Saturday, February 6, 2010

NSMB editorial: "Scientific writing 101"

In the February 2010 issue of Nature Structural & Molecular Biology [NSMB, 17(2), p.139], there is a nice Editorial titled "Scientific writing 101". This short one-page essay is a good example of a (scientific) writing that is "a pleasures of reading".
"Less is more when it comes to writing a good scientific paper. Tell a story in clear, simple language and keep in mind the importance of the ‘big picture’."
Specifically, the editorial makes the following points:
  • Tell a story. A scientific paper is not a chronology; the data should be presented and interpreted in context.
  • Be clear. "Clear, simple language allows the data and their interpretation to come through."
  • Provide an informative title and abstract. "Make the abstract clear and try to get the ‘big picture’ across."
  • Make the introduction short and concise.
  • Clearly distinguish Results from Discussion. "Discussion should put those results in a broader context." It "should be an interpretation of those results..."
  • Cover letter is important. You should spell check your manuscript, and number the pages, etc.
In this blog post, I am just recapping the key points of the editorial, and taking the opportunity to re-read it. Following the simple principles outlined in the editorial would be beneficial to everyone in the scientific community.