Element of Styles to Write Research Articles
From author workshop to online guide: Element of Style for Writing Scientific Articles
In August 2013 supported by Elsevier, Dr Stephen Griffies of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton USA, and an Editor of Ocean Modelling, gave a Publishing Connect workshop entitled Elements of Style for Writing Scientific Journal Articles at The Summer School on Ocean Modeling (INCOIS, India) in front of approximately 40 students and early career researchers.
“These workshops are a great opportunity for authors and researchers to not only learn about how to prepare and structure their manuscripts, but also how to use proper scientific language” says Dr Luaine Bandounas, Journal Publisher for Oceanography and Hydrology at Elsevier. “There is an opportunity to interact with the editor and/or journal publisher, ask questions and gain insight into what editors and reviewers expect. Not all researchers have had training in scientific writing so this will help in writing a good quality paper!”
Dr. Griffies presentation material came to the attention of Hannah Foreman, Head of Researchers Relations at Elsevier. The Researchers Relations team hosts a suite of training, engagement and outreach resources for early career researchers. One popular example of this is the Publishing Connect program through which last year Elsevier hosted and supported over 350 live workshops across the globe to tens of thousands of early career researchers. Dr. Griffies workshop material can now add a new angle to the writing skills content already included in this program, “whilst using correct manuscript language and content structure are recognised as fundamental to a world-class research paper, understanding style and how to more effectively transfer scientific ideas from the author to reader could ultimately help to strengthen the success of the paper.” says Foreman.
Elsevier places high value on engaging with all the different communities that STM publishing serves and the new early career resources center on Elsevier.com/earlycareer, launched in September 2013, offers resources such as researcher skills training webcasts, ethics guidelines, video content, recommended reading and more. The Researcher Relations team plans to significantly expand on these services in 2014 “and the more we can create valuable partnerships and work with journal editors, seasoned reviewers and authors the better early careers researchers will be equipped with the skill sets they need for academia” concludes Foreman.
Dr Griffies worked closely with Gaëlle Hull, Marketing Communications Manager at Elsevier, and Dr William Perrie, Editor-in-Chief of Ocean Modelling, to adapt the original presentation from a 35-slide Powerpoint document to a concise, clear and comprehensive 8-page reference guide.
The draft version of their combined efforts was submitted to Dr Perrie and Griffies’ students and colleagues for their comments and input. Based on the feedback received, more examples were added and some of the rules were clarified and expanded.
The guide begins by demonstrating why authors need to pay attention to language when writing a scientific article. The rest of the document is divided in several sections, covering general style rules (including grammar, tenses and sentences), common errors to avoid, guidelines to write introductions and conclusions, specific rules for footnotes and captions and finally, tips on revising a manuscript and playing the peer-review “game”.
“Communication is fundamental to the scientific process” says Dr Stephen Griffies. “Science can be complex, but its communication need not be opaque or impenetrable. Rather, clarity in writing reflects on clarity in thought. In producing a summary of writing recommendations, we hope to provide a concise reference from which scientists, engineers, and mathematicians can be reminded of key points and common mistakes. This reference is far from complete. Instead, it provides a starting point for more thorough study using resources readily available in books and on web sites.”
Gaëlle Hull is Marketing Communications Manager for Elsevier’s Science, Technology and Medical Journals and the Editor of Authors’ Update.