How to Write a Scientific Article Lecture 3 Francois Grey

Tsinghua Workshop on
How to Write
a Scientific Article
Lecture 3
Francois Grey
November 2008
Conclusions of Lecture 2
The Web has changed the scientific article, both from
the point of view of production, distribution and
Journal impact factor and researcher h-index are now
standard tools for analysis of journal and researcher
performance, despite many limitations.
Open access is a growing trend that enhances scientific
impact of publications. Open peer-review and other
Web 2.0 innovations do not have much impact yet.
Overview of the Course
Eight lectures + homework
1) Historical Context
2) Contemporary Context
3) Planning Your Article
4) Writing Your Article
5) Submitting Your Article
6) The Referee Process
7) Disseminating Your Article
8) Conclusions
Lecture 2: Planning Your Article
“Planning is essential. Plans are useless”
How to start:
• Setting a realistic timeline
• Collecting the material
• Prioritizing the results
Setting a realistic timeline
Don’t wait until the experiment is “finished”.
An experiment is never finished.
Don’t wait until the article is “finished”.
Iterate drafts with supervisor and colleagues.
Keep track of how long it takes you to prepare articles.
Experience will enable better planning in future.
From the time you start doing real experiments,
you should start writing real articles.
Setting a realistic timeline
Typical timescales in publishing an article
1) From experiment to submission of article : 1 year
2) From submission to publication: 1 year
Drafting and
revising the
Preparing and
the article
Peer review
and copy
Typical timescales in writing an article
1) Revision of draft article by supervisor: 1/month
2) Revision of draft article by author: 1/week
3) Working on draft article: 1/day
Collecting the material
IMRAD: a useful guideline
Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion
Introduction: Why you are doing the experiment?
• Gather and summarize relevant literature.
Methods: How you are doing the experiment?
• Describe key features of experiment.
• Gather and summarize relevant references.
Results: What do you observe?
• Prepare figures, tables and their captions.
Discussion: How do you interpret your observations?
• Prepare figures, tables.
• Gather and summarize relevant references.
Prioritizing the results
1) List all your results.
Which ones are novel?
Which ones are essential for explaining novel results?
Which ones are non-essential, but interesting for others?
Which ones are non-essential and non-interesting?
2) If there are many novel results:
Consider whether this may warrant more than one article.
Sketch different scenarios for splitting up results into articles.
3) Prioritize your novel results:
What is the most logical order to present them in?
Which ones are most compelling and well supported?
Which ones are most surprising and exciting?
Start planning today
Each participant:
Your general area of research
Specific area addressed by your results
Start planning today
Plan the times you will start working on
your article for next three weeks, at least
two hours per week.
Send me dates/times by next lecture.
Homework for next lecture
Select a literature article that you found particularly
interesting, informative and easy to understand, and
send me an electronic version.
Next time, present the article to the class briefly (what
is the general topic and specific result) and answer the
following three questions:
Does the title and abstract summarize the contents well?
Does the title and abstract make you want to read the
contents? Why?
How is the article structured? Does it follow the IMRAD
style? If not, can you identify the IMRAD components?