Series – ‘How to Write a Scientific Article’ – Part I

Rohini Belsare, M.A., M.Ed

Advisor, Publications, Dr. M. L. Dhawale Memorial Trust

Address for correspondence: Email: r.m.belsare@gmail.com

How to cite this article:

Belsare RM. How to write a scientific article – Part 1. Journal of Integrated Standardized Homoeopathy (JISH) 2018; 01(01):21-22.

Received on: August 08, 2018

Accepted for Publication: August 10, 2018

General Introduction to the Series

Basically, scientific writing is evidence-based. What does this mean? That it is based on evidence, on experience, and not flights of fancy. Even the conclusions drawn from the experience, and the extensions, will have to be logically connected to the experience. They will also have to be expressed logically, precisely and without verbosity.

So how do we go about writing a Paper / a Case Report, etc.?

“Begin at the beginning, and go on till the end. Then stop”, said the White King to the Knight in Alice in Wonderland. He was answering a query as to how the Knight should present his argument.

Generally this is excellent advice, don’t you think? Even about paper writing.

In Paper writing there is a beginning (Introduction), then the main body of the Paper, and then the end or Conclusion. We have to organize these three parts logically, so that the thread of the argument becomes clear to the reader. We must know where to begin, and, obviously, where to end and stop. This, so that the interest of the reader is maintained and he is not bored.

When we are writing we are introducing ourselves to the reader through the writing. We are introducing our work, the subject of our writing. So we need to pay attention to what we are writing. If we are verbose, using more words than necessary, then the core of our thought can get lost. So we need to be precise and also the presentation needs to be logically inter-connected. Small errors, and large, take away from our effectiveness and also the beauty of our writing. We need to pay attention to these.

Which are the areas where we need to pay attention while writing a Paper? They are –

  • The Topic – Definition and Presentation
  • Logic and Organization of Contents
  • Presentation of Supportive Statistical Analysis
  • Style
  • Grammar

We will now take these up one by one in each part of the series, the first part covering ‘The Topic’

Part I – The Topic – the Title – Definition and Presentation

The topic of the presentation is defined by the title. So the title is very important. The scope of the Paper (what should be covered in the Paper) and the limitation of the presentation (what is out of bounds) is decided by the title. This will determine how much you will write on any point in any paper. We will examine this point through an example.

If your topic is ‘Foot Care in Diabetes’, then your main focus will be on the foot care in Diabetes, Diabetes per se occupying not more than 1/3 of your presentation. Some of that part you will take up to explain why foot care assumes importance in Diabetes (peripheral circulation, End Artery Disease, peripheral neuropathy, etc.). You will then move on to the specific care to be taken, with details and mechanisms of the care.

If, on the other hand, your title is ‘Diabetes and its Complications’, you will explain the diabetic process and the way it damages the body gradually. And the general care to be taken so that complications do not set in, firstly, and can be remedied with least damage if they do set in. Foot care will form a comparatively smaller part here, though it will remain significant, the foot being a significant target organ of damage.

If your paper is titled simply ‘Diabetes’ or ‘An Introduction to Diabetes’, then the complications of Diabetes will come towards the end in a comparatively very small area. Foot complications will get a further smaller mention.

Thus we can see that the same units will receive a different weightage with different titles. This is a broad example. We can see here the care we have to exercise in handling dynamic topics.

A Major Difficulty

We have studied / experienced a topic and now we are writing a Paper in it. The title does belong to the topic at a general level, but the specific title is a little different. What does one do in this situation? One writes either globally (too general) or pulls the topic to the area of our interest in the topic, and thus establishes a relationship! I remember here the speech delivered by a schoolboy in a ‘spot speaking’ competition. His topic was ‘rice’ and he had studied wheat as a crop! So he began by establishing rice as a staple diet for many Indians. From there he went to other staple grains and lentils, settling on wheat. From that point he spoke on wheat for the length of his speech, concluding by saying that a similar study can be done of rice as well!

Jokes apart, often, quite unconsciously, we tend to twist the title and write on something which is quite close but not exactly the topic of the title. Sometimes we cover only partial ground. Supposing you are writing on Repertorization, and the main thrust of your paper is on Kent’s repertory, with only passing references to the other repertories, you are not doing justice to the title, isn’t it?

And It’s Solution

The need of the hour is to establish sound internal logic so that the paper flows in the same lines as indicated by the title. So you need a 3-step strategy –

  1. Analyze the title logically (language competence is very useful here, but of this we will speak later)
  2. Put down what you want to say in point-form
  3. Compare the two and examine – do they have a smooth logical linkage? If yes, fine. If not, tweak the title so that the logic flows smoothly. Usually you will find that only a little tweaking of words will achieve this.

Conclusion

We have seen the general needs of scientific writing and examined the role of the title in bringing exactitude to the presentation. Is it possible, at the planning stage itself, to put down the points at a general level and to broadly assign how much space each point should occupy?

We will discuss this in the Part II, which is ‘Logic and Organization of Contents’.