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Scientific Writing

A guide to writing papers in a scientific manner, and how to present scientific material.

Steps in Starting a Scientific Article

Step 1: Find a Researchable Topic

What sort of topics interest you in your general field? Start as generally as you like. Once you've come up with a topic that interests you, start narrowing down your interest in it. For example: Say you're interested in Aspirin. What is it about Aspirin that interests you? Here we might choose from a variety of options, so we'll choose Aspirin and its effects on stomach lining. From here, we want to narrow our topic down one step further, so we decide on researching how to treat stomach lining erosion due to Aspirin.

The point in this section is to find a research topic which is wide enough that we can find research on it, but narrow enough that our research has a clear point

Step 2: Examine Current Research on Topic

After you've found a researchable topic, read through the already existing research on the topic. What sort of research has already been done? What sort of research still needs to be done in this area? While going through the research that has been done, look for either questions that haven't been asked about your topic, or for different ways to answer a previously mentioned hypotheses (i.e., if, for example, you read through a paper and find an interesting hypothesis, but feel there is a better method to answer said hypothesis, you may wish to write an article with a different methodology for answering it).

Step 3: Develop a Researchable Question

Having research what information is already out there on your topic, what researchable questions do you have about your topic? Which one(s) do you feel most able to answer with available research tools? Which question(s) do you feel are most important to answer? Which question(s) do you feel you have the most expertise/insight on? Try answering these questions, as well as any others you might have, before deciding on a question to research.

Step 4: Develop Methodology

Now that you have selected a question to research an answer for, what do you feel is the best way to answer that question? What kind of test subject(s) would be required for your research (if any)? How long does the experiment need to go? What sample size would be ideal/feasible? Try answering these questions, as well as any others you might have, before you decide on how to structure your experiment.

Step 5: Collect Results

What do the results of your experiment say? Be sure to write down every detail possible, even if you don't think it will be relevant. If you think it will help to make your data clearer, try adding charts or graphs.

Step 6: Examine the Implications of the Results

What are the implications of your result with regard to your initial question? Do your results sufficiently answer the question, in your opinion? Do they give further insight into the cause or solution to a problem? Are there any criticisms people might have to your paper that you'd like to preemptively address? Here is where you want to give that information out, now that you've laid out your results.


Standard Parts of a Scientific Article

  • Title

The purpose of the title is to give readers a sense about the purpose of your paper and/or some foreknowledge of your results. Think of the title as something that someone could read while scrolling through a list of articles, and determine whether or not the paper will answer their question.

  • Abstract

An abstract should give your readers a brief, but clear, idea of the purpose, methodology, and results of your paper, as well as any important thoughts you might have on the results. A typical abstract should be no more than a paragraph long. Because of the short length of an abstract relative to the information required in one, many people elect to write their abstract last.

  • Introduction

Here is where you provide background information to your readers about your topic. For example: If you are write an article about Ibuprofen, what would your readers need to know about the drug before they could understand your article? Also, you will want to describe the importance of this research. Why is it important we examine this aspect of Ibuprofen? Finally, you will want to describe to your readers your hypothesis, the question you are hoping to answer through the experiment you are about to perform.

  • Methodology

In the Methodology section, you will want to give readers a detailed understanding of the parameters you've set up for your experiment. Some sample questions might include: How many people were sampled for your experiment? How long were the test subjects analyzed? Remember, be as specific as possible!

  • Results

In this part of the paper, you will describe the results of your experiment in as much detail as possible. More often than not, you may wish to add visual aids in this section of the paper, such as charts or tables.

  • Discussion

For this section, you should discuss what you think the implication of your results are with regards to your initial topic. How do your findings impact your initial research topic? You may also wish, in this section, to address any possible critiques or objections to your papers hypothesis/methodology/results.

  • Acknowledgements

Here you will want to mention any individuals/institutions that contributed to this experiment. It is here you want to inform your readers of financial supporters/sponsors of your research.

  • Literature Cited

In this last section, you should list any and all external sources of information you have used throughout the paper. For more information on citing sources, please see the Citing Resources page.


There are two main voices in writing - active voice and passive voice. For 

In active voice, we can clearly tell WHO is completing the action. In passive voice, this information is omitted or is unclear. 

When should you use passive voice? Check out this link

For passive voice in scientific writing, check out this page from the Duke Graduate School Scientific Writing Resource. 

Most scientific journals preferred articles written in passive voice, but this trend is changing. Check out the journal's Instructions for Authors for writing style criteria. Some journals are moving towards clear, simple sentences. 

Articles on how to write a scientific article