Of course the discussion should focus on the most interesting results but it is also the section where we are less constrained by convention and there is room for interpretation. There are at least four common types of discussion that really let an otherwise good paper down:. The Saga , where each result no matter how trivial is discussed separately in turn. This can produce a very long and unexciting discussion of peripheral results and bury the most interesting findings of the paper.
We can avoid writing a saga by focusing the discussion on the most exciting or novel findings and using the other results to interpret them and draw conclusions. It may sometimes be necessary or wise to reorder the results section to achieve this. The Whodunit , where the reader is presented with various lines of evidence and the conclusion is drawn at the end. This leaves the reader guessing about the important facts while they wade through details.
We can avoid a whodunit by giving the main finding upfront topical sentences, see below and subsequently explaining the line of reasoning with reference to 'supporting' results or other published studies.
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A concluding statement to round up the paragraph can emphasize the key message. The Report , where the results are presented only in comparison to other studies, with little or no interpretation. This not only distracts from the study and highlights other people's work instead, but it is also a missed opportunity to show the relevance of the study and present new ideas. The Fairy Tale , in which the discussion is sidetracked into lengthy sections on things that could have been important but were not measured or in which interpretation crosses the line into pure speculation that is not supported by the results.
Your conclusions should be more than just a summary of the results although some of the results can be given to support the conclusions. A good way to think about it is: What should the reader remember from the paper? What is the relevance of the results? Why should anyone care about this study? Are there any unanswered or new questions? The worst way to end a paper is to leave the reader thinking: "So what?
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When we read, our brain processes information in a certain way, and we can use this to our advantage by placing different types of information in 'strategic' locations within paragraphs and sentences to emphasize key messages. In general, the reader is most likely to remember the information at the end of sentences and in the first and last sentences of a paragraph. In the methods section, this is often the reason for making a measurement e. In the results section, it is usually the main finding of each analysis. If possible, we should avoid very general statements about things being 'significantly different' and instead describe the difference e.
The topical sentence is very important in the discussion because it highlights the main findings before discussing them in context.
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The main point s can be emphasized in the last sentence too, but the topical sentence will stop the paragraph from becoming a 'whodunit'. Use the 'stress position' to emphasize information. Readers naturally emphasize the material at the end of a sentence; this is referred to as a 'stress position' and can be used to the writer's advantage. By placing information at the end of a sentence, it appears at the moment when the reader will naturally give it the greatest reading emphasis.
As a result, the reader is more likely to see the statement as being important e. We often need to report information that is not particularly interesting and may even distract from our key messages e. The best place for this type of information is in the middle of the paragraph.
Some of these 'supporting results' can also help plug logic gaps see below. Mind the logic gap! We can become so familiar with our research that we omit information that may seem unnecessary to us, but might not be obvious to others who are less familiar with the subject. Following a line of reasoning through to a conclusion is like climbing a ladder: each piece of information is a rung required to reach the next one; if there's a rung missing, the line of reasoning is broken and the reader will never reach the top.
It's a good idea get feedback from someone who works outside the immediate research area before submitting your paper, as they are more likely to spot logic gaps. We are writing with the reader in mind, so if a reader or reviewer doesn't 'get it', then we probably haven't explained it clearly enough.
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Get straight to the point! If there's a lot of repetition in a section of text, then it probably needs restructuring. We are often constrained by word limits, so it is important to cut down on unnecessary detail or jargon. We should only include information that is relevant to the study and the interpretation of the results and drop the rest - no matter how interesting it is or how much hard work it was.
Good science writing is not about using clever-sounding words and sentences, it's about getting the point across in such a way that readers can understand the research and reach the right conclusion i. Use figures and tables to your advantage. The best figures show the important result at a glance. They should also help cut down on lengthy explanations. Tables are useful for summary and 'auxiliary' data; as a general rule, if a text section reads like a list with lots of numbers, the information would probably be better off in a table.
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Unless the paper is actually about statistical methods, tables of statistics are best placed in an appendix. Use terms consistently and avoid too many abbreviations. It is tempting to use different terms for the same objects or variables to make the text less repetitive, but this can confuse readers who have less in-depth knowledge of the study. The reader may not be familiar with some of the abbreviations, so non-standard abbreviations should be logical e.
Especially avoid: 'It has been shown to be', 'It has long been known', etc.
We all read a lot of papers - some are a pleasure to read and others are confusing. It's worth trying to work out why one paper is so much easier to follow or so much more memorable than others. We may think that something sounds good or important because we like a particular phrase or buzzword, but we only notice it because the author wants us to Written by Emma Sayer on behalf of Functional Ecology. We've collated tips and tricks borrowed from the references below but much of this guide is based on constructive criticism from supervisors, colleagues, co-authors, reviewers, and editors.
By the time you reach the end you should be well on the way to getting your manuscript accepted by your chosen journal. Good luck! Supported by the Commonwealth Foundation.
pestliwilviadust.cf On-line guide to scientific publication. Initial planning.
Producing the outline. Producing the manuscript. Finishing touches. Submitting the manuscript. The refereeing and publishing process.