WRITING A SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ARTICLE
FORMAT FOR THE PAPER
Scientific research articles provide a method for scientists
to communicate with other scientists about the results of
their research. A standard format is used for these
articles, in which the author presents the research in an
orderly, logical manner. This doesn't necessarily reflect
the order in which you did or thought about the work. This
Make your title specific enough to describe the contents of
the paper, but not so technical that only specialists will
understand. The title should be appropriate for the intended
The title usually describes the subject matter of the
article: Effect of Smoking on Academic Performance"
Sometimes a title that summarizes the results is more
effective: Students Who Smoke Get Lower Grades"
1. The person who did the work and wrote the paper is
generally listed as the first author of a research paper.
2. For published articles, other people who made substantial
contributions to the work are also listed as authors. Ask
your mentor's permission before including his/her name as
1. An abstract, or summary, is published together with a
research article, giving the reader a "preview" of what's to
come. Such abstracts may also be published separately in
bibliographical sources, such as Biological Abstracts. They
allow other scientists to quickly scan the large scientific
literature, and decide which articles they want to read in
depth. The abstract should be a little less technical than
the article itself; you don't want to dissuade your
potential audience from reading your paper.
2. Your abstract should be one paragraph, of 100-250 words,
which summarizes the purpose, methods, results and
conclusions of the paper.
3. It is not easy to include all this information in just a
few words. Start by writing a summary that includes whatever
you think is important, and then gradually prune it down to
size by removing unnecessary words, while still retaining
the necessary concepts.
3. Don't use abbreviations or citations in the abstract. It
should be able to stand alone without any footnotes.
What question did you ask in your experiment? Why is it
interesting? The introduction summarizes the relevant
literature so that the reader will understand why you were
interested in the question you asked. One to four paragraphs
should be enough. End with a sentence explaining the
specific question you asked in this experiment.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
1. How did you answer this question? There should be enough
information here to allow another scientist to repeat your
experiment. Look at other papers that have been published in
your field to get some idea of what is included in this
2. If you had a complicated protocol, it may helpful to
include a diagram, table or flowchart to explain the methods
3. Do not put results in this section. You may, however,
include preliminary results that were used to design the
main experiment that you are reporting on. ("In a
preliminary study, I observed the owls for one week, and
found that 73 % of their loco motor activity occurred during
the night, and so I conducted all subsequent experiments
between 11 pm and 6 am.")
4. Mention relevant ethical considerations. If you used
human subjects, did they consent to participate. If you used
animals, what measures did you take to minimize pain?
1. This is where you present the results you've gotten. Use
graphs and tables if appropriate, but also summarize your
main findings in the text. Do NOT discuss the results or
speculate as to why something happened; t hat goes in the
2. You don't necessarily have to include all the data you've
gotten during the semester. This isn't a diary.
3. Use appropriate methods of showing data. Don't try to
manipulate the data to make it look like you did more than
you actually did.
"The drug cured 1/3 of the infected mice, another 1/3 were
not affected, and the third mouse got away."
TABLES AND FIGURES
1. If you present your data in a table or figure, include a
title describing what's in the table ("Enzyme activity at
various temperatures", not "My results".) For
should also label the x and y axes.
2. Don't use a table or graph just to be "fancy". If you can
summarize the information in one sentence, then a table or
graph is not necessary.
1. Highlight the most significant results, but don't just
repeat what you've written in the Results section. How do
these results relate to the original question? Do the data
support your hypothesis? Are your results consistent with
what other investigators have reported? If your results were
unexpected, try to explain why. Is there another way to
interpret your results? What further research would be
necessary to answer the questions raised by your results?
How do y our results fit into the big picture?
2. End with a one-sentence summary of your conclusion,
emphasizing why it is relevant.
This section is optional. You can thank those who either
helped with the experiments, or made other important
contributions, such as discussing the protocol, commenting
on the manuscript, or buying you pizza.
REFERENCES (LITERATURE CITED)
There are several possible ways to organize this section.
Here is one commonly used way:
1. In the text, cite the literature in the appropriate
Scarlet (1990) thought that the gene was present only in
yeast, but it has since been identified in the platypus
(Indigo and Mauve, 1994) and wombat (Magenta et al., 1995).
2. In the References section list citations in alphabetical
Indigo AC, Mauve BE (1994). Queer place for
qwerty: gene isolation from the platypus. Science 275:
Magenta ST, Sepia X, Turquoise U (1995). Wombat
genetics. In: Widiculous Wombats, Violet, Q., ed. New York:
Columbia University Press. pp. 123-145.
Scarlet SL (1990). Isolation of qwerty gene from S. cerevisae. Journal of Unusual Results 36: 26-31.
Martins AC (1999). Isolation of qwerty gene from S. cerevisae. Journal of Unusual Results 36(2): 26-31.