Tips for Writing Better Scientific Articles


Scientific Articles

It may sound cliché for a writer to write tips on how to write, but with many years of experience in the scientific and medical field, particularly with medical education, it is always this writer’s inclination to hand down knowledge he feels is helpful to the community.  


Compile and organize your data effectively

This technically isn’t a writing tip, but it’s probably the most important thing one can do prior to actually writing a manuscript. Data collection is the base of every scientific research article, so ensuring all the data is there should be the first step to creating the narrative you want to tell. Within data compilation and analysis, there are several recommended practices, chief among them the use of cloud-based laboratory information management systems (LIMS) and electronic notebooks (ELNs) that make recording results and analyzing them fast, efficient, and organized while increasing visibility among others in the lab. Compiling data is also made simpler using these automated systems, as every pertinent assay can be neatly arranged and tabulated. Once collected, the necessary figures can be produced, which will be the basis for your scientific story, there to extrapolate conclusions and other salient points to be included in the paper.

Try writing the conclusion first

This may seem counterintuitive, however, many recommend writing the results section of the manuscript first, followed by the introduction and discussion, with the conclusion last.1 However, writing the conclusion first may bring your study’s overall meaning into focus beforehand, helping you take a broader view of the study’s goals and sharpen them by reviewing your graphs. It will also help clarify who the intended audience is, especially when it comes to stressing specific aspects of the study and what they mean to other researchers. Writing the discussion may help you select an appropriate narrative and other studies to compare your data.

Create the outline and fill it in

It always feels a bit daunting to start anything from scratch, let alone writing an article comprised of thousands of words and anywhere from one to ten or more figures. So, after you’ve clarified the broad message of the paper, it’s easy to simply open a Word document and begin creating headers for each section, as well as writing bullet points and/or placing figures in an appropriate order. In effect, writing a scientific article can be similar to putting together a puzzle; each piece needs to be identified, sorted, and assigned to where it fits best.

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Edit for clarity and conciseness

Once written, look over the document, and for each sentence and paragraph, ask if it meets the following criteria:

  • No word repetition, filler words, or lengthy sentences
  • Appropriate use of passive and active voice (active for introduction and discussion, passive for methods and results)
  • Appropriate transitional words and/or phrases
  • Consistent use of abbreviations, acronyms, and nomenclature
  • Correct grammar, including punctuation and syntax

Here, Grammarly can be an invaluable tool to weed out issues, though it’s also worth performing a formal spellcheck to verify the entire text.

Reference accordingly

Referencing can be one of the most challenging aspects of scientific writing. Tracking more than 50 references and ensuring each point is accurately referenced can be burdensome without the right tools. It is recommended that all necessary references be compiled before writing and that each be entered individually into a Word-compatible database, such as Mendeley or EndNote. From there, references can be cited directly in the document, and a bibliography can be generated at the end. When selecting a journal, ensure your references match its corresponding referencing standards.

Follow your intuition

Scientific writing doesn’t need to be perfect. The key is to put on the page what you think is accurate and meaningful within the context and structure of a scientific publication. Sometimes, merely reviewing data as it is written on the page can lead to new avenues for research, though try not to overreach in your conclusions. Follow the trail, as any good scientist would, from a dry presentation of data to a logical discussion about what it means and how it should be viewed within its field, even if it doesn’t neatly fit into current dogmas.


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  1. Hoogenboom BJ, Manske RC. HOW TO WRITE A SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012;7(5):512-517.


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