Writing  tools for scientists and academics In this site you will find several resources to help you  along the process of writing an outstanding academic paper.

Step No. 1.

Determine the core message of your paper

This is possibly the most important step of writing your paper; sadly, it is a step that is often overlooked.

Before engaging in the writing process, think carefully about what you want your readers to understand about your work.

Transmitting a clear and concise message will improve your manuscript’s chances of being read and cited.

Do the following exercise to help you determine the core message of your paper: 1. Describe your work to a colleague in less than one minute. 2. Write down one to three central points of your paper. 3. Summarize your paper in one sentence.

The exercise described above might sound easy, but once you try it you will find out that it is not! It is worth spending some time working on it, so that you have a clear picture of what the core message of your manuscript really is. Once you have mastered this exercise you will feel more confident about the whole writing process that follows.

A common problem with summarizing your work is that there are may be several major findings. If you really cannot write your core message into one sentence, try to do it in two sentences, but not more.

Remember, determining the core message of your paper is an essential  part of the academic writing process. If you experience difficulties, talk to your colleagues and see if they can help you to highlight the central message of your work.

Writing your first draft without having a clear core message in your head will result in a waste of time and resources!

A number of studies have indicated that a badly written manuscript with poor use of English, even with good science, has less chance of being accepted and published.

Step 2.

Developing a paper outline

Preparing an outline is one of the most important steps in the process of producing a manuscript for publication in an academic or scientific journal. Preparing an outline beforehand will help you enormously during the actual writing process.

Think of the outline as the series of steps that took you from the question that drove your research to obtaining the answer.

The outline of an academic paper bears the same relation to the final paper as an architectural blueprint does to a finished building.

The purpose of an outline is to divide the writing of the entire paper into a number of smaller well-organized tasks.

A good outline will organize the various topics and arguments in a logical form. By ordering the topics you will identify any gaps that might exist in your logic or information.

There is not a single best way to prepare an academic or scientific paper; however, performing the next 5 exercises can help you to create notes that will be extremely useful along the writing process.  

Remember, by doing these exercises you are only constructing an outline, you are not writing the actual paper; you are just creating a series of notes to guide your thinking.

1. Develop the core message of the paper, preferably in a single sentence.  If you had to summarize your paper in one sentence, what would it be? Everything in the manuscript will be written to support this central message.

2. Define the materials and methods. Briefly state the population in which you worked, the sampling method you employed, the materials you used, and most importantly, the methods or techniques you used to carry out the study.

3. Summarize the question(s) and problem(s). What was known before you started the study? List the most important information that you needed before you started your research. Write the question or the problem in a single sentence. If you had more than one question or problem write a sentence for each one; however, an academic manuscript typically addresses ONLY one question or problem.

4. List your main findings or results. Note that your core message sentence should encapsulate the most important findings; however there may be other results that you think should be included. Make a list, and try to organize them in the most logical order.

5. List the main conclusions and implications. What is new in your work and why does it matter? What are the limitations and the implications of your results? Are there any changes in practice, approaches or techniques that you would recommend?

Did you finish the exercises? Take another look at your outline and:

Organize and group related ideas together.

List each key point separately. Key points can be arranged chronologically, by order of importance or by some other pattern.

Make sure that the organizing scheme should be clear and well structured. You can use a cluster map, an issue tree, numbering, or some other organizational structure.

Identify the important details.

Identify the core references that correspond to each key point.

You should now be ready to write the first draft.

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Step No. 3

Writing the first draft.

Before writing your first draft, you should have created an outline of the paper, and have detailed well-organized notes that you can use.

While writing your first draft, you will need to convert those notes and that outline into a narrative form.

Having a well-organized draft, plus well organized research notes, will save you A LOT of time at the stage of revising the draft.

To ensure logical flow, I recommend that you begin writing the Introduction and continue in an ordered fashion with methods, results, discussion and conclusion, leaving the abstract for the end.

The key point is to begin writing according to your paper’s outline, filling the necessary information with your notes.

Here are a few tips for creating that first draft:

1. Consolidate all the information. Ensure you have everything you need to write efficiently: all the data, most of the references, final drafts of tables and figures, etc.

2. Select a target journal. Determine the journal to which you plan to submit your manuscript and write your manuscript according to the journal’s focus. The focus may be clearly stated within the journal Web Page; if it is not, you may determine it yourself by examining recent issues.

3. Start writing. When writing the first draft, the goal is to put something down on paper. Initially, it does not matter if sentences are incomplete or the grammar incorrect, provided that the main points and ideas have been captured. Write when your energy is high, not when you are tired. Try to find a time and place where you can think and write without distractions.

A common and serious mistake is to begin writing before having ALL the data, and the corresponding statistical analysis. So DO NOT do it!

4. Write quickly. Don't worry about words, spelling, or punctuation at this stage; just focus on ideas. Keep going; try to write quickly to keep the flow going. Leave gaps of information if necessary, making annotations within the text so that you can fill them at a later stage. Use abbreviations and leave space for words that do not come to mind immediately.

5. Write without editing. Don't try to do it right the first time. Resist the temptation to edit as you go. Otherwise, you will tend to get stuck and only waste time. If you try to write and edit at the same time, you will do neither of those things well.

Keep in mind, a first draft does not have to be perfect; it just needs to be written.

6. Follow your outline. Use the key points from your outline to focus on what you want to say.

7. Write the paper in separate parts. Don't attempt to write the whole manuscript at once, instead, treat each section as a mini essay that stands on its own. The following links will help you to write each of the manuscript’s sections:

How to write an efficient introduction?

How to write the materials and methods section?

How to write a clear results section?

How to write a proper discussion?

How to write a good abstract?

How to write an attractive and informative title?

Automatic reference formating

While writing, look at your notes. Think about the objective of each particular section of the manuscript, and about what is the most important information you need to transmit.

8. After finishing your first draft, put it aside before revising it. Put aside your first draft for at least one day. The idea of waiting a day or more is to allow you to "be" another person. It is difficult to proofread and edit your own work; a day or more between creation and critique helps authors to be more objective.

Back to top Back to top “How to write a scientific Paper” - Workshop.

Step No. 4

Revising your manuscript’s content

At this stage, you should have written a complete first draft. Be prepared to revise your manuscript several times, until you feel it is not possible to improve it any further.

The best revisions are done when you look at your manuscript not as the author, but as a serious critic.

If English is not your native language, revise your manuscript focusing on the order and logic of the ideas that you are presenting. Make sure that each section of your paper has the correct content by following the guidelines provided above.

An expert Academic Editor can help you polish language problems making sure that all the ideas are transmitted clearly. However you, as an author, are the sole responsible of optimizing the content of your manuscript.

As you revise your manuscript you should:

1. Know exactly what you want to say, and make sure that it is written. Knowing exactly what you want to say, and being able to put it in words, will maximize the clarity of your paper.

2. Make sure that you didn’t deviate from the outline that you carefully prepared before writing the draft. You will find out that a carefully-prepared outline will be of enormous help at this stage.

3. Look for missing information. You may need to add new information to connect different parts of your text. Keep in mind that, as an author, your brain fills the gaps in logic or content in your manuscript; your readers may not have the information that you do, so they might be unable  to fill those gaps. Therefore, you need clear links and connectors written in your paper to help your readers follow your logic.

4. Look for missing links between sentences. Within a paragraph you may need to add new sentences, in order to link the ideas expressed in two or more sentences in the first draft. The relationship between two sentences may be obvious to you as the author, but it may not be obvious for your readers.

5. Make sure that every paragraph contains a single idea. Having multiple ideas mixed in a single paragraph is a common mistake in academic writing. Having only one idea per paragraph maximizes clarity.

For a scientific article, paragraphs of about 150 words in length are considered optimal.

6. Prepare for revising for language problems. Once you have optimized the content of your manuscript, you may either revise your manuscript for language problems, or seek the help of an expert Academic Editor. The next few sections will help you revise your manuscript looking for common language mistakes.

Even if you need the help of an expert Academic Editor, revising your manuscript to the best of your abilities will most likely help you reduce costs, and save time.

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Step 5.

Revising for language problems

In this section you will find a list of the most common language problems that you should take into account.

1. Revise for language economy.

An academic or scientific manuscript should contain no unnecessary words. In many cases you can replace long expressions for shorter ones, which will greatly increase the clarity of your text.

Here are a few examples:

based on the fact that substitute for because

for the purpose of  substitute for to

decreased number of substitute for fewer

time period substitute for time

longer time period substitute for longer

a number of  substitute for some

has been shown to be  substitute for is

by means of substitute for by

it is possible that substitute for may

in order to  substitute for to

during the course of  substitute for during

a majority of  substitute for most

a great number of times  substitute for often

despite the fact that  substitute for although

2. Revise sentence structure.

Include only one idea or point in each sentence. Keep sentences simple and short. Use two sentences, instead of joining them with “and”.

For maximum readability, most sentences in academic manuscripts should be about 15- 20 words.

Use definite, specific, and precise language to construct your sentences. Avoid overuse of figurative language and technical jargon.

Use quantitative rather than qualitative descriptions whenever possible.

Use the active voice as much as possible. Follow the structure Subject-Verb-Completer, keeping the subject of the sentence next to the verb.

Keep related words together. Subjects should be close to their verbs, and modifiers near the words they modify.

Use action verbs instead of the verb "to be". The verb “to be” is an important verb, but it weakens the text when used excessively. For example, think about changing "X is reduced by Y" to "Y reduces X".

Use the passive voice only sparingly. You should limit its use to the description of the steps in a protocol. Explanations of why those steps are performed should be written in active voice.

Use the past tense for the Materials and Methods, and the Results. Use the present tense to describe established experiments and data that exist in the literature.

Express parallel ideas in parallel form. Parallel ideas are ideas equal in logic and importance.

3. Check spelling and grammar errors to be best of your abilities. Make use of your word processor, or on-line grammar checking tools such as Grammarly, or seek the help of a professional Academic Editor.

Back to top Additional Resources

A complete guided course that will teach you to efficiently write an academic paper.  

Español English “How to write a scientific Paper” - Workshop. On-line

See an example of the outline for an experimental scientific paper.

A complete guided course that will teach you to efficiently write an academic paper.  

Español English “How to write a scientific Paper” - Workshop.

A complete guided course that will teach you to efficiently write an academic paper.  

Español English “How to write a scientific Paper” - Workshop.

A complete guided course that will teach you to efficiently write an academic paper.  

Español English “How to write a scientific Paper” - Workshop.

A complete guided course that will teach you to efficiently write an academic paper.  

Español English

The following section is a quick guide that contains the steps that you need to follow to write an outstanding academic paper. Additional resources may be found within sub-sections.

Step 1. Establish the core message of your paper.

Step 2. Develop a paper outline.

Step 3. Write the first draft.

You will find specific information on how to write each section of your manuscript.

Step 4. Revise your manuscript for proper content.

Step 5. Revise your manuscript for language  problems.

We provide you with a short guide dealing with common mistakes and how to solve them.

+ How to create perfect paragraphs

+ How to use abbreviations effciently

+ Be a master at describing complex results

+ Prepare for manuscritp submission

+ Writing response letters to reviewers

+ Writing abstracts for science conferences

+ and more….

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