Structuring Scientific Texts Getting Thestoryout

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one." Mark Twain

Proper structuring of scientific manuscripts adds much value to their ease of "digestion." The following techniques are helpful when drafting journal articles and other research reports:

• Use a short, informative title: If permitted by the journal or organizer in question, reveal conclusions in the title, i.e., "Treatment A is Superior to Treatment B", rather than "An Evaluation of Treatments A and B." Do bear in mind that not all journal editors or organizers of scientific symposia encourage this type of title; it is therefore important to consult the relevant guidelines in advance.

• Prepare an interesting and informative abstract: The abstract usually gets more attention than any other section of your article; in fact, it is often the only part readers are prepared to read. Therefore, we should make the abstract interesting to entice the reading of the complete article. We do not need to save our conclusion until the end of the article. However, the abstract must never contain any information that is not detailed in the main part of the paper.

• Use structured abstracts: Many scientific and medical journals request a structured abstract. Give busy readers a chance to scan for information in your abstract by organizing it under headings such as Introduction, Methods and Materials, Results, and Discussion. This structure is commonly referred to as the IMRAD structure, with IMRAD used as an acronym made up from the first letters of the full terms plus an added "A"

for "and." Some journals use modifications of this, e.g., Objective or Background, Design, Setting, Main Outcome Measure, Results or Findings, and Conclusion. Even if the journal to which you are submitting your article does not require this format, you might still consider structuring your abstract this way.

• Use a logical "story" approach throughout the paper: Remember that your paper or report has the highest chance of being read if it is a logical "story." This implies that there is a clear beginning and clear ending, with an interesting, informative part in between. Use the IMRAD structure unless the journal (or other organization to which the paper will be submitted) requests a different layout.

• Pay utmost attention to the opening section (introduction or background): State clearly what the article is about. Avoid overwhelming readers with technical terms and jargons. Do not open with a broad generalization that could cover almost any topic, such as, "This paper is an attempt to contribute to the ongoing debate in an important medical area."

• Give a focussed and accurate account of the methods used: Provide enough information on how the results were obtained to enable a knowledgeable reader to reproduce the experiment or study and to verify the reported results. Do not report any results in the Method section.

• Clearly separate the results from the discussion: Describe your findings in the Results section and save their interpretation for the discussion. Actual numbers (e.g., rates, percentages, P values) stated in the Results section should not be repeated in the Discussion section. In general, the Discussion section should address the findings in a qualitative sense, but it may occasionally be necessary to highlight individual values to make the intended point.

• Keep the conclusions short and focussed: Present the conclusions in a clear, concise language so that your results are easily understood. Do not draw any conclusions that go beyond the reported data.

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