Writing a science paper or a medical article can be a overwhelming, particularly if the only writing style the author has encountered is the traditional MLA (Modern Language Association) style of writing used when writing papers for humanities and English courses.
Science papers are different than humanities papers in several ways. When writing a scientific or medical article the author is usually the researcher who has identified a problem that needs to be investigated. The author has then designed and conducted an experiment, made observations or conducted research. The science paper is written to inform the science or medical community about new findings.
For even more on the differences between science and humanities papers read “Science and Humanities Papers the Differences.”
Following The Scientific Method to Answer a Question
According to Karen Gocsik, writing for Dartmouth Writing Program in an online article on “Writing in the Sciences”, there are two main types of science papers that are assigned, the lab report and the review of the literature. Both of these different types of science papers require that the author follow the Scientific Method, a more systematic approach to problem solving.
In Understanding Nutrition, the 2005 edition, Whitney and Rolfes explain the different steps in the Scientific Method, shown in the accompanying image at the bottom of the page.
Observation and Question – A problem to be solved is identified or the researcher asks a specific question.
Hypothesis and Prediction – A hypothesis, a tentative solution to the problem or answer to the question, is formulated and a prediction is made that can be tested.
Experiment – A study is designed and the research is conducted to collect relevant data.
Results and Interpretations – The collected data is summarize, analyze and interpreted. Conclusions are draw based on the observations.
Theory – A theory may be developed that integrates the findings from their study with findings from other studies.
With the sciences, sometimes a hypothesis is supported by the data and a theory may be developed and other times the hypothesis is not supported. If the data does not support the hypothesis it is “back to the drawing board” to start the process over again.
Organize, Rearrange and Format the Science Paper
After the data has been collected the next steps in writing the science paper are researching, interpreting and documenting information. Then the data, information and ideas need to be organized and presented in a logical manner to reach a conclusion about the research. Finally the data and supporting research needs to be put into a written paper in an organized manner using a style that other researchers and scientists can easily understand. The different sections of a science paper are discussed in the article on, “Identifying Parts of a Scientific Research Paper.”
When formatting a scientific paper or medical article, the first thing that the author needs to do is to find the “Instructions for Authors” section in the journal or list of requirements from an instructor. This is a list (often extensive) of directions that the author needs to be sure to follow when formatting the paper. These guidelines usually follow one of two main styles, APA Style or URM (Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts). Which style or format to chose depends on the requirements of the journal that where the paper or manuscript will be submitted. Using a specific style for the paper allows the information to be presented in a way that the ideas come through, not the manner that the information is presented. For a more in depth discussion of the different types of styles read, “MLA, APA or URM? Different Research Paper Styles.”
Read, Revise and Rewrite the Science Paper
The author should be sure to carefully read through all of the instructions for authors, manuscript preparation instructions from the journal or any guidelines and requirements of the instructor. The paper then needs to be formatted in the style for the journal article or instructor. Many publications provide the author with a checklist to follow to ensure that the manuscript will be properly formatted before it is submitted.
It may be helpful to have another person read through the paper to help catch any spelling, grammar or organizational errors. Writing the science paper may involve several revisions and changes to the article so the final version is finally in the desired format.
Key Points When Writing A Scientific Paper
When writing a science paper, there are several key points to keep in mind. The paper starts with the researcher identifying a problem to be investigated.
- Identify a question.
- Pose a hypothesis.
- Research and investigate the question.
- Interpret and document information.
- Organize and rearrange materials.
- Determine the desired format for the paper.
- Write the paper.
- Revise, rewrite and revise as needed.
- Submit for publication.
Writing a scientific paper or medical article is different than writing a humanities paper. There are certain steps that the author needs to follow to ensure that the paper will be written in a manner that can be easily understood by other scientists and researchers.
Science instructors interested in incorporating writing scientific papers as part of their curriculum may want to view the presentation on “Introducing Scientific Journal Writing in the Undergraduate Setting.”