GSSE 403 Scientific Writing
PAPERS: TITLES & ABSTRACTS
Session 2: Writing Titles
Mike’s looked at writing scientific papers. In the second
half we’ll look at
• characteristics of titles by analysing examples
• the structure of abstracts by analysing successful & less
• CWA [first part] writing a title, abstract & commentary
Which, if any, of the 3 titles would be appropriate for a
paper you‟re writing ?
- An Investigation of Hormone Secretion and Weight in Rats
- Fat Rats: Are Their Hormones Different?
- The Relationship of Luteinizing Hormone to Obesity in the
Titles above from Scientific Reports. Wisconsin University http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/SciRep_Title.html
Session 2: Writing Titles
• An Investigation of [delete-no added meaning] Hormone
Secretion and Weight in Rats [A little vague- Which
hormone? What effect on weight- increased or decreased?]
• Fat Rats [catchy journalistic style] : Are Their Hormones
Different? [2 part title–commonly used in journals;
relationship between obese rats & specific hormone not
• The Relationship of Luteinizing Hormone to Obesity in the
Zucker Rat [Clear relationship & precise description]
Adapted from Scientific Reports. Wisconsin University http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/SciRep_Title.html
Select 5 or 6 titles closest to your field, from the
following examples taken from papers written by
members of LU science departments
• Can you identify at least 2 main patterns in titles?
• What are the characteristics of titles?
• Are there any which you consider particularly good
Examples of titles from LU papers (i)
• Seasonal Variation of Moisture Content in Unsaturated Sandstone
Inferred from Borehole Radar and Resistivity Profiles
• A Plasma Vortex Revisited: The Importance of Including Ionospheric
• The Evaluation of Multiple Post-Editors: Inter-rater consistency in
Correcting Automatically Tagged Data.
• Enhanced Trellis Extracted Synchronisation for Block Codes Using
• Determination of Hydraulically Conductive Pathways in Fractured
Limestone using Cross-Borehole Electrical Resistivity Tomography
• Non-parametric ecological regression and spatial variation
Examples of titles from LU papers (ii)
• Head position preference in the human newborn: a new look.
• Stimulus-induced oscillations in plant cell cytosolic free calcium.
• Compliance in an anti-hypertension trial: a latent process model for
binary longitudinal data
• Models of channel network hydrology: theory and predictive
• Spatial variation in risk: a nonparametric binary regression approach
• Finite element subsurface flow solutions on distributed memory
• Estimation of natural recharge and its dependency on sub-surface
Characteristics of Titles
• Either 1 or 2 parts
• 2 part titles with main topic first, colon, then
precise specification of research focus
• Typically packed with information
• Verbs – not used; mostly nouns/dense noun groups
with some adjectives
• Noun groups- often 2 or even 3 groups separated
with prepositions [‘Position’ words: in/of/on etc]
Stimulus-induced oscillations (GROUP1)
plant cell cytosolic free calcium. (GROUP 2)
2 part titles often give broader topic area first,
then specific focus, angle or method e.g.
Compliance in an anti-hypertension trial: a
latent process model for binary longitudinal data
Look at the abstract written for a Biology
journal Slide 14.
Analyse how the information is ordered by
coding it, using the codes in slide 12.
Session 2: Writing Scientific Papers *
Try coding the sentences in Abstract 2 & one other
according to their function:
B = background information
P = principal activity/purpose/scope/aims of study
M = information about methodology
R = main results
C = main implications/conclusions of the work
RC = Recommendations
Adapted from Weissburg and Buker (1994)
Session 2: Writing Scientific Papers-
Now look at 2 or 3 abstracts closest to your field.
• Are they successful as stand alone summaries?
• Are they well structured and flow well?
• Would they encourage you to read further?
• Would you judge the writer as a competent
Evaluating abstracts: Abstract 1-Environmental
Science about the estimation of natural recharge
Natural ground water recharge is estimated using the injected tracer technique in the
Bairasagara watershed of Kolar district, Karnataka (India) comprising of medium
grained granite and granatic gneiss with weathering/fracturing up to 46 m depth. On a
macroscopic scale, it is estimated that the weathered granites act as a uniform body
having a recharge capacity of about six to 200 mm per annum for an average value of
rainfall of 968 mm. Marked differences of infiltration rates (nil to 130 cm/year) were
observed under cultivated and dry areas. The water level fluctuation and recharge are
found to be minimum in the ayacut area as compared to the catchment area. Studies
helped in demarcating recharge and discharge areas. Qualitative correlation studies of
estimated natural ground water recharge have been carried out with depth to
basement, resistivity of subsurface layers, and water level fluctuations.
An attempt has been made to get empirical relationships between the recharge
versus depth to basement, and recharge versus water level fluctuations. This paper
discusses the studies carried out, the results obtained the importance of such studies in
the evaluation of groundwater resources. 13
Evaluating abstracts: Abstract 2- Biology
Stimulus-induced oscillations in plant cell cytosolic free calcium. Ca2+ is implicated as a
second messenger in the response of stomata to a range of stimuli. However, the mechanism
by which stimulus-induced increases in guard cell cytosolic free Ca2+ ([Ca2+] are transduced
into different physiological responses remains to be explained. Oscillations in [Ca 2+] may
provide one way in which this can occur. We used photometric and imaging techniques to
examine this hypothesis in guard cells of Commelina communis. External Ca2+ ([Ca2+]e),
which causes an increase in [Ca2+], was used as a closing stimulus. The total increase in
[Ca2+] was directly related to the concentration of [Ca2+]e, both of which correlated closely
with the degree of stomatal closure. Increases were oscillatory in nature, with the pattern
of the oscillations being dependent on the concentration of [Ca2+]e. At 0.1 mM, [Ca2+]e
induced symmetrical oscillations. In contrast, 1.0 mM [Ca2+]e induced asymmetric
oscillations. Oscillations were stimulus-dependent and modulated by changing [Ca2+]e.
Experiments using Ca2+ channel blockers and Mn2+-quenching studies suggested a role for
Ca2+ influx during the oscillatory behavior without excluding the possible involvement of Ca 2+
release from intracellular stores. These data suggest a mechanism for encoding the
information required to distinguish between a number of different Ca2+-mobilizing stimuli in
guard cells, using stimulus-specific patterns of oscillations in [Ca2+]. 14
Evaluating abstracts: Abstract (3) Statistics
Non-parametric ecological regression and spatial variation Ecological studies
aim to analyse the variation of disease risk in relation to exposure variables that
are measured at an area unit level. In practice it is rarely possible to use the
exposure variables themselves, either because the corresponding data are not
available or because the causes of the disease are not fully understood. It is
therefore quite common to use crude proxies of the real exposure to the disease
in question. These proxies are rarely able to explain the disease variation and
hence additional area level random effects are introduced to account for the
residual variation. In this paper we investigate the possibility to model the
effect of ecological covariates non-parametrically, with and without additional
random effects for the residual spatial variation. We illustrate the issues arising
through analyses of simulated and real data on larynx cancer mortality in
Germany, during the years of 1986 to 1990, where we use the corresponding
lung cancer rates as a proxy for smoking consumption.
Evaluating abstracts: Abstract 4-Environmental Science
Geomorphology and pollution: the environmental impacts of lead mining,
Leadhills, Scotland The Glengonnar Water has experienced severe environmental
pollution resulting from historic lead mining operations. Though now abandoned, the
legacy of the mining era remains in the form of river and floodplain sediments grossly
polluted with metals, particularly lead which exhibits surface concentrations in
excess of 75 000 mg kg total Pb. Geomorphological investigations link the most
important mining period to a major phase of floodplain degradation, which acted as
an efficient sink for particulate bound metals. The pattern of metal contamination
within the floodplain has been complicated by subsequent fluvial entrenchment.
However, preliminary evidence indicates that lateral and vertical variations of
metals [both total and available] can be accounted for in terms of the age of
deposit, distance downstream and local hydraulic conditions. The effectiveness of
floodplains to interrupt the delivery of sediment-bound contaminants was highlighted
by a metals budget developed for the main channel length. This confirmed that
channel bank erosion of contaminated floodplains is now the major source of metals
to the fluvial system. 16
Evaluating abstracts: Abstract 5- Engineering/Communications
High frequency digital power line transmission for terrestrial and marine networks
The aim of this work was to investigate a feasibility study based on an appropriate method of propagation
results, analysing suitability of communication through power line transmission channels. With this as the
main aim the emphasis of the work has been placed on: initially the design of simulators resulted from the
modelling of the channel, followed by low complexity protocols and modulation schemes, and the real time
performance evaluation of point to point multimedia kit designed and tested for application on a QinetiQ
This thesis describes the work carried out in the areas of propagation, modulation design, duplex protocol,
modelling and simulation and real time channel evaluation. Also presented herein is the design and
implementation of conditioning units “Coupling Devices” together with implementation of remote/local
control mechanism to aid the project requirement” remote control of the vessel via power line.
The effectiveness of these devices, and various measurements and real time trials of the simulators, and
the multi media kit, is the prim importance throughout this thesis. Simulation results, while assessing the
effectiveness of an OFDM COSSAP model, mainly are tried over an AWGN channel, and later on over a
Rayliegh fading channel and subsequently over AWCN, with appropriate for power line channel, are used to
illustrate and support this work. The most important results are the successful outcome of the multi media
multiplexed kit trials on board RV TRITON a QinetiQ vessel, and similarly at the power line laboratory,
where real time text, audio and video, as well as duplex conferencing were demonstrated with modems
connecting at 33.6 kbits/s.
Finally, investigation of the three-phase 440V power line channel resulted in lodging a patent that uses the
STD/STC techniques. These techniques, whilst in their field are not new, however with the diversity gain
achieved when using smart power line modem design will enhance data throughputs in multiples of 17 the
presently achievable rate.
Abstracts & the impact on the reader
Key part of scientific writing, introducing much of the material we read: longer
reports, journal articles, abstracting journals, conference presentations,
dissertations & theses. The abstract:
• should enable the reader to decide whether to read further
• is the1st part to be read, therefore it sets up positive or negative expectations
for the remainder of the work
• should create a positive expectation of the study; a well-written abstract
encourages readers who decide the topic is relevant, to read further
• if poorly written, discourages us from reading further or results in us reading
• should be pitched at the range of readers who will read both it and possibly the
When submitting a dissertation, or a paper for publication, the quality of our
abstract is a key factor in determining the reader's response.
Abstracts: Length & Purpose
• Follow guidelines about length: a strict word limit for
journals [usually less than 300 words], or page limit of
usually 1 page for dissertations and theses. With
articles submitted for publication, not complying with
the word limit can lead to rejection or fines.
• Abstracts provide a standalone account, rather than an
introduction to the paper.
Characteristics of abstracts: Organisation
• Usually 1 paragraph for reports, journal articles & sometimes 2
paragraphs for longer papers such as dissertations and theses.
• They generally follow the order of the work they are condensing
• They should provide a well balanced account of the original study i.e.
not focusing disproportionately on 1 or 2 sections of the article
• Should read seamlessly moving smoothly from section to section,
rather than rather than mechanically devoting a sentence to each
• Murray describes the process of writing an abstract: „.. as if someone
had taken a yellow marker and highlighted all the key points in the
body of the report into a [1-page] document' [David Murray, Online
Technical Handbook] Though he points out the need for further editing
and revision to ensure readability 20
Writing Abstracts: Language And Style
• Written in a formal, impersonal scientific style. See Week1.
However 'we' is commonly used. Passive or active constructions can
be used [passive e.g. Measurements were made.. Object, to be + past participle]
• should use a level of language that will be understood by those for
whom the report is intended.
• often packed with a considerable amount of information but
should not overload the reader.
• should be succinct, avoiding redundancy .
• written in complete sentences with effective punctuation.
Writing Abstracts & Titles: Guidelines from Journal of Ecology
Journal of Ecology: Title page. This should contain:
A concise and informative title (as short as possible). Do not include the
authorities for taxonomic names in the title…. Summary (called the Abstract on
the web submission site). This should list the main results and conclusions, using
simple, factual, numbered statements. It must not exceed 350 words. The last
point in the Summary should describe how the findings add to our general
ecological understanding. This policy is intended to maximize the impact of your
paper, by making it of as wide interest as possible. This point should therefore
explain the importance of your paper in a way that is accessible to non-specialists.
Plant, Cell and Environment: Abstract- This should provide a concise statement
of the scope of the work and the principal findings. The abstract should be less
than 200 words http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/submit.asp?ref=0022-0477 22
How To Check And Revise Abstract
Ask a critical friend to read it. Can they explain to you the scope and structure
of your abstract?
• Does it flow and establish a clear connection between ideas?
• Can you cut any superfluous information?
• Have you written it succinctly? Is it free from wordiness?
• Is it a well-balanced representation of the original paper? Has any key
information been omitted?
• Is it appropriately paragraphed?*
• Have you checked that it does not contain cross references to graphical or
other information in the report?
• Is free from errors: grammatical, non-scientific style, sentence structure and
• Have you kept to the word limit?
• Have you made sure that it does not includes information, ideas or claims that
are not included in your paper?
Course Work Assessment part 1
2 parts to assessment:
1) Writing a title and abstract for a journal article, +brief
2) Plotting a graph from dataset & accompanying data commentary
exercise. (Session 5 with Andrew Jarvis)
Part 1 is divided into 3 parts: a, b and c.
Select 1 from 2 preselected abstracts
Articles available for photocopying from ES Postgrad Office.
Add a cover sheet. Write your library number, not name
Deadline: Friday 16 December 4pm
Weighting: Title 20%: abstract 60%; commentary 20% 24
Course Work Assessment part 1
A] Write a concise & self explanatory title for scientific
B] Write a short abstract 150- 275 words for a scientific
journal article. State the number of words used below
the abstract [60%]
For assessment criteria, see slide 28
Course Work Assessment part 1
C] Write a short commentary- maximum 250 words to explain your
writing decisions. Bulleting is fine in this section. [20%]
Possible areas for discussion to select from :
• how to represent the structure of the original article; balance & choices of
information in the abstract
• your reasons for your choice of word allocation
• techniques you adopted to encapsulate the main scope of the report in the title
• techniques you adopted to reduce the individual sections of the original article &
difficulties of compressing information
• techniques and/ or difficulties of making the abstract flow
• conventions from your scientific field that you've drawn on to write the title and
• other difficulties have you and fellow researchers experienced in writing the
Course Work Assessment part 1
KEY CRITERIA FOR ASSESSMENT ARE THAT YOUR ABSTRACT SHOULD:
• provide an effective summary of the article that can be understood
without reference to the original.
• be written in an appropriate and succinct scientific style for the
intended scientific audience
• show an understanding of the conventions for writing scientific
abstracts such as organisation and paragraphing
• offer a well-balanced account of the original
• demonstrate competent use of punctuation and sentence structure
• be free from errors such as grammar
• avoid lifting whole sentences from the original. However, technical
phrases for names can be used
• read as a summary of the whole report, rather than a series of
inadequately connected sentences relating to the different report
Analysis of Abstract 2- Biology
Stimulus-induced oscillations in plant cell cytosolic free calcium. Ca2+ is implicated as a
second messenger in the response of stomata to a range of stimuli. [B1-well focused intro to
research topic] However, the mechanism by which stimulus-induced increases in guard cell
cytosolic free Ca2+ ([Ca2+] are transduced into different physiological responses remains to be
explained. [B2- gap in understanding] Oscillations in [Ca2+] may provide one way in which this can
occur. [B3 hypothesis] We used photometric and imaging techniques to examine this hypothesis in
guard cells of Commelina communis. [M1 NB active rather passive]. External Ca2+ ([Ca2+]e),
which causes an increase in [Ca2+], was used as a closing stimulus. [M2] The total increase in [Ca2+]
was directly related to the concentration of [Ca2+]e, both of which correlated closely with the
degree of stomatal closure. [R1] Increases were oscillatory in nature, with the pattern of the
oscillations being dependent on the concentration of [Ca2+]e. [R2] At 0.1 mM, [Ca2+]e induced
symmetrical oscillations. In contrast, 1.0 mM [Ca2+]e induced asymmetric oscillations. [R3]
Oscillations were stimulus-dependent and modulated by changing [Ca2+]e.[R4] Experiments using
Ca2+ channel blockers and Mn2+-quenching studies suggested a role for Ca2+ influx during the
oscillatory behavior without excluding the possible involvement of Ca2+ release from intracellular
stores. [C1] These data suggest a mechanism for encoding the information required to distinguish
between a number of different Ca2+-mobilizing stimuli in guard cells, using stimulus-specific
patterns of oscillations in [Ca2+]. [C broader/possible focus for further research] 28
Analysis of the 5 abstracts
1. Poor organisation of information; no clear pattern for organising the
stages of research; 2 paragraphs unnecessary in journal abstracts
2. Highly succinct; very well organised with clear signalling of
information; main topic of sentence usually at beginning of
sentence; passive used
3. Abstracts in Statistics seem to follow a different pattern of much
longer background information sections [3 sentences; sentence 4:
topic/aim; sentence 5:analysis conducted in the paper]
4. Well written, flows well with good relationship between ideas across
sentences; though stronger on background than findings
5. Was a 1st draft of a PhD abstract; as a result it’s not succinct; main
message & IMRaD structure unclear; tenses need revising 29