Your Optimal Success Guide For Research Paper Writing

Department of Wildlife Biology, University of Colorado - Boulder The title is not a section, but it is necessary and important. The title should be short and unambiguous, yet be an adequate description of the work. A general rule-of-thumb is that the title should contain the key words describing the work presented. Remember that the title becomes the basis for most on-line computer searches - if your title is insufficient, few people will find or read your paper. For example, in a paper reporting on an experiment involving dosing mice with the sex hormone estrogen and watching for a certain kind of courtship behavior, a poor title would be: Mouse Behavior Why? It is very general, and could be referring to any of a number of mouse behaviors. A better title would be: The Effects of Estrogen on the Nose-Twitch Courtship Behavior in Mice Why? Because the key words identify a specific behavior, a modifying agent, and the experimental organism. If possible, give the key result of the study in the title, as seen in the first example. Similarly, the above title could be restated as: Estrogen Stimulates Intensity of Nose-Twitch Courtship Behavior in Mice 4. clearly state the implications of the answers your results gave you. Whereas the Title can only make the simplest statement about the content of your article, the Abstract allows you to elaborate more on each major aspect of the paper. The length of your Abstract should be kept to about 200-300 words maximum (a typical standard length for journals.) Limit your statements concerning each segment of the paper (i.e. purpose, methods, results, etc.) to two or three sentences, if possible. The Abstract helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper, or it may be the only part they can obtain via electronic literature searches or in published abstracts. Therefore, enough key information (e.g., summary results, observations, trends, etc.) must be included to make the Abstract useful to someone who may to reference your work. How do you know when you have enough information in your Abstract? A simple rule-of-thumb is to imagine that you are another researcher doing an study similar to the one you are reporting. If your Abstract was the only part of the paper you could access, would you be happy with the information presented there? 2. Style: The Abstract is ONLY text. Use the active voice when possible, but much of it may require passive constructions. Write your Abstract using concise, but complete, sentences, and get to the point quickly. Use past tense. Maximum length should be 200-300 words, usually in a single paragraph. The Abstract abbreviations or terms that may be confusing to readers, any sort of illustration, figure, or table, or references to them. 3. Strategy: Although it is the first section of your paper, the Abstract, by definition, must be written last since it will summarize the paper. To begin composing your Abstract, take whole sentences or key phrases from each section and put them in a sequence which summarizes the paper. Then set about revising or adding words to make it all cohesive and clear. As you become more proficient you will most likely compose the Abstract from scratch. 4. Check your work : Once you have the completed abstract, check to make sure that the information in the abstract completely agrees with what is written in the paper. Confirm that all the information appearing the abstract actually appears in the body of the paper. INTRODUCTION Structure : The structure of the Introduction can be thought of as an inverted triangle - the broadest part at the top representing the most general information and focusing down to the specific problem you studied. Organize the information to present the more general aspects of the topic early in the Introduction, then narrow toward the more specific topical information that provides context, finally arriving at your statement of purpose and rationale. A good way to get on track is to sketch out the Introduction backwards; start with the specific purpose and then decide what is the scientific context in which you are asking the question(s) your study addresses. Once the scientific context is decided, then you'll have a good sense of what level and type of general information with which the Introduction should begin. Here is the information should flow in your Introduction: Begin your Introduction by clearly identifying the subject area of interest. Do this by using key words from your Title in the first few sentences of the Introduction to get it focused directly on topic at the appropriate level. This insures that you get to the primary subject matter quickly without losing focus, or discussing information that is too general. For example, in the mouse behavior paper, the words hormones and Organize your presentation so your reader will understand the logical flow of the experiment(s); subheadings work well for this purpose. Each experiment or procedure should be presented as a unit, even if it was broken up over time. The experimental design and procedure are sometimes most efficiently presented as an integrated unit, because otherwise it would be difficult to split them up. In general, provide enough quantitative detail (how much, how long, when, etc.) about your experimental protocol such that other scientists could reproduce your experiments. You should also indicate the statistical procedures used to analyze your results, including the probability level at which you determined significance (usually at 0.05 probability). 2. Style: The style in this section should read as if you were verbally describing the conduct of the experiment. You may use the active voice to a certain extent, although this section requires more use of third person, passive constructions than others. Avoid use of the first person in this section. Remember to use the past tense throughout - the work being reported is done, and was performed in the past, not the future. The Methods section is nota step-by-step, directive, protocol as you might see in your lab manual. typical how they were handled, fed, and housed before the experiment, (4) how they were handled, fed, and housed during the experiment. In genetics studies include the strains or genetic stocks used. For some studies, age may be an important factor. For example, did you use mouse pups or adults? Seedlings or mature plants? FOR FIELD STUDIES ONLY field study was conducted. physical and biological characteristics of the site pertinant to the study aims. Include the date(s) of the study (e.g., 10-15 April 1994) and the exact location of the study area. Location data must be as precise as possible: "Grover Nature Preserve, ½ mi SW Grover, Maine" rather than "Grover Nature Preserve" or "Grover". When possible, give the actual latitude and longitude position of the site: these can be obtained using handheld GPS units, OR, from web resources such as Google Earth( TM ). It is often a good idea to include a map (labeled as a Figure) showing the study location in relation to some larger more recognizable geographic area. Someone else should be able to go to the exact location of your study site if they want to repeat or check your work, or just visit your study area. NOTE: not report the date and location of the study UNLESS it is necessary information for someone to have who might wish to repeat your work or use the same facility. Most often it is not. If you have performed experiments at a particular location or lab because it is the only place to do it, or one of a few, then you should note that in your methods and identify the lab or facility. measured, what form the data take, etc. Always identify treatments by the variable or treatment name, NOT by an ambiguous, generic name or number (e.g., use "2.5% NaCl" rather than "test 1".) When your paper includes more than one experiment, use subheadings to help organize your presentation by experiment. A general experimental design worksheet is available to help plan your experiments in the core courses. Describe the procedures for your study in sufficient detail that other scientists could repeat your work to verify your findings. Foremost in your description should be the "quantitative" aspects of your study - the masses, volumes, incubation times, concentrations, etc., that another scientist needs in order to duplicate your experiment. When using standard lab or field methods and instrumentation, it is not always necessary to explain the procedures (e.g., serial dilution) or equipment used (e.g., autopipetter) since other scientists will likely be familiar with them already. You may want to identify certain types of equipment by vendor name and brand or category (e.g., ultracentrifuge vs. prep centrifuge), particularly if they are not commonly found in most labs. It is appropriate to report, parenthetically, the source (vendor) and catalog number for reagents used, e.g., " ....poly-L-lysine (Sigma #1309) ." When using a method described in another published source, you can save time and words by providing the relevant citation to the source. Always make sure to describe any modifications you have made of a standard or published method. NOTE : Very frequently the experimental design and data collection procedures for an experiment cannot be separated and must be integrated together. If you find yourself repeating lots of information about the experimental design when describing the data collection procedure(s), likely you can combine them and be more concise. NOTE recorded the data," i.e., in your lab notebook, in the Methods description. Of course you did, because that is what all good scientists do, and it is a given that you recorded your measurements and observations. Describe how the data were summarized and analyzed. Here you will indicate what types of descriptive statistics were used and which analyses (usually hypothesis tests) were employed to answer each of the questions or hypotheses tested and determine statistical siginifcance. The information should include: Statistical software used : Sometimes it is necessary to report which statistical software you used; this would be at the discretion of your instructor or the journal; how the data were measures of variability (SD,SEM, 95% CI, etc) this lets you avoid having to repeatedly indicate you are using mean ± SD or SEM. which statistical tests used with reference to the particular questions, or kinds of questions, they address. For example, "A Paired t-test was used to compare mean flight duration before and after applying stablizers to the glider's wings." "One way ANOVA was used to compare mean weight gain in weight-matched calves fed the three different rations." "Comparisons among the three pH treatment groups for each variable were done using one way ANOVA (with Tukey's post hoc test) or a Kruskal-Wallis Test (with Dunn's post hoc test)." any other graphical Function: The function of the Results section is to objectively present your key results, without interpretation, in an orderly and logical sequence using both text and illustrative materials (Tables and Figures). The results section always begins with text, reporting the key results and referring to your figures and tables as you proceed. Summaries of the statistical analyses may appear either in the text (usually parenthetically) or in the relevant Tables or Figures (in the legend or as footnotes to the Table or Figure). The Results section should be organized around Tables and/or Figures that should be sequenced to present your key findings in a logical order. The text of the Results section should be crafted to follow this sequence and highlight the evidence needed to answer the questions/hypotheses you investigated. Important negative results should be reported, too. Authors usually write the text of the results section based upon the sequence of Tables and Figures. 2. Style: Write the text of the Results section concisely and objectively. The passive voice will likely dominate here, but use the active voice as much as possible. Use the past tense. Avoid repetitive paragraph structures. Do not interpret the data here. The transition into interpretive language can be a slippery slope. Consider the following two examples: This example highlights the trend/difference that the author wants the reader to focus: The duration of exposure to running water had a pronounced effect on cumulative seed germination percentages (Fig. 2). Seeds exposed to the 2-day treatment had the highest cumulative germination (84%), 1.25 times that of the 12-h or 5-day groups and 4 times that of controls. In contrast, this example strays subtly into interpretation by referring to optimality (a conceptual model) and tieing the observed result to that idea: The results of the germination experiment (Fig. 2) suggest that the optimal time for running-water treatment is 2 days. This group showed the highest cumulative germination (84%), with longer (5 d) or shorter (12 h) exposures producing smaller gains in germination when compared to the control group. Fig. 1. Table is never abbreviated, e.g., Table 1. The body of the Results section is a text-based presentation of the key findings which includes references to each of the Tables and Figures. The text should guide the reader through your results stressing the key results which provide the answers to the question(s) investigated. A major function of the text is to provide clarifying information. You must refer to each Table and/or Figure individually and in sequence (see numbering sequence), and clearly indicate for the reader the key results that each conveys. Key results depend on your questions, they might include obvious trends, important differences, similarities, correlations, maximums, minimums, etc. Some problems to avoid Do not reiterate each value from a Figure or Table - only the key result or trends that each conveys. Do not present the same data in both a Table and Figure - this is considered redundant and a waste of space and energy. Decide which format best shows the result and go with it. Do not p-value) are usually reported parenthetically in conjunction with the biological results they support. Always report your results with parenthetical reference to the statistical conclusion that supports your finding (if statistical tests are being used in your course). This parenthetical reference should include the statistical test used and the level of significance (test statistic and DF are optional). For example, if you found that the mean height of male Biology majors was significantly larger than that of female Biology majors, you might report this result (in blue) and your statistical conclusion (shown in red) as follows: "Males (180.5 ± 5.1 cm; n=34) averaged 12.5 cm taller than females (168 ± 7.6 cm; n=34) in the AY 1995 pool of Biology majors (two-sample t-test, t = 5.78, 33 d.f., p < 0.001) ." If the summary statistics are shown in a figure, the sentence above need not report them specifically, but must include a reference to the figure where they may be seen: "Males averaged 12.5 cm taller than females in the AY 1995 pool of Biology majors (two-sample t-test, t = 5.78, 33 d.f., p < 0.001; Fig. 1) ." Note that the report of the key result (shown in blue) would be identical in a paper written for a course in which statistical testing is not employed - the section shown in red would simply not appear except reference to the figure. Avoid devoting whole sentences to report a statistical outcome alone. Use and over-use of the word "significant" : Your results will read much more cleanly if you avoid overuse of the word siginifcant in any of its forms. In scientific studies, the use of this word implies that a statistical test was employed to make a decision about the data; in this case the test indicated a larger difference in mean heights than you would expect to get by chance alone. Limit the use of the word "significant" to this purpose only. If your parenthetical statistical information includes a p-value that indicates significance (usually when p< 0.05), it is unncecssary (and redundant) to use the word "significant" in the body of the sentence (see example above) because we all interpret the p-value the same way. Likewise, when you report that one group mean is somehow different from another (larger, smaller, increased, decreased, etc), it will be understood by your reader that you have tested this and found the difference to be statisticallysignificant, especially if you also report a p-value < 0.05. Present the results of your experiment(s) in a sequence that will logically support (or provide evidence against) the hypothesis, or answer the question, stated in the Introduction. For example, in reporting a study of the effect of an experimental diet on the skeletal mass of the rat, consider first giving the data on skeletal mass for the rats fed the control diet and then give the data for the rats fed the experimental diet. negative results - they are important! If you did not get the anticipated results, it may mean your hypothesis was incorrect and needs to be reformulated, or perhaps you have stumbled onto something unexpected that warrants further study. Moreover, the absence of an effect may be very telling in many situations. In any case, your results may be of importance to others even though they did not support your hypothesis. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that results contrary to what you expected are necessarily "bad data". If you carried out the work well, they are simply your results and need interpretation. Many important discoveries can be traced to "bad data". Always enter the appropriate units when reporting data or summary statistics. for an the mean length was 10 m ", or, " " after the error value, e.g., " ...was 10 ± 2.3 m 1. Function : The function of the Discussion is to interpret your results in light of what was already known about the subject of the investigation, and to explain our new understanding of the problem after taking your results into consideration. The Discussion will always connect to the Introduction by way of the question(s) or hypotheses you posed and the literature you cited, but it does not simply repeat or rearrange the Introduction. Instead, it tells how your study has moved us forward from the place you left us at the end of the Introduction. Fundamental questions to answer here include: Do your results provide answers to your testable hypotheses? If so, how do you interpret your findings? Do your findings agree with what others have shown? If not, do they suggest an alternative explanation or perhaps a unforseen design flaw in your experiment (or theirs?) Given your conclusions, what is our new understanding of the problem you investigated and outlined in the Introduction? If warranted, what would be the next step in your study, e.g., what experiments would you do next? 2. Style : Use the active voice whenever possible in this section. Watch out for wordy phrases; be concise and make your points clearly. Use of the first person is okay, but too much use of the first person may actually distract the reader from the main points. 3. Approach : Organize the Discussion to address each of the experiments or studies for which you presented results; discuss each in the same sequence as presented in the Results, providing your interpretation of what they mean in the larger context of the problem. Do not waste entire sentences restating your results; if you need to remind the reader of the result to be discussed, use "bridge sentences" that relate the result to the interpretation: "The slow response of the lead-exposed neurons relative to controls suggests that...[ interpretation ]". You will necessarily make reference to the findings of others in order to support your interpretations.Use subheadings, if need be, to help organize your presentation. Be wary of mistaking the reiteration of a result for an interpretation, and make sure that no new results are presented here that rightly belong in the results. You must relate your work to the findings of other studies - including previous studies you may have done and those of other investigators. As stated previously, you may find crucial information in someone else's study that helps you interpret your own data, or perhaps you will be able to reinterpret others' findings in light of yours. In either case you should discuss reasons for similarities and differences between yours and others' findings. Consider how the results of other studies may be combined with yours to derive a new or perhaps better substantiated understanding of the problem. Be sure to state the conclusions that can be drawn from your results in light of these considerations. You may also choose to briefly mention further studies you would do to clarify your working hypotheses. Make sure to reference any outside sources as shown in the Introduction section. Do not introduce new results in the Discussion. Although you might occasionally include in this section tables and figures which help explain something you are discussing, they must not contain new data (from your study) that should have been presented earlier. They might be flow diagrams, accumulation of data from the literature, or something that shows how one type of data leads to or correlates with another, etc. For example, if you were studying a membrane-bound transport channel and you discovered a new bit of information about its mechanism, you might present a diagram showing how your findings helps to explain the channel's mechanism. | If, in your experiment, you received any significant help in thinking up, designing, or carrying out the work, or received materials from someone who did you a favor by supplying them, you must acknowledge their assistance and the service or material provided. Authors always acknowledge only if an instructor or other individual critiqued the draft prior to evaluation) and any sources of funding that supported the research. Although usual style requirements (e.g., 1st person, objectivity) are relaxed somewhat here, Acknowledgments are always brief and never flowery. Place the LITERATURE CITED 1. Function : The Literature Cited section gives an alphabetical listing (by first author's last name) of the references that you actually cited in the body of your paper. Instructions for writing full citations for various sources are given in on separate page. A complete format list for virtually all types of publication may be found in Huth and others(1994) . extra photographs explanation of formulas, either already known ones, or especially if you have "invented" some statistical or other mathematical procedures for data analysis. specialized computer programs for a particular procedure full generic names of chemicals or compounds that you have referred to in somewhat abbreviated fashion or by some common name in the text of your paper. diagrams of specialized apparati. Figures and Tables in Appendices Figures and Tables are often found in an appendix. These should be formatted as discussed previously (see Tables and Figures), but are numbered in a separate sequence from those found in the body of the paper. So, the first Figure in the appendix would be Figure 1, the first Table would be Table 1, and so forth. In situations when multiple appendices are used, the Table and Figure numbering must indicate the appendix number as well (see Huth and others, 1994). Modified 3-7-11

Your Optimal Success Guide for Research Paper Writing
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Your Optimal Success Guide for Research Paper Writing

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