Basic Consideration to write Biological Research Article
4th Dec, 2019 Chitwan;
Generally, most types of research article follow a classical pattern, answering a logical series of questions mentioned below:
Introduction what led to the work and what are the objectives?
Materials what was used? Methods what was done?
Results what happened?
Discussion what does it mean?
Conclusions what are the implications of the results?
Acknowledgements who helped?
References who is referred to in the text?
This is known as the IMRAD (Introduction, Materials, Results and Discussion) structure, and have become the main pattern for research articles in many disciplines. This classical structure does not fit some disciplines, such as sociology and economics, and most medical journals use a different structure. For example, the journal Nature Medicine prints the Methods section last, and in smaller type. The IMRAD structure is very common in the natural sciences(like Agriculture), and a clear understanding of how each part is put together will be useful to most scientists. Note that, as far as publishers are concerned, the title, authors, addresses and abstract are also essential parts of the paper.
It is extremely important to write a good title for a paper. The title attracts the interest of the reader and it is used in bibliographic information services, so it needs to be accurate and informative. The object is to include as much information as you can in as few words as possible. Put the most important part of your work at the start of title, where it will be easiest for the reader scanning a list to see. You can write your title as one statement, or use the main/subtitle format.
For example, you can write: Effects of drought, aging and phosphorus status on leaf acid phosphatase activity in rice
Or you can write: Acid phosphatase activity in rice leaves: effects of drought, aging and phosphorus status
Readers will assume that the subject that comes first in the title is the main focus of the paper, so be sure to reflect that in the paper.
There is a third way of writing a title; that is to make a statement: Acid phosphatase activity in rice leaves is decreased by drought, aging and phosphorus status This is a very clear approach, almost a mini-summary of the paper.
The first author should be the person who carried out most of the work reported, with other workers mentioned in decreasing order of contribution. The scientist who oversaw the work is usually placed last. All people who are listed as authors must be aware of the paper, must have agreed to be named as an author, and must have had the opportunity to contribute to and comment on the paper. Some journal websites comment on authorship, so check on the website of your target journal. Give the names of all authors, in the style the journal specifies.
For example, this may be the first name in full, the middle initial only, and the last name in full. Most journals do not print authors’ qualifications.
Do not make a distinction between men and women – do not write:
M.S. Adhikari and Prajina Kumari. Neupane. Indicate which author should receive correspondence and proofs (the corresponding author), with their email and full postal address.
You should give an address for each author you mention on the title page – that is, the address of the author at the time when the work was done. If any authors have moved, include a footnote with their present address.
An abstract represents the contents of the article in short form. There are three types of abstract: informative, indicative and structured. There is often confusion about the words ‘Abstract’ and ‘Summary’. A summary restates the main findings and conclusions of a paper, and is written for people who have already read the paper. An abstract is an abbreviated version of the paper, written for people who may never read the complete version. So, a summary is not the same as an abstract, although some journals call the abstracts of the articles they publish ‘summaries.’
An informative abstract should answer the following questions: –
Why did you start?
What did you do, and how?
What did you find?
What do your findings mean?
The abstract must be written so that it can be read on its own, for example, if it is output from a bibliographic retrieval system. Do not waste words by repeating the title in the abstract. Keep to 250 words or fewer for an article of 2000–5000 words, and to about 100 words for a short communication, depending on the journal’s requirements. If the reason for doing the study is not clear from the title or the rest of the abstract, state the purpose. Say what you studied and what methods you used. Give your main findings concisely and summarize your conclusions. Try to mention in the abstract all the main information covered in the paper. Be as brief and as specific as possible, and write with non-specialists in mind. Do not refer in the abstract to research that is not in the paper. Generally speaking, a short abstract should be written as a single paragraph. To help computerized text searching, use significant words from the text in the abstract. Avoid unfamiliar terms, acronyms, abbreviations or symbols; if you must use them, define them at first mention. Use generic names, not trade names, for chemicals and drugs, except when trade names are the most accurate way to describe such substances. Identify living organisms by their Latin (binomial) names. Avoid citing other work; if you must include a citation, for example to a paper that inspired your investigation, include a short form of the bibliographic details in the abstract itself – “as M.S. Adhikari pointed out (J. Rice Res. 2005; 4: 2111–13)” – for the benefit of readers who will read only the abstract.
Indicative abstracts contain general statements describing what is in the text, giving readers a general idea of the contents of the paper, but little, if any, specific detail. They are more common in field reports, long papers such as review articles, and for books or chapters in books. They are the lazy way of writing an abstract; many journals will ask for a more informative version.
Some journals now ask for an abstract with a specific structure, especially in the medical area, for reports of clinical trials. This sort of abstract is written mostly as a series of points, although the Results and Conclusions sections should be in sentence form. If your target journal wants a structured abstract, the Instructions to Authors will tell you what headings to use and how long the abstract should be. Annals of Botany requests a structured abstract not exceeding 300 words made up of bulleted headings as follows: Background and Aims; Methods; Key Results; Conclusions.
Key words or phrases for indexing are often printed at the end of an abstract. If the journal asks for key words, choose the most important and most specific terms you can find in your paper. Refer to previously published articles in the journal of choice for guidance. To help readers to find your paper, do not include very general topics such as ‘soil’ or ‘potato’. Be specific, to allow readers to focus on your work. Include the binomial of the main species you are working with. Note that essential words in the title should be repeated in the key words since these, rather than the title, are used in some electronic searches.
The Introduction should answer the questions “Why did you do the work?” and “What did you want to find out?” It should contain three parts:
– the background to the work and a brief review of the relevant literature, to allow the reader to evaluate the present work;
– the logic that led you to do the work, and your hypothesis;
– a clear statement of the objectives of the work. You need to show the logical development of your theory or objective within the context of existing work. Explain how your hypothesis came about, briefly reviewing previous published work on the subject. Use references to support everything you say. Most authors initially make the Introduction too long by including too much background material, for example, “This crop is one of the most important food crops in the world”. If you have exceeded two pages of typing, you have probably written too much.
Materials and Methods
Here the questions are “What did you use?” and “What did you do?” In this section, you only describe the materials you used, and the methods you used in the work. You do not need to interpret anything. However, you must make sure you have described everything in sufficient detail so that another scientist could repeat your experiment after reading the description.
Justify your choice of one method or treatment over the others available. State the assumptions that you have made. This will allow your readers to understand the purpose of the methods you are about to describe. Follow a logical order; this section falls naturally into two sections: the Materials first, then the Methods.
Describe all the materials – chemicals, animals, plants, equipment, etc. – that you used. Identify chemical compounds (fertilizers, etc.) so that other workers will be able to obtain the same materials. If you use trade names, you should include the full chemical name or active ingredient the first time you mention it. Some journals ask you to give the name and address of the supplier or manufacturer of the material.
Use internationally recognized standards for naming materials, and also use metric units, standard nomenclature, etc. Give the full genus, species, race, strain, cultivar or line of any experimental plants, animals or microorganisms you used. Species names can be abbreviated once they have been fully described.
Check the journal’s Instructions to Authors for correct usage and terminology.
In this section, you answer the questions “What did you do?” and “How did you do it?”. Describe your experiments in a logical order. If you have used well known methods, just give their names and a reference, but if you made any changes, these should be explained. The readers of the paper will be scientists themselves, so you do not need to describe familiar things in detail. Be brief, but do not leave out important information such as sizes or volumes.
Describe the statistical techniques you used, but do not go into detail. Most tests are well known and do not need much description. If a technique is not so well known, then you can give a reference. Only if the method is new or original should you describe it in detail. If a journal demands a certain type of statistical treatment, then you must follow the recommendations exactly.
In the Results, you describe what happened in your experiments. You can present your results making no comment on them, giving your own interpretations later in the Discussion section. Another approach is to interpret the results up to a point, to make some connections between the different statements, but to give more detail in a separate Discussion section. A third way is to combine the results with a discussion of each point.
Whichever way you choose, you should present the results in a sequence that corresponds to your original objectives. Report any negative results that will influence your interpretation later on. Present all the relevant results in this section so that you do not need to introduce new material in the Discussion. Remember your original purpose. In an experimental paper, your objectives tell you what you should be writing about. Results that do not relate to them should not be mentioned.
Many journals nowadays will allow you to upload large tables or other forms of data to a dedicated website and allow you to link to that site in your paper. This allows you the freedom to publish complete data sets, without trying to include them all in your limited-size paper.
Figures and tables
Write in relation to tables and figures that you have already prepared. There is no need to repeat boring lists of statistics in the text when they are already in the tables or figures. Describe the overall results, not each individual value.
Do not say:
“The results of experiment A are reported in Table 1”;
“The treatment used in experiment A gave 50% greater yield than the control (table 1)”. Make sure you mention every table and figure in the text, and include each table and figure that you mention.
In the Discussion, you must answer the questions: “What do my results mean?”, “Why did this happen?” and “What are the implications?”. This is the most thoughtful and demanding section of the paper, but also the most important. You must interpret your results for the readers so that they can understand the meaning of your findings. You need to distinguish among a mass of information and select that which is most relevant to your argument. Use a series of findings or statements to come to a clear conclusion. This conclusion must match your originally stated objective.
Use the Discussion to interpret your results, giving particular attention to the hypothesis or objectives that you put forward in the Introduction. ‘Discussion’ is really short for ‘Discussion of results’. It is not a section in which you review the literature on the subject. All literature cited must have the function of supporting arguments about your results. Relate your findings to previous work, and if they do not agree with your work, then discuss why not. Discuss any negative results.
In this section, you discuss why something happened and why things did not, highlight the strengths and explain the weaknesses of your work. You discuss the relevance of your research to the specific field, point out how it relates to other fields, and make recommendations from your work. You can also mention work in progress, and point out unanswered questions and possible avenues of further research.
Say what is important, with statements such as “The most important aspect of these results is …”. But do not use this formula too often, as readers will quickly tire of hearing how ‘important’ your work is.
One of the most common faults of the Discussion is that it is too long. It may be difficult to follow, or too much data may be repeated from the Results. In the Discussion, you should generalize, make comparisons and draw conclusions.
Claims and evidence
The central element in every report is its major claim or its main point. You cannot just make the claim. You need:
– good reasons for the claim;
– reliable evidence to support it.
Your evidence needs to be substantive, contestable and explicit:
– substantive – having a firm basis in reality, and so important or meaningful
– contestable – able to be defended during an argument;
– explicit – clear and detailed, with no room for doubt.
Your claim is supported by evidence, which must be accurate, precise, sufficient and authoritative (reliable because it is true and accurate).
Often you will not need to write a Conclusions section because you will have already stated your main conclusions in the final section of the Discussion. You should certainly never include a Conclusion just to repeat what you have said in the Discussion. However, if your results and the subsequent discussion have been especially complicated, it may be useful to bring all your findings together.
Here you should acknowledge technical help and advice that you received from others. Bodies or individuals granting money that supported either the research or the authors of the paper should be mentioned. Keep this section short.
It must include following components:
The major components in the listing for a journal article, in order, are:
– title of work cited
– name of journal
– volume, inclusive pages.
The major components for a book are:
– title of book
– city of publication, publisher.
The major components for a chapter in a book or a paper in a proceeding are:
– title of chapter or paper
– inclusive page numbers
– title of book or proceedings
– city of publication, publisher. Author and year Generally the author’s surname or main name should be given first, followed by the initial letter(s) of their given name(s). Note the reduced punctuation in the layout of the author’s names in the following examples: Adhikari M ed. 1990. [last name first for all authors, no commas] Adhikari M. 1991. Adhikari N and Neupane P. 1990. Adhikari M and Adhikari N eds. 1991. Adhikari M, Adhikari N and Neupane P. 1993. [no comma before “and”]. Give the names of all authors; do not use “and others” or et al. in the reference list. You may use — (em dash) for successive references by the same author or authors if the preceding author entry is exactly the same.