’s also useful to remember that you’re not glued to this outline – in all likelihood, you’ll chop and change some sections once you start writing, and that’s perfectly okay. What’s important is that you have some sort of roadmap in place from the start.

You need to have a rough outline in place before you start writing your paper - or you’ll end up with a disjointed research paper that rambles on.

At this stage you might be wondering, “ But how should I structure my research paper? ”. Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, but in general, a research paper will consist of a few relatively standardised components:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology

Let’s take a look at each of these.

First up is the introduction section . As the name suggests, the purpose of the introduction is to set the scene for your research paper. There are usually (at least) four ingredients that go into this section – these are the background to the topic, the research problem and resultant research question , and the justification or rationale. If you’re interested, the video below unpacks the introduction section in more detail. 

The next section of your research paper will typically be your literature review . Remember all that literature you worked through earlier? Well, this is where you’ll present your interpretation of all that content . You’ll do this by writing about recent trends, developments, and arguments within the literature – but more specifically, those that are relevant to your research question . The literature review can oftentimes seem a little daunting, even to seasoned researchers, so be sure to check out our extensive collection of literature review content here .

With the introduction and lit review out of the way, the next section of your paper is the research methodology . In a nutshell, the methodology section should describe to your reader what you did (beyond just reviewing the existing literature) to answer your research question. For example, what data did you collect, how did you collect that data, how did you analyse that data and so on? For each choice, you’ll also need to justify why you chose to do it that way, and what the strengths and weaknesses of your approach were.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that for some research papers, this aspect of the project may be a lot simpler . For example, you may only need to draw on secondary sources (in other words, existing data sets). In some cases, you may just be asked to draw your conclusions from the literature search itself (in other words, there may be no data analysis at all). But, if you are required to collect and analyse data, you’ll need to pay a lot of attention to the methodology section. The video below provides an example of what the methodology section might look like.

By this stage of your paper, you will have explained what your research question is, what the existing literature has to say about that question, and how you analysed additional data to try to answer your question. So, the natural next step is to present your analysis of that data . This section is usually called the “results” or “analysis” section and this is where you’ll showcase your findings.

Depending on your school’s requirements, you may need to present and interpret the data in one section – or you might split the presentation and the interpretation into two sections. In the latter case, your “results” section will just describe the data, and the “discussion” is where you’ll interpret that data and explicitly link your analysis back to your research question. If you’re not sure which approach to take, check in with your professor or take a look at past papers to see what the norms are for your programme.

Alright – once you’ve presented and discussed your results, it’s time to wrap it up . This usually takes the form of the “ conclusion ” section. In the conclusion, you’ll need to highlight the key takeaways from your study and close the loop by explicitly answering your research question. Again, the exact requirements here will vary depending on your programme (and you may not even need a conclusion section at all) – so be sure to check with your professor if you’re unsure.

Step 3: Write and refine

Finally, it’s time to get writing. All too often though, students hit a brick wall right about here… So, how do you avoid this happening to you?

Well, there’s a lot to be said when it comes to writing a research paper (or any sort of academic piece), but we’ll share three practical tips to help you get started.

First and foremost , it’s essential to approach your writing as an iterative process. In other words, you need to start with a really messy first draft and then polish it over multiple rounds of editing. Don’t waste your time trying to write a perfect research paper in one go. Instead, take the pressure off yourself by adopting an iterative approach.

Secondly , it’s important to always lean towards critical writing , rather than descriptive writing. What does this mean? Well, at the simplest level, descriptive writing focuses on the “ what ”, while critical writing digs into the “ so what ” – in other words, the implications. If you’re not familiar with these two types of writing, don’t worry! You can find a plain-language explanation here.

Last but not least, you’ll need to get your referencing right. Specifically, you’ll need to provide credible, correctly formatted citations for the statements you make. We see students making referencing mistakes all the time and it costs them dearly. The good news is that you can easily avoid this by using a simple reference manager . If you don’t have one, check out our video about Mendeley, an easy (and free) reference management tool that you can start using today.

Recap: Key Takeaways

We’ve covered a lot of ground here. To recap, the three steps to writing a high-quality research paper are:

  • To choose a research question and review the literature
  • To plan your paper structure and draft an outline
  • To take an iterative approach to writing, focusing on critical writing and strong referencing

Remember, this is just a b ig-picture overview of the research paper development process and there’s a lot more nuance to unpack. So, be sure to grab a copy of our free research paper template to learn more about how to write a research paper.

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How to Write a Scientific Paper: Practical Guidelines

Edgard delvin.

1 Centre de recherche, CHU Sainte-Justine

2 Département de Biochimie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada

Tahir S. Pillay

3 Department of Chemical Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria

4 Division of Chemical Pathology, University of Cape Town

5 National Health Laboratory Service, CTshwane Academic Division, Pretoria, South Africa

Anthony Newman

6 Life Sciences Department, Elsevier, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Precise, accurate and clear writing is essential for communicating in health sciences, as publication is an important component in the university criteria for academic promotion and in obtaining funding to support research. In spite of this, the development of writing skills is a subject infrequently included in the curricula of faculties of medicine and allied health sciences. Therefore clinical investigators require tools to fill this gap. The present paper presents a brief historical background to medical publication and practical guidelines for writing scientific papers for acceptance in good journals.


A scientific paper is the formal lasting record of a research process. It is meant to document research protocols, methods, results and conclusions derived from an initial working hypothesis. The first medical accounts date back to antiquity. Imhotep, Pharaoh of the 3 rd Dynasty, could be considered the founder of ancient Egyptian medicine as he has been credited with being the original author of what is now known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus ( Figure 1 ). The Papyrus, by giving some details on cures and anatomical observations, sets the basis of the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of numerous diseases. Closer to the Common Era, in 460 BCE, Hippocrates wrote 70 books on medicine. In 1020, the Golden age of the Muslim Culture, Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna ( Figure 2a ), recorded the Canon of medicine that was to become the most used medical text in Europe and Middle East for almost half a millennium. This was followed in the beginning of the 12 th Century bytheextensivetreatiseofMaimonides( Figure 2b ) (Moses ben Maimon) on Greek and Middle Eastern medicine. Of interest, by the end of the 11 th Century Trotula di Ruggiero, a woman physician, wrote several influential books on women’s ailment. A number of other hallmark treatises also became more accessible, thanks to the introduction of the printing press that allowed standardization of the texts. One example is the De Humani Corporis Fabrica by Vesalius which contains hundreds of illustrations of human dissection. Thomas A Lang provides an excellent concise history of scientific publications [ 1 ]. These were the days when writing and publishing scientific or philosophical works were the privilege of the few and hence there was no or little competition and no recorded peer reviewing system. Times have however changed, and contemporary scientists have to compose with an increasingly harsh competition in attracting editors and publishers attention. As an example, the number of reports and reviews on obesity and diabetes has increased from 400 to close to 4000/year and 50 to 600/year respectively over a period of 20 years ( Figure 3 ). The present article, essentially based on TA Lang’s guide for writing a scientific paper [ 1 ], will summarize the steps involved in the process of writing a scientific report and in increasing the likelihood of its acceptance.

This manuscript, written in 1600 BCE, is regarded as a copy of several earlier works ( 3000 BCE). It is part of a textbook on surgery the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of numerous ailments. BCE: Before the Common Era.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus (≈3000 BCE)

Figure 2a Avicenna 973-1037 C.E.Figure 2b Maimonides, 1135-1204 C.E.

Avicenna and Maimonides

Orange columns: original research papers; Green columns: reviews

Annual publication load in the field of obesity and diabetes over 20 years.

Reasons for publishing are varied. One may write to achieve a post-graduate degree, to obtain funding for pursuing research or for academic promotion. While all 3 reasons are perfectly legitimate, one must ask whether they are sufficient to be considered by editors, publishers and reviewers. Why then should the scientist write? The main reason is to provide to the scientific community data based on hypotheses that are innovative and thus to advance the understanding in a specific domain. One word of caution however, is that if a set of experiments has not been done or reported, it does not mean that it should be. It may simply reflect a lack of interest in it.


In order to assist with the decision process, pres-ent your work orally first to colleagues in your field who may be more experienced in publishing. This step will help you in gauging whether your work is publishable and in shaping the paper.

Targeting the journal, in which you want to present your data, is also a critical step and should be done before starting to write. One hint is to look for journals that have published similar work to yours, and that aims readers most likely to be interested in your research. This will allow your article to be well read and cited. These journals are also those that you are most likely to read on a regular basis and to cite abundantly. The next step is to decide whether you submit your manuscript to a top-ranking impact factor journal or to a journal of lower prestige. Although it is tempting to test the waters, or to obtain reviewers comments, be realistic about the contribution your work provides and submit to a journal with an appropriate rank.

Do not forget that each rejection delays publication and that the basin of reviewers within your specialty is shallow. Thus repeated submission to different journals could likely result in having your work submitted for review to the same re-viewer.


There are several types of scientific reports: observational, experimental, methodological, theoretical and review. Observational studies include 1) single-case report, 2) collective case reports on a series of patients having for example common signs and symptoms or being followed-up with similar protocols, 3) cross-sectional, 4) cohort studies, and 5) case-control studies. The latter 3 could be perceived as epidemiological studies as they may help establishing the prevalence of a condition, and identify a defined population with and without a particular condition (disease, injury, surgical complication). Experimental reports deal with research that tests a research hypothesis through an established protocol, and, in the case of health sciences, formulate plausible explanations for changes in biological systems. Methodological reports address for example advances in analytical technology, statistical methods and diagnostic approach. Theoretical reports suggest new working hypotheses and principles that have to be supported or disproved through experimental protocols. The review category can be sub-classified as narrative, systematic and meta-analytic. Narrative reviews are often broad overviews that could be biased as they are based on the personal experience of an expert relying on articles of his or her own choice. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are based on reproducible procedures and on high quality data. Researchers systematically identify and analyze all data collected in articles that test the same working hypothesis, avoiding selection bias, and report the data in a systematic fashion. They are particularly helpful in asking important questions in the field of healthcare and are often the initial step for innovative research. Rules or guidelines in writing such report must be followed if a quality systematic review is to be published.

For clinical research trials and systematic reviews or meta-analyses, use the Consort Statement (Consolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials) and the PRISMA Statement (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses) respectively [ 2 , 3 ]. This assures the editors and the reviewers that essential elements of the trials and of the reviews were tackled. It also speeds the peer review process. There are several other Statements that apply to epidemiological studies [ 4 ], non-randomized clinical trials [ 5 ], diagnostic test development ( 6 ) and genetic association studies ( 7 ). The Consortium of Laboratory Medicine Journal Editors has also published guidelines for reporting industry-sponsored laboratory research ( 8 ).


Literature review is the initial and essential step before starting your study and writing the scientific report based on it. In this process use multiple databases, multiple keyword combinations. It will allow you to track the latest development in your field and thus avoid you to find out that someone else has performed the study before you, and hence decrease the originality of your study. Do not forget that high-ranking research journals publish results of enough importance and interest to merit their publication.

Determining the authorship and the order of authorship, an ethical issue, is the second essential step, and is unfortunately often neglected. This step may avoid later conflicts as, despite existing guidelines, it remains a sensitive issue owing to personal biases and the internal politics of institutions. The International Committee of Medical Editors has adopted the following guidelines for the biomedical sciences ( 9 ).

“Authorship credit should be based only on: 1) Substantial contributions to the conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; 2) Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 3) Final approval of the version to be published. Conditions 1, 2 and 3 must be all met. Acquisition of funding, the collections of data, or general supervision of the research group, by themselves, do not justify authorship.” ( 9 , 10 )

The order of authorship should reflect the individual contribution to the research and to the publication, from most to least ( 11 ). The first author usually carries out the lead for the project reported. However the last author is often mistakenly perceived as the senior author. This is perpetuated from the European tradition and is discouraged. As there are divergent conventions among journals, the order of authorship order may or may not reflect the individual contributions; with the exception that the first author should be the one most responsible for the work.


Effective writing requires that the text helps the readers 1) understand the content and the context, 2) remember what the salient points are, 3) find the information rapidly and, 4) use or apply the information given. These cardinal qualities should be adorned with the precise usage of the language, clarity of the text, inclu-siveness of the information, and conciseness. Effective writing also means that you have to focus on the potential readers’ needs. Readers in science are informed individuals who are not passive, and who will formulate their own opinion of your writing whether or not the meaning is clear. Therefore you need to know who your audience is. The following 4 questions should help you writing a reader-based text, meaning written to meet the information needs of readers [ 12 ].

What do you assume your readers already know? In other words, which terms and concepts can you use without explanation, and which do you have to define?

What do they want to know? Readers in science will read only if they think they will learn something of value.

What do they need to know? Your text must contain all the information necessary for the reader to understand it, even if you think this information id obvious to them.

What do they think they know that is not so? Correcting misconceptions can be an important function of communication, and persuading readers to change their minds can be a challenging task.


Babbs and Tacker ’ s advice to write as much of the paper before performing the research project or experimental protocol may, at first sight, seem unexpected and counterintuitive [ 13 ], but in fact it is exactly what is being done when writing a research grant application. It will allow you to define the authorship alluded to before. The following section will briefly review the structure of the different sections of a manuscript and describe their purpose.

Reading the instructions to authors of the Journal you have decided to submit your manuscript is the first important step. They provide you with the specific requirements such as the way of listing the authors, type of abstract, word, figure or table limits and citation style. The Mulford Library of University of Toledo website contains instructions to authors for over 3000 journals ( ).

The general organization of an article follows the IMRAD format (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion). These may however vary. For instance, in clinical research or epidemiology studies, the methods section will include details on the subjects included, and there will be a statement of the limitation of the study. Although conclusions may not always be part of the structure, we believe that it should, even in methodological reports.

The tile page provides essential information so that the editor, reviewers, and readers will identify the manuscript and the authors at a glance as well as enabling them to classify the field to which the article pertains.

The title page must contain the following:

  • The tile of the article – it is an important part of the manuscript as it is the most often read and will induce the interested readers to pursue further. Therefore the title should be precise, accurate, specific and truthful;
  • Each author’s given name (it may be the full name or initials) and family name;
  • Each author’s affiliation;
  • Some journals ask for highest academic degree;
  • A running title that is usually limited to a number of characters. It must relate to the full title;
  • Key words that will serve for indexing;
  • For clinical studies, the trial’s registration number;
  • The name of the corresponding author with full contact information.

The abstract is also an important section of your manuscript. Importantly, the abstract is the part of the article that your peers will see when consulting publication databases such as PubMed. It is the advertisement to your work and will strongly influence the editor deciding whether it will be submitted to reviewers or not. It will also help the readers decide to read the full article. Hence it has to be comprehensible on its own. Writing an abstract is challenging. You have to carefully select the content and, while being concise, assure to deliver the essence of your manuscript.

Without going into details, there are 3 types of abstracts: descriptive, informative and structured. The descriptive abstract is particularly used for theoretical, methodological or review articles. It usually consists of a single paragraph of 150 words or less. The informative abstract, the most common one, contains specific information given in the article and, are organized with an introduction (background, objectives), methods, results and discussion with or without conclusion. They usually are 150 to 250 words in length. The structured abstract is in essence an informative abstract with sections labeled with headings. They may also be longer and are limited to 250 to 300 words. Recent technology also allows for graphical or even video abstracts. The latter are interesting in the context of cell biology as they enable the investigator to illustrate ex vivo experiment results (phagocytosis process for example).

Qualities of abstracts:

  • Understood without reading the full paper. Shoul dcontain no abbreviations.lf abbreviations are used, they must be defined. This however removes space for more important information;
  • Contains information consistent with the full report. Conclusions in the abstract must match those given in the full report;
  • Is attractive and contains information needed to decide whether to read the full report.


The introduction has 3 main goals: to establish the need and importance of your research, to indicate how you have filled the knowledge gap in your field and to give your readers a hint of what they will learn when reading your paper. To fulfil these goals, a four-part introduction consisting of a background statement, a problem statement, an activity statement and a forecasting statement, is best suited. Poorly defined background information and problem setting are the 2 most common weaknesses encountered in introductions. They stem from the false perception that peer readers know what the issue is and why the study to solve it is necessary. Although not a strict rule, the introduction in clinical science journals should target only references needed to establish the rationale for the study and the research protocol. This differ from more basic science or cell biology journals, for which a longer and elaborate introduction may be justified because the research at hand consists of several approaches each requiring background and justification.

The 4-part introduction consists of:

  • A background statement that provides the context and the approach of the research;
  • A problem statement that describes the nature, scope and importance of the problem or the knowledge gap;
  • An activity statement, that details the research question, sets the hypothesis and actions undertaken for the investigation;
  • A forecasting statement telling the readers whattheywillfìndwhen readingyourarticle [ 14 ].

Methods section

This section may be named “Materials and Methods”, “Experimental section” or “Patients and Methods” depending upon the type of journal. Its purpose to allow your readers to provide enough information on the methods used for your research and to judge on their adequacy. Although clinical and “basic” research protocols differ, the principles involved in describing the methods share similar features. Hence, the breadth of what is being studied and how the study can be performed is common to both. What differ are the specific settings. For example, when a study is conducted on humans, you must provide, up front, assurance that it has received the approval of you Institution Ethics Review Board (IRB) and that participants have provided full and informed consent. Similarly when the study involves animals, you must affirm that you have the agreement from your Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). These are too often forgotten, and Journals (most of them) abiding to the rules of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) will require such statement. Although journals publishing research reports in more fundamental science may not require such assurance, they do however also follow to strict ethics rules related to scientific misconduct or fraud such as data fabrication, data falsification. For clinical research papers, you have to provide information on how the participants were selected, identify the possible sources of bias and confounding factors and how they were diminished.

In terms of the measurements, you have to clearly identify the materials used as well as the suppliers with their location. You should also be unambiguous when describing the analytical method. If the method has already been published, give a brief account and refer to the original publication (not a review in which the method is mentioned without a description). If you have modified it, you have to provide a detailed account of the modifications and you have to validate its accuracy, precision and repeatability. Mention the units in which results are reported and, if necessary, include the conversion factors [mass units versus “système international” (S.I.)]. In clinical research, surrogate end-points are often used as biomarkers. Under those circumstances, you must show their validity or refer to a study that has already shown that are valid.

In cases of clinical trials, the Methods section should include the study design, the patient selection mode, interventions, type of outcomes.

Statistics are important in assuring the quality of the research project. Hence, you should consult a biostatistician at the time of devising the research protocol and not after having performed the experiments or the clinical trial.

The components of the section on statistics should include:

  • The way the data will be reported (mean, median, centiles for continuous data);
  • Details on participant assignments to the different groups (random allocation, consecutive entry);
  • Statistical comparison tools (parametric or non parametric statistics, paired or unpaired t-tests for normally distributed data and so on);
  • The statistical power calculation when determining the sample size to obtain valid and significant comparisons together with the a level;
  • The statistical software package used in the analysis.

Results section

The main purpose of the results section is to report the data that were collected and their relationship. It should also provide information on the modifications that have taken place because of unforeseen events leading to a modification of the initial protocol (loss of participants, reagent substitution, loss of data).

  • Report results as tables and figures whenever possible, avoid duplication in the text. The text should summarize the findings;
  • Report the data with the appropriate descriptive statistics;
  • Report any unanticipated events that could affect the results;
  • Report a complete account of observations and explanations for missing data (patient lost).

The discussion should set your research in context, reinforce its importance and show how your results have contributed to the further understanding of the problem posed. This should appear in the concluding remarks. The following organization could be helpful.

  • Briefly summarize the main results of your study in one or two paragraphs, and how they support your working hypothesis;
  • Provide an interpretation of your results and show how they logically fit in an overall scheme (biological or clinical);
  • Describe how your results compare with those of other investigators, explain the differences observed;
  • Discuss how your results may lead to a new hypothesis and further experimentation, or how they could enhance the diagnostic procedures.
  • Provide the limitations of your study and steps taken to reduce them. This could be placed in the concluding remarks.


The acknowledgements are important as they identify and thank the contributors to the study, who do not meet the criteria as co-authors. They also include the recognition of the granting agency. In this case the grant award number and source is usually included.

Declaration of competing interests

Competing interests arise when the author has more than one role that may lead to a situation where there is a conflict of interest. This is observed when the investigator has a simultaneous industrial consulting and academic position. In that case the results may not be agreeable to the industrial sponsor, who may impose a veto on publication or strongly suggest modifications to the conclusions. The investigator must clear this issue before starting the contracted research. In addition, the investigator may own shares or stock in the company whose product forms the basis of the study. Such conflicts of interest must be declared so that they are apparent to the readers.


The authors thank Thomas A Lang, for his advice in the preparation of this manuscript.

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  • 28 February 2018
  • Correction 16 March 2018

How to write a first-class paper

  • Virginia Gewin 0

Virginia Gewin is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon.

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Manuscripts may have a rigidly defined structure, but there’s still room to tell a compelling story — one that clearly communicates the science and is a pleasure to read. Scientist-authors and editors debate the importance and meaning of creativity and offer tips on how to write a top paper.

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Nature 555 , 129-130 (2018)


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Updates & Corrections

Correction 16 March 2018 : This article should have made clear that Altmetric is part of Digital Science, a company owned by Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, which is also the majority shareholder in Nature’s publisher, Springer Nature. Nature Research Editing Services is also owned by Springer Nature.

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The Fundamentals of Academic Science Writing

Writing is an essential skill for scientists, and learning how to write effectively starts with good fundamentals and lots of practice..

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Nathan Ni holds a PhD from Queens University. He is a science editor for The Scientist’s Creative Services Team who strives to better understand and communicate the relationships between health and disease.

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A person sitting in a laboratory writing notes with a pen in a notebook.

Writing is a big part of being a scientist, whether in the form of manuscripts, grants, reports, protocols, presentations, or even emails. However, many people look at writing as separate from science—a scientist writes, but scientists are not regarded as writers. 1 This outdated assertion means that writing and communication has been historically marginalized when it comes to training and educating new scientists. In truth, being a professional writer is part of being a scientist . 1 In today’s hypercompetitive academic environment, scientists need to be as proficient with the pen as they are with the pipette in order to showcase their work. 

Using the Active Voice

Stereotypical academic writing is rigid, dry, and mechanical, delivering prose that evokes memories of high school and undergraduate laboratory reports. The hallmark of this stereotype is passive voice overuse. In writing, the passive voice is when the action comes at the end of a clause—for example, “the book was opened”. In scientific writing, it is particularly prevalent when detailing methodologies and results. How many times have we seen something like “citric acid was added to the solution, resulting in a two-fold reduction in pH” rather than “adding citric acid to the solution reduced the pH two-fold”?

Scientists should write in the active voice as much as possible. However, the active voice tends to place much more onus on the writer’s perspective, something that scientists have historically been instructed to stay away from. For example, “we treated the cells with phenylephrine” places much more emphasis on the operator than “the cells were treated with phenylephrine.” Furthermore, pronoun usage in academic writing is traditionally discouraged, but it is much harder, especially for those with non-native English proficiency, to properly use active voice without them. 

Things are changing though, and scientists are recognizing the importance of giving themselves credit. Many major journals, including Nature , Science , PLoS One , and PNAS allow pronouns in their manuscripts, and prominent style guides such as APA even recommend using first-person pronouns, as traditional third-person writing can be ambiguous. 2 It is vital that a manuscript clearly and definitively highlights and states what the authors specifically did that was so important or novel, in contrast to what was already known. A simple “we found…” statement in the abstract and the introduction goes a long way towards giving readers the hook that they need to read further.

Keeping Sentences Simple

Writing in the active voice also makes it easier to organize manuscripts and construct arguments. Active voice uses fewer words than passive voice to explain the same concept. It also introduces argument components sequentially—subject, claim, and then evidence—whereas passive voice introduces claim and evidence before the subject. Compare, for example, “T cell abundance did not differ between wildtype and mutant mice” versus “there was no difference between wildtype and mutant mice in terms of T cell abundance.” T cell abundance, as the measured parameter, is the most important part of the sentence, but it is only introduced at the very end of the latter example.

The sequential nature of active voice therefore makes it easier to not get bogged down in overloading the reader with clauses and adhering to a general principle of “one sentence, one concept (or idea, or argument).” Consider the following sentence: 

Research on CysLT 2 R , expressed in humans in umbilical vein endothelial cells, macrophages, platelets, the cardiac Purkinje system, and coronary endothelial cells , had been hampered by a lack of selective pharmacological agents , the majority of work instead using the nonselective cysLT antagonist/partial agonist Bay-u9773 or genetic models of CysLT 2 R expression modulation) .

The core message of this sentence is that CysLT 2 R research is hampered by a lack of selective pharmacological agents, but that message is muddled by the presence of two other major pieces of information: where CysLT 2 R is expressed and what researchers used to study CysLT 2 R instead of selective pharmacological agents. Because this sentence contains three main pieces of information, it is better to break it up into three separate sentences for clarity.

In humans, CysLT 2 R is expressed in umbilical vein endothelial cells, macrophages, platelets, the cardiac Purkinje system, and coronary endothelial cells . CysLT 2 R research has been hampered by a lack of selective pharmacological agents . Instead, the majority of work investigating the receptor has used either the nonselective cysLT antagonist/partial agonist Bay-u9773 or genetic models of CysLT 2 R expression modulation.

The Right Way to Apply Jargon

There is another key advantage to organizing sentences in this simple manner: it lets scientists manage how jargon is introduced to the reader. Jargon—special words used within a specific field or on a specific topic—is necessary in scientific writing. It is critical for succinctly describing key elements and explaining key concepts. But too much jargon can make a manuscript unreadable, either because the reader does not understand the terminology or because they are bogged down in reading all of the definitions. 

The key to using jargon is to make it as easy as possible for the audience. General guidelines instruct writers to define new terms only when they are first used. However, it is cumbersome for a reader to backtrack considerable distances in a manuscript to look up a definition. If a term is first introduced in the introduction but not mentioned again until the discussion, the writer should re-define the term in a more casual manner. For example: “PI3K can be reversibly inhibited by LY294002 and irreversibly inhibited by wortmannin” in the introduction, accompanied by “when we applied the PI3K inhibitor LY294002” for the discussion. This not only makes things easier for the reader, but it also re-emphasizes what the scientist did and the results they obtained.

Practice Makes Better

Finally, the most important fundamental for science writing is to not treat it like a chore or a nuisance. Just as a scientist optimizes a bench assay through repeated trial and error, combined with literature reviews on what steps others have implemented, a scientist should practice, nurture, and hone their writing skills through repeated drafting, editing, and consultation. Do not be afraid to write. Putting pen to paper can help organize one’s thoughts, expose next steps for exploration, or even highlight additional experiments required to patch knowledge or logic gaps in existing studies. 

Looking for more information on scientific writing? Check out The Scientist’s TS SciComm  section. Looking for some help putting together a manuscript, a figure, a poster, or anything else? The Scientist’s Scientific Services  may have the professional help that you need.

  • Schimel J. Writing Science: How to Write Papers That Get Cited And Proposals That Get Funded . Oxford University Press; 2012.
  • First-person pronouns. American Psychological Association. Updated July 2022. Accessed March 2024.  

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Writing a Scientific Paper

Writing a scientific paper is very similar to writing a lab report. The structure of each is primarily the same, but the purpose of each is different. Lab reports are meant to reflect understanding of the material and learn something new, while scientific papers are meant to contribute knowledge to a field of study.  A scientific paper is broken down into eight sections: title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and references. 

  • Ex: "Determining the Free Chlorine Content of Pool Water"
  • Abstracts are a summary of the research as a whole and should familiarize the reader with the purpose of the research. 
  • Abstracts will always be written last, even though they are the first paragraph of a scientific paper. 
  • Unlike a lab report, all scientific papers will have an abstract.
  • Why was the research done?
  • What problem is being addressed?
  • What results were found?
  • What are the meaning of the results?
  • How is the problem better understood now than before, if at all?


  • The introduction of a scientific paper discusses the problem being studied and other theory that is relevant to understanding the findings. 
  • The hypothesis of the experiment and the motivation for the research are stated in this section. 
  • Write the introduction in your own words. Try not to copy from a lab manual or other guidelines. Instead, show comprehension of the research by briefly explaining the problem.

Methods and Materials

  • Ex: pipette, graduated cylinder, 1.13mg of Na, 0.67mg Ag
  • List the steps taken as they actually happened during the experiment, not as they were supposed to happen. 
  • If written correctly, another researcher should be able to duplicate the experiment and get the same or very similar results. 
  • In a scientific paper, most often the steps taken during the research are discussed more in length and with more detail than they are in lab reports. 
  • The results show the data that was collected or found during the research. 
  • Explain in words the data that was collected.
  • Tables should be labeled numerically, as "Table 1", "Table 2", etc. Other figures should be labeled numerically as "Figure 1", "Figure 2", etc. 
  • Calculations to understand the data can also be presented in the results. 
  • The discussion section is one of the most important parts of a scientific paper. It analyzes the results of the research and is a discussion of the data. 
  • If any results are unexpected, explain why they are unexpected and how they did or did not effect the data obtained. 
  • Analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the design of the research and compare your results to similar research.
  • If there are any experimental errors, analyze them.
  • Explain your results and discuss them using relevant terms and theories.
  • What do the results indicate?
  • What is the significance of the results?
  • Are there any gaps in knowledge?
  • Are there any new questions that have been raised?
  • The conclusion is a summation of the experiment. It should clearly and concisely state what was learned and its importance.
  • If there is future work that needs to be done, it can be explained in the conclusion.
  • When any outside sources to support a claim or explain background information, those sources must be cited in the references section of the lab report. 
  • Scientific papers will always use outside references. 

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Scientific research is not a solitary endeavor. Rather, science is a communal effort. Scientists use findings and ideas of other scientists as the basis for their own studies, and in turn report their findings back to the scientific community. Thus, communication of findings is part of the scientific process. In fact, only by writing papers, presenting seminars, or reporting findings in some other way, does one become a full participant in the scientific or research community. In other words, a good scientist is also a good communicator.

A scientific research paper normally follows a standard outline and format (bolded below). A common problem in many scientific papers is that the author does not organize material into the appropriate sections. Thus, pay close attention to the functions of the various sections described herein.

TITLE. The title of your paper is very important. It should be a clear and concise description of the content of the paper. When creating a title, express the subject but do not try to impress the reader with technical jargon. Sometimes a clever, informed phrase can attract readers, but wittiness is not the goal. Remember, your goal is to communicate information. A simple, direct title is usually best.

ABSTRACT. The abstract summarizes the essentials of the paper. It briefly describes the purpose, any unusual methodology, and key results of the project. Abstracts are often limited to a few hundred words, so they need to be concise. The abstract is best written after a paper is completed. (For more information on writing a good abstract, see the Abstract UFI.)

INTRODUCTION. Good scientific papers explain how the specific study being described is related to other research and ideas on the same topic. Good papers not only report on the specific details of a particular project but also help illuminate larger issues of interest to readers of the discipline. The introduction is where the author helps the reader see the larger context for the specific study. This is accomplished by briefly reviewing some of the relevant literature and explaining how the current project is related to the existing body of work. Interpretations made earlier and now known to be incorrect are disqualified here as well. This is also the time to describe the goals and objectives of the study, e.g., to test certain hypotheses or answer a set of questions.

METHODOLOGY. The methodology section, sometimes called "Materials and Methods", is where the author describes how the study was conducted. The description should be complete enough so that the reader can evaluate the appropriateness of the methods to answer the questions or test the hypotheses as presented in the Introduction. If you employed some methods that others have used, you should cite the publications in which those methods are described. In many cases, it is appropriate for geologists to include a subsection (or even a separate section) in which you describe your study site. Headings often used include “Geologic Setting”, or “Location”, or (“Stratigraphic”, “Depositional” or “Structural”) “Setting”. If some statistical analyses were performed on the data, they should be described completely and accurately in the Methodology section. Another worker should be able to easily repeat your methods.

RESULTS. In the Results section, one should report, but not discuss, the primary results. In other words, "Just the facts, please". The verbal report of results is supplemented with tables of data and/or figures (graphs, diagrams, photographs, etc.). Remember, it is not the reader's job to figure out what the various tables and figures are trying to illustrate. An author needs to summarize the key findings verbally first and then refer the reader to relevant tables and figures for more a more detailed, or graphic, representation of the results. Figures and tables should each be numbered consecutively so that the reader may refer to them when intended, e.g., „The results show a strong correlation between rate of uplift and rate of erosion (Fig. 3)'. All tables should have a descriptive title, and a caption for each figure should be provided. The caption should include the subject or title of the figure and all other information that will help the reader understand or interpret what is being illustrated.

Notice that much of this discussion of “Results” is focused on Figures and Tables. This is no accident. In geological writing, it is as important (more important?) to carefully plan illustrations and tables as it is the text. Poor illustrations can negate very sound research by failing to clearly illustrate one‟s discoveries. In fact poor graphing skills can fail to demonstrate scientific relationships that are present in one‟s data. Researchers are responsible for learning how best to graph relationships and how to work with graphics to best illustrate their scientific results (see the related handout on “Preparing Scientific Posters for Geologic Conferences.”).

DISCUSSION. The discussion is the section of the paper in which the author describes what the results mean. Were the original hypotheses supported, or questions answered? How are unexpected results explained? Do findings support or contradict findings from similar studies? These are some of the sorts of questions you might address. If most of the discussion is confined to the specific results of your study, the section may be better titled “Interpretations” or “Analysis of Results”. However, it is usually appropriate to comment on the larger significance and ramifications of your findings as part of a “Discussion” of the implications of the work. This section should include thorough citation of the works of others that are involved in your discussion.

CONCLUSIONS. It is often important to extract the main conclusions from the text and summarize them as the “take home” ideas of the paper. This is frequently done with a numbered list of the points made.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. Most scientific articles include a brief, but important, section in which the authors thank various people, granting agencies and institutions who have contributed in some way to the work. These contributions could be in helping to form the original hypotheses, collecting data, aiding data analysis, providing financial resources or collecting permission, or reviewing an earlier draft.

LITERATURE CITED. This section is sometimes called “References Cited”. Here one provides full citations for all works mentioned in the body of the paper and only those works mentioned in the paper. Every research paper follows one or another bibliographic style. Check with professors (or journal editors) to learn the style, or apply a digital style editor, and use it consistently for all citations.

A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS. Contrary to what most students have been taught, there is no hard and fast rule about the use of active vs passive voice in scientific articles. Likewise, there is no standard format for citing other sources or for citation style in the Literature Cited section. This means you need to consult with the editor or professor ahead of time to find out the specific instructions for the paper you are writing. Above all strive to be direct and clear. Ultimately, you are trying to persuade the readers about the significance of your findings. Only in very rare circumstances do results speak for themselves. In most cases they need an ardent and articulate advocate- -you!

This UFI (Useful Flyer of Information) was developed and written by Mark A. Davis for the benefit of students. It has been modified by J. M. Erickson and the Geowriting class at St. Lawrence University. For other UFIs see the Geology Dept.UFI webpage

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How to Write a Scientific Essay

How to write a scientific essay

When writing any essay it’s important to always keep the end goal in mind. You want to produce a document that is detailed, factual, about the subject matter and most importantly to the point.

Writing scientific essays will always be slightly different to when you write an essay for say English Literature . You need to be more analytical and precise when answering your questions. To help achieve this, you need to keep three golden rules in mind.

  • Analysing the question, so that you know exactly what you have to do

Planning your answer

  • Writing the essay

Now, let’s look at these steps in more detail to help you fully understand how to apply the three golden rules.

Analysing the question

  • Start by looking at the instruction. Essays need to be written out in continuous prose. You shouldn’t be using bullet points or writing in note form.
  • If it helps to make a particular point, however, you can use a diagram providing it is relevant and adequately explained.
  • Look at the topic you are required to write about. The wording of the essay title tells you what you should confine your answer to – there is no place for interesting facts about other areas.

The next step is to plan your answer. What we are going to try to do is show you how to produce an effective plan in a very short time. You need a framework to show your knowledge otherwise it is too easy to concentrate on only a few aspects.

For example, when writing an essay on biology we can divide the topic up in a number of different ways. So, if you have to answer a question like ‘Outline the main properties of life and system reproduction’

The steps for planning are simple. Firstly, define the main terms within the question that need to be addressed. Then list the properties asked for and lastly, roughly assess how many words of your word count you are going to allocate to each term.

Writing the Essay

The final step (you’re almost there), now you have your plan in place for the essay, it’s time to get it all down in black and white. Follow your plan for answering the question, making sure you stick to the word count, check your spelling and grammar and give credit where credit’s (always reference your sources).

How Tutors Breakdown Essays

An exceptional essay

  • reflects the detail that could be expected from a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of relevant parts of the specification
  • is free from fundamental errors
  • maintains appropriate depth and accuracy throughout
  • includes two or more paragraphs of material that indicates greater depth or breadth of study

A good essay

An average essay

  • contains a significant amount of material that reflects the detail that could be expected from a knowledge and understanding of relevant parts of the specification.

In practice this will amount to about half the essay.

  • is likely to reflect limited knowledge of some areas and to be patchy in quality
  • demonstrates a good understanding of basic principles with some errors and evidence of misunderstanding

A poor essay

  • contains much material which is below the level expected of a candidate who has completed the course
  • Contains fundamental errors reflecting a poor grasp of basic principles and concepts

how to write a scientific research essay

Privacy Overview

Writing an Introduction for a Scientific Paper

Dr. michelle harris, dr. janet batzli, biocore.

This section provides guidelines on how to construct a solid introduction to a scientific paper including background information, study question , biological rationale, hypothesis , and general approach . If the Introduction is done well, there should be no question in the reader’s mind why and on what basis you have posed a specific hypothesis.

Broad Question : based on an initial observation (e.g., “I see a lot of guppies close to the shore. Do guppies like living in shallow water?”). This observation of the natural world may inspire you to investigate background literature or your observation could be based on previous research by others or your own pilot study. Broad questions are not always included in your written text, but are essential for establishing the direction of your research.

Background Information : key issues, concepts, terminology, and definitions needed to understand the biological rationale for the experiment. It often includes a summary of findings from previous, relevant studies. Remember to cite references, be concise, and only include relevant information given your audience and your experimental design. Concisely summarized background information leads to the identification of specific scientific knowledge gaps that still exist. (e.g., “No studies to date have examined whether guppies do indeed spend more time in shallow water.”)

Testable Question : these questions are much more focused than the initial broad question, are specific to the knowledge gap identified, and can be addressed with data. (e.g., “Do guppies spend different amounts of time in water <1 meter deep as compared to their time in water that is >1 meter deep?”)

Biological Rationale : describes the purpose of your experiment distilling what is known and what is not known that defines the knowledge gap that you are addressing. The “BR” provides the logic for your hypothesis and experimental approach, describing the biological mechanism and assumptions that explain why your hypothesis should be true.

The biological rationale is based on your interpretation of the scientific literature, your personal observations, and the underlying assumptions you are making about how you think the system works. If you have written your biological rationale, your reader should see your hypothesis in your introduction section and say to themselves, “Of course, this hypothesis seems very logical based on the rationale presented.”

  • A thorough rationale defines your assumptions about the system that have not been revealed in scientific literature or from previous systematic observation. These assumptions drive the direction of your specific hypothesis or general predictions.
  • Defining the rationale is probably the most critical task for a writer, as it tells your reader why your research is biologically meaningful. It may help to think about the rationale as an answer to the questions— how is this investigation related to what we know, what assumptions am I making about what we don’t yet know, AND how will this experiment add to our knowledge? *There may or may not be broader implications for your study; be careful not to overstate these (see note on social justifications below).
  • Expect to spend time and mental effort on this. You may have to do considerable digging into the scientific literature to define how your experiment fits into what is already known and why it is relevant to pursue.
  • Be open to the possibility that as you work with and think about your data, you may develop a deeper, more accurate understanding of the experimental system. You may find the original rationale needs to be revised to reflect your new, more sophisticated understanding.
  • As you progress through Biocore and upper level biology courses, your rationale should become more focused and matched with the level of study e ., cellular, biochemical, or physiological mechanisms that underlie the rationale. Achieving this type of understanding takes effort, but it will lead to better communication of your science.

***Special note on avoiding social justifications: You should not overemphasize the relevance of your experiment and the possible connections to large-scale processes. Be realistic and logical —do not overgeneralize or state grand implications that are not sensible given the structure of your experimental system. Not all science is easily applied to improving the human condition. Performing an investigation just for the sake of adding to our scientific knowledge (“pure or basic science”) is just as important as applied science. In fact, basic science often provides the foundation for applied studies.

Hypothesis / Predictions : specific prediction(s) that you will test during your experiment. For manipulative experiments, the hypothesis should include the independent variable (what you manipulate), the dependent variable(s) (what you measure), the organism or system , the direction of your results, and comparison to be made.

If you are doing a systematic observation , your hypothesis presents a variable or set of variables that you predict are important for helping you characterize the system as a whole, or predict differences between components/areas of the system that help you explain how the system functions or changes over time.

Experimental Approach : Briefly gives the reader a general sense of the experiment, the type of data it will yield, and the kind of conclusions you expect to obtain from the data. Do not confuse the experimental approach with the experimental protocol . The experimental protocol consists of the detailed step-by-step procedures and techniques used during the experiment that are to be reported in the Methods and Materials section.

Some Final Tips on Writing an Introduction

  • As you progress through the Biocore sequence, for instance, from organismal level of Biocore 301/302 to the cellular level in Biocore 303/304, we expect the contents of your “Introduction” paragraphs to reflect the level of your coursework and previous writing experience. For example, in Biocore 304 (Cell Biology Lab) biological rationale should draw upon assumptions we are making about cellular and biochemical processes.
  • Be Concise yet Specific: Remember to be concise and only include relevant information given your audience and your experimental design. As you write, keep asking, “Is this necessary information or is this irrelevant detail?” For example, if you are writing a paper claiming that a certain compound is a competitive inhibitor to the enzyme alkaline phosphatase and acts by binding to the active site, you need to explain (briefly) Michaelis-Menton kinetics and the meaning and significance of Km and Vmax. This explanation is not necessary if you are reporting the dependence of enzyme activity on pH because you do not need to measure Km and Vmax to get an estimate of enzyme activity.
  • Another example: if you are writing a paper reporting an increase in Daphnia magna heart rate upon exposure to caffeine you need not describe the reproductive cycle of magna unless it is germane to your results and discussion. Be specific and concrete, especially when making introductory or summary statements.

Where Do You Discuss Pilot Studies? Many times it is important to do pilot studies to help you get familiar with your experimental system or to improve your experimental design. If your pilot study influences your biological rationale or hypothesis, you need to describe it in your Introduction. If your pilot study simply informs the logistics or techniques, but does not influence your rationale, then the description of your pilot study belongs in the Materials and Methods section.  

How will introductions be evaluated? The following is part of the rubric we will be using to evaluate your papers.

Nature Masterclass Course – Writing a Research Paper: 2nd Edition

On this page, description.

Writing research papers allows you to contribute to the scientific record, and is critical for advancing your career. To ensure that the findings you have invested so much effort in have an impact on your scientific community, it is pivotal that the paper you write is effective. In other words, it needs to be  informative, concise, well structured, and engaging . An effective research paper makes it easier to convey to editors and reviewers the significance of presented outcomes. It also provides researchers with the information they need, boosting the dissemination of your work.

This course will introduce you to powerful narrative tools and principles of scientific writing. It will also teach you how to apply them to your next manuscript. Don’t miss out and start learning today!

This is the second edition of our highly popular ‘Writing a Research Paper’ course. We recommend you take this updated version even if you have already started  the first edition . However, the previous version of the course is still available, if you wish to continue it to obtain your certificate. If you have already completed the first edition of the course you will still be able to access your certificate on the progress page under “My dashboard”. 

The benefits of this new 2nd edition

  • Restructured content for a better learning experience
  • Enriched content with extensive real-world examples
  • Bite-size lessons on each topic to fit busy schedules
  • Strategies to apply narrative tools when writing research papers
  • Detailed examples for explaining concepts, taken from real papers where possible
  • Step-by-step strategies and how to apply them to your research paper
  • Portfolio activities that empower you to transfer knowledge into practice.

What you’ll learn

  • Understand what makes an effective research paper
  • Gain insights on the preferred structure of a  Nature  published paper
  • Leverage narrative tools and their application to scientific writing
  • Master the principles of scientific writing style
  • Write a research paper section by section
  • Develop effective titles and abstracts
  • Finalize your research paper for submission.

This is a course in the Nature Masterclasses, for which Penn has an institutional subscription. For a broad overview and guide to accessing the courses, see Nature Masterclasses: Overview .

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Did you ever imagine that essay writing was just for students in the Humanities? Well, think again! 

For science students, tackling a science essay might seem challenging, as it not only demands a deep understanding of the subject but also strong writing skills. 

However, fret not because we've got your back!

With the right steps and tips, you can write an engaging and informative science essay easily!

This blog will take you through all the important steps of writing a science essay, from choosing a topic to presenting the final work.

So, let's get into it!

Arrow Down

  • 1. What Is a Science Essay?
  • 2. How To Write a Science Essay?
  • 3. How to Structure a Science Essay?
  • 4. Science Essay Examples
  • 5. How to Choose the Right Science Essay Topic
  • 6. Science Essay Topics
  • 7. Science Essay Writing Tips

What Is a Science Essay?

A science essay is an academic paper focusing on a scientific topic from physics, chemistry, biology, or any other scientific field.

Science essays are mostly expository. That is, they require you to explain your chosen topic in detail. However, they can also be descriptive and exploratory.

A descriptive science essay aims to describe a certain scientific phenomenon according to established knowledge.

On the other hand, the exploratory science essay requires you to go beyond the current theories and explore new interpretations.

So before you set out to write your essay, always check out the instructions given by your instructor. Whether a science essay is expository or exploratory must be clear from the start. Or, if you face any difficulty, you can take help from a science essay writer as well. 

Moreover, check out this video to understand scientific writing in detail.

Now that you know what it is, let's look at the steps you need to take to write a science essay. 

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How To Write a Science Essay?

Writing a science essay is not as complex as it may seem. All you need to do is follow the right steps to create an impressive piece of work that meets the assigned criteria.

Here's what you need to do:

Choose Your Topic

A good topic forms the foundation for an engaging and well-written essay. Therefore, you should ensure that you pick something interesting or relevant to your field of study. 

To choose a good topic, you can brainstorm ideas relating to the subject matter. You may also find inspiration from other science essays or articles about the same topic.

Conduct Research

Once you have chosen your topic, start researching it thoroughly to develop a strong argument or discussion in your essay. 

Make sure you use reliable sources and cite them properly . You should also make notes while conducting your research so that you can reference them easily when writing the essay. Or, you can get expert assistance from an essay writing service to manage your citations. 

Create an Outline

A good essay outline helps to organize the ideas in your paper. It serves as a guide throughout the writing process and ensures you don’t miss out on important points.

An outline makes it easier to write a well-structured paper that flows logically. It should be detailed enough to guide you through the entire writing process.

However, your outline should be flexible, and it's sometimes better to change it along the way to improve your structure.

Start Writing

Once you have a good outline, start writing the essay by following your plan.

The first step in writing any essay is to draft it. This means putting your thoughts down on paper in a rough form without worrying about grammar or spelling mistakes.

So begin your essay by introducing the topic, then carefully explain it using evidence and examples to support your argument.

Don't worry if your first draft isn't perfect - it's just the starting point!

Proofread & Edit

After finishing your first draft, take time to proofread and edit it for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Proofreading is the process of checking for grammatical mistakes. It should be done after you have finished writing your essay.

Editing, on the other hand, involves reviewing the structure and organization of your essay and its content. It should be done before you submit your final work.

Both proofreading and editing are essential for producing a high-quality essay. Make sure to give yourself enough time to do them properly!

After revising the essay, you should format it according to the guidelines given by your instructor. This could involve using a specific font size, page margins, or citation style.

Most science essays are written in Times New Roman font with 12-point size and double spacing. The margins should be 1 inch on all sides, and the text should be justified.

In addition, you must cite your sources properly using a recognized citation style such as APA , Chicago , or Harvard . Make sure to follow the guidelines closely so that your essay looks professional.

Following these steps will help you create an informative and well-structured science essay that meets the given criteria.

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How to Structure a Science Essay?

A basic science essay structure includes an introduction, body, and conclusion. 

Let's look at each of these briefly.

  • Introduction

Your essay introduction should introduce your topic and provide a brief overview of what you will discuss in the essay. It should also state your thesis or main argument.

For instance, a thesis statement for a science essay could be, 

"The human body is capable of incredible feats, as evidenced by the many athletes who have competed in the Olympic games."

The body of your essay will contain the bulk of your argument or discussion. It should be divided into paragraphs, each discussing a different point.

For instance, imagine you were writing about sports and the human body. 

Your first paragraph can discuss the physical capabilities of the human body. 

The second paragraph may be about the physical benefits of competing in sports. 

Similarly, in the third paragraph, you can present one or two case studies of specific athletes to support your point. 

Once you have explained all your points in the body, it’s time to conclude the essay.

Your essay conclusion should summarize the main points of your essay and leave the reader with a sense of closure.

In the conclusion, you reiterate your thesis and sum up your arguments. You can also suggest implications or potential applications of the ideas discussed in the essay. 

By following this structure, you will create a well-organized essay.

Check out a few example essays to see this structure in practice.

Science Essay Examples

A great way to get inspired when writing a science essay is to look at other examples of successful essays written by others. 

Here are some examples that will give you an idea of how to write your essay.

Science Essay About Genetics - Science Essay Example

Environmental Science Essay Example | PDF Sample

The Science of Nanotechnology

Science, Non-Science, and Pseudo-Science

The Science Of Science Education

Science in our Daily Lives

Short Science Essay Example

Let’s take a look at a short science essay: 

Want to read more essay examples? Here, you can find more science essay examples to learn from.

How to Choose the Right Science Essay Topic

Choosing the right science essay topic is a critical first step in crafting a compelling and engaging essay. Here's a concise guide on how to make this decision wisely:

  • Consider Your Interests: Start by reflecting on your personal interests within the realm of science. Selecting a topic that genuinely fascinates you will make the research and writing process more enjoyable and motivated.
  • Relevance to the Course: Ensure that your chosen topic aligns with your course or assignment requirements. Read the assignment guidelines carefully to understand the scope and focus expected by your instructor.
  • Current Trends and Issues: Stay updated with the latest scientific developments and trends. Opting for a topic that addresses contemporary issues not only makes your essay relevant but also demonstrates your awareness of current events in the field.
  • Narrow Down the Scope: Science is vast, so narrow your topic to a manageable scope. Instead of a broad subject like "Climate Change," consider a more specific angle like "The Impact of Melting Arctic Ice on Global Sea Levels."
  • Available Resources: Ensure that there are sufficient credible sources and research materials available for your chosen topic. A lack of resources can hinder your research efforts.
  • Discuss with Your Instructor: If you're uncertain about your topic choice, don't hesitate to consult your instructor or professor. They can provide valuable guidance and may even suggest specific topics based on your academic goals.

Science Essay Topics

Choosing an appropriate topic for a science essay is one of the first steps in writing a successful paper.

Here are a few science essay topics to get you started:

  • How space exploration affects our daily lives?
  • How has technology changed our understanding of medicine?
  • Are there ethical considerations to consider when conducting scientific research?
  • How does climate change affect the biodiversity of different parts of the world?
  • How can artificial intelligence be used in medicine?
  • What impact have vaccines had on global health?
  • What is the future of renewable energy?
  • How do we ensure that genetically modified organisms are safe for humans and the environment?
  • The influence of social media on human behavior: A social science perspective
  • What are the potential risks and benefits of stem cell therapy?

Important science topics can cover anything from space exploration to chemistry and biology. So you can choose any topic according to your interests!

Need more topics? We have gathered 100+ science essay topics to help you find a great topic!

Continue reading to find some tips to help you write a successful science essay. 

Science Essay Writing Tips

Once you have chosen a topic and looked at examples, it's time to start writing the science essay.

Here are some key tips for a successful essay:

  • Research thoroughly

Make sure you do extensive research before you begin writing your paper. This will ensure that the facts and figures you include are accurate and supported by reliable sources.

  • Use clear language

Avoid using jargon or overly technical language when writing your essay. Plain language is easier to understand and more engaging for readers.

  • Referencing

Always provide references for any information you include in your essay. This will demonstrate that you acknowledge other people's work and show that the evidence you use is credible.

Make sure to follow the basic structure of an essay and organize your thoughts into clear sections. This will improve the flow and make your essay easier to read.

  • Ask someone to proofread

It’s also a good idea to get someone else to proofread your work as they may spot mistakes that you have missed.

These few tips will help ensure that your science essay is well-written and informative!

You've learned the steps to writing a successful science essay and looked at some examples and topics to get you started. 

Make sure you thoroughly research, use clear language, structure your thoughts, and proofread your essay. With these tips, you’re sure to write a great science essay! 

Do you still need expert help writing a science essay? Our science essay writing service is here to help. With our team of professional writers, you can rest assured that your essay will be written to the highest standards.

Contact our online writing service now to get started!

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Set The Stage: How To Write A Research Paper Introduction

By Laura Brown on 31st March 2024

Are you planning to start with your research paper introduction? Your answer must be Yes! This is the reason you have landed on this page. By this time, you may also have completed your proposal. If, not, you may need a guide to write a research proposal .

But, if you are done with it and now looking forward to your research proposal, the first step would be to understand how to write an introduction of a research paper. Let’s not wait anymore and directly dig into the guide. We have prepared 9 simple steps with which you can master writing an introduction to a research paper!

How To Write A Research Paper Introduction In 9 Easy Steps

Step 1: Provide An Overview

As you plan to comprehend the steps on how to write a research paper introduction, let’s kick things off by giving your readers a bird’s-eye view of your research.

Provide a brief overview of what your paper will cover and highlight the key topics and areas of focus. This sets the stage for what’s coming up and gives your readers a roadmap they can follow.

Social media has become an integral part of daily life for millions worldwide. Its pervasive influence extends beyond social interactions to various aspects of society, including mental health. This paper aims to explore the complex relationship between social media usage and mental well-being, shedding light on its multifaceted impact.

Step 2: Discuss The Significance

Next, you need to describe why your research matters. It is essential to discuss the significance of your topic. So, you need to highlight its relevance and importance in the broader context.

For this, you can explain why your readers should care about your research! Moreover, you should tell your readers how it contributes to existing knowledge or addresses a gap in the literature.

The significance of this research lies in the growing concern over the potential effects of excessive social media use on mental health. With the rise of social media platforms, concerns about increased stress, anxiety, and depression have emerged, prompting a need for comprehensive analysis and understanding.

Step 3: Identify Your Research Problems

Once you are done with significance, it’s time to pinpoint the specific problems or questions your research aims to address.

Here, you need to identify the challenges, gaps, or uncertainties in the current understanding of your topic that you are planning to resolve or explore. This part can be used to clarify the purpose of your study.

Despite the abundance of research on social media and mental health, gaps and inconsistencies persist. This study seeks to address key research problems, such as the nuanced effects of different social media platforms, the role of user behavior, and the influence of societal norms and perceptions.

Step 4: Outline The Objectives

To outline the objectives of your study, you should clearly state what you aim to achieve through your research. No matter if it’s to answer specific questions, test hypotheses, or provide insights into a particular phenomenon.

Remember that your objectives serve as guiding principles for your study and they will go on to shape the direction and focus of your research. If you feel like facing difficulty while identifying the objectives of your research, our research paper writing service has always got your back.

Our objectives are twofold: first, to examine the various ways in which social media impacts mental health, including both positive and negative effects; and second, to identify strategies for promoting mental well-being in the digital age.

Step 5: Define The Scope

The fifth step is to define the scope of your research. Now this is a critical step which will define where you can go as a researcher.

You should specify the boundaries and limitations of your study. Also, mention the specific aspects or variables you will focus on and those you will exclude. With this, you can define on how you will be managing your research.

Defining your scope also allows you to conduct a thorough investigation within the constraints of your resources and time frame.

This study focuses primarily on the psychological implications of social media use among young adults aged 18-30. We acknowledge that other demographic groups may experience unique challenges, but for the purpose of this paper, we will concentrate on this demographic due to its high social media engagement and susceptibility to mental health issues.

Step 6: Acknowledge Limitations

It’s essential to acknowledge any potential limitations or constraints that may affect your research. You should always be transparent about factors such as time, resources, or access to data that could impact the scope or outcomes of your study.

Think about it in depth and check out for the lack of resources that can really impact your research!

By acknowledging these limitations upfront, you can demonstrate a realistic and honest approach to your research. It will pave the way for highlighting opportunities for future inquiry or refinement.

It’s important to recognise the limitations of this study, including the reliance on self-reported data, the potential for selection bias, and the dynamic nature of social media platforms. These limitations may impact the generalisability of our findings and should be considered in interpreting the results.

Step 7: Propose Methodology

As you plan on how to write an intro for a research paper, methodology stands tall at the seventh step. Outline the methodology you plan to use to conduct your research, be it primary or secondary research . You need to discuss the specific techniques, procedures, or approaches you are going to employ to gather and analyse data.

Whether your methodology involves qualitative interviews, quantitative surveys, or experimental design, provide a rationale for your chosen approach and explain how it aligns with your research objectives.

Our methodology will involve a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative surveys to assess social media usage patterns and mental health outcomes with qualitative interviews to explore individual experiences and perceptions. This approach allows for a comprehensive understanding of the complex interplay between social media and mental well-being.

Step 8: Present Your Thesis Statement

Now finally it’s time to introduce your thesis statement, which succinctly summarises the main argument or central claim of your research paper.

Make sure that you are writing a clear, concise, and debatable thesis statement. Do not forget to mention the key insights or conclusions you intend to support throughout your paper.

You may ask why is it necessary to provide a thesis statement so early. It is essential so that you can provide readers with a roadmap for understanding the overarching purpose and focus of your research.

This paper argues that while social media can have both positive and negative impacts on mental health, its overall effect depends on various factors, including individual differences, usage patterns, and platform design. By examining these factors, we aim to provide insights into how social media can be leveraged to promote mental well-being in today’s digital society.

Step 9: Describe The Structure

Finally, the last step on how to make an introduction in a research paper involves describing the structure of your research paper. You need to provide an overview of the structure of your research paper.

  • Briefly outline the main sections or chapters of your paper
  • Explain how they contribute to your overall argument or analysis.
  • Consider including subsections or key points within each section
  • Give your readers a preview of the content that is coming.

Remember that it is a crucial step! Describing the structure of your paper helps your readers navigate through the document and understand the logical progression of your ideas.

The paper is structured as follows: first, we will review the existing literature on social media and mental health to provide context for our study. Next, we will present our methodology and findings, followed by a discussion of the implications for research and practice. Finally, we will conclude with recommendations for future research and interventions.

Concluding On How To Write A Research Paper Introduction

Coming up with an introduction for your research paper is a simple task! Students often consider it a challenging one, but if you are able to divide it into smaller chunks, you will be able to attempt it smoothly.

We have divided the whole process of how to write an introduction in a research paper into 9 simple steps. This is our take on how students should proceed with it. What’s your say? Did you find this post valuable? Do not forget to share your views with us.

Let Us Answer Your Queries

How long should an introduction be in a research paper.

The introduction is typically 10% of your complete research. You need to keep it short. For a research paper of around 10,000 words, you need to write a 1000-word introduction.

How do I write an introduction for a research paper?

Writing an introduction to your research paper is quite simple. All you need is to begin with background information, state the research problem, and highlight the significance. Then present the thesis statement, and outline the paper’s structure in a clear and engaging manner.

How to write a good introduction for a research paper?

If you are willing to write a good introduction for your research paper, follow these 3 tips. – State your research problem clearly. – Start your intro with an engaging hook-up line. – Demonstrate the significance of your research to your field of study.

Laura Brown

Laura Brown, a senior content writer who writes actionable blogs at Crowd Writer.

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Writing a Research Paper Conclusion | Step-by-Step Guide

Published on October 30, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on April 13, 2023.

  • Restate the problem statement addressed in the paper
  • Summarize your overall arguments or findings
  • Suggest the key takeaways from your paper

Research paper conclusion

The content of the conclusion varies depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument through engagement with sources .

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Table of contents

Step 1: restate the problem, step 2: sum up the paper, step 3: discuss the implications, research paper conclusion examples, frequently asked questions about research paper conclusions.

The first task of your conclusion is to remind the reader of your research problem . You will have discussed this problem in depth throughout the body, but now the point is to zoom back out from the details to the bigger picture.

While you are restating a problem you’ve already introduced, you should avoid phrasing it identically to how it appeared in the introduction . Ideally, you’ll find a novel way to circle back to the problem from the more detailed ideas discussed in the body.

For example, an argumentative paper advocating new measures to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture might restate its problem as follows:

Meanwhile, an empirical paper studying the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues might present its problem like this:

“In conclusion …”

Avoid starting your conclusion with phrases like “In conclusion” or “To conclude,” as this can come across as too obvious and make your writing seem unsophisticated. The content and placement of your conclusion should make its function clear without the need for additional signposting.

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how to write a scientific research essay

Having zoomed back in on the problem, it’s time to summarize how the body of the paper went about addressing it, and what conclusions this approach led to.

Depending on the nature of your research paper, this might mean restating your thesis and arguments, or summarizing your overall findings.

Argumentative paper: Restate your thesis and arguments

In an argumentative paper, you will have presented a thesis statement in your introduction, expressing the overall claim your paper argues for. In the conclusion, you should restate the thesis and show how it has been developed through the body of the paper.

Briefly summarize the key arguments made in the body, showing how each of them contributes to proving your thesis. You may also mention any counterarguments you addressed, emphasizing why your thesis holds up against them, particularly if your argument is a controversial one.

Don’t go into the details of your evidence or present new ideas; focus on outlining in broad strokes the argument you have made.

Empirical paper: Summarize your findings

In an empirical paper, this is the time to summarize your key findings. Don’t go into great detail here (you will have presented your in-depth results and discussion already), but do clearly express the answers to the research questions you investigated.

Describe your main findings, even if they weren’t necessarily the ones you expected or hoped for, and explain the overall conclusion they led you to.

Having summed up your key arguments or findings, the conclusion ends by considering the broader implications of your research. This means expressing the key takeaways, practical or theoretical, from your paper—often in the form of a call for action or suggestions for future research.

Argumentative paper: Strong closing statement

An argumentative paper generally ends with a strong closing statement. In the case of a practical argument, make a call for action: What actions do you think should be taken by the people or organizations concerned in response to your argument?

If your topic is more theoretical and unsuitable for a call for action, your closing statement should express the significance of your argument—for example, in proposing a new understanding of a topic or laying the groundwork for future research.

Empirical paper: Future research directions

In a more empirical paper, you can close by either making recommendations for practice (for example, in clinical or policy papers), or suggesting directions for future research.

Whatever the scope of your own research, there will always be room for further investigation of related topics, and you’ll often discover new questions and problems during the research process .

Finish your paper on a forward-looking note by suggesting how you or other researchers might build on this topic in the future and address any limitations of the current paper.

Full examples of research paper conclusions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.

  • Argumentative paper
  • Empirical paper

While the role of cattle in climate change is by now common knowledge, countries like the Netherlands continually fail to confront this issue with the urgency it deserves. The evidence is clear: To create a truly futureproof agricultural sector, Dutch farmers must be incentivized to transition from livestock farming to sustainable vegetable farming. As well as dramatically lowering emissions, plant-based agriculture, if approached in the right way, can produce more food with less land, providing opportunities for nature regeneration areas that will themselves contribute to climate targets. Although this approach would have economic ramifications, from a long-term perspective, it would represent a significant step towards a more sustainable and resilient national economy. Transitioning to sustainable vegetable farming will make the Netherlands greener and healthier, setting an example for other European governments. Farmers, policymakers, and consumers must focus on the future, not just on their own short-term interests, and work to implement this transition now.

As social media becomes increasingly central to young people’s everyday lives, it is important to understand how different platforms affect their developing self-conception. By testing the effect of daily Instagram use among teenage girls, this study established that highly visual social media does indeed have a significant effect on body image concerns, with a strong correlation between the amount of time spent on the platform and participants’ self-reported dissatisfaction with their appearance. However, the strength of this effect was moderated by pre-test self-esteem ratings: Participants with higher self-esteem were less likely to experience an increase in body image concerns after using Instagram. This suggests that, while Instagram does impact body image, it is also important to consider the wider social and psychological context in which this usage occurs: Teenagers who are already predisposed to self-esteem issues may be at greater risk of experiencing negative effects. Future research into Instagram and other highly visual social media should focus on establishing a clearer picture of how self-esteem and related constructs influence young people’s experiences of these platforms. Furthermore, while this experiment measured Instagram usage in terms of time spent on the platform, observational studies are required to gain more insight into different patterns of usage—to investigate, for instance, whether active posting is associated with different effects than passive consumption of social media content.

If you’re unsure about the conclusion, it can be helpful to ask a friend or fellow student to read your conclusion and summarize the main takeaways.

  • Do they understand from your conclusion what your research was about?
  • Are they able to summarize the implications of your findings?
  • Can they answer your research question based on your conclusion?

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The conclusion of a research paper has several key elements you should make sure to include:

  • A restatement of the research problem
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or findings
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

No, it’s not appropriate to present new arguments or evidence in the conclusion . While you might be tempted to save a striking argument for last, research papers follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the results and discussion sections if you are following a scientific structure). The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

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China’s universities just grabbed 6 of the top 10 spots in one worldwide science ranking – without changing a thing

how to write a scientific research essay

Professor of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University

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University leaders pay close attention to comparative rankings such as those offered by Times Higher Education , ShanghaiRanking Consultancy and others . Rankings influence student matriculation numbers, attract talented faculty and justify donations from wealthy donors . University leaders rail against them , and some schools “withdraw” from them , but rankings are influential.

A radical shift in the data underlying rankings is about to upend the rankings world – largely in favor of China’s position.

For instance, in early 2024, the Leiden University Center for Science and Technology Studies CWTS group issued new university rankings that add open-data sources to the traditional curated list of elite journals that has been the standard. The results show a world turned upside down for university rankings.

Where once the list of universities with the highest scientific impact would have been dominated by U.S. and U.K. schools including Cambridge, Stanford, Harvard and MIT, the new top 10 list of universities with high scientific impact includes six universities from China.

What does this transformation mean for understanding scholarly excellence? I study the global research system and its contribution to social welfare. China’s swift progress in science and technology , propelled by investments in research and university strength, has alarmed the United States and other nations . Concerns are mounting that the U.S. may be losing its competitive advantage to an assertive rival, with potential implications for national security, economic standing and global influence. These new rankings will likely raise even more alarm.

Broader range of more sources

The rankings programs draw heavily upon quantitative assessments called “indicators.” A glance at the influential ShanghaiRanking criteria shows the inputs to its assessment include “papers indexed in major citation indices.” The popular indices draw from a highly curated set of scholarly journals such as Cell , The Lancet and Chemical Reviews . The most reputed index collecting information on these and other journals is the Web of Science ’s Science Citation Index, or SCI, a product of careful standardization and data enrichment by Clarivate .

SCI represents only a fraction of the work published worldwide , though. Among other critiques , many people decry the SCI’s exclusivity and its perceived Western bias .

But careful curation makes it the gold standard of academic indexing and one that journals and authors aspire to join. Its value is in its replicability: It is possible to dip into it multiple times using different search strategies and produce comparable results.

Reliance on curated databases is about to end with the introduction of rankings based on open data like that collected by OpenAlex . OpenAlex claims to include over 100,000 journals – of highly varying quality and editorial practices – compared with SCI’s 9,200. All data in OpenAlex has been released into the public domain with the laudable goal of making research freely available to all. The downside is that this wider net sweeps in predatory journals that exploit researchers and undermine the quality and integrity of scholarly communication.

multiple yellow excavators posed next to red flags with Chinese lettering

Reflecting China’s research productivity

The volume of scholarly articles represented in the open databases has a mighty influence on China’s position in the open-source rankings. Chinese scholars produce a vast body of written work, some in English, some in Chinese; estimates of percentage shares for language range widely, but hover around 50-50. As China has invested in education and grown its science and engineering capacity, many more people turn out scholarly articles.

From a very small number in the 1980s, China had 2.2 million scientists and engineers by 2023, based on UNESCO data. China’s scholarly output of scientific and engineering articles shows a very rapid rise since the 1990s, with growth outpacing all other nations. Quality has lagged quantity , but China is outproducing the United States in the total number of scientific publications in the Web of Science, by my count – a shift in leadership not seen since the U.S. overtook the U.K. in 1948.

Although the numbers are dated, when I counted China’s scholarly publishing in 2010 , my colleague and I estimated that between 2000 and 2009, China published around 1 million scientific papers that were not captured by the Web of Science. That means they didn’t “count” toward traditional rankings. These publications are counted in the new open databases. Many of the papers included in open-source or open-access journals will not be considered of high quality; nonetheless, they become part of the written record.

Open-access publishing services have grown rapidly and offer fast publication times, but there are questions about the quality of their journals. Open publishing services such as MDPI and Frontiers have an outsized number of Chinese contributors compared to those from other countries.

The open-access services often include content from potential paper mills , businesses manufacturing what look like scholarly manuscripts for sale. Despite concerns about the reputation and editorial practices of these publishers and editors, there’s little oversight. These services are flooding the publishing world with vast numbers of lower-quality articles.

Chinese researchers and their sponsoring institutions put a huge premium on publishing in international journals, even those hosted by questionable publishers. Citation stacking practices – when authors cite the works of co-nationals to raise their citation profiles – skew counts to enhance China’s performance.

China is attempting to address malign practices. To its credit, China’s government recently announced the retraction of 17,000 articles with a Chinese author or co-author. Efforts are underway to enhance quality. Governmental payments to researchers for articles in ranked journals are being sunsetted .

Despite the quality questions, the numbers alone will push China up the rankings lists. This rapid shift will enhance China’s position relative to the rest of the world. In itself, the rise does not reflect a change in quality, status or output, but it will continue to stoke the fires of those alarmed by the rise of China in world science , technology and innovation circles, and perhaps put rankings further into question.

The Conversation has updated the headline and the table to correctly report the CWTS Leiden Ranking Open Edition 2023 numbers.

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  • First Online: 03 April 2024

Part of the book series: Communications in Computer and Information Science ((CCIS,volume 2060))

With the exponential growth of research papers, text summarization tools have emerged. However, existing text summarization tools merely extract existing sentences or words based on their frequency and may not be particularly well-suited for papers. To address this gap, this study develops a model based on DistilBERT, primarily focusing on information extraction and dataset labeling and augmentation techniques. The model’s central objective is entity recognition, aiming to identify two specific entities from the full text of research papers. The model takes these critical segments of papers as input and aims to identify the research problems and content contained within them. In response to the limitations of existing datasets, this research augments a dataset with over 4000 full-text arXiv computer algorithm papers through manual annotations.

The developed model demonstrates exceptional performance on several evaluation metrics, including accuracy, precision, F1 score, and recall. For comparative experiments, we employed several baseline models based on BERT. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed model. As part of a comparative experiment, we trained our models using three different dataset training methods. Additionally, to evaluate our dataset’s quality and underline the importance of full-text data, we manually annotated a random selection of 4000 papers from the ARXIV Data dataset, extracting only their titles and abstracts. As a result, Our proposed model outperforms all the baseline models, achieving an accuracy of 0.823 and an F1 Score of 0.798 and models trained on the proposed full-text annotated dataset outperform those trained on other datasets.

  • Information Extraction
  • Dataset Labeling and Augmentation
  • Automating Literature Review
  • Text Mining

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Central China Normal University, Wuhan, China

Fan Luo & Xinguo Yu

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Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei, China

Chinese Academy of Science, Shenzhen, China

Nanjing University of Science and Technology, Nanjing, China

Jianfeng Lu

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Luo, F., Yu, X. (2024). Element Extraction from Computer Science Academic Papers for AI Survey Writing. In: Jin, H., Pan, Y., Lu, J. (eds) Computer Networks and IoT. IAIC 2023. Communications in Computer and Information Science, vol 2060. Springer, Singapore.

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