16 October 2009

A young man considering an article

Tips for beginners on how to publish a scientific article
Anna Starokadomskaya with the participation of P. Starokadomsky
"Biomolecule"It is known that a series of good scientific publications will contribute to the career growth of a young scientist, while even one unsuccessful article can ruin everything.

Publications are the main way for scientists to report on the results of their work, and, of course, they will be evaluated according to these articles. The process of writing an article is quite complicated, and, in addition to practice, requires taking into account some of the features of publication in scientific journals. Of course, editors of world-renowned magazines know these features best of all. Therefore, it seems to us that the essay of the editor of the journal “Science” Katerina Kelner's ”Tips for Publishing in Scientific Journals", although it was written two years ago, will be useful for many young scientists today and in the future.

How to write a good article? Of course, the most important thing is to conduct a qualitative study. Try to get to work with outstanding scientists in the best laboratories in the world. The deeper the scientific problems surrounding you, the more valuable work experience you will get. Make sure that your research is important and interesting to others. As editor of the journal “Science” I claim that the most successful articles are innovative research. In addition, the article itself should be clear and consistent, and the discussion of the results should be clear and specific. Writing a research article that has all these qualities requires a strategic way of thinking, practice and know-how specific to each.

Conditions for writing a good articleOne of the signs that you should pay attention to when choosing a laboratory for writing a dissertation or performing a post-doc is a list of publications of a potential laboratory.

Analyze the publications themselves – look for clear results in them, because this will show you how effectively the work in the laboratory is going on and whether the head of the laboratory successfully manages research projects. Different employees of the laboratory should periodically be the first authors of articles – this indicates a good organization of work. Make sure that the articles are published in the journals in which you would like to be published. When you read the work, understand the manner of writing articles by the staff of this laboratory. Is the text of the article clearly written? Does it convey the essence of the experiment? Is it possible to easily draw conclusions based on the description?

The best way to learn how to write first-class articles is practice. Before deciding which laboratory to join, compare the advantages of each of them, then choose the most suitable conditions for you, and also compare the bibliography of the selected groups. Are postdocs and graduate students published? Do the head of the laboratory or other employees help them in this, or does the head of the laboratory write the article himself and just show it to postdocs and graduate students?

Think structurallyIf you have already started working in a new laboratory and are getting results in full swing, then you need to choose the moment when you will already have enough data to write an article.

At the same time, it is worth considering the following. If you start writing an article too early, you may be wasting your time. By waiting too long, you risk digging into the data. Write an article when there is enough data to fully describe the essence of the study. When conducting experiments, always remember that you want to write an article. Think about the data that can be included in the article and what information they will contain. The reader should come to the same conclusions that you have drawn based on your results. Ask yourself if the reader, having grasped the results of your research, will be able to come to the right conclusions. What conclusions can be missed in the experiment? Are there alternative explanations? If so, what data should be added to the work in order to eliminate all controversial points? Before performing each new experiment, always ask yourself if this will contribute to the publication.

Since you are immersed in the details of your work, it is difficult to be objective and see your mistakes. Check the logic of your research at seminars or in conversations with colleagues, ask them, make logical and convincing statements. Their answers can reveal your omissions and suggest future directions of work.

Selecting the appropriate journalA well-chosen magazine will save you unnecessary effort and help you show your results to the whole world faster.

The so-called leading journals value new or unexpected results, whereas many other journals ranked lower are more interested in thorough, narrow studies of critical problems. Look through the various journals and determine which one would be the best to submit your article to. Consult with colleagues from other fields who have experience in authoring, reviewing and editing journals. It may be worth sending your article to the most popular journal, even if your results are not a discovery or are not of wide interest. But you will save time if from the very beginning you send an article to a suitable magazine at a lower level instead of waiting for the reaction of the leading magazines.

Quality of submitted articlesIn the eyes of your readers – including editors and reviewers – the quality of the article you present directly reflects the quality of the scientific research conducted.

A careless approach to writing an article can spoil the appearance of the most scrupulous experiment. Thus, it is important that the article is free of carelessness and errors, especially in the data. Check and double-check that all the information is consistent, so that the drawings and graphs display what you are writing about. Drawings are the best ally in presenting your research, so make them easy to understand. Each drawing should display only one or several related items, and together they should outline the essence of the entire article in an easily perceived form. Put the maximum data and experimental conditions in the form of drawings. Figure captions are important, but the less the reader has to refer to them, the better.

Don't neglect grammar. It is important that the work is written clearly and without any grammatical errors. Show your article to the most critical colleagues and take their advice seriously. By the way, which is very important – make sure that all the authors have seen and approved the article!

How to speed up the article review processJournals can be managed by professional editorial staff or academic teams that perform the duties of editors for a certain period of time.

In both cases, the article is sent to reviewers who evaluate it according to the criteria of accuracy, logic and scientific interest. Some journals (such as Science) have an initial stage of selection, at which a preliminary review of articles takes place. At this stage, a commission consisting of more than 100 scientists conducts primary selection of articles. Those works that have passed internal review are sent for review to external reviewers.

Reviewers for articles are selected by the editor based on an analysis of their activities in the relevant field of science. To carry out such an analysis, extensive databases collected by the journal, as well as personal acquaintances of the editor, are often used. Some scientists are better reviewers than others – and editors of various publications quickly become aware of this. The process of reviewing an article can take from several days to several weeks. After the review, the editor decides on the possibility of publication, taking into account all the reviews that he (or she) has received from reviewers.

You can speed up the process of reviewing your article if you attach a cover letter in which you concisely and in simple language state a short version of the entire article, showing its importance and conclusions. If there are any special data that the editor and reviewers should take into account, be sure to include them in the cover letter. This may be additional information about your own work, about related papers in other journals (from your laboratory or other laboratories), or the names of other scientists who are investigating the same problem. However, the letter must be short, otherwise the editor will ignore it.

All additional data not included in the text of the article should be available to reviewers in the form of appendices or by placing them in public databases.

Respond to reviewers' comments constructivelyGood news: the magazine wants to publish your article.

However, only in rare cases will reviewers recommend your article for acceptance for publication without revision. Most often, new experiments are required to revise the article, which can be done within a few weeks. The editors of the journal “Science” also often give authors advice on how to revise their work.

Understand what exactly interested editors and reviewers in your article. They want to see that by accepting all the comments, you have improved the article. You will increase the chances that your article will be accepted if you recognize that the reviewers' comments are constructive criticism. Try to fulfill all their requirements, including conducting additional experiments, even if you think they are not needed. Of course, sometimes reviewers' requests are based on false assumptions. In such cases, especially if you agree with all the other comments of the reviewers, the editor may accept (with reasonably formulated arguments) that some requirements may be superfluous for accepting your article for publication.

When you send your corrected article back to the editorial office of the journal, you must include a detailed response to each comment of the reviewers and the editor. Remember that the editor can forward your answers to reviewers. If you refuse to acknowledge one of the reviewer's comments, you should carefully prepare arguments to clearly state your position.

Always carefully understand the comments of reviewers and treat them with respect. You should never attack reviewers. Also be polite to the editor. The editor will be willing to work with you if your relationship is based on respect.

What to do if the article was rejectedDespite all your efforts, you were refused.

This does not mean that your article is no good. The journal "Science“ rejects more than 90% of submitted articles.

The rejection of the article gives an opportunity, at least for 24 hours, to reflect on further actions. It is not necessary to send angry letters to the editor, demanding an explanation of why the editorial board of the magazine was unfair to you and treated your article with prejudice. If, even after sober reflection, you still think that a misunderstanding or mistake has occurred, then some journals accept a request for reconsideration, usually in the form of a letter or message that explains your point of view. Some editors may agree to hold a telephone conversation.

But in most cases, the best and most effective, time–tested way to change the situation is to identify the weaknesses of the article, which may have been pointed out by reviewers during the review process, reformat the article and send it to another journal. Approximately 70% of the articles rejected by the journal “Science” are eventually published elsewhere. And remember – even a rejected article is a great opportunity to hone your writing style and adjust your skills for future victories.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru16.10.2009

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