How to Write a Scientific Paper in 5 Simple Steps
Updated May 29th, 2022
A scientific paper is a manuscript that reports scientific studies and findings to the general public. Writing about research or scientific findings that you’ve been gathering and conducting for some time is such an exciting thing. It can also be very daunting as most researchers struggle to summarize raw data into a friendlier format.
So, where do you start? How do you end the paper? To help you put your ideas into writing, we’ve put together five steps for writing a scientific paper the right way. In the end, we’ll mention more of how Orvium contributes to the scientific world.
5 Steps on Writing a Scientific Paper - The Right Way
Familiarize Yourself with the Materials
The process of writing a scientific paper begins way before you write even one word. Conduct a literature review to find any gaps in literature and research that you want to write about. Any of the following can be a part of your literature review:
- Applying for research funding
- Developing a study protocol
- Selecting the topic of your paper.
Great places to start your literature review include PubMed and NIH RePORT.
Select the Topic of Your Paper
For the topic of your paper, you must be original. Be careful not to choose an overly-discussed issue or concern, as this will devalue your research instantly. Additionally, you don’t want to go to the other extreme and choose a topic with very little coverage in the scientific community. So choose something with enough coverage and potential for future studies. Keep the following things in mind when selecting a topic:
- Narrow down the scope of your search
- Choose manageable topics
- Pick debatable topics.
Keep in mind that the topic is not the same thing as the title of your paper. The title should be the last thing you write, but more on that a bit later.
Create an Outline for the Paper
Review of the literature may continue while you’re organizing your materials and starting to write. Start with your vision statement outlining the key message or accomplishment of your paper. You’ll come back to it several times throughout your paper, so you must be able to articulate it in one sentence. If you cannot, then you’re not yet ready to start writing.
You’re then able to draft (not write) small sections of your paper, such as the intro, materials and methods section, and the discussion part. Drafting preliminary sections early in the writing process to gather feedback from colleagues and co-authors can help authors avoid potential pitfalls, such as misunderstandings about study objectives.
Decide Where You’re Submitting
The vision statement should then guide your next decision - where are you submitting your paper? It’s best to think of and choose a few journals (in case of rejection) before you start writing anything else to save you time later on. Once you’ve made your decision, check the journal’s guidelines for length limits, formatting rules, and figures.
We recommend an Open Access (OA) journal or repository, such as Orvium, for greater visibility and a more efficient peer-review process. You can read about why it’s better to publish in an OA journal and our nine steps on publishing papers for additional help with your decision.
Start Writing, but Don’t Start at the Beginning
Although the more logical thing to do would be to start writing the intro or the abstract, resist the urge. You may end up having to rewrite both sections if you don’t resist because your ideas may change as you’re writing. Instead, follow the steps below for the best storytelling process:
- Focus on the figures - figures are the backbone of your research, so it’s best to start here. The first figure should make the reader want to know more. Arrange your figures in such a way to support your hypothesis. Note that this may not be the order in which you collected the data. You may use Powerpoint or Prezi to create a storyboard of your figures, with the vision statement on the first page. This is also the step that lets you know if you’re missing any additional data
- Continue with the methods - the methods section is the easiest and the most important to write perfectly. You must be transparent and allow for reproducibility or replicability based on your methods section. If you develop a new experimental method, include every detail such as protocols and controls. Remember not to include results in the methods section
- Go on to the results - this section is the bulk of your paper, and since you storyboarded your figures, you already have an outline for your writing. Write a few paragraphs explaining each figure in as much detail as possible. You should be quantitative and specific. Help readers understand how your study adds to science and how your research fits in the context of any other work. This gives way to the conclusion
- Write the conclusion - here, you can emphasize the most important findings and restate their significance. Talk about what you learned and end with the biggest takeaway for your reader
- Write the intro - the intro should define the problem at hand in the context of a larger picture, review what other researchers contributed to the study to move it forward (possibly information gathered during your literature review), and state your hypothesis. The majority of your references are found in the intro
- Write the abstract - most abstracts are about 150-300 words, so about 10-20 sentences. Think of it as the elevator pitch of your paper. They talk about the importance of the field, its potential impacts, and how your research resolves any issues. Remember that abstracts show up in internet searches
- And finally, write the title - capture the essence of your paper. Be concise without sacrificing any relevant elements to catch the readers’ attention instantly. Don’t make it longer than 10-12 words. After following all of these steps, you may find yourself rejected from journals after submission. Don’t worry, it happens to the best researchers out there. Read about why rejection happens and how you can prevent it here.
After following all of these steps, you may find yourself rejected from journals after submission. Don’t worry, it happens to the best researchers out there.
A More Orvium Approach
Orvium strongly believes in Open Access and its many benefits to publishing, sharing, and collaborating. We give authors, publishers, and reviewers a chance to submit their research in an Open Access peer-reviewed journal. Expand your audience and get help when you need it with access to a global community of like-minded researchers like you. To stay up-to-date with our recent publications and discover what matters to you, visit our platform.