Instructions for Authors
Writing Your Science Paper
When preparing your manuscript for submission, it is vital that it is written in a manner that is easy-to-read, and that it respects the published guidelines of the recipient journal. While the specific requirements of each journal will vary, there are certain key guidelines which, if followed, will give your research the best possible chance of publication.
General Style Points:
- Your work must first and foremost be clear, concise, and comprehensible.
- Whatever guidelines or practice used, consistency should be maintained throughout.
- Avoid redundancy in the text. Obvious statements, vagueness or information superfluous to your research will distract readers and editors.
- If an abbreviation appears more than four times in the text, define it in at first usage.
- Unless instructed otherwise, use numerals for all numbers, except in the cases of ‘zero’ and ‘one’, or at the start of a sentence.
- If translating from a language other than English, check you are using proper English scientific terms, as literal translations are often inaccurate. Remember that a decimal point not a comma is used in separating numbers, and bear in mind that your manuscript will be read mainly by foreigners, and that some place names, concepts or conditions standard in your country may need some explanation elsewhere.
- Sentences should be relatively simple in structure, with the subject located close to its verb. Be wary of overusing passive constructions.
- Use of personal pronouns (e.g., “In our study, we performed...”) is now widely encouraged, but should not be excessive. Personal pronouns should never be used in the methods or figure legends sections. Preference should be given to the active voice whenever possible, avoiding the passive voice unless the performer of the action cannot be specified.
- In long and complicated lists, use a semi-colon to separate items.
- Use past tense when describing how you performed your study, and present tense when making general statements or discussing conclusions or context. Thus, most of the Abstract, Methods, and Results will be in the past tense, while most of the Introduction and some of the Discussion will be in the present tense.
- Be consistent in spelling, using either British or American English.
Although this is something a journal will generally specify, the typical ordering of sections in an observational and experimental manuscript will go as follows: Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion (or IMRAD, as it is known).
All sections of your manuscript should be double-spaced and formatted with generous margins to help the editing and review process. Pages should be numbered consecutively, starting with the title page.
This is the covering sheet of your manuscript and should contain the following important information regarding the work:
Article Title: The title of your work should be concise and comprehensible to a broad scientific audience. It is typically between two and three lines in length depending on the journal, and should include all essential information relating to the work, including keywords which make electronic retrieval of the article possible.
Author(s): This should include the titles and institutional affiliations of all authors responsible for the work. Contact information for all corresponding authors should also be included, with name, mailing address, telephone/fax numbers and email address. Details of the author from whom reprints may be requested should also be addressed.
Sources of support: These should all be named on the title page, whether in the form of grants, equipment, drugs or other.
Word Counts: For the text only, excluding the Abstract, Acknowledgements, Figure Legends and References. This must be within the limit specified by the journal, for which there is usually a separate count for the abstract. To ensure nothing has been left out of your submission, the number of figures and tables should also be included.
Running Head: Some journals require a short running head, usually no more than 40 characters at the foot of the title page.
This follows the title page and has a separate word limit to the rest of the manuscript. As the reader’s major source of information on the article, it should state the study’s purpose, background, basic procedures, main findings and principal conclusions. New and important aspects of the study’s findings, including its significant contributions should be emphasised. As a guideline, the use of references, abbreviations, acronyms, numbers and measurements is discouraged unless specified otherwise in "Instructions to Authors" on the journal website.
This is the first section of your main body of text, which usually begins on page three of your manuscript, following the title and abstract pages. It should be succinct, introducing your study through its context or background, before stating the specific objective of the study or observation. Conclusions or data should be left out, as should any references that are non-essential.
Methods (or Experimental Procedures):
This section should include only information known at the time of study. The key is to justify the why and how the experiment was performed, describing procedures in the past tense with no personal pronouns (e.g., do not write “In our study, we perform...”).
All information should be sufficient to allow a knowledgeable reader to reproduce the results. All drugs and chemicals used should include the dose and route of administration, whilst apparatus should include the name and address of the manufacturer in parentheses.
References to published lesser-known methods should be briefly described, but only new methods explained in detail.
All acronyms and statistical terms should be defined on their first use, as should abbreviations other than those listed in IUPAC-IUB (Biochemical Nomenclature and Related Documents, 1992) and Système International d'Unités (SI) units of measurement. Abbreviations should only be used if they appear more than three times in the text, and in addition to this, some journals provide a list of accepted abbreviations that don’t require defining.
These should be ordered with the most important findings provided first and, as with the methods, written in the past tense.
Not all data will be necessary, so place emphasis on the most important observations as supplementary information can usually (depending on the journal) be included in the appendix.
Numerical results should be presented as both absolute numbers, and their derivatives (e.g., percentages).
Avoid nontechnical use of technical terms in statistics, such as ‘random’, ‘normal’, ‘significant’ etc.
New aspects and major contributions of the study should be emphasised, followed by the conclusions drawn from them.
Do not repeat in detail data or information already given in earlier sections.
The discussion should also consider the implications of the findings for future research and practice, as well as evaluating its limitations.
Avoid making statements where no information is provided to back them up.
Following the discussion, your manuscript will usually be organised as follows: acknowledgements, references, figure legends, tables, and supplementary information. However, this varies with the journal, as does the referencing style, so it is important to consult journal guidelines prior to submission.
Generally speaking, the past tense is used to refer to events in the past, including the procedures, observations, and data of the study that you are reporting. The present tense is used for general conclusions, the conclusions of previous researchers, and generally accepted facts. Thus, most of the Abstract, Materials and Methods, and Results will be in the past tense, and most of the Introduction and some of the Discussion will be in the present tense.
Abbreviations other than those listed in IUPAC-IUB (Biochemical Nomenclature and Related Documents, 1992) and Système International d'Unités (SI) units of measurement should be introduced in parenthesis the first time they appear in the manuscript. Do not use an abbreviation if it appears less than four times in the text. In addition to these considerations, some journals will provide a list of abbreviations that need not be defined in the text.
Please refer to instructions to authors at the ASM journal "Molecular and Cellular Biology" available at http://mcb.asm.org/misc/journal-ita_nom.dtl