How to write and publish a scientific paper A by nul12583


									Essays of an Information Scientist, Vol:4, p.104-108, 1979-80                           Current Contents, #15, p.5-9, April 9, 1979

                                                                     How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper:
                                                                       A “cookbook” for authors from 1S1 Press

                          lumDer          15                                                                                    April   Y, 197

                               The       importance                  of     clarity            in     Department      of Health and Security
                          scientific         writing        has      received           a lot         in London. The book includes some
                          of attention.              I have        always       believed              discussion    about the editorial side
                          that       information              is    best     conveyed                 of scientific     publication,      a topic
                         through      simple      words and short                                     which most books ignore.              How-
                         sentences. 1,2 Too many scientists                                           ever, this book stops short of pre-
                         habitually     use jargon and complex                                        senting a nuts-and-bolts       account of
                         sentences.     This does not mean that                                       how to go about publishing            what
                         I fail to appreciate       the adroit use of                                 one has writ ten.
                         elegant terms.                                                                  1S1 Press ‘M will soon release a
                            In the late fifties and throughout                                        book that provides a step-by-step
                         the sixties, numerous            books ap-                                   approach to writing and publishing
                         peared on how to make scientists                                             a scientific    paper. How to Write
                         more efficient communicators.            But                                 and Publish a Scientific Paper was
                         if you consider the large number of                                          written by Robert A. Day. Since
                         universities    that now offer courses                                       1961, he has been the managing
                         in scientific       writing, s a curiously                                   editor of the Journal of Bacteriolo-
                         small number of books have been                                              gy and six other           journals    pub-
                         written on the subject lately. Ex-                                            lished by the American Society for
                         cept for style guides published           by                                 Microbiology       (ASM).     Day is a
                         various scientific societies, such as                                        member of the Council of Biology
                         the CBE Style Manual, 4 few                                 books            Editors,   and served as chairman
                         are     now        available          on     how       to     write          from 1977-78. He is also the Vice-
                         for     scientific             journals.           While            13       President     of     the    Society  for
                         books         on      the       topic        are     listed         in       Scholarly     Publishing,     Suite LL,
                         Books in Print, over half of these                                           1909 K Street, NW, Washington,
                         are over five years old.                                                     DC 20006.
                            One recent book worth mention-                                                The book has its roots in an arti-
                         ing is Writing Scientific Papers in                                          cle Bob wrote in 1975 for the ASM
                         English, ~ by             Maeve O’Connor,    the                             News. “How to Write a Scientific
                         senior editor              at the CIBA Founda-                               Paper”~ attracted        over 3,000 re-
                         tion, and my              friend F. Peter Wood-                              quests for reprints. Encouraged       by
                         ford, who is               now with the British                              this response, Bob expanded his ar-

title and added emphasis on how to                           Day’s book explains             how each
publish a scientific paper. His book                      section of a journal article is sup-
is written in the same “how to, ” or                     posed to function and how best to
“cookbook”    fashion as his article.                    organize      it. For example,              Day
The book’s contents     page appears                     asserts that the “discussion” portion
in Figure 1.                                             of the paper should explain                   the
Ffgure    1.Contents      page from How to Write         significance      of the work in ques-
                and Pu b[ish a Scientific   Paper.       tion. It should not repeat the con-
                                                         tents of the “results” section. The
                                                         “introduction”           should        include,
Chapter    1. What Is a Scientific Paper?                among other things, the author’s
Chapter    2.    How to Prepare the Thle                 principal     findings.      Many authors
Chapter    3.    How to List the Authors
Chapter    4.    How to Lkt the Addresses                make the mistake             of withholding
Chapter    5.    How to Prepare the Abstract             their findings until late in the paper.
Chapter    6.    How to Write the Introduction
Chapter    7,    How to Write the Materials              But as Day points out, a scientific
                 and Methods Section                     journal is not the place to publish a
Chapter    8.    How to Write the Results
Chapter    9.    How to Write the Discussion             mystery      thriller.     This does not
Chapter   10.    How to Cite the Acknowledgments         mean that a scientific paper should
Chapter   11.    How to Prepare the Literature Cited
Chapter   12.    How to Design Effective Tables          be entirely devoid of the excitement
Chapter   13.    How to Prepare Effective                of discovery.       But you don’t write
Chapter 14.      How to Type the Manuscript              for a leading bacteriology              journal
Chapter 15.      Where and How to Submit the             the same way you would for Scien-
Chapter 16.      The Review Process (How to Deal         tific American or New Scientist.
                 with Editors)                               Day’s basic assumption              is that
Chapter 17.      The Publishing Process (How to
                 Deal with Printers)                     reporting     experimental         findings is
Chapter   18.    How to Order and Use Reprints           not so much a literary endeavor as
Chapter   19.    How to Write a Review Paper
Chapter   20.    How to Write a Conference Report        an exercise in the organization                of
Chapter   21,    How to Write a Thesis                   information.       “A scientific        paper, ”
Chapter   22.    Ethics, Rights, and Permissions
Chapter   23.    Use and Misuse of English               he writes, “is not literature . . . . If the
Chapter   24.    Avoiding Jargon
                                                         ingredients     are properly organized,
Chapter   25.    How and When to Use Abbreviations
Chapter 26. A Personalized Summary                       the paper will almost write itself .“ 6
Appendix 1. Lkt of Title Word Abbreviations                  Day also treats matters of jargon
Appendix 2. Abbreviations that May be Used
            Without Definition in Table Headings         and misspelling. He points out some
Appendix 3. Common Errors in Style and in                common       mistakes       authors      make.
Appendix 4. Words and Expressions to Avoid               However much an author might be
Appendix 5. Prefixes and Abbreviations for S1
                                                         tempted     to use a jawbreaker             like
Appendix 6. Accepted Abbreviations and                   chemotherapeutic            agent,      journal
                                                         editors and readers will appreciate
                                                         the use of the shorter term drug. An
    As you can see, the book covers a                    appendix lists wordy expressions               to
broad range of topics in areas such                      avoid. For example, accounted for
as style, organization   of the scien-                   by the fact means because,                  and
tific paper, and the world of scien-                     should      be      written       that     way.
tific publishing.                                        Another      appendix        lists scientific

terms     that     are commonly             mis-    made It possible tor the sclentlst to
spelled,     like      kieselguhr        (better    publish in smaller and newer jour-
known as diatomaceous              earth).          nals without fear that the paper will
    After presenting         a detailed       ac-   be buried.        However,        it is still
count of how to write a scientific                  desirable    to publish       in the most
paper, Day describes the problems                   prestigious     journal    possible.       Day
of publishing        a journal article. He          tells you how to gauge the prestige
draws on his long experience                as a    of a journal and how to estimate the
managing editor to provide this in-                 journal’s circulation       if figures are
formation.       Veteran      scientists    may     not available.
have learned the ropes of scientific                   Bob’s description       of the manu-
publication         through       painstaking       script review process            will prove
trial-and-error.       But even the most            specially      helpful    to the young
experienced       author may find manu-             scientist. He follows a hypothetical
scripts     subjected        to occasional          manuscript from the moment it ar-
publication       delays.      And for the          rives on the editor’s desk until a
young, inexperienced            author, deal-       decision    to accept        or reject        is
ing with journal editors can be a                   made. Day explains the difference
frustrating    experience.        Day’s book        between an editor and a managing
is designed to alleviate much of the                editor. The editor is generally in-
frustration found at each step of the               volved with the manuscript              in the
publication      process.                           pre-acceptance         phase,       and     the
    As Day points            out, after the         managing editor is usually involved
scientist performs the experiments,                 after the manuscript         has been ac-
records and reports the data in a                   cepted. The distinction is important
well-organized         paper,      he or she        to an author if only because it in-
wants that paper to be noticed by                   dicates to whom one should com-
 his or her peers. To this end, Bob                 plain if something goes awry.
includes     a discussion         on how to             The book explains that even a
select a journal in which to publish.                cogent,     well-written         manuscript
 He notes that the subject                of the     can run into publication            delays if
 paper ought to fit precisely within                 the author adds unnecessary             or im-
 the stated scope of the journal.                    properly      executed         tables      and
 (Journal Citation Reports@ , a sec-                 graphs. Some scientists think that
 tion    of    the       Science       Citation      tables and graphs add credibility to
 Index@ , can tell you which jour-                   their writing. But as Day points out,
 nals are most relevant to your sub-                 experienced      reviewers and readers
 ject. )                                             will not be fooled if three out of
    Day identifies other factors that                four lines on a graph represent the
 must be considered            in selecting a        normal condition.       In that case, the
 journal. He cautions against choos-                 function of the odd line can easily
 ing a journal that is so obscure that               be expressed in a few words.
 no indexing or abstracting              service        Having discussed        when illustra-
 covers it. Current Contentsm                 has    tions are desirable and when they

 are not, Bob describes               how to         manship,      he writes, it is basically
 prepare     them effectively.        He tells       dishonest.
 how to crop and frame a photo-                           Another concern Bob and I share
 graph, and how to write instruc-                     is the matter of how authors’ ad-
 tions    for the printer           to avoid         dresses     should       be Iisted.s       Day,
 mistakes in reproduction.             Getting        unlike many authors of books on
 these things right the first time can                writing for scientists,        takes up this
 speed up the publishing process.                    issue in detail.         He believes        that
    The book also includes a section                 journal articles should clearly iden-
 on how to write a review paper and                   tify the authors’ addresses and con-
 pays special attention to organizing                nect each author with his or her ad-
 the information       properly to fit the           dress. This practice makes it possi-
 paper     to its intended         audience.         ble for Current Contents and other
 There is also a chapter on how to                   services     to provide        accurate      ad-
 write a thesis. Ph.D. candidates will               dress information.          You should ar-
 appreciate      Bob’s candor.        He ad-         range addresses in the same order
 vises them, among other things, to                  used for the authors.            If an article
search      departmental       libraries     for     has three authors from two institu-
past theses and study how those                      tions, a simple code should be used
papers were organized.             After all,        to indicate which author is at what
what worked in the past might work                   address to eliminate ambiguity.
again.                                                   What I appreciated             most while
    Bob and I seem to share certain                  reading Day’s manuscript               was the
concerns.      Perhaps this stems from               generous      sprinkling      of humor he
his experience        as a journal editor            provides. I happen to value a sense
and his awareness          of the needs of           of humor,        especially      in sciences
indexing organizations           like ISI@ .         Most of the books available on the
The proper         ordering     of authors’          subject of scientific writing are un-
names is important          for assignment           necessarily      dull. Bob’s “cookbook”
of credit. I agree, for the reasons                  approach,      combined with his sense
 I’ve outlined before.7 According             to     of humor,        distinguishes      this book
Day, the first or “senior” author                    from others on the subject.                 Ap-
should be the primary progenitor of                  parently,     Day was determined”             to
the work in question. The name of                    write an informative         book that will
the leading associate should appear                  actually     be read,        and not just
second.      The third aut,hor should                desperately       consulted       at the last
have taken a lesser role in the ex-                  moment.
periments      than the second, and so                   I believe this book will prove
on. Bob also decries the practice of                 useful to the young researcher              and
listing the names of people— labor-                  to the veteran         scientist     alike. Its
atory     heads,     for example—who                 publication      by 1S1 Press reflects our
took no part in the experiments               or     continuing      concern with improving
the original        conception        of the         the effectiveness       of scientific com-
research.      While such a practice                 munication.
may be regarded           as good grants-                                                      G)9?915

1. Garfield                           writing,
               E. On style in scientific
         Current Contents   (2):5, 10 January1977.
2. Aaronson  S. Style in scientific writing.
      Current Contents (2):6-15, 10 January 1977.
3. Frkdman S M, Goodell R, & Verbit L. Directory of science communications
       courses and programs. Binghamton,       NY: State University of New York at
        Binghamton,    1978.46 p.
4. CBE Style Manual Committee.        Council of Biology Editors style manual: a guide
       for authors, editors and publishers in the biological sciences.
        New York: Council of Biology Editors,     1978.265  p.
5. O’Connor M & Woodford F P. Wn”ting scientific papers in English.
       Amsterdam:     Elsevier, 1978. 108 p.
6. Day R A. How to write a scientific paper. ASM Ne ws 41:486-94, 1975.
7. Garfjeld E. The ethics of scientific publication.
        Current Contents (40):5- 12, 2 October 1978.
8. --------------- The place for an author’s address is upfront—where         it can be
        counted! Current Conients (47):5-6, 22 November 1976. *
9 --------------- Humor unscientific journals, and joumalsof     scientific humor.
        Current Content~ (51):5-11, 20 December 1976. ”

Reprinted    in: Garfie!d E. Essays of an information   scientist.
  Philadelphia:   ISI Press, 1977, 2v01s.

   A soft-cover   edition of How to Write and Publish a Scientific       Paper will
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will cost $15.00 plus postage. The International    Standard Book Number
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