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Primacy of the research question, structure of the paper, writing a research article: advice to beginners.

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Thomas V. Perneger, Patricia M. Hudelson, Writing a research article: advice to beginners, International Journal for Quality in Health Care , Volume 16, Issue 3, June 2004, Pages 191–192, https://doi.org/10.1093/intqhc/mzh053

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Writing research papers does not come naturally to most of us. The typical research paper is a highly codified rhetorical form [ 1 , 2 ]. Knowledge of the rules—some explicit, others implied—goes a long way toward writing a paper that will get accepted in a peer-reviewed journal.

A good research paper addresses a specific research question. The research question—or study objective or main research hypothesis—is the central organizing principle of the paper. Whatever relates to the research question belongs in the paper; the rest doesn’t. This is perhaps obvious when the paper reports on a well planned research project. However, in applied domains such as quality improvement, some papers are written based on projects that were undertaken for operational reasons, and not with the primary aim of producing new knowledge. In such cases, authors should define the main research question a posteriori and design the paper around it.

Generally, only one main research question should be addressed in a paper (secondary but related questions are allowed). If a project allows you to explore several distinct research questions, write several papers. For instance, if you measured the impact of obtaining written consent on patient satisfaction at a specialized clinic using a newly developed questionnaire, you may want to write one paper on the questionnaire development and validation, and another on the impact of the intervention. The idea is not to split results into ‘least publishable units’, a practice that is rightly decried, but rather into ‘optimally publishable units’.

What is a good research question? The key attributes are: (i) specificity; (ii) originality or novelty; and (iii) general relevance to a broad scientific community. The research question should be precise and not merely identify a general area of inquiry. It can often (but not always) be expressed in terms of a possible association between X and Y in a population Z, for example ‘we examined whether providing patients about to be discharged from the hospital with written information about their medications would improve their compliance with the treatment 1 month later’. A study does not necessarily have to break completely new ground, but it should extend previous knowledge in a useful way, or alternatively refute existing knowledge. Finally, the question should be of interest to others who work in the same scientific area. The latter requirement is more challenging for those who work in applied science than for basic scientists. While it may safely be assumed that the human genome is the same worldwide, whether the results of a local quality improvement project have wider relevance requires careful consideration and argument.

Once the research question is clearly defined, writing the paper becomes considerably easier. The paper will ask the question, then answer it. The key to successful scientific writing is getting the structure of the paper right. The basic structure of a typical research paper is the sequence of Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (sometimes abbreviated as IMRAD). Each section addresses a different objective. The authors state: (i) the problem they intend to address—in other terms, the research question—in the Introduction; (ii) what they did to answer the question in the Methods section; (iii) what they observed in the Results section; and (iv) what they think the results mean in the Discussion.

In turn, each basic section addresses several topics, and may be divided into subsections (Table 1 ). In the Introduction, the authors should explain the rationale and background to the study. What is the research question, and why is it important to ask it? While it is neither necessary nor desirable to provide a full-blown review of the literature as a prelude to the study, it is helpful to situate the study within some larger field of enquiry. The research question should always be spelled out, and not merely left for the reader to guess.

Typical structure of a research paper

The Methods section should provide the readers with sufficient detail about the study methods to be able to reproduce the study if so desired. Thus, this section should be specific, concrete, technical, and fairly detailed. The study setting, the sampling strategy used, instruments, data collection methods, and analysis strategies should be described. In the case of qualitative research studies, it is also useful to tell the reader which research tradition the study utilizes and to link the choice of methodological strategies with the research goals [ 3 ].

The Results section is typically fairly straightforward and factual. All results that relate to the research question should be given in detail, including simple counts and percentages. Resist the temptation to demonstrate analytic ability and the richness of the dataset by providing numerous tables of non-essential results.

The Discussion section allows the most freedom. This is why the Discussion is the most difficult to write, and is often the weakest part of a paper. Structured Discussion sections have been proposed by some journal editors [ 4 ]. While strict adherence to such rules may not be necessary, following a plan such as that proposed in Table 1 may help the novice writer stay on track.

References should be used wisely. Key assertions should be referenced, as well as the methods and instruments used. However, unless the paper is a comprehensive review of a topic, there is no need to be exhaustive. Also, references to unpublished work, to documents in the grey literature (technical reports), or to any source that the reader will have difficulty finding or understanding should be avoided.

Having the structure of the paper in place is a good start. However, there are many details that have to be attended to while writing. An obvious recommendation is to read, and follow, the instructions to authors published by the journal (typically found on the journal’s website). Another concerns non-native writers of English: do have a native speaker edit the manuscript. A paper usually goes through several drafts before it is submitted. When revising a paper, it is useful to keep an eye out for the most common mistakes (Table 2 ). If you avoid all those, your paper should be in good shape.

Common mistakes seen in manuscripts submitted to this journal

Huth EJ . How to Write and Publish Papers in the Medical Sciences , 2nd edition. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1990 .

Browner WS . Publishing and Presenting Clinical Research . Baltimore, MD: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 1999 .

Devers KJ , Frankel RM. Getting qualitative research published. Educ Health 2001 ; 14 : 109 –117.

Docherty M , Smith R. The case for structuring the discussion of scientific papers. Br Med J 1999 ; 318 : 1224 –1225.

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Writing a Research Paper for an Academic Journal: A Five-step Recipe for Perfection

The answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a step-by-step recipe. Here we bring to you a recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article.

Updated on March 15, 2022

pen with post-it notes on a laptop

As a young researcher, getting your paper published as a journal article is a huge milestone; but producing it may seem like climbing a mountain compared to, perhaps, the theses, essays, or conference papers you have produced in the past.

You may feel overwhelmed with the thought of carrying innumerable equipment and may feel incapable of completing the task. But, in reality, the answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a recipe with step-by-step instructions.

In this blog, I aim to bring to you the recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article. I will give you the essential information, key points, and resources to keep in mind before you begin the writing process for your research papers.

Secret ingredient 1: Make notes before you begin the writing process

Because I want you to benefit from this article on a personal level, I am going to give away my secret ingredient for producing a good research paper right at the beginning. The one thing that helps me write literally anything is — cue the drum rolls — making notes.

Yes, making notes is the best way to remember and store all that information, which is definitely going to help you throughout the process of writing your paper. So, please pick up a pen and start making notes for writing your research paper.

Step 1. Choose the right research topic

Although it is important to be passionate and curious about your research article topic, it is not enough. Sometimes the sheer excitement of having an idea may take away your ability to focus on and question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research topic.

On the contrary, the first thing that you should do when you write a journal paper is question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research question.

It is also important to remember that your research, along with the aforementioned points, must be original and relevant: It must benefit and interest the scientific community.

All you have to do is perform a thorough literature search in your research field and have a look at what is currently going on in the field of your topic of interest. This step in academic writing is not as daunting as it may seem and, in fact, is quite beneficial for the following reasons:

  • You can determine what is already known about the research topic and the gaps that exist.
  • You can determine the credibility and novelty of your research question by comparing it with previously published papers.
  • If your research question has already been studied or answered before your first draft, you first save a substantial amount of time by avoiding rejections from journals at a much later stage; and second, you can study and aim to bridge the gaps of previous studies, perhaps, by using a different methodology or a bigger sample size.

So, carefully read as much as you can about what has already been published in your field of research; and when you are doing so, make sure that you make lots of relevant notes as you go along in the process. Remember, your study does not necessarily have to be groundbreaking, but it should definitely extend previous knowledge or refute existing statements on the topic.

Secret ingredient 2: Use a thematic approach while drafting your manuscript

For instance, if you are writing about the association between the level of breast cancer awareness and socioeconomic status, open a new Word or Notes file and create subheadings such as “breast cancer awareness in low- and middle-income countries,” “reasons for lack of awareness,” or “ways to increase awareness.”

Under these subheadings, make notes of the information that you think may be suitable to be included in your paper as you carry out your literature review. Ensure that you make a draft reference list so that you don't miss out on the references.

Step 2: Know your audience

Finding your research topic is not synonymous with communicating it, it is merely a step, albeit an important one; however, there are other crucial steps that follow. One of which is identifying your target audience.

Now that you know what your topic of interest is, you need to ask yourself “Who am I trying to benefit with my research?” A general mistake is assuming that your reader knows everything about your research topic. Drafting a peer reviewed journal article often means that your work may reach a wide and varied audience.

Therefore, it is a good idea to ponder over who you want to reach and why, rather than simply delivering chunks of information, facts, and statistics. Along with considering the above factors, evaluate your reader's level of education, expertise, and scientific field as this may help you design and write your manuscript, tailoring it specifically for your target audience.

Here are a few points that you must consider after you have identified your target audience:

  • Shortlist a few target journals: The aims and scope of the journal usually mention their audience. This may help you know your readers and visualize them as you write your manuscript. This will further help you include just the right amount of background and details.
  • View your manuscript from the reader's perspective: Try to think about what they might already know or what they would like more details on.
  • Include the appropriate amount of jargon: Ensure that your article text is familiar to your target audience and use the correct terminology to make your content more relatable for readers - and journal editors as your paper goes through the peer review process.
  • Keep your readers engaged: Write with an aim to fill a knowledge gap or add purpose and value to your reader's intellect. Your manuscript does not necessarily have to be complex, write with a simple yet profound tone, layer (or sub-divide) simple points and build complexity as you go along, rather than stating dry facts.
  • Be specific: It is easy to get carried away and forget the essence of your study. Make sure that you stick to your topic and be as specific as you can to your research topic and audience.

Secret ingredient 3: Clearly define your key terms and key concepts

Do not assume that your audience will know your research topic as well as you do, provide compelling details where it is due. This can be tricky. Using the example from “Secret ingredient 2,” you may not need to define breast cancer while writing about breast cancer awareness. However, while talking about the benefits of awareness, such as early presentation of the disease, it is important to explain these benefits, for instance, in terms of superior survival rates.

Step 3: Structure your research paper with care

After determining the topic of your research and your target audience, your overflowing ideas and information need to be structured in a format generally accepted by journals.

Most academic journals conventionally accept original research articles in the following format: Abstract, followed by the Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections, also known as the IMRaD, which is a brilliant way of structuring a research paper outline in a simplified and layered format. In brief, these sections comprise the following information:

In closed-access journals, readers have access to the abstract/summary for them to decide if they wish to purchase the research paper. It's an extremely important representative of the entire manuscript.

All information provided in the abstract must be present in the manuscript, it should include a stand-alone summary of the research, the main findings, the abbreviations should be defined separately in this section, and this section should be clear, decluttered, and concise.

Introduction

This section should begin with a background of the study topic, i.e., what is already known, moving on to the knowledge gaps that exist, and finally, end with how the present study aims to fill these gaps, or any hypotheses that the authors may have proposed.

This section describes, with compelling details, the procedures that were followed to answer the research question.

The ultimate factor to consider while producing the methods section is reproducibility; this section should be detailed enough for other researchers to reproduce your study and validate your results. It should include ethical information (ethical board approval, informed consent, etc.) and must be written in the past tense.

This section typically presents the findings of the study, with no explanations or interpretations. Here, the findings are simply stated alongside figures or tables mentioned in the text in the correct sequential order. Because you are describing what you found, this section is also written in the past tense.

Discussion and conclusion

This section begins with a summary of your findings and is meant for you to interpret your results, compare them with previously published papers, and elaborate on whether your findings are comparable or contradictory to previous literature.

This section also contains the strengths and limitations of your study, and the latter can be used to suggest future research. End this section with a conclusion paragraph, briefly summarizing and highlighting the main findings and novelty of your study.

Step 4: Cite credible research sources

Now that you know who and what you are writing for, it's time to begin the writing process for your research paper. Another crucial factor that determines the quality of your manuscript is the detailed information within. The introduction and discussion sections, which make a massive portion of the manuscript, majorly rely on external sources of information that have already been published.

Therefore, it is absolutely indispensable to extract and cite these statements from appropriate, credible, recent, and relevant literature to support your claims. Here are a few pointers to consider while choosing the right sources:

Cite academic journals

These are the best sources to refer to while writing your research paper, because most articles submitted to top journals are rejected, resulting in high-quality articles being filtered-out. In particular, peer reviewed articles are of the highest quality because they undergo a rigorous process of editorial review, along with revisions until they are judged to be satisfactory.

But not just any book, ideally, the credibility of a book can be judged by whether it is published by an academic publisher, is written by multiple authors who are experts in the field of interest, and is carefully reviewed by multiple editors. It can be beneficial to review the background of the author(s) and check their previous publications.

Cite an official online source

Although it may be difficult to judge the trustworthiness of web content, a few factors may help determine its accuracy. These include demographic data obtained from government websites (.gov), educational resources (.edu), websites that cite other pertinent and trustworthy sources, content meant for education and not product promotion, unbiased sources, or sources with backlinks that are up to date. It is best to avoid referring to online sources such as blogs and Wikipedia.

Do not cite the following sources

While citing sources, you should steer clear from encyclopedias, citing review articles instead of directly citing the original work, referring to sources that you have not read, citing research papers solely from one country (be extensively diverse), anything that is not backed up by evidence, and material with considerable grammatical errors.

Although these sources are generally most appropriate and valid, it is your job to critically read and carefully evaluate all sources prior to citing them.

Step 5: Pick the correct journal

Selecting the correct journal is one of the most crucial steps toward getting published, as it not only determines the weightage of your research but also of your career as a researcher. The journals in which you choose to publish your research are part of your portfolio; it directly or indirectly determines many factors, such as funding, professional advancement, and future collaborations.

The best thing you can do for your work is to pick a peer-reviewed journal. Not only will your paper be polished to the highest quality for editors, but you will also be able to address certain gaps that you may have missed out.

Besides, it always helps to have another perspective, and what better than to have it from an experienced peer?

A common mistake that researchers tend to make is leave the task of choosing the target journal after they have written their paper.

Now, I understand that due to certain factors, it can be challenging to decide what journal you want to publish in before you start drafting your paper, therefore, the best time to make this decision is while you are working on writing your manuscript. Having a target journal in mind while writing your paper has a great deal of benefits.

  • As the most basic benefit, you can know beforehand if your study meets the aims and scope of your desired journal. It will ensure you're not wasting valuable time for editors or yourself.
  • While drafting your manuscript, you could keep in mind the requirements of your target journal, such as the word limit for the main article text and abstract, the maximum number of figures or tables that are allowed, or perhaps, the maximum number of references that you may include.
  • Also, if you choose to submit to an open-access journal, you have ample amount of time to figure out the funding.
  • Another major benefit is that, as mentioned in the previous section, the aims and scope of the journal will give you a fair idea on your target audience and will help you draft your manuscript appropriately.

It is definitely easier to know that your target journal requires the text to be within 3,500 words than spending weeks writing a manuscript that is around, say, 5,000 words, and then spending a substantial amount of time decluttering. Now, while not all journals have very specific requirements, it always helps to short-list a few journals, if not concretely choose one to publish your paper in.

AJE also offers journal recommendation services if you need professional help with finding a target journal.

Secret ingredient 4: Follow the journal guidelines

Perfectly written manuscripts may get rejected by the journal on account of not adhering to their formatting requirements. You can find the author guidelines/instructions on the home page of every journal. Ensure that as you write your manuscript, you follow the journal guidelines such as the word limit, British or American English, formatting references, line spacing, line/page numbering, and so on.

Our ultimate aim is to instill confidence in young researchers like you and help you become independent as you write and communicate your research. With the help of these easy steps and secret ingredients, you are now ready to prepare your flavorful manuscript and serve your research to editors and ultimately the journal readers with a side of impact and a dash of success.

Lubaina Koti, Scientific Writer, BS, Biomedical Sciences, Coventry University

Lubaina Koti, BS

Scientific Writer

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How To Write a Journal Article

Posted by Rene Tetzner | Sep 6, 2021 | Paper Writing Advice | 0 |

How To Write a Journal Article

How To Write a Journal Article for Publication in Twelve Essential Steps Original articles intended for publication are the most common means of disseminating the processes, results and implications of advanced research, so it is imperative that academics and scientists who wish to publish and share their work know how to write a journal article successfully. Although there are significant variations in manuscript requirements among disciplines and publishers, the writing tips I present below apply to most scholarly articles and journals across a wide range of research fields and specialisations.

Step 1: The first question to ask yourself as you begin drafting your paper or searching for a journal to publish it is what type of article will be appropriate for the material you wish to communicate. Original research, for instance, is usually reported in an original research article, whereas an evaluation of published scholarship on a topic would be written as a review article. Choosing the right type of article before you start is essential.

writing an academic article for publication

Step 2: Either before or after you draft your article, you will need to learn about periodicals in the field and choose one as your target journal. The scope, aims and concerns published on the journal’s website should be appropriate for your research, and the journal must publish the kind of paper necessary to communicate all important aspects of your work.

Step 3: Once you have decided on the journal to which you will be submitting your article, you should study the journal’s guidelines for authors. In some cases these will provide a great deal of information about how to write a journal article for publication; in others very little help will be offered. Either way, the guidelines must be followed with care as you prepare your article, so pay close attention to details, examples and restrictions.

writing an academic article for publication

Step 4: With the journal’s guidelines and your research notes by your side (or at least firmly in mind), you are ready to outline the structure and content of your article. A scientific research article is likely to use a predictable structure of introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion and conclusions, but other fields and types of paper might offer greater freedom. Structure should never be neglected, however, since clear and logical organisation increases accessibility and reader comprehension.

Step 5: Preparing tables, figures, appendices and other supplementary materials before you actually start drafting the paper is an excellent strategy when you are struggling with how to write a journal article. The production of these tools for readers can help an author analyse and interpret findings more effectively, and writing the main text with these tools in hand tends to reduce unnecessary repetition of information.

writing an academic article for publication

Step 6: For many academics and scientists, starting to draft the text is the most difficult part of writing an article for publication. Beginning can be rendered easier by writing the separate sections not in the order in which they will ultimately appear, but in an order that better reflects the research process. The methods can therefore be described first, with the report of results, the discussion and the conclusions following. Once you know the contents of these parts, the introduction, background, abstract and list of references can be added.

Step 7: Be sure to take the time to assess your methods, analyse your results and interpret your findings thoroughly. Reporting what you did and what you discovered is not enough for a research paper intended for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. You will also need to tell your audience what your research means, why it is innovative and how it might be productively used by future researchers and practitioners.

Step 8: Remember as you work out how to write a journal article that there is simply no substitute for excellent writing. Scholarly prose must be both clear and correct to communicate research processes and results effectively, and the style must be both formal and appropriate for your discipline or area of specialisation. Reading published articles in your field and especially in your target journal will give you a good idea of the kind of writing you will need to submit.

Step 9: Proofread, edit and revise your draft repeatedly until you have eliminated all errors of fact, language and typing. Too many authors neglect this time-consuming aspect of how to write a journal article and suffer the consequences in the form of rejections and revision requests. As the person who knows your research better than anyone else, you are the person to ensure that your article intended for publication does that research justice.

Step 10: Recruit mentors, colleagues and friends to read your article and offer feedback. Researchers who work in your field and have successfully published their own academic or scientific writing will be able to comment constructively on research content and presentation. If English grammar, tricky references or other challenges of language and formatting prove problematic, a professional proofreader or editor can help.

Step 11: After reader feedback has been considered and the final revisions are complete, submit your manuscript exactly as the journal’s instructions indicate. Submission via an online form is an efficient and common method, but even if the journal’s preferences seem outdated, they must be observed. Unless the guidelines suggest that a cover letter to the journal editor would be unwelcome, be sure to include one to introduce your research and article in an engaging way.

Step 12: Finally, it is likely that your thoughts will be with your manuscript after you have submitted it and even that a host of ideas for further refinements will pop into your mind the instant the article is beyond your grasp. Take advantage of this impulse as you await a response by jotting your ideas down. If a request for revisions arrives from the editor, your notes are likely to prove incredibly helpful.

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Writing for publication, part 1 what makes a paper publishable (6:17).

Let's begin thinking about what makes a paper publishable by looking at a hypothetical paper, "Guppies Love Cheerios." Even with a set of valid, novel, and statistically significant findings, research isn't necessarily publishable. The work also needs to contribute to the human knowledge base in a meaningful way, and it always helps to relate the work in an interesting and compelling storyline.

Part 2 Common Reasons Articles are Rejected (or Accepted) (9:55)

An article can be rejected for eight basic reasons, according to Dr. Peter Thrower, editor-in-chief of Carbon :

  • technical reasons (e.g., plagiarism, or not following the journal's Instructions for Authors).
  • improper content for the journal's readership.
  • incomplete work.
  • procedural or statistical analysis flaws.
  • Unjustified conclusions
  • Incremental or insignificant work
  • Incomprehensibility
  • Marginally interesting to editors or readership

According to Elizabeth Zwaaf of Elsevier , there are also eight basic reasons your work would be accepted for publication, one of which is that your article tells a good story. Part 3 explains what is meant by that.

Part 3 How To Tell A Good "Story" In Your Article (10:00)

The "research story" of a publishable article is true, credible, and interesting. It should have a beginning, middle, and end, where each part leads the reader to keep reading. A conceptual framework for this kind of story looks like an hourglass. The top funnel sets the context of the research and identifies gaps in the knowledge that validates the purpose and questions of the work described in the new publication. With these concepts in mind, what advice could you offer to the author of "Guppies Love Cheerios?"

Part 4 Strategies for Selecting Journals for Submission (11:33)

Begin selecting an appropriate venue for a new article by taking inventory of journals cited by the papers you reference in your work. Instructions to Authors usually include Aim and Scope of the journal. Consider the following as well: the type of article you've written, the target audience, the types of papers each journal publishes, typical time from submission to publication, the "impact factor" of the journal, and publication models and costs to authors. Be wary of "fake journals" that solicit submissions and publish without valid peer review.

Part 5 The Writing Process - Prewriting and Abstract (11:37)

Start writing by following the Instructions for Authors for the journal you've selected. Writing and formatting your paper properly now will save a lot of time later. Another time-saving strategy is to use RefWorks (available free to UNL personnel) or another reference manager to track your resources, format your citations; many of these resources also provide tips on assigning authorship, and writing titles, keywords, abstracts, and cover letters.

Part 6 How Will You Write The Cover Letter? (4:44)

A good way to organize your thoughts—and tell your research story—is as follows:

  • address your general topic to provide your readers context for your work;
  • describe a problem circumscribed by the topic at hand and explain why it's important;
  • present your solution to the problem; and
  • explain the attendant benefits of your findings with respect to the described problem.

This approach is especially helpful in writing a submission letter to the editor of the journal. In addition, be sure to follow the journal's Instructions to Authors to prepare your letter.

Part 7 The Scholarly Publication Process (4:08)

Submitting your manuscript to your chosen journal will be relatively straightforward if you're prepared according to the suggestions in this seminar and the Instructions to Authors. You'll almost certainly submit your materials online. Clicking Submit will set in motion a review process with one of the following results. Your manuscript will be

  • accepted as-is for publication (not likely, but it's possible);
  • accepted, with revisions;
  • rejected, with chance to resubmit; or

What you do now as the author is the subject of the next video.

Part 8 Dealing Effectively With Reviewers' Reports (8:12)

You've heard back from the editor and your reviewers have suggested some revisions. It happens to everyone, so it's best to address the suggestions objectively and respond effectively. This video provides some ways to do that.

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Essential Guide to Manuscript Writing for Academic Dummies: An Editor's Perspective

Syed sameer aga.

1 Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Quality Assurance Unit, College of Medicine, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC), Ministry of National Guard Health Affairs (MNGHA), King Abdulaziz Medical City, Jeddah 21423, Saudi Arabia

2 Molecular Diseases & Diagnostics Division, Infinity Biochemistry Pvt. Ltd, Sajad Abad, Chattabal, Srinagar, Kashmir 190010, India

Saniya Nissar

Associated data.

No data were used in this review.

Writing an effective manuscript is one of the pivotal steps in the successful closure of the research project, and getting it published in a peer-reviewed and indexed journal adds to the academic profile of a researcher. Writing and publishing a scientific paper is a tough task that researchers and academicians must endure in staying relevant in the field. Success in translating the benchworks into the scientific content, which is effectively communicated within the scientific field, is used in evaluating the researcher in the current academic world. Writing is a highly time-consuming and skill-oriented process that requires familiarity with the numerous publishing steps, formatting rules, and ethical guidelines currently in vogue in the publishing industry. In this review, we have attempted to include the essential information that novice authors in their early careers need to possess, to be able to write a decent first scientific manuscript ready for submission in the journal of choice. This review is unique in providing essential guidance in a simple point-wise manner in conjunction with easy-to-understand illustrations to familiarize novice researchers with the anatomy of a basic scientific manuscript.

1. Background

Communication is the pivotal key to the growth of scientific literature. Successfully written scientific communication in the form of any type of paper is needed by researchers and academicians alike for various reasons such as receiving degrees, getting a promotion, becoming experts in the field, and having editorships [ 1 , 2 ].

Here, in this review, we present the organization and anatomy of a scientific manuscript enlisting the essential features that authors should keep in their mind while writing a manuscript.

2. Types of Manuscripts

Numerous types of manuscripts do exist, which can be written by the authors for a possible publication ( Figure 1 ). Primarily, the choice is dependent upon the sort of communication authors want to make. The simplest among the scientific manuscripts is the “Letter to an Editor,” while “Systematic Review” is complex in its content and context [ 3 ].

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Types of manuscripts based on complexity of content and context.

3. Anatomy of the Manuscript

Writing and publishing an effective and well-communicative scientific manuscript is arguably one of the most daunting yet important tasks of any successful research project. It is only through publishing the data that an author gets the recognition of the work, gets established as an expert, and becomes citable in the scientific field [ 4 ]. Among the numerous types of scientific manuscripts which an author can write ( Figure 1 ), original research remains central to most publications [ 4 – 10 ].

A good scientific paper essentially covers the important criteria, which define its worth such as structure, logical flow of information, content, context, and conclusion [ 5 ]. Among various guidelines that are available for the authors to follow, IMRAD scheme is the most important in determining the correct flow of content and structure of an original research paper [ 4 , 11 – 13 ]. IMRAD stands for introduction, methods, results, and discussion ( Figure 2 ). Besides these, other parts of the manuscript are equally essential such as title, abstract, keywords, and conclusion ( Figure 3 ).

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Generalized anatomy of manuscript based on IMRAD format.

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Three important contents of the title page—title, abstract, and keywords.

IMRAD scheme was introduced in the early 1900 by publishers to standardize the single format of the scientific manuscript and since then is the universal format used by most the publishing houses [ 6 , 14 – 17 ]. In the next sections, the contents and criteria of each of them are explained in detail. A list of the most common mistakes, which the author makes in these sections, is also provided in the tabulated form [ 18 ] ( Table 1 ).

Common mistakes authors make in their manuscripts.

  • The title is the most important element of the paper, the first thing readers encounter while searching for a suitable paper [ 1 ]. It reflects the manuscript's main contribution and hence should be simple, appealing, and easy to remember [ 7 ].
  • A good title should not be more than 15 words or 100 characters. Sometimes journals ask for a short running title, which should essentially be no more than 50% of the full title. Running titles need to be simple, catchy, and easy to remember [ 19 , 20 ].
  • Keeping the titles extremely long can be cumbersome and is suggestive of the authors' lack of grasp of the true nature of the research done.
  • It usually should be based on the keywords, which feature within the main rationale and/or objectives of the paper. The authors should construct an effective title from keywords existing in all sections of the main text of the manuscript [ 19 ].
  • Having effective keywords within the title helps in the easy discovery of the paper in the search engines, databases, and indexing services, which ultimately is also reflected by the higher citations they attract [ 1 ].
  • It is always better for the title to reflect the study's design or outcome [ 21 ]; thus, it is better for the authors to think of a number of different titles proactively and to choose the one, which reflects the manuscript in all domains, after careful deliberation. The paper's title should be among the last things to be decided before the submission of the paper for publication [ 20 ].
  • Use of abbreviations, jargons, and redundancies such as “a study in,” “case report of,” “Investigations of,” and passive voice should be avoided in the title.

5. Abstract

  • The abstract should essentially be written to answer the three main questions—“What is new in this study?” “What does it add to the current literature?” and “What are the future perspectives?”
  • A well-written abstract is a pivotal part of every manuscript. For most readers, an abstract is the only part of the paper that is widely read, so it should be aimed to convey the entire message of the paper effectively [ 1 ].

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Two major types of abstract—structured and unstructured. Structured abstracts are piecemealed into five different things, each consisting of one or two sentences, while unstructured abstracts consist of single paragraph written about the same things.

  • An effective abstract is a rationalized summary of the whole study and essentially should contain well-balanced information about six things: background, aim, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion [ 6 , 19 ].

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Three C concept followed while writing the manuscript.

  • An abstract should be written at the end, after finishing the writing of an entire manuscript to be able to stand-alone from the main text. It should reflect your study completely without any reference to the main paper [ 19 ].
  • The authors need to limit/write their statements in each section to two or three sentences. However, it is better to focus on results and conclusions, as they are the main parts that interest the readers and should include key results and conclusions made thereof.
  • Inclusion of excessive background information, citations, abbreviations, use of acronyms, lack of rationale/aim of the study, lack of meaningful data, and overstated conclusions make an abstract ineffective.

6. Keywords

  • Keywords are the important words, which feature repeatedly in the study or else cover the main theme/idea/subject of the manuscript. They are used by indexing databases such as PubMed, Scopus, and Embase in categorizing and cross-indexing the published article.
  • It is always wise to enlist those words which help the paper to be easily searchable in the databases.
  • Keywords can be of two types: (a) general ones that are provided by the journal or indexing services called as medical subject headings (MeSH) as available in NCBI ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/mesh/ ) and (b) custom ones made by authors themselves based on the subject matter of the study [ 6 , 20 ].
  • Upon submission, journals do usually ask for the provision of five to ten keywords either to categorize the paper into the subject areas or to assign it to the subspecialty for its quick processing.

7. Introduction

  • (i) The whole idea of writing this section is to cover two important questions—“What are the gaps present in the current literature?” and “Why is the current study important?”
  • (ii) Introduction provides an opportunity for the authors to highlight their area of study and provide rationale and justification as to why they are doing it [ 20 , 22 , 23 ].
  • (iii) An effective introduction usually constitutes about 10–15% of the paper's word count [ 22 ].
  • The first paragraph of the introduction should always cover “What is known about the area of study?” or “What present/current literature is telling about the problem?” All relevant and current literature/studies, i.e., original studies, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews, should be covered in this paragraph.
  • The second paragraph should cover “What is unknown or not done about this issue/study area?” The authors need to indicate the aspects of what has not been answered about the broader area of the study until now.
  • The third paragraph should identify the gaps in the current literature and answer “What gaps in the literature would be filled by their current study?” This part essentially identifies the shortcoming of the existing studies.
  • The fourth paragraph should be dedicated to effectively writing “What authors are going to do to fill the gaps?” and “Why do they want to do it?” This paragraph contains two sections—one explains the rationale of the study and introduces the hypothesis of the study in form of questions “What did authors do? and Why they did do so?” and the second enlists specific objectives that the authors are going to explore in this study to answer “Why this study is going to be important?” or “What is the purpose of this study?”.

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Funnel-down scheme followed while writing the introduction section of manuscript, moving from broader to specific information.

  • (v) Introduction is regarded as the start of the storyline of manuscript, and hence, the three Cs' scheme ( Figure 5 ) becomes more relevant while writing it: the context in terms of what has been published on the current idea/problem around the world, content as to what you are going to do about the problem in hand (rationale), and conclusion as to how it is going to be done (specific objective of the study) [ 1 , 23 ].
  • (vi) Introduction is the first section of the main manuscript, which talks about the story; therefore, while writing it authors should always try to think that “would this introduction be able to convince my readers?” [ 25 ]. To emphasize on the importance of the study in filling the knowledge gap is pivotal in driving the message through [ 23 ].
  • (vii) Introduction should never be written like a review, any details, contexts, and comparisons should be dealt within the discussion part [ 16 ].
  • (viii) While choosing the papers, it is wise to include the essential and recent studies only. Studies more than 10 years old should be avoided, as editors are inclined towards the recent and relevant ones only [ 20 , 22 ].
  • (ix) In the last paragraph, enlisting the objectives has a good impact on readers. A clear distinction between the primary and secondary objectives of the study should be made while closing the introduction [ 22 ].
  • (i) It is regarded as the skeleton of the manuscript as it contains information about the research done. An effective methods section should provide information about two essential aspects of the research—(a) precise description of how experiments were done and (b) rationale for choosing the specific experiments.
  • Study Settings: describing the area or setting where the study was conducted. This description should cover the details relevant to the study topic.

Different guidelines available for perusal of the authors for writing an effective manuscript.

  • Sample Size and Sampling Technique: mentioning what number of samples is needed and how they would be collected.
  • Ethical Approvals: clearly identifying the study approval body or board and proper collection of informed consent from participants.
  • Recruitment Methods: using at least three criteria for the inclusion or exclusion of the study subjects to reach an agreed sample size.
  • Experimental and Intervention Details: exhaustively describing each and every detail of all the experiments and intervention carried out in the study for the readers to reproduce independently.
  • Statistical Analysis: mentioning all statistical analysis carried out with the data which include all descriptive and inferential statistics and providing the analysis in meaningful statistical values such as mean, median, percent, standard deviation (SD), probability value (p), odds ratio (OR), and confidence interval (CI).

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Methods and the seven areas which it should exhaustively describe.

  • (iii) Methods should be elaborative enough that the readers are able to replicate the study on their own. If, however, the protocols are frequently used ones and are already available in the literature, the authors can cite them without providing any exhaustive details [ 26 ].
  • (iv) Methods should be able to answer the three questions for which audience reads the paper—(1) What was done? (2) Where it was done? and (3) How it was done? [ 11 ].
  • (v) Remember, methods section is all about “HOW” the data were collected contrary to “WHAT” data were collected, which should be written in the results section. Therefore, care should be taken in providing the description of the tools and techniques used for this purpose.
  • (vi) Writing of the methods section should essentially follow the guidelines as per the study design right from the ideation of the project. There are numerous guidelines available, which author's must make use of, to streamline the writing of the methods section in particular (see Table xx for details).
  • (vii) Provision of the information of the equipment, chemicals, reagents, and physical conditions is also vital for the readers for replication of the study. If any software is used for data analysis, it is imperative to mention it. All manufacturer's names, their city, and country should also be provided [ 6 , 11 ].
  • The purpose of the results section of the manuscript is to present the finding of the study in clear, concise, and objective manner to the readers [ 7 , 27 , 28 ].
  • Results section makes the heart of the manuscript, as all sections revolve around it. The reported findings should be in concordance with the objectives of the study and be able to answer the questions raised in the introduction [ 6 , 20 , 27 ].
  • Results should be written in past tense without any interpretation [ 6 , 27 ].

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Interdependence between methods and results of the manuscript.

  • It is always better to take refuge in tables and figures to drive the exhaustive data through. Repetition of the data already carried in tables, figures, etc., should be avoided [ 4 , 6 , 20 ].
  • Proper positioning and citations of the tables and figures within the main text are also critical for the flow of information and quality of the manuscript [ 6 , 11 ].
  • Results section should carry clear descriptive and inferential statistics in tables and/or figures, for ease of reference to readers.
  • Provision of the demographic data of the study participants takes priority in the results section; therefore, it should be made as its first paragraph. The subsequent paragraphs should introduce the inferential analysis of the data based on the rationale and objectives of the study. The last paragraphs mention what new results the study is going to offer [ 6 , 11 , 20 ].
  • authors should not attempt to report all analysis of the data. Discussing, interpreting, or contextualizing the results should be avoided [ 20 ].

10. Discussion

  • (i) The main purpose of writing a discussion is to fill the gap that was identified in the introduction of the manuscript and provide true interpretations of the results [ 6 , 11 , 20 ].

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Pyramid scheme followed while writing the discussion section of manuscript, moving from the key results of the study to the specific conclusions.

  • (iii) Discussion section toggles between two things—content and context. The authors need to exhaustively describe their interpretation of the analyzed data (content) and then compare it with the available relevant literature (context) [ 1 , 29 ]. Finally, it should justify everything in conclusion as to what all this means for the field of study.
  • (iv) The comparison can either be concordant or discordant, but it needs to highlight the uniqueness and importance of the study in the field. Care should be taken not to cover up any deviant results, which do not gel with the current literature [ 30 ].
  • (v) In discussion it is safe to use words such as “may,” “might,” “show,” “demonstrate,” “suggest,” and “report” while impressing upon your study's data and analyzed results.
  • (vi) Putting results in context helps in identifying the strengths and weakness of the study and enables readers to get answers to two important questions—one “what are the implications of the study?” Second “how the study advance the field further?” [ 1 , 30 ].
  • The first paragraph of the discussion is reserved for highlighting the key results of the study as briefly as possible [ 4 , 6 ]. However, care should be taken not to have any redundancy with the results section. The authors should utilize this part to emphasize the originality and significance of their results in the field [ 1 , 4 , 11 , 20 ].
  • The second paragraph should deal with the importance of your study in relationship with other studies available in the literature [ 4 ].
  • Subsequent paragraphs should focus on the context, by describing the findings in comparison with other similar studies in the field and how the gap in the knowledge has been filled [ 1 , 4 ].
  • In the penultimate paragraph, authors need to highlight the strengths and limitations of the study [ 4 , 6 , 30 ].
  • Final paragraph of the discussion is usually reserved for drawing the generalized conclusions for the readers to get a single take-home message.
  • (viii) A well-balanced discussion is the one that effectively addresses the contribution made by this study towards the advancement of knowledge in general and the field of research in particular [ 7 ]. It essentially should carry enough information that the audience knows how to apply the new interpretation presented within that field.

11. Conclusion

  • It usually makes the last part of the manuscript, if not already covered within the discussion part [ 6 , 20 ].
  • Being the last part of the main text, it has a long-lasting impact on the reader and hence should be very clear in presenting the chief findings of the paper as per the rationale and objectives of the study [ 4 , 20 ].

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Crux of the conclusion section.

12. References or Bibliography

  • Every article needs a suitable and relevant citation of the available literature to carry the contextual message of their results to the readers [ 31 ].
  • Inclusion of proper references in the required format, as asked by the target journal, is necessary.

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A Google Scholar screenshot of different styles of formatting of references.

  • Depending upon the journal and publishing house, usually, 30–50 citations are allowed in an original study, and they need to be relevant and recent.

13. Organization of the Manuscript Package

Ideally, all manuscripts, no matter where they have to be submitted, should follow an approved organization, which is universally used by all publication houses. “Ready to submit” manuscript package should include the following elements:

  • (i) Cover letter, addressed to the chief editor of the target journal.
  • (ii) Authorship file, containing the list of authors, their affiliations, emails, and ORCIDs.
  • (iii) Title page, containing three things—title, abstract, and keywords.
  • Main text structured upon IMRAD scheme.
  • References as per required format.
  • Legends to all tables and figures.
  • Miscellaneous things such as author contributions, acknowledgments, conflicts of interest, funding body, and ethical approvals.
  • (v) Tables as a separate file in excel format.
  • (vi) Figures or illustrations, each as a separate file in JPEG or TIFF format [ 32 ].
  • (vii) Reviewers file, containing names of the suggested peer reviewers working or publishing in the same field.
  • (viii) Supplementary files, which can be raw data files, ethical clearance from Institutional Review Board (IRBs), appendixes, etc.

14. Overview of an Editorial Process

Each scientific journal has a specific publication policies and procedures, which govern the numerous steps of the publication process. In general, all publication houses process the submission of manuscripts via multiple steps tightly controlled by the editors and reviewers [ 33 ]. Figure 12 provides general overview of the six-step editorial process of the scientific journal.

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An overview of the journal's editorial process.

15. Summary

The basic criteria for writing any scientific communication are to know how to communicate the information effectively. In this review, we have provided the critical information of do's and don'ts for the naive authors to follow in making their manuscript enough impeccable and error-free that on submission manuscript is not desk rejected at all. but this goes with mentioning that like any other skill, and the writing is also honed by practicing and is always reflective of the knowledge the writer possesses. Additionally, an effective manuscript is always based on the study design and the statistical analysis done. The authors should always bear in mind that editors apart from looking into the novelty of the study also look at how much pain authors have taken in writing, following guidelines, and formatting the manuscript. Therefore, the organization of the manuscript as per provided guidelines such as IMRAD, CONSORT, and PRISMA should be followed in letter and spirit. Care should be taken to avoid the mistakes, already enlisted, which can be the cause of desk rejection. As a general rule, before submission of the manuscript to the journal, sanitation check involving at least two reviews by colleagues should be carried out to ensure all general formatting guidelines are followed.

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank all academicians and researchers who have actively participated in the “Writing Manuscript Workshops” at the College of Medicine, KSAU-HS, Jeddah, which prompted them to write this review.

Data Availability

Conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Authors' Contributions

Both authors have critically reviewed and approved the final draft and are responsible for the content and similarity index of the manuscript. SSA conceptualized the study, designed the study, surveyed the existing literature, and wrote the manuscript. SN edited, revised, and proofread the final manuscript.

  • Academic Skills
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Writing a paper for publication

Finding and positioning your argument.

This resource provides a brief introduction to this topic, which should take you 15-20 minutes to complete. It includes activities to help you apply tips to your own context and reflect on your learning. Check out the further resources and references provided for further information on the topic.

Writing a paper for publication allows you to communicate a central argument of your research problem. This video introduces some key considerations for writing a paper for publication.

The following activity will take you through tips for choosing a journal and establishing your contribution. You can fill in your answers as you go and download them at the end.

*If content below does not display, please refresh your browser

You can also try the following tips:

  • Pitch your idea aloud to a real or imagined audience in 1-3 minutes to see if your argument is clear to yourself and others.
  • Imagine your paper being cited in a sentence or two in another author's literature review on your topic (Thomson & Kamler, 2013). What point or contribution would you like to be remembered for?
  • Use your abstract to work on shaping your argument. Refer to the ‘ Title and abstract ’ section for more information.

The Library’s journal selection guide

Writing for publication – finding an angle and an argument

Use the side menu to go the next section: Planning your paper , where we explore article types and an article mapping tool.

Planning your paper

Once you’ve formed your argument and related it to your target journal, it’s time to create a plan for your paper. This will help you a lot in the writing stage.

Article types

In your planning, consider what type of paper you’re going to write based on the type of material you have on your topic. Deciding the type of article you write will help you to determine its structure. Different journals may accept different article types, but there are generally four main publication focuses:

  • Empirical paper Usually follows an IMRAD structure (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion) or some variation of this
  • Review paper Includes literature reviews, systematic reviews and other reviews
  • 'Think piece' / theoretical paper Focuses on discussing an idea conceptually
  • Modelling paper Proposes and justifies a new model for solving a problem based on research

These types of paper differ in focus rather than exclusive content. Some papers strike a balance between these focuses and are therefore harder to categorise. You just need to be aware of these choices and which paper type your piece is leaning toward.

Examples of the four article types and their structures are given in the 'Title and abstract' section.

Mapping your writing

Watch this video to find out how to plan your paper using an article mapping template, then download the template below.

Download the  article mapping template (Word Doc)

Use the side menu to go the next section: Title and abstract , where we look at writing an effective article title and abstract.

Title and abstract

Your article will need an effective title and abstract to be retrieved easily through search programs and to appeal to your readers. These are usually the most read parts of your paper.

Watch the following video for practical tips and examples to help you write your title and abstract.

The following sample abstracts illustrate how different types of academic paper could be structured. Complete this activity to discover a structure you can use in your own work. Choose the paper type you're interested in from the accordions below then follow the instructions to complete the activity.

*If content does not display below, refresh your browser.

(adapted from Richardson et al., 2016)

(adapted from Shadiev & Sintawati, 2020)

(adapted from Raamsdonk, 2018)

(adapted from Osberg & Biesta, 2010)

Use the side menu to go the next section: Writing your paper , where we look at effective writing strategies for publication.

Writing your paper

The writing stage is exciting! It’s where you can see your ideas coming to life. However, getting started and staying focused can be challenging. The following tips will help you to avoid procrastination and stay on track.

  • Set up systems to help you keep going, e.g. ‘write 300-1000 words a day five days a week’ or ‘complete at least 300 words before I do any reading or check emails’. Having a system, however modest, can sustain writing over time.
  • Try generative writing techniques, which involve writing continuously without correction or judgement for a short interval or writing to prompts, such as 'My key findings are...' , to get your ideas flowing.
  • Try to avoid perfectionism – initially, getting the writing done is more important than getting it perfect. You might find that the act of writing offloads and clarifies your ideas and helps you structure them much better than thinking alone.
  • Consider approaching your colleagues or peers to set up a writing group that meets to work quietly for a set length of time, e.g. 25 minutes, then breaks for 5 minutes for a social discussion between writing blocks.
  • Use read-to-write strategies: Look through some recent publications in your target journal to observe how they are put together – notice the typical structures, writing moves and terminology used. This awareness can help you to attune your paper to the journal’s expectations or deviate from them in an informed, justified way. Understanding the conventional way of writing in the journal also helps you to balance ‘convention and novelty’ (Patriotta, 2017) in joining and adding to the conversation.
  • Signpost your ideas throughout to help your readers navigate your writing. You can use the Academic Phrasebank to choose signposting expressions for different sections of your paper.
  • You may need to refine your paper multiple times, with a different focus each time: content, organisation and structure, writing style and language expression.
  • Writing can be a fun and social activity. Try to get support and feedback from trusted peers, supervisors, mentors or advisers during the writing process as this can boost your confidence and give you the reader’s perspective.
  • Connecting to other graduate researchers can also help you to shape and test your ideas through engaging in scholarly dialogue. When published, your ideas will be in the public domain and become public good.
  • As you write, imagine yourself as an authoritative writer speaking to your journal’s audience (Thomson & Kamler, 2013). This visualisation can help enhance your sense of authority and nurture a writer identity.
  • Find a writing mate or join a writing group to review one another’s papers. This will not only give you feedback on your paper but also the experience of being a reader-reviewer of others’ work. This informal peer review experience can help prepare you for the more formal peer review process of a journal.
  • If you’re co-authoring your paper, this can be a great opportunity to learn from others and become a collaborative writer. Setting clear parameters and establishing supportive relationships are key in co-authorship.

When asking for feedback, you can guide the person giving you feedback using these suggestions from Thomson and Kamler (2013, p. 173) by asking them to:

  • Tell you their summary of your argument
  • Tell you what point they think the article is trying to make
  • Name two strengths of the paper
  • Identify the most important improvement you should make to achieve the biggest 'gains' excluding spelling and grammar points.

Now, look at the current draft of your paper and answer the following questions to help you assess your own progress. You can download the list of questions and your answers on the last page of the activity.

How to write and structure a journal article

11 steps to structuring a science paper editors will take seriously

Looping – a free writing strategy for generating ideas

Writing for publication – some beginning strategies …

The perfect sentence vortex and how to escape it

(Scroll down to the bottom of the listing to access the blog entry titled 'The prefect sentence vortex and how to escape it')

Academic Phrasebank

Editing your writing

Learning to be a co-author

Use the side menu to go the next section: Responding to peer reviews , where we explore strategies for the peer review process.

Responding to peer reviews

Peer review is a key part of the publication process. Blind reviewing means that you will be treated as an equal member in the field and that your paper will be judged based on its merits only.

Taking charge of your response

Most good journals use a peer review process to make sure what they publish has gone through high levels of scrutiny from academics in a field of research. To your readers, this means that your paper has met the publication standards of the journal.

After your paper has been read by an editor and deemed suitable for the journal, it will be sent to several (usually two) academics in your field to be reviewed.

The peer review process can take anywhere from a few months to a year, sometimes longer, depending on the journal. When you receive your reviewers’ reports, you will need to respond to them demonstrating that you have taken their suggestions onboard or explaining why you’ve decided not to follow some suggestions.

Reviewers may differ widely in their views and ways of giving feedback. Some are encouraging, while others can be directly critical. However, most reviewers invest their time and effort in giving feedback that they think will be useful to writers.

When responding to reviewers' reports:

  • Try to take criticisms, even those you find challenging, as opportunities to develop as a writer and researcher. If you think some feedback is unfair or unhelpful, give reasonable explanations of what you have done instead of what was suggested.
  • Don’t get carried away by the commentary. Focus instead on picking out suggested changes, or actionable items. You might find it useful to create a simple table listing the reviewers’ suggested changes in one column and your responses to these in another, indicating the evidence of each change and its page number.

Responding to peer reviews is an opportunity for you to argue your case further. When you’re responding to critique, it’s easy to ask the reactive question ‘How can I defend my position?’ but a more useful question might be: ‘How can I strengthen my argument?’ You can then incorporate strengthening elements in your paper to make the most of the peer review process.

To be able to do all this, you may need support from your peers, supervisors or other people you trust to give you advice. It’s a good idea to talk to them early on to help you understand and respond to peer reviews effectively.

Deciding on big revisions

To decide how best to respond to suggestions for big changes, think about:

  • Scope: Is the suggested change within the scope I aim for?
  • Quality: Will making the suggested change significantly improve the quality of my paper?
  • Effort: What is an easier alternative to making the change suggested? E.g., can I add a few sentences to justify the methodology rather than changing it completely?

Writing a paper for publication is a challenging but rewarding process, from finding and positioning your argument, planning and writing your paper through to responding to peer reviews. Reflecting on your learning along the way will help you develop as a researcher, writer and contributing member of your scholarly community.

For more information and support in your writing, Explore: Academic Skills Graduate Research services

Osberg, D., & Biesta, G. (2010). The end/s of education: Complexity and the conundrum of the inclusive educational curriculum. International Journal of Inclusive Education , 14 (6), 593–607. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603110802530684

Patriotta, G. (2017). Crafting papers for publication: Novelty and convention in academic writing. Journal of Management Studies , 54 (5), 747–759. https://doi.org/doi: 10.1111/joms.12280

Raamsdonk, J. (2018). Mechanisms underlying longevity: A genetic switch model of aging. Experimental Gerontology , 107 , 136–139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2017.08.005

Richardson, J., Gauert, A., Briones Montecinos, L., Fanlo, L., Alhashem, Z. M., Assar, R., Marti, E., Kabla, A., Härtel, S., & Linker, C. (2016). Leader cells define directionality of trunk, but not cranial, neural crest cell migration. Cell Rep , 15 (9), 2076–2088. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2016.04.067

Shadiev, R., & Sintawati, W. (2020). A review of research on intercultural learning supported by technology. Educational Research Review , 31 , 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2020.100338

Steinbok, P. (1995). Ethical considerations relating to writing a medical scientific paper for publication. Child’s Nervous System , 11 (6), 323–328.

Stommel, W., & de Rijk, L. (2021). Ethical approval: None sought. How discourse analysts report ethical issues around publicly available online data. Research Ethics , 17 (3), 275–297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1747016120988767

Thomson, P. (2018). Writing for publication—Some beginning strategies.  Patter . https://patthomson.net/2018/06/18/writing-for-publication-some-generative-strategies%e2%80%8b-to-begin/

Thomson, P., & Kamler, B. (2013). Writing for peer reviewed journals: Strategies for getting published . Routledge.

Essential Rules for Academic Writing: A Beginner’s Guide

Unlock the key rules for academic writing: from structure to citations. Master scholarly communication with expert insights.

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Mastering the art of academic writing is a fundamental skill that empowers students and researchers to express their ideas, convey complex concepts, and contribute meaningfully to their respective fields. However, for beginners venturing into the realm of scholarly writing, navigating the intricacies of this formal discourse can be a daunting task.

“Essential Rules for Academic Writing: A Beginner’s Guide” serves as a beacon of guidance, illuminating the path for aspiring scholars as they embark on their academic journey. This comprehensive article offers invaluable insights into the fundamental principles and key rules that underpin successful academic writing, providing a strong foundation for those new to the craft.

What Is Academic Writing?

Academic writing refers to a formal style of writing that is prevalent in academic settings such as universities, research institutions, and scholarly publications. It is a mode of communication used by students, researchers, and scholars to convey their ideas, present research findings, and engage in intellectual discourse within their respective fields of study.

Related article: 11 Best Grammar Checker Tools For Academic Writing

Unlike other forms of writing, academic writing adheres to specific conventions and standards that prioritize clarity, precision, objectivity, and critical thinking. It is characterized by a rigorous approach to presenting arguments, supporting claims with evidence, and adhering to the principles of logic and reasoning.

Academic writing encompasses a wide range of genres, including essays, research papers, literature reviews, theses, dissertations, conference papers, and journal articles. Regardless of the specific genre, academic writing typically follows a structured format, includes proper citation and referencing, and adheres to established academic style guides such as APA (American Psychological Association) or MLA (Modern Language Association).

Types Of Academic Writing

Here’s a table summarizing the different types of academic writing, along with their definitions, purposes and typical structures:

Also read: Words To Use In Essays: Amplifying Your Academic Writing

General Rules For Academic Writing

Here are some general rules for academic writing: by adhering to these general guidelines, you can enhance the clarity, effectiveness, and professionalism of your academic writing, ensuring that your ideas are communicated with precision and impact.

Clarity and Precision

Academic writing demands clarity and precision in the expression of ideas. Use clear and concise language to communicate your thoughts effectively. Avoid ambiguous or vague statements, and strive for a logical flow of ideas within your writing.

Audience Awareness

Consider your intended audience when writing academically. Be aware of their background knowledge and familiarity with the topic. Adapt your writing style and level of technicality accordingly, ensuring that your content is accessible and understandable to your readers.

Use Formal Language

Academic writing requires a formal tone and language. Avoid colloquialisms, slang, and overly informal expressions. Instead, employ a vocabulary appropriate to the academic context, using specialized terms when necessary.

Structure and Organization

Structure your writing in a logical and coherent manner. Use clear headings, subheadings, and paragraphs to guide the reader through your work. Ensure that your ideas are well-organized and presented in a cohesive manner, with each paragraph or section contributing to the overall argument or discussion.

Evidence-Based Reasoning

Support your arguments and claims with credible evidence. Reference authoritative sources and cite them appropriately to establish the foundation for your ideas. Use empirical data, scholarly research, and reputable references to strengthen the validity and reliability of your work.

Critical Thinking

Academic writing encourages critical thinking and analysis. Engage with the existing literature, identify strengths and weaknesses in the arguments, and develop your own well-reasoned perspective. Challenge assumptions, evaluate alternative viewpoints, and provide well-supported arguments.

Proper Referencing and Citation

Maintain academic integrity by properly referencing and citing all sources used in your writing. Follow the specific citation style required by your academic institution or field, such as APA , MLA , or Chicago style . Accurate referencing gives credit to the original authors, allows readers to verify your sources, and demonstrates your commitment to scholarly integrity.

Revision and Proofreading

Academic writing involves a process of revision and proofreading. Review your work for clarity, coherence, grammar, and spelling errors. Ensure that your writing is free from typographical mistakes and inconsistencies. Seek feedback from peers, instructors, or writing centers to enhance the quality of your work.

Also read: What Is Proofreading And How To Harness Its Benefits?

How To Improve The Academic Writing

To enhance your academic writing skills, it is crucial to engage in regular practice and give careful consideration to various aspects. Here are some essential focal points to pay attention to in order to improve your academic writing:

Punctuation

  • Proper use of commas, periods, question marks, and exclamation marks to enhance clarity and meaning in sentences.
  • Effective use of semicolons and colons to join related independent clauses and introduce lists or explanations.
  • Understanding the role of dashes and hyphens to indicate interruptions or join words in compound adjectives.

Capitalization

  • Capitalize proper nouns, including names of people, places, institutions, and specific titles or terms.
  • Follow capitalization rules for titles, capitalizing the first and last words, as well as major words within the title.
  • Ensure consistency in capitalization within headings and subheadings.

Grammar and Sentence Structure

  • Ensure subject-verb agreement, ensuring that the subject and verb agree in number and person.
  • Use proper tenses and maintain consistency in verb tense usage within a paragraph or section.
  • Write clear and unambiguous sentences, avoiding run-on sentences, fragments, or unclear pronoun references.

Academic Conventions

  • Apply appropriate formatting and font style as per the guidelines of the specific academic institution or style guide.
  • Use headings and subheadings correctly, following a consistent hierarchy and formatting style.
  • Use abbreviations appropriately and consistently, following the accepted conventions in the field.
  • Adhere to specific guidelines for tables, figures, and graphs, including proper numbering, labeling, and citation.

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AI-assisted writing is quietly booming in academic journals—here's why that's OK

by Julian Koplin, The Conversation

AI-assisted writing is quietly booming in academic journals—here's why that's OK

If you search Google Scholar for the phrase " as an AI language model ," you'll find plenty of AI research literature and also some rather suspicious results. For example, one paper on agricultural technology says,

"As an AI language model, I don't have direct access to current research articles or studies. However, I can provide you with an overview of some recent trends and advancements …"

Obvious gaffes like this aren't the only signs that researchers are increasingly turning to generative AI tools when writing up their research. A recent study examined the frequency of certain words in academic writing (such as "commendable," "meticulously" and "intricate"), and found they became far more common after the launch of ChatGPT—so much so that 1% of all journal articles published in 2023 may have contained AI-generated text.

(Why do AI models overuse these words? There is speculation it's because they are more common in English as spoken in Nigeria, where key elements of model training often occur.)

The aforementioned study also looks at preliminary data from 2024, which indicates that AI writing assistance is only becoming more common. Is this a crisis for modern scholarship, or a boon for academic productivity?

Who should take credit for AI writing?

Many people are worried by the use of AI in academic papers. Indeed, the practice has been described as " contaminating " scholarly literature.

Some argue that using AI output amounts to plagiarism. If your ideas are copy-pasted from ChatGPT, it is questionable whether you really deserve credit for them.

But there are important differences between "plagiarizing" text authored by humans and text authored by AI. Those who plagiarize humans' work receive credit for ideas that ought to have gone to the original author.

By contrast, it is debatable whether AI systems like ChatGPT can have ideas, let alone deserve credit for them. An AI tool is more like your phone's autocomplete function than a human researcher.

The question of bias

Another worry is that AI outputs might be biased in ways that could seep into the scholarly record. Infamously, older language models tended to portray people who are female, black and/or gay in distinctly unflattering ways, compared with people who are male, white and/or straight.

This kind of bias is less pronounced in the current version of ChatGPT.

However, other studies have found a different kind of bias in ChatGPT and other large language models : a tendency to reflect a left-liberal political ideology.

Any such bias could subtly distort scholarly writing produced using these tools.

The hallucination problem

The most serious worry relates to a well-known limitation of generative AI systems: that they often make serious mistakes.

For example, when I asked ChatGPT-4 to generate an ASCII image of a mushroom, it provided me with the following output.

AI-assisted writing is quietly booming in academic journals—here's why that's OK

It then confidently told me I could use this image of a "mushroom" for my own purposes.

These kinds of overconfident mistakes have been referred to as "AI hallucinations" and " AI bullshit ." While it is easy to spot that the above ASCII image looks nothing like a mushroom (and quite a bit like a snail), it may be much harder to identify any mistakes ChatGPT makes when surveying scientific literature or describing the state of a philosophical debate.

Unlike (most) humans, AI systems are fundamentally unconcerned with the truth of what they say. If used carelessly, their hallucinations could corrupt the scholarly record.

Should AI-produced text be banned?

One response to the rise of text generators has been to ban them outright. For example, Science—one of the world's most influential academic journals—disallows any use of AI-generated text .

I see two problems with this approach.

The first problem is a practical one: current tools for detecting AI-generated text are highly unreliable. This includes the detector created by ChatGPT's own developers, which was taken offline after it was found to have only a 26% accuracy rate (and a 9% false positive rate ). Humans also make mistakes when assessing whether something was written by AI.

It is also possible to circumvent AI text detectors. Online communities are actively exploring how to prompt ChatGPT in ways that allow the user to evade detection. Human users can also superficially rewrite AI outputs, effectively scrubbing away the traces of AI (like its overuse of the words "commendable," "meticulously" and "intricate").

The second problem is that banning generative AI outright prevents us from realizing these technologies' benefits. Used well, generative AI can boost academic productivity by streamlining the writing process. In this way, it could help further human knowledge. Ideally, we should try to reap these benefits while avoiding the problems.

The problem is poor quality control, not AI

The most serious problem with AI is the risk of introducing unnoticed errors, leading to sloppy scholarship. Instead of banning AI, we should try to ensure that mistaken, implausible or biased claims cannot make it onto the academic record.

After all, humans can also produce writing with serious errors, and mechanisms such as peer review often fail to prevent its publication.

We need to get better at ensuring academic papers are free from serious mistakes, regardless of whether these mistakes are caused by careless use of AI or sloppy human scholarship. Not only is this more achievable than policing AI usage, it will improve the standards of academic research as a whole.

This would be (as ChatGPT might say) a commendable and meticulously intricate solution.

Provided by The Conversation

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  • Original article
  • Open access
  • Published: 20 May 2024

The great detectives: humans versus AI detectors in catching large language model-generated medical writing

  • Jae Q. J. Liu 1 ,
  • Kelvin T. K. Hui 1 ,
  • Fadi Al Zoubi 1 ,
  • Zing Z. X. Zhou 1 ,
  • Dino Samartzis 2 ,
  • Curtis C. H. Yu 1 ,
  • Jeremy R. Chang 1 &
  • Arnold Y. L. Wong   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-5911-5756 1  

International Journal for Educational Integrity volume  20 , Article number:  8 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

Metrics details

The application of artificial intelligence (AI) in academic writing has raised concerns regarding accuracy, ethics, and scientific rigour. Some AI content detectors may not accurately identify AI-generated texts, especially those that have undergone paraphrasing. Therefore, there is a pressing need for efficacious approaches or guidelines to govern AI usage in specific disciplines.

Our study aims to compare the accuracy of mainstream AI content detectors and human reviewers in detecting AI-generated rehabilitation-related articles with or without paraphrasing.

Study design

This cross-sectional study purposively chose 50 rehabilitation-related articles from four peer-reviewed journals, and then fabricated another 50 articles using ChatGPT. Specifically, ChatGPT was used to generate the introduction, discussion, and conclusion sections based on the original titles, methods, and results. Wordtune was then used to rephrase the ChatGPT-generated articles. Six common AI content detectors (Originality.ai, Turnitin, ZeroGPT, GPTZero, Content at Scale, and GPT-2 Output Detector) were employed to identify AI content for the original, ChatGPT-generated and AI-rephrased articles. Four human reviewers (two student reviewers and two professorial reviewers) were recruited to differentiate between the original articles and AI-rephrased articles, which were expected to be more difficult to detect. They were instructed to give reasons for their judgements.

Originality.ai correctly detected 100% of ChatGPT-generated and AI-rephrased texts. ZeroGPT accurately detected 96% of ChatGPT-generated and 88% of AI-rephrased articles. The areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) of ZeroGPT were 0.98 for identifying human-written and AI articles. Turnitin showed a 0% misclassification rate for human-written articles, although it only identified 30% of AI-rephrased articles. Professorial reviewers accurately discriminated at least 96% of AI-rephrased articles, but they misclassified 12% of human-written articles as AI-generated. On average, students only identified 76% of AI-rephrased articles. Reviewers identified AI-rephrased articles based on ‘incoherent content’ (34.36%), followed by ‘grammatical errors’ (20.26%), and ‘insufficient evidence’ (16.15%).

Conclusions and relevance

This study directly compared the accuracy of advanced AI detectors and human reviewers in detecting AI-generated medical writing after paraphrasing. Our findings demonstrate that specific detectors and experienced reviewers can accurately identify articles generated by Large Language Models, even after paraphrasing. The rationale employed by our reviewers in their assessments can inform future evaluation strategies for monitoring AI usage in medical education or publications. AI content detectors may be incorporated as an additional screening tool in the peer-review process of academic journals.

Introduction

Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer (ChatGPT; OpenAI, USA) is a popular and responsive chatbot that has surpassed other Large Language Models (LLMs) in terms of usage (ChatGPT Statistics 2023 ). Being trained with 175 billion parameters, ChatGPT has demonstrated its capabilities in the field of medicine and digital health (OpenAI 2023 ). It has been reported to be able to solve higher-order reasoning questions in pathology (Sinha 2023 ). Currently, ChatGPT has been used in generating discharge summaries (Patel &Lam 2023 ), aiding in diagnosis (Mehnen et al. 2023 ), and providing health information to patients with cancer (Hopkins et al. 2023 ). Currently, ChatGPT has become a valuable writing assistant, especially in medical writing (Imran & Almusharaf 2023 ).

However, scientists did not support granting ChatGPT authorship in academic publishing because it could not be held accountable for the ethics of the content (Stokel-Walker 2023 ). Its tendency to generate plausible but non-rigorous or misleading content has raised doubts about the reliability of its outputs (Sallam 2023 ; Manohar & Prasad 2023 ). This poses a risk of disseminating unsubstantiated information. Therefore, scholars have been exploring ways to detect AI-generated content to uphold academic integrity, although there are conflicting perspectives on the utilization of detectors in academic publishing. Previous research found that 14 existing AI detection tools exhibited an average accuracy of less than 80% (Weber-Wulff et al. 2023 ). However, the availability of paraphrasing tools further complicates the detection of LLM-generated texts. Some AI content detectors were ineffective in identifying paraphrased texts (Anderson et al. 2023 ; Weber-Wulff et al. 2023 ). Moreover, some detectors may misclassify human-written articles, which can undermine the credibility of academic publications (Liang et al. 2023 ; Sadasivan et al. 2023 ).

Nevertheless, there have been advancements in AI content detectors. Turnitin and Originality.ai have shown excellent accuracy in discriminating between AI-generated and human-written essays in various academic disciplines (e.g., social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities) (Walters 2023 ). However, their effectiveness in detecting paraphrased academic articles remains uncertain. Importantly, the accuracy of universal AI detectors has shown inconsistencies across studies in different domains (Gao et al. 2023 ; Anderson et al. 2023 ; Walters 2023 ). Therefore, continuous efforts are necessary to identify detectors that can achieve near-perfect accuracy, especially in the detection of medical texts, which is of particular concern to the academic community.

In addition to using AI detectors to help identify AI-generated articles, it is crucial to assess the ability of human reviewers to detect AI-generated formal academic articles. A study found that four peer reviewers only achieved an average accuracy of 68% in identifying ChatGPT-generated biomedical abstracts (Gao et al. 2023 ). However, this study had limitations because the reviewers only assessed abstracts instead of full-text articles, and their assessments were limited to a binary choice of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without providing any justifications for their decisions. The reported moderate accuracy is inadequate for informing new editorial policy regarding AI usage. To establish effective regulations for supervising AI usage in journal publishing, it is necessary to continuously explore the accuracy of experienced human reviewers and to understand the patterns and stylistic features of AI-generated content. This can help researchers, educators, and editors develop discipline-specific guidelines to effectively supervise AI usage in academic publishing.

Against this background, the current study aimed to (1) compare the accuracy of several common AI content detectors and human reviewers with different levels of research training in detecting AI-generated academic articles with or without paraphrasing; and (2) understand the rationale by human reviewers for determining AI-generated content.

The current study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of a university. This study consisted of four stages: (1) identifying 50 published peer-reviewed papers from four high-impact journals; (2) generating artificial papers using ChatGPT; (3) rephrasing the ChatGPT-generated papers using a paraphrasing tool called Wordtune; and (4) employing six AI content detectors to distinguish between the original papers, ChatGPT-generated papers, and AI-rephrased papers. To determine human reviewers’ ability to discern between the original papers and AI-rephrased papers, four reviewers reviewed and assessed these two types of papers (Fig. 1 ).

figure 1

An outline of the study

Identifying peer-reviewed papers

As this study was conducted by researchers involved in rehabilitation sciences, only rehabilitation-related publications were considered. A researcher searched on PubMed in June 2023 using a search strategy involving: (“Neurological Rehabilitation”[Mesh]) OR (“Cardiac Rehabilitation”[Mesh]) OR (“Pulmonary Rehabilitation” [Mesh]) OR (“Exercise Therapy”[Mesh]) OR (“Physical Therapy”[Mesh]) OR (“Activities of Daily Living”[Mesh]) OR (“Self Care”[Mesh]) OR (“Self-Management”[Mesh]). English rehabilitation-related articles published between June 2013 and June 2023 in one of four high-impact journals ( Nature, The Lancet, JAMA, and British Medical Journal [BMJ] ) were eligible for inclusion. Fifty articles were included and categorized into four categories (musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary, neurology, and pediatric) (Appendix 1 ).

Generating academic articles using ChatGPT

ChatGPT (GPT-3.5-Turbo, OpenAI, USA) was used to generate the introduction, discussion, and conclusion sections of fabricated articles in July 2023. Specifically, before starting a conversation with ChatGPT, we gave the instruction “ Considering yourself as an academic writer ” to put it into a specific role. After that, we entered “ Please write a convincing scientific introduction on the topic of [original topic] with some citations in the text” into GPT-3.5-Turbo to generate the ‘Introduction’ section. The ‘Discussion’ section was generated by the request “Please critically discuss the methods and results below: [original method] and [original result], Please include citations in the text” . For the ‘Conclusions’ section, we instructed ChatGPT to create a summary of the generated discussion section with reference to the original title. Collectively, each ChatGPT-generated article comprised fabricated introduction, discussion, and conclusions sections, alongside the original methods and results sections.

Rephrasing ChatGPT-generated articles using a paraphrasing tool

Wordtune (AI21 Labs, Tel Aviv, Israel) (Wordtune 2023 ), a widely used AI-powered writing assistant, was applied to paraphrase 50 ChatGPT-generated articles, specifically targeting the introduction, discussion, and conclusion sections, to enhance their authenticity.

Identification of AI-generated articles

Using ai content detectors.

Six AI content detectors, which have been widely used (Walters 2023 ; Crothers 2023 ; Top 10 AI Detector Tools 2023 ), were applied to identify texts generated by AI language models in August 2023. They classified a given paper as “human-written” or “AI-generated”, with a confidence level reported as an AI score [% ‘confidence in predicting that the content was produced by an AI tool’] or a perplexity score [randomness or particularity of the text]. A lower perplexity score indicates that the text has relatively few random elements and is more likely to be written by generative AI (GPTZero 2023 ). The 50 original articles, 50 ChatGPT-generated articles, and 50 AI-rephrased articles were evaluated for authenticity by two paid (Originality.ai, Originality. AI Inc., Ontario, Canada; and Turnitin’s AI writing detection, Turnitin LLC, CA, USA) and four free AI content detectors (ZeroGPT, Munchberg, Germany; GPTZero, NJ, USA; Content at Scale, AZ, USA; and GPT-2 Output Detector, CA, USA). The authentic methods and results sections were not entered into the AI content detectors. Since the GPT-2 Output Detector has a restriction of 510 tokens per attempt, each article was divided into several parts for input, and the overall AI score of the article was calculated based on the mean score of all parts.

Peer reviews by human reviewers

Four blinded reviewers with backgrounds in physiotherapy and varying levels of research training (two college student reviewers and two professorial reviewers) were recruited to review and discern articles. To minimize the risk of recall bias, a researcher randomly assigned the 50 original articles and 50 AI-rephrased articles (ChatGPT-generated articles after rephrasing) to two electronic folders by a coin toss. If an original article was placed in Folder 1, the corresponding AI-rephrased article was assigned to Folder 2. Reviewers were instructed to review all the papers in Folder 1 first and then wait for at least 7 days before reviewing papers in Folder 2. This approach would reduce the reviewers’ risk of remembering the details of the original papers and AI-rephrased articles on the same topic (Fisher & Radvansky 2018 ).

The four reviewers were instructed to use an online Google form (Appendix 2 ) to make their decision and provide reasons behind their decision. Reviewers were instructed to enter the article number on the Google form before reviewing the article. Once the reviewers had gathered sufficient information/confidence to make the decision, they would give a binary response (“AI-rephrased” or “human-written”). Additionally, they should select their top three reasons for their decision from a list of options (i.e., coherence creativity, evidence-based, grammatical errors, and vocabulary diversity) (Walters 2019; Lee 2022 ). The definitions of these reasons (Appendix 3 ) were explained to the reviewers beforehand. If they could not find the best answers, they could enter additional responses. When the reviewer submitted the form, the total duration was automatically recorded by the system.

Statistical analysis

Descriptive analyses were reported when appropriate. Shapiro-Wilk tests were used to evaluate the normality of the data, while Levene’s tests were employed to assess the homogeneity of variance. Logarithmic transformation was applied to the data related to ‘time taken’ to achieve the normal distribution. Separate two-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) with post-hoc comparisons were conducted to evaluate the effect of detectors and AI usage on AI scores, and the effect of reviewers and AI usage on the time taken. Separate paired t-tests with Bonferroni correction were applied for pairwise comparisons. The GPTZero Perplexity scores were compared among groups of articles using one-way repeated ANOVA. Subsequently, separate paired t-tests with Bonferroni correction were used for pairwise comparisons. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were generated to determine cutoff values for the highest sensitivity and specificity in detecting AI articles by AI content detectors. The area under the ROC curve (AUROC) was also calculated. Inter-rater agreement was calculated using Fleiss’s kappa, and Cohen’s kappa with Bonferroni correction was used for multiple comparisons. The significance level was set at p  < 0.05. All statistical analyses were performed using SPSS (version 26; SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA).

The accuracy of AI detectors in identifying AI articles

The accuracy of AI content detectors in identifying AI-generated articles is shown in Fig. 2 a and b. Notably, Originality.ai demonstrated perfect accuracy (100%) in detecting both ChatGPT-generated and AI-rephrased articles. ZeroGPT showed near-perfect accuracy (96%) in identifying ChatGPT-generated articles. The optimal ZeroGPT cut-off value for distinguishing between original and AI articles (ChatGPT-generated and AI-rephrased) was 42.45% (Fig. 3 a) , with a sensitivity of 98% and a specificity of 92%. The GPT-2 Output Detector achieved an accuracy of 96% in identifying ChatGPT-generated articles based on an AI score cutoff value of 1.46%, as suggested by previous research (Gao et al. 2023 ). Likewise, Turnitin showed near-perfect accuracy (94%) in discerning ChatGPT-generated articles but only correctly discerned 30% of AI-rephrased articles. GPTZero and Content at Scale only correctly identified 70 and 52% of ChatGPT-generated papers, respectively. While Turnitin did not misclassify any original articles, Content at Scale and GPTZero incorrectly classified 28 and 22% of the original articles, respectively. AI scores, or perplexity scores, in response to the original, ChatGPT-generated, and AI-rephrased articles from each AI content detector are shown in Appendix 4 . The classification of responses from each AI content detector is shown in Appendix 5 .

figure 2

The accuracy of artificial intelligence (AI) content detectors and human reviewers in identifying large language model (LLM)-generated texts. a The accuracy of six AI content detectors in identifying AI-generated articles; b the percentage of misclassification of human-written articles as AI-generated ones by detectors; c the accuracy of four human reviewers (reviewers 1 and 2 were college students, while reviewers 3 and 4 were professorial reviewers) in identifying AI-rephrased articles; and d the percentage of misclassifying human-written articles as AI-rephrased ones by reviewers

figure 3

The receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve and the area under the ROC (AUROC) of artificial intelligence (AI) content detectors. a The ROC curve and AUROC of ZeroGPT for discriminating between original and AI articles, with the AUROC of 0.98; b the ROC curve and AUROC of GPTZero for discriminating between original and AI articles, with the AUROC of 0.312

All AI content detectors, except Originality.ai, gave rephrased articles lower scores as compared to the corresponding ChatGPT-generated articles (Fig. 4 a). Likewise, GPTZero demonstrated that the perplexity scores of ChatGPT-generated (p<0.001) and AI-rephrased (p<0.001) texts were significantly lower than those of the original articles (Fig. 4 b) . The ROC curve of GPTZero perplexity scores for identifying original articles and AI articles showed that the respective AUROC were 0.312 (Fig. 3 b).

figure 4

Artificial intelligence (AI)-generated articles demonstrated reduced AI scores after rephrasing. a The mean AI scores of 50 ChatGPT-generated articles before and after rephrasing; b ChatGPT-generated articles demonstrated lower Perplexity scores computed by GPTZero as compared to original articles although increased after rephrasing; * p  < 0·05, ** p  < 0·01, *** p  < 0·001

The accuracy of reviewers in identifying AI-rephrased articles

The median time spent by the four reviewers to distinguish original and AI-rephrased articles was 5 minutes (min) 45 seconds (s) (interquartile range [IQR] 3 min 42 s, 9 min 7 s). The median time taken by each reviewer to distinguish original and AI-rephrased articles is shown in Appendix 6 . The two professorial reviewers demonstrated extremely high accuracy (96 and 100%) in discerning AI-rephrased articles, although both misclassified 12% of human-written articles as AI-rephrased (Fig. 2 c and d , and Table 1 ). Although three original articles were misclassified as AI-rephrased by both professorial reviewers, they were correctly identified by Originality and ZeroGPT. The common reasons for an article to be classified as AI-rephrased by reviewers included ‘incoherence’ (34.36%), ‘grammatical errors’ (20.26%), ‘insufficient evidence-based claims’ (16.15%), vocabulary diversity (11.79%), creativity (6.15%) , ‘misuse of abbreviations’(5.87%), ‘writing style’ (2.71%), ‘vague expression’ (1.81%), and ‘conflicting data’ (0.9%). Nevertheless, 12 of the 50 original articles were wrongly considered AI-rephrased by two or more reviewers. Most of these misclassified articles were deemed to be incoherent and/or lack vocabulary diversity. The frequency of the primary reason given by each reviewer and the frequency of the reasons given by four reviewers for identifying AI-rephrased articles are shown in Fig. 5 a and b, respectively.

figure 5

A The frequency of the primary reason for artificial intelligence (AI)-rephrased articles being identified by each reviewer. B The relative frequency of each reason for AI-rephrased articles being identified (based on the top three reasons given by the four reviewers)

Regarding the inter-rater agreement between two professorial reviewers, there was near-perfect agreement in the binary responses, with κ = 0.819 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.705, 0.933, p <0.05), as well as fair agreements in the primary and second reasons, with κ = 0.211 (95% CI 0.011, 0.411, p <0.05) and κ = 0.216 (95% CI 0.024, 0.408, p <0.05), respectively.

“Plagiarized” scores of ChatGPT-generated or AI-rephrased articles

Turnitin results showed that the content of ChatGPT-generated and AI-rephrased articles had significantly lower ‘plagiarized’ scores (39.22% ± 10.6 and 23.16% ± 8.54%, respectively) than the original articles (99.06% ± 1.27%).

Likelihood of ChatGPT being used in original articles after the launch of GPT-3.5-Turbo

No significant differences were found in the AI scores or perplexity scores calculated by the six AI content detectors (p>0.05), or in the binary responses evaluated by reviewers ( p >0.05), when comparing the included original papers published before and after November 2022 (the release of ChatGPT).

Our study found that Originality.ai and ZeroGPT accurately detected AI-generated texts, regardless of whether they were rephrased or not. Additionally, Turnitin did not misclassify human-written articles. While professorial reviewers were generally able to discern AI-rephrased articles from human-written ones, they might misinterpret some human-written articles as AI-generated due to incoherent content and varied vocabulary. Conversely, AI-rephrased articles are more likely to go unnoticed by student reviewers.

What is the performance of generative AI in academic writing?

Lee et al found that sentences written by GPT-3 tended to generate fewer grammatical or spelling errors than human writers (Lee 2022 ). However, ChatGPT may not necessarily minimize grammatical mistakes. In our study, reviewers identified ‘grammatical errors’ as the second most common reason for classifying an article as AI-rephrased. Our reviewers also noted that generative AI was more likely to inappropriately use medical terminologies or abbreviations, and even generate fabricated data. These might lead to a detrimental impact on academic dissemination. Collectively, generative AI is less likely to successfully create credible academic articles without the development of discipline-specific LLMs.

Can generative AI generate creative and in-depth thoughts?

Prior research reported that ChatGPT correctly answered 42.0 to 67.6% of questions in medical licensing examinations conducted in China, Taiwan, and the USA (Zong 2023 ; Wang 2023 ; Gilson 2023 ). However, our reviewers discovered that AI-generated articles offered only superficial discussion without substantial supporting evidence. Further, redundancy was observed in the content of AI-generated articles. Unless future advancements in generative AI can improve the interpretation of evidence-based content and incorporate in-depth and insightful discussion, its utility may be limited to serving as an information source for academic works.

Who can be deceived by ChatGPT? How can we address it?

ChatGPT is capable of creating realistic and intelligent-sounding text, including convincing data and references (Ariyaratne et al. 2023 ). Yeadon et al , found that ChatGPT-generated physics essays were graded as first-class essays in a writing assessment at Durham University (Yeadon et al. 2023 ). We found that AI-generated content had a relatively low plagiarism rate. These factors may encourage the potential misuse of AI technology for generating written assignments and the dissemination of misinformation among students. In a current survey, Welding ( 2023 ) reported that 50% of 1000 college students admitted to using AI tools to help complete assignments or exams. However, in our study, college student reviewers only correctly identified an average of 76% of AI-rephrased articles. Notably, our professorial reviewers found fabricated data in two AI-generated articles, while the student reviewers were unaware of this issue, which highlights the possibility of AI-generated content deceiving junior researchers and impacting their learning. In short, the inherent limitations of ChatGPT as reported by experienced reviewers may help research students understand some key points in critically appraising academic articles and be more competent in detecting AI-generated articles.

Which detectors are recommended for use?

Our study revealed that Originality.ai emerged as the most sensitive and accurate platform for detecting AI-generated (including paraphrased) content, although it requires a subscription fee. ZeroGPT is an excellent free tool that exhibits a high level of sensitivity and specificity for detecting AI articles when the AI score threshold is set at 42.45%. These findings could help monitor the AI use in academic publishing and education, to promisingly tackle ethical challenges posed by the iteration of AI technologies. Additionally, Turnitin, a widely used platform in educational institutions or scientific journals, displayed perfect accuracy in detecting human-written articles and near-perfect accuracy in detecting ChatGPT-generated content but was proved susceptible to deception when confronted with AI-rephrased articles. This raises concerns among educators regarding the potential for students to evade Turnitin AI detection by using an AI rephrasing editor. As generative AI technologies continue to evolve, educators and researchers should regularly conduct similar studies to identify the most suitable AI content detectors.

AI content detectors employ different predictive algorithms. Some publicly available detectors use perplexity scores and related concepts for identifying AI-generated writing. However, we found that the AUROC curve of GPTZero perplexity scores in identifying AI articles performed worse than chance. As such, the effectiveness of utilizing perplexity-based methods as the machine learning algorithm for developing an AI content detector remains debatable.

As with any novel technology, some merits and demerits require continuous improvement and development. Currently, AI content detectors have been developed as general-purpose tools to analyze text features, primarily based on the randomness of word choice and sentence lengths (Prillaman 2023 ). While technical issues such as algorithms, model turning, and development are beyond the scope of this study, we have provided empirical evidence that offers potential directions for future advancements in AI content detectors. One such area that requires further exploration and investigation is the development of AI content detectors trained using discipline-specific LLMs.

Should authors be concerned about their manuscripts being misinterpreted?

While AI-rephrasing tools may help non-native English writers and less experienced researchers prepare better academic articles, AI technologies may pose challenges to academic publishing and education. Previous research has suggested that AI content detectors may penalize non-native English writers with limited linguistic expressions due to simplified wording (Liang et al. 2023 ). However, scientific writing emphasizes precision and accurate expression of scientific evidence, often favouring succinctness over vocabulary diversity or complex sentence structures (Scholar Hangout 2023 ). This raises concerns about the potential misclassification of human-written academic papers as AI-generated, which could have negative implications for authors’ academic reputations. However, our results indicate that experienced reviewers are unlikely to misclassify human-written manuscripts as AI-generated if the articles present logical arguments, provide sufficient evidence-based support, and offer in-depth discussions. Therefore, authors should consider these factors when preparing their manuscripts to minimize the risk of misinterpretation.

Our study revealed that both AI content detectors and human reviewers occasionally misclassified certain original articles as AI-generated. However, it is noteworthy that no human-written articles were misclassified by both AI-content detectors and the two professorial reviewers simultaneously. Therefore, to minimize the risk of misclassifying human-written articles as AI-generated, editors of peer-reviewed journals may consider implementing a screening process that involves a reliable, albeit imperfect, AI-content detector in conjunction with the traditional peer-review process, which includes at least two reviewers. If both the AI content detectors and the peer reviewers consistently label a manuscript as AI-generated, the authors should be given the opportunity to appeal the decision. The editor-in-chief and one member of the editorial board can then evaluate the appeal and make a final decision.

Limitations

This study had several limitations. Firstly, the ChatGPT-3.5 version was used to fabricate articles given its popularity. Future studies should investigate the performance of upgraded LLMs. Secondly, although our analyses revealed no significant differences in the proportion of original papers classified as AI-written before and after November 2022 (the release of ChatGPT), we cannot guarantee that all original papers were not assisted by generative AI in their writing process. Future studies should consider including papers published before this date to validate our findings. Thirdly, although an excellent inter-rater agreement in the binary score was found between the two professorial reviewers, our results need to be interpreted with caution given the small number of reviewers and the lack of consistency between the two student reviewers. Future studies should address these limitations and expand our methodology to include other disciplines/industries with more reviewers to enhance the generalizability of our findings and facilitate the development of strategies for detecting AI-generated content in various fields.

Conclusions

This is the first study to directly compare the accuracy of advanced AI detectors and human reviewers in detecting AI-generated medical writing after paraphrasing. Our findings substantiate that the established peer-reviewed system can effectively mitigate the risk of publishing AI-generated academic articles. However, certain AI content detectors (i.e., Originality.ai and ZeroGPT) can be used to help editors or reviewers with the initial screening of AI-generated articles, upholding academic integrity in scientific publishing. It is noteworthy that the current version of ChatGPT is inadequate to generate rigorous scientific articles and carries the risk of fabricating data and misusing medical abbreviations. Continuous development of machine-learning strategies to improve AI detection accuracy in the health sciences field is essential. This study provides empirical evidence and valuable insights for future research on the validation and development of effective detection tools. It highlights the importance of implementing proper supervision and regulation of AI usage in medical writing and publishing. This ensures that relevant stakeholders can responsibly harness AI technologies while maintaining scientific rigour.

Availability of data and materials

The data and materials used in the manuscript are available upon reasonable request to the corresponding author.

Abbreviations

  • Artificial intelligence

Large language model

Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer

Receiver Operating Characteristic

Area under the Receiver Operating Characteristic

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The current study was supported by the GP Batteries Industrial Safety Trust Fund (R-ZDDR).

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Jae Q. J. Liu, Kelvin T. K. Hui, Fadi Al Zoubi, Zing Z. X. Zhou, Curtis C. H. Yu, Jeremy R. Chang & Arnold Y. L. Wong

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Jae QJ Liu, Kelvin TK Hui and Arnold YL Wong conceptualized the study; Fadi Al Zoubi, Zing Z.X. Zhou, Curtis CH Yu, and Arnold YL Wong acquired the data; Jae QJ Liu and Kelvin TK Hui curated the data; Jae QJ Liu and Jeremy R Chang analyzed the data; Arnold YL Wong was responsible for funding acquisition and project supervision; Jae QJ Liu drafted the original manuscript; Arnold YL Wong and Dino Samartzis edited the manuscript.

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Liu, J.Q.J., Hui, K.T.K., Al Zoubi, F. et al. The great detectives: humans versus AI detectors in catching large language model-generated medical writing. Int J Educ Integr 20 , 8 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40979-024-00155-6

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How to List Publications on Your Resume (+ Examples)

Melanie Lockert

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If you’re applying for a job where your writing isn’t relevant, you can simply uncheck that section to exclude it. That makes it easy to have various resume versions for different roles. 

This guide walks you through best practices when including publications on a resume. 

Struggling to land interviews with your resume? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder for free.

What are publications on a resume?

Publications on a resume include written and scholarly works published in reputable journals, websites, or other distinguished platforms. Blog posts on sites like WordPress, Medium, or Substack do not often qualify for the publications section of a resume and should often not be linked on your resume .

Examples of publications worthy of a resume include:

  • Book title , if you’re an author, researcher, or academic
  • Peer-reviewed journal articles or papers , if you’re a professor, researcher, or in academia
  • Research papers , if you’re in law, science, medicine, etc. 
  • Article title , if you’ve written articles for a well-known journal, website, or magazine (e.g. Journal of the American Medical Association , The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, TIME)
  • Conference papers , if you’re a researcher or academic 

The publications and presentations on your resume should be related to the industry you’re in and the open position in question.

Should you include publications on your resume?

You may have an impressive list of publications. But now that you’re on the job search, you’re not sure about adding publications on a resume. 

To help you decide, ask yourself: Is this related to the job? Could it help me land a job interview? If so, your potential employers want to see them. 

If the answer is no, skip it. Bryan Berthot , a project manager, scrum master, and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) candidate at Univ. of South Florida shares his strategy. 

“My practice is to add publications when they’re germane to the job in question and when they maximize the chance that my resume will be noticed. I walk the line between academia and industry, as I’m both a project manager practitioner and an adjunct faculty member who teaches.”

That means including published works for academic positions and leaving them off other positions. 

“Even though most adjunct faculty positions involve teaching and not research, for those jobs I always send my entire CV, which includes my academic publications. It sets me apart from many instructional faculty because by including my publications, it demonstrates that I can bring aspects of research into the classroom to give students real-world examples."

Finally, Berthot shared examples of when not to include publications on your resume.

For project manager jobs, I typically omit my academic publications and books from my resume—unless I suspect that it will set me apart from other candidates.”

Sometimes, the answer is obvious. If you match one of the following descriptions, it makes sense to add research publications on your resume.

  • Author. If you’ve published a book, it establishes your credibility in a certain field. If you’re applying for a professorship or a writing-heavy role, include the book title. 
  • Researcher. If you’ve published your research and are applying for an academic position, research-based role, or as a speaker for a conference, it makes sense to include your research paper on your resume. 
  • Student. If you’re a full-time student, research and writing might be your full-time job right now. In lieu of current working experience, listing publications on a resume can show your areas of expertise and highlight your writing skills.
  • Professor. Getting published is an important step on your journey to becoming a professor. If you’re applying for a teaching or research role, include all of your publications on your resume. 

Teal’s Resume Builder can help you add your publications to your resume easily. You can see resume templates and get guidance on what to include based on the job description. 

How to list publications on your resume

If you’ve determined your published works are relevant to the job you’re applying for, you can add them to your resume. 

Here’s how to list publications on your resume:

  • Add a Publications section. You should create a dedicated resume section to list publications. In most cases, your Publications section will follow your Education section. 
  • List each publication in a bullet point. Include the publication title, the name of the publisher, and the date (month and year).
  • Choose a style. Depending on your field, there might be a specific citation style you should use. Some examples include MLA format, APA style, AMA style, or IEEE style. 
  • Start with your most recent publications. List your publications on your resume in reverse chronological order. That means starting with your most recent publication and listing your older work in descending order.
  •  Refine your list. If you’re including a co-authored piece, make that clear and list out your role in the piece, such as “Lead author.” You can also include pending pieces by including the article title and noting it’s “Under review” or “Submitted for publication.” If any publications aren’t relevant to the job, delete them from the list.

While there are nuances to every field and industry, these are best practices for how to show publications on your resume. Consult peers in your field and the job description instructions to properly format publications on your resume.

How to list scientific publications on resume

If you’re in the sciences and have published papers, you’ll likely use American Psychological Association (APA) or the Council of Science Editors (CSE) style when citing your work. 

There are also slight differentiations on how to cite the publication based on the type of work. For instance, listing a book is different from listing a journal on your resume. 

CSE also has different citation variations:

  • Citation-sequence
  • Citation-name

Choose a style and cite your work using the appropriate format. According to Boston University Libraries , the general format for citing a journal using CSE is:

Author. Year (or Date). Title of article. Title of journal. Volume number and issue number. Page numbers. URL in angle brackets. Date accessed.

The key is to use the same style for each publication listed on your resume. Not only is this more visually appealing, it’s also easier to understand. 

How to list academic publications on a resume

Academic publications typically use either MLA or APA style. MLA refers to the Modern Language Association and APA is the American Psychological Association. Which one you should use may depend on your field. MLA is generally used in the humanities while APA is generally used in the sciences. 

According to the Library of Congress , article citations using MLA style include:

Last name, First name. Title. Title of the Website, Version or edition, Publisher. Day Month Year of publication, URL. Day Month Year of access.

You can use a tool like Citation Machine to easily cite journal articles in APA style. The basic APA journal citation formula is:

Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial. (The year it was published). Article title. Publisher title, Volume or Issue , page range.

How to list research publications on a resume

Many research publications use MLA or APA style for citations. You can choose which style best fits and use the formula when putting publications on your resume. 

If you’re a research assistant and don’t have publications to list quite yet, you can still add your skills to your resume. You can create a research section on your resume if you have a lot to add. If it’s only a couple of items, include it in your achievements section. 

For example:

  • Conducted 100 interviews on the relationship between social media and mental health for study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology

Teal’s Resume Builder can help you start so you can easily list and format publications on your resume.

Sample publications on a resume

You have a range of citation styles to choose from; some may be a better fit than others, depending on your industry. Here are some examples of how to cite publications on your resume using common citation styles:

Smith, Peter. Stoicism in the Modern Era, Philosophy Guide. 6 May 2020, [website]. Accessed 25 April 2024. 
Hernandez, J. F. 2023. Sugar and Depression. Today in Mental Health, Volume 3, pgs 5-10.

General format

If you’re looking for a general format, you can use Teal to add your publications on your resume.

Inside the Resume Builder , you can include a publications section.

cv publications often include publication, publisher and date

You can then input the Publication, Publisher, and the Date. 

add publications on resume using teal

Then you’ll see it added to your resume. You can uncheck the boxes if you want to take them off any resume. 

add peer reviewed publications and non peer reviewed publications to the publication section of a resume

You can customize and add publications to your resume using Teal’s Resume Builder and have control of how it looks and when it’s used.

Include your publications on your resume 

If your publications are related to your career and the job you’re applying for, include them. Doing so highlights your expertise and skills. 

You worked hard to get your work published. You don’t want to risk losing that credibility due to poor resume formatting. 

The good news is that figuring out how to put publications on your resume is simple with Teal’s Resume Builder . Add your papers to your resume with a clean, well-respected format. You can turn this section on and off and create different versions of your resume. So whether you’re applying for a professorship at a university or a management position at a startup, you can customize your resume based on the role. 

Try out the Resume Builder today to showcase your experience, projects, and publications in the best possible way.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you list publications on a legal resume.

If you only have one publication, list it in the Education or Achievements section of your resume. If you have more than one publication, create a Publications section. Use The Bluebook when citing your publications on your resume.

How do you list only one publication on a resume?

If you have just one article or paper to include on a resume, place it in your Education or Achievements section. Include the title, publisher, and date. You can choose a specific format such as APA format, MLA style, etc.

How do you list publications in progress on a CV?

If you have submitted publications now in review, you can list the title and put “Under review” or “In progress.” For publications that have been accepted but not yet published, you can list the title and put “In press” in parentheses.

Do research posters count as publications on a resume?

Research posters don’t carry the same weight as other peer-reviewed publications. If you have other academic papers, include those in a separate section on your resume, such as Education or Achievements. If you don’t, you may still want to include research posters in your Achievements section. Include the publication or conference, if applicable.

Should you list publications in your professional summary on your resume?

Your publications should be listed under a separate Publications section. If you’re pursuing an academic or research position, you may want to highlight your top publication as part of your professional summary.

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The Medical Writing Center Model in an Academic Teaching Hospital

  • Published: 18 May 2024

Cite this article

writing an academic article for publication

  • Heather C. McNeill   ORCID: orcid.org/0009-0009-6422-4736 1 ,
  • Jacqueline D. Hill 1 , 2 , 4 ,
  • Myles Chandler 1 ,
  • Eric T. Rush 2 , 3 , 5 &
  • Martha Montello 1  

Editing services within academic health centers are uncommon, and few studies have reported on their impact. In this article, we describe our medical writing center’s editing service for faculty and trainees at a pediatric teaching hospital and associated outcomes of scholarly products (e.g., manuscripts and grants) over an 8-year period. Data for manuscripts and grant proposals edited by the writing center from 2015 through 2022 were collected electronically from our service request database. Outcome data on publications and grant proposals were regularly collected up to 12 months post-submission. Users were also asked if the writing center edits were helpful, improved readability, and if they planned to use the service in the future. From 2015 through 2022, the writing center received 697 requests, 88.4% to edit a document. Of the documents edited, 81.3% of manuscripts and 44.4% of grant proposals were successfully published or funded. When rating their experience, 97.8% of respondents rated the edits “helpful,” 96.7% indicated the edits “improved readability,” and 99.3% stated they planned to use the writing center in the future. Our results showed steady use of the writing center and high satisfaction with services. A writing center can be an effective tool to support psychology faculty development.

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Heather C. McNeill, Jacqueline D. Hill, Myles Chandler & Martha Montello

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