11 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Write Your Manuscript

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The Source
By: Penny Freedman, Thu Aug 25 2016
Penny Freedman

Author: Penny Freedman

After you have conducted your research, beginning the process of turning your study into a manuscript for publication can seem overwhelming. To help you get started, we’ve compiled 11 questions you should ask yourself as you write your paper.

How will I structure my manuscript?

Do most of the journals in your field follow the IMRaD structure? (Introduction -> Materials and Methods -> Results -> Discussions and Conclusions.) Even if the journal you publish in doesn’t follow this exact format, many follow a structure that is similar. Make sure each section of your manuscript helps to tell the story of your research.

Is my title effective?

Make sure your title conveys the main topics of your study and highlights the importance of your research. It should contain enough information to attract readers, while still remaining as concise as possible.

What will my abstract say?

Your abstract may be the only thing some researchers read. It should stand alone from your manuscript. Make sure it clearly explains what was done, why you did the study, what you found, and why the findings are important.

Which keywords should I use?

Keywords are important tools for helping readers find your work. Choose them carefully, keeping in mind that they should represent the content of your manuscript and be specific to your field.

What should I include in my introduction?

Your introduction’s purpose is to help readers understand your study by highlighting why you conducted your research. Make sure the citations you note as background evidence are well balanced, current, and relevant.

How should I approach the Materials and Methods section?

Make sure you describe what you did in past tense, stating all statistical tests and parameters with enough detail that another researcher could reproduce your experiment.

How should I display my results?

Your results should be presented in the most logical order, which does not always mean that it will be in the order you conducted the experiments. Use this section to summarize information, making sure not to duplicate any data from the text of your paper.

What do my results mean?

This question should be answered in the Discussions and Conclusions section of your manuscript. Interpret your results by looking at comparable studies, your study’s limitations, what the results mean to researchers in your field and others’, and any inconclusive results.

Should I display some of my data in figures and tables?

Figures and tables are a great way to communicate large amounts of complex information. Some readers will only look at these items, so it is important that they are well designed, attractive, and convey a professional appearance. Items you might consider using include tables, images, data plots, maps, and schematics.

Should I thank people who have helped with my research, but don’t qualify as authors?

This is usually done in the Acknowledgements section. Be sure to check the journal’s Instructions for Authors to determine who should be considered for authorship.

Have I cited all necessary references?

Every single statement of fact, in addition to publications whose results differ from your own should be cited. It is important to cite sufficiently to prevent your paper from being passed over for publication.

Discover more details on these questions and more in our Author and Reviewer Tutorial on Writing a Manuscript. When you’re finished take the quiz to enforce what you’ve learned. Be sure to check-out the other Author & Reviewer Tutorials we offer.

Feature Image Credit: Handwritten notes in academic research by Raul Pacheco-Vega. CC 2.0 via Flickr.

Penny Freedman

Author: Penny Freedman

Penny Freedman is a Marketing Manager on the Author Experience & Services team, based in the New York office. She works closely on sharing insight and guidance on the benefits and services available to our editors, reviewers, and authors.

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