WRITING A SCIENTIFIC PAPER Peter A. Thrower Editor-in-Chief, CARBON The Past • • • • • • Typewriters demanded extreme care. Copy Editors were important. Publications were in other languages. Typesetting was “manual”. Submission costs! Always saw complete ms. (Title, Abstract, Text) The Present • Computers make correction and revision easy. • There are no copy editors - must rely on grammar and spell checkers. These are poor language monitors! • English is the language of science - sorry! • No typesetting - electronic formatting. • Free submissions via website. • Website allows access to Title/Abstract without the Text. • Supplementary material can be included. The components • • • • • • • Title Abstract Introduction Experimental Results & Discussion Conclusions (or Summary) Acknowledgments & References What do I do first? • Certainly NOT write in the order the sections appear. Perhaps as follows. – – – – – – – – Results & Discussion Conclusions Experimental Introduction Abstract Title Organise References Acknowledgments Results • A paper is centered around the Results – First get them organised. What to include? – Any photographs? – How will I present them - figures and/or tables? – Do I need to combine results with discussion? – Can some Results be presented as Supplementary Material? [website allows this] Results • Tables • Graphs • Photographs Exact, Objective Check accuracy Some guesswork? Representative? Subjective • Supplementary Material Figures • Make sure each one is important. • There is no need to have a photograph of a nanotube in every paper dealing with them! • Do not duplicate data in both figures and tables. Which shows the data more clearly? • Often a figure is better in the main ms. with tables in Supplementary Material. Discussion • If possible, separate from the Results BUT • Sometimes a result, or set of results, must be discussed in order to logically point to the next stage in the experiment. • In this case combine Results and Discussion. Discussion • Keep it logical. • Do not “ramble”. • Compare your results with those of others. References are really important here. • Be careful to show where your work has advanced the subject. • Try to lead naturally to the Conclusions. Conclusions • This is NOT the same as a summary. The Abstract is usually a summary. A reader who has the paper will certainly have the Abstract. • Personal preference is to have the Conclusions as a list. • If it is a summary -give it that heading and make it more than the Abstract. • NEVER make conclusions that cannot be justified or are not mentioned in the main text. Experimental This section has two purposes: – To convince readers that the work has been done systematically and thoroughly using appropriate equipment. – To allow readers to repeat the experiments if they wish. • To check (doubtful) results • To prepare the same materials, etc. Experimental • Should contain ALL information needed for another person to repeat the experiment. – Sample preparation. Times and temperatures. Heating rates. – Sources of materials. Purity. Particle size. Synthesis of intermediates – Analytical & measurement techniques. – Parameters. Strain rates. Wavelengths. Applied voltages, etc. Experimental • Are instrument details important? (They should usually be irrelevant.) Does somebody need the same instrument to repeat the research? • What is the difference between TEM and HRTEM? When does an instrument become “high resolution”? • Do not sub-divide too much. (Some papers are submitted with separate sections for each instrument.) Introduction and References • Why together? Because usually a minimum of 30%, and as many as 70+% of all references are cited in the Introduction. • Most Introductions are unnecessarily long. • A reference is something you may wish to refer to for further information. When did you last consult a reference? • If you have done so, it is most unlikely to be one of the first ten references! You know those already. What is the purpose of the Introduction? • A brief, or complete, history of the subject? • What does the reader need to know? • What will the reader already know? BUT • Some reviewers are upset if their papers are not referenced. • The Citation Index!! Citation Index Should be based on papers referenced other than in the Introduction! References cited in the Discussion are certainly more important to the paper’s content.  S. Iijima, Helical microtubules of graphitic carbon. Nature 1991;354 (6348):56–58. This paper has nearly 10,000 citations but most are in Introductions. Is it an important paper? Certainly “yes”. But…… Titles • Be straightforward and precise: – “Improved mechanical properties” • Which ones? Strength? Stiffness? • For what applications? • Better for one application may be the opposite for another. – “Activated carbons produced at low temperature” • 80 K is low! 500°C is not. – “CNT solution in organic acids” • All? Which did you investigate? Fumic and acetic. Titles Never use a colon (or hyphen) unless the paper is part of a multi-part series. “Chemistry and kinetics of chemical vapor deposition of pyrocarbon: I. Carbon deposition from methane .” “Chemistry and kinetics of chemical vapor deposition of pyrocarbon: II. Carbon deposition from propylene ” “The structure of CVD carbon: the effect of deposition temperature” should be: “The effect of deposition temperature on the structure of CVD carbon” Abstract “In this paper we report new results on the successful preparation of ……” 1. We know it is not a different paper, but this one. 2. We know it is “you”. 3. We know the results are new - we would not publish if they were old. 4. We assume the experiment was successful - you do not usually report failures! Abstract Simply tell the reader two things: 1. What was done. 2. Important results obtained. Do not: 1. Provide history or narrative. 2. Speculate - possible uses, etc. 3. Include data that is not in the manuscript. A recent example. Submitted Abstract This paper presents the development of activated carbons (ACs) for a 4.5 K sorption cooler for ESA´s Darwin mission. A sorption cooler has two parts: (i) cold stage; (ii) sorption compressor. ACs are very interesting candidates for sorption compressors because large amounts of gas can be adsorbed reversibly. In the present paper, ACs with different surface area, micropore size distribution and packing density were prepared from an anthracite and bituminous coals. The development of porosity was carried out by different activation methods using KOH, NaOH and CO 2 as activating agents. Some ACs were agglomerated using different binders to prepare activated carbon monoliths (ACMs). In order to predict the performance of these materials in Helium sorption compressors, Helium adsorption isotherms were measured up to 35 bar in a cryogenic volumetric characterization set-up, at different temperatures (from 20 K up to 150 K). Moreover, other measurements were carried out, including packing density, mechanical properties (compression strength, vibration tests), thermal expansion and also pressure-drop measurements. From the results obtained in this study, an ACM with a high helium adsorption/desorption capacity, high density, low pressure drop, low thermal expansion and good mechanical properties was prepared and applied successfully in a 4.5 K sorption cooler. (195 words) Edited Abstract For use in a 4.5 K sorption cooler, activated carbons (ACs) with different surface areas, micropore size distributions and packing densities were prepared from anthracite and bituminous coals. The development of porosity was carried out using KOH, NaOH and CO 2 as activating agents. Some ACs were combined with different binders to prepare activated carbon monoliths. In order to predict the performance of these materials in helium sorption compressors, helium adsorption isotherms were measured up to 35 bar in a cryogenic volumetric characterization apparatus, at different temperatures (20 to 150 K). Packing density, mechanical properties (compression strength, vibration tests), thermal expansion and pressure-drop measurements were also investigated. From the results, a monolith with a high helium adsorption/desorption capacity, high density, low pressure drop, low thermal expansion and good mechanical properties was prepared and used successfully. (134 words, >30% less) What were the binders? What was the successful monolith? Were commercial materials compared? Correct this Abstract! • In this study, entangled and bundled MWNTs produced in different temperature and catalysis by CVD techniques were adopted to fabricate MWNTs/PA6 composites. The results demonstrated the better mechanical properties were achieved for bundled MWNTs than entangled MWNTs. With addition of only 1.0wt% MWNTs into PA6 matrix, the tensile strength and modulus were increased up to 15.6% and 16.5% respectively. The storage modules of the two kinds of MWNTs/PA6 composites at 40C increased about 30%, and the Tg increase to 61.3 and 63.3C respectively from 57.7C of neat PA6. Better? • Entangled and bundled MWCNTs produced by CVD at different temperatures and using different catalysts were used to fabricate MWCNT/PA6 composites. Better mechanical properties were achieved for bundled MWCNTs than for entangled MWCNTs. With the addition of only 1.0wt% MWCNTs to the PA6 matrix, the tensile strength and modulus were increased by 15.6% and 16.5% respectively. The storage moduli of the two MWCNT/PA6 composites at 40C increased about 30%, and the Tg increased from 57.7C for neat PA6 to 61.3 and 63.3C for the bundled and entangled MWCNTs, respectively. The Submission Process • Read the “Guide for Authors”. PLEASE! – Section headings. Reference format. Length restrictions for Letters. • You MUST submit using the website. • Make sure you include suggestions for international reviewers. • If a revision, include responses to reviewers. Submission • If the Editor-in-Chief has told you to resubmit - true for most papers from China. – Make sure you do as requested and carefully follow each point in the “Resubmit” letter. – If you do not agree with some of my suggestions, please include a cover letter to explain why this is so. – Be sensible! If I correct something in the Abstract, ask yourself whether it needs to be corrected elsewhere? Abbreviations 1. To define an abbreviation, first write the term in full followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. “X-ray diffraction (XRD) examination showed that the samples were not crystalline …..” Do not do the reverse. Never define an abbreviation in the manuscript title. Never use abbreviations in the Abstract without defining them, and only define them if they are used later in the Abstract. Define an abbreviation the first time it is used in the text, even though it may also have been defined in the Abstract. Only define an abbreviation if you are going to use it later. 2. 3. 4. 5. Some English problems • We do not usually use plural nouns as adjectives - “carbon fiber composites” not “carbon fibers composites”. • Do not use hyphens unless necessary to clarify meaning. “Chinese food seller”! – “Chinese-food seller” - a person who sells Chinese food – “Chinese food-seller” - a Chinese person who sells food – “Boron-containing carbon” means carbon which contains boron, whereas – “Boron containing carbon” means boron which contains carbon! Some English problems articles • “of” is usually preceded and followed by “the” – …the dimensions of the sample were measured – …the speed of the car BUT .the speed of light • Some nationalities tend to use “the” where not necessary and omit “a” where it is necessary – “The FTIR is one of the typical methods used to characterise the chemically modified nanotubes.” • FTIR is a typical method used to characterise chemically……... – “We obtained black solid after the reduction of the….” • We obtained a black solid after reduction of the……. Of course the meaning is clear in both cases Some English problems • Literal translation is often wrong! “This is the reason why some samples gave different results…….” is correct. NOT “It is the reason why………” “Respectively” • “In order to make sure of the necessity of the hydrogen involvement, experiments were carried out in helium and hydrogen atmospheres respectively.” WRONG. • “In order to make sure of the necessity of the hydrogen involvement, experiments were carried out in helium and hydrogen atmospheres at 230°C and 450°C respectively.” Would be CORRECT. i.e. He at 230°C and H at 450°C “Respectively” The word is used to link items in two or more lists in the order in which they appear in those lists. To say that “samples were heat treated at 450°C and 700°C respectively” is incorrect unless there is a list of two samples. Latin phrases • In situ - means in the place. All things happen in a place! Use it ONLY to indicate that something is taking place where it will later be used. • Via - “by” is usually enough & simpler • e.g. (for example) and i.e. (that is, or that is to say) Nano • Nano - one billionth – Hence nanosecond, nanometer, nanogram • Nano has become shorthand for “nanometer” or “nanometer sized” • Nanotechnology - the art of manipulating materials on a very small scale in order to build microscopic machinery (Encarta) • Nanobot - a robot of microscopic proportions built using nanotechnology (Encarta) Misuse - loose use • A recent review of Liszt piano concertos criticised the pianist for entering a nanosecond late at one point! The reviewer had superhuman ears. – She meant “slightly late” - probably a tenth of a second Misuse - bad constructions • • • • • • • • • Nanocrystalline - perhaps Nanobuckling Nanostress - can you measure? Nanothermodynamics Nanocomposites Nanosheets - ambiguous? Nanolayers - ambiguous? Nanostructured - perhaps - composed of nm size particles Nanoropes - Nanotube ropes Nanocomposites • “composites, in which the constituents are mixed on a nanometer-length scale.” (Cornell Univ.) • Surely it should be “nanometer-size constituents are mixed…..’. Nanotubes are not of nanometer- length. • You would never believe a need for shorthand terminology if you could see the unnecessary length of most submissions! Misuse - overuse (ms titles) • Fabrication of carbon nanotube and nanorod arrays using nanoporous templates • Novel nanocomposite of carbon nanotube-nanoclay by direct growth of nanotubes on nanoclay surface • Micromorphology, macroporosity, and micro/mesoporosity of resorcinol-formaldehyde carbon cryogel microhoneycombs • Synthesis of nano-glassy carbon by laser ablation Misuse can lead to ambiguity • What does this title mean to you? “Synthesis of carbon/silica nanocomposite films by an electrochemical method” – I thought the paper was about a CNT/silica composite (CNTs embedded in silica), BUT it concerned nanometer particles of silica in amorphous carbon Nano in the wrong place? • “Nanomechanics of carbon tubes” • Should it not be “Mechanics of carbon nanotubes”? • Why not millimechanics and kilomechanics? Does Peer Review Work? • Mostly yes - but not perfect • The photograph shows a copy of the paper model of C60 'Buckminsterfullerene' made by R.W.Henson at AERE Harwell,UK in 1970 • Peer opinion “nonsense” • "In Science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs." (Sir Francis Darwin) Be Honest How to make large quantities of fullerene? Conclusions • • • • Read the Guide for Authors. Take time! Organize. Be honest. Remember to make Title, Abstract & Paper independently understandable. • Pay careful attention to the comments of the Editor and the Reviewers. Do not waste their time! Thank you for your attention.