Most scientists in academic and research institutes have to write papers for journals. In addition, many students are expected to write formal reports like an academic essay writer in the style of a paper. This article provides tips on how to structure a paper.
Instructions for authors
The first rule is to look at other papers in the target journal, or if it is for internal reports and dissertations, look at comparable reports that have got good grades (if known). Do not “guess”. In many cases there will be instructions for authors, these can be quite explicit. For example, there are sometimes length restrictions, or restrictions on the number of figures and tables: do not ignore these although it is worth looking at typical articles to see how serious these restrictions are (in some cases editors will reject automatically if these are exceeded, in other cases these are recommendations that can be broken for good reason).
In some cases, detailed technical information such as experimental details or numerous graphs, such as straight-line plots, are discouraged but can be submitted as electronic supplementary information or, for journals, sent as supplementary materials for reviewers. In other cases, full details are encouraged, e.g. it is particularly important to document (somehow) all details in new computer algorithms to allow readers to reproduce these (although this can be done as supplementary code).
Once the instructions and model papers or reports have been checked, and if you have an advisor or supervisor, discussed if need be, you can start planning your paper. In this article, it is assumed that you are the principal author of the paper, but for some experimental papers there may be several coauthors and the role of the main (usually first) author is to assemble material from different people into an overall structure.
Developing a synopsis for the paper
Usually one should produce a synopsis or skeleton first. Writing a paper is not like writing a novel or a newspaper article or a blog, and should be approached very differently. Dependent on discipline a paper can be divided into several main sections. It is easier to number these sections for clarity, although a few journals do not like numbered sections, however below we will assume that the parts of the paper are numbered. A good starting recommendation is to have five main numbered sections
- Data Analysis Methods
- Results and Discussion
Where there is not much data analysis, Sections 2 and 3 can be combined. Where the paper is primarily theoretical, Section 2 may be redundant, however, usually, there is some sort of simulation that could be described in Section 2. The Heading titles in an actual paper may be more specific than those indicated above.
Dividing a paper into subsections
Each section apart from the conclusions and sometimes introduction paragraph is then usually divided into subsections, for example
2.1 Sampling Design
2.2 Sample Collection
2.3 Sample Analysis
In the three subsections above, Section 2.1 might describe how the samples were taken, e.g. there may have been some laboratory mice, so describe how many, what their characteristics were (e.g. age, genetics), when they were sampled, under what conditions did they live, etc. Section 2.2 would describe how the samples were obtained, e.g. were the mice anesthetized, what instrument was used to sample them. Section 2.3 might describe the instruments or experimental methods for analyzing the data.
In many cases, the detailed information in each section can be divided into further subsections
2.3 Sample Analysis
The names of the headings can be quite explicit. However you should follow a rule in that the last subheading should never end with a 1, so
2.3 Sample Analysis
would be wrong if there were no further subheadings.
In a few cases, it is possible to subdivide further e.g. creating Sections 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168 (there may have been two types of chromatography used) but it is advisable not to get too complicated, so a rule of thumb might be just to use the third heading level.
Acknowledgments, References, Tables, and Figures
After the conclusions, normally editors expect to see more material, which is usually not numbered. There is normally an acknowledgment section after the conclusions in which you can thank colleagues who are not co-authors, and also grant agencies if any. Then the bibliography is listed, as has been described previously. Then usually tables are listed, each numbered successively, with a caption and preferably each starting on a new page. Finally the same is done for figures. Some journals ask that the figures being produced be in separate files, and some ask that the captions for tables and figures be on a separate page, although in most cases including a caption on the same page as each figure or table is acceptable.
Sometimes for mathematical papers, a table of notation is advisable, and also a list of abbreviations can be helpful. Look at the specific journal or report style to see whether this is common.
Hence a typical end of a paper may be organized as follows.
These tables and figures are then cross-referenced from within the body of the paper. Note that a few journals also recommend you state within the body of the text where the figures and tables should be printed.
Organizing the beginning of papers
The beginning of the paper should start with a title, all authors’ names and affiliations, and an abstract. Often this is one of the last parts to be written, as the title and abstract often cannot be finalized until the main body of the paper is completed.
Camera-ready reports and papers
For camera-ready papers or reports, rather than those that will be typeset by a publisher, the tables and figures, but usually not the bibliography, are incorporated into the main body of the text rather than separately at the end. The acknowledgments are sometimes brought to the beginning. To check this always read comparable articles in the target journal or medium.