21 December 2010

Good Scientific Papers 101

Posted by mohi

We planned for 25 attendees. Then raised it to 35. Then 50. Last week’s luncheon talk on writing a good scientific paper, given at AGU Fall Meeting by Renyi Zhang (an editor of JGR-Atmospheres), was overflowing with attendees!

Dr. Zhang covered everything from what makes a good abstract to how to prepare figures to how to respond to reviewers’ comments. The audience of mostly graduate students and postgrads took lots of notes, asked detailed questions, and enjoyed a good lunch. Their response to the session was so positive that we hope to expand this event next year so there is room for even more people to take the first step toward publication.

Recognizing that good scientific communication starts with good academic papers, here are a few noteworthy tips from Zhang’s talk:

  • Read several published articles in the journal to which you’re thinking of submitting to get a sense of the format and the types of articles published.
  • If provided, use templates created by the publisher.
  • Write abstracts that describe the essence of the paper without giving every detail: include why the study was done, what was done, what was found, and what was concluded.
  • Use objective language: for example, rather than “there was a very large change,” use “there was a change of 35 cm.”

For more information and guidelines for would-be authors of AGU journal articles, click here.

But we want to know: What works for you–what do you think makes a scientific paper easier to read? Generically–no names please–what is your pet peeve about how scientists communicate through articles in journals? Let us know!

–Diane Elliot, Staff, AGU Editorial Services