Manuscript: Significance, Structure, Content & Format Significance
Writing a manuscript for publication is as difficult of a task as it is rewarding. It is a chance for researchers to be able to finally share their novel ideas with the general public. This, however, is a privilege and not an end result of years of work that goes into a study. It is important for scientists to keep this in mind when designing their experiment and publishing their work. A study should be ethically and methodologically just. The published manuscript should be accurate and thorough. Falsifying or concealing data, intentionally or unintentionally, is immoral because, scientific manuscripts have a broad impact and the clinical implications can have a detrimental outcome if the science behind the research is fraudulent. A good scientist recognizes this responsibility and is aware of the importance of publishing. Publishing is a great way to improve the practice of science and medicine, get feedback, and provide a venue to develop and debate new ideas.
The structure of a scientific manuscript follows a somewhat strict criterion that abides by the scientific method. This is important because it allows scientists to understand each other more easily and repeat or learn from each other’s work. A written manuscript must include an abstract, an introduction, method/materials, results, and a conclusion. Although the format and the order in which these headings appear can vary from journal to journal, they must all be clearly stated within the paper.
Regardless of what order a particular journal wants the information presented, it may be easier for the writer to use different strategies to successfully devise the first draft. For example, it is often useful to write the abstract last, as it will give the author a chance to summarize the paper and determine if further editions need to be made. Before attempting to write, it is useful to consider the target audience and realize that editors and readers are looking for something exciting that is written in a clear and concise manner. The author should know what the objectives of the experiment are, whether those objectives have been met, what changes to the protocol are necessary, whether the work has clinical implications, whether the statistical tests used are appropriate, if the experiment has repeatable results, if a thorough literature search has been done, and what new findings are being presented. Once the author has a clear idea of these concepts, writing a scientific manuscript becomes less daunting.
Provide the audience with a title that is short, but detailed enough to give them an idea about the investigation and the outcome. Do not be vague. Abstract The abstract should be a one to two sentence summary of the rest of the components of the manuscript. It should also be structured in the same order as the overall paper.
What is the purpose of the study? Why are you conducting the study? The introduction must state the goals of the research being conducted. It must include a rationale for the study along with a hypothesis. An important part of the introduction is a brief background that is based on a thorough literature search so that the readers know what the study is based on; give a general idea on what has been done already, and in what ways your study is different.
An important aspect of all scientific research is that it be repeatable. This gives validity to the conclusions. The materials and methods section of a manuscript allow other interested researchers to be able to conduct the experience to expand on what was learned and further develop the ideas. It is for this reason that this section of the paper be specific. It must include a step-by-step protocol along with detailed information about all reagents, devices, and subjects used for the study. How the data was collected and interpreted should also be outlined in detail, including information on all statistical tests used.
For the results section of the paper, it is a good idea to rely on charts, graphs, and table to present the information. This way the author is not tempted to discuss any conclusions deprived from the study. The charts, graphs, and table should be clearly labeled and should include captions that outline the results without drawing any conclusions. A description of statistical tests as it relates to the results should be included.
Summarize the results in words rather than numbers and elaborate on the extent to which the objectives of the study were met. Do not include information from a literature search. Instead, focus on the primary conclusions of the study. Interpret the results for the audience; do not leave any results unexplained. Scientific writing cannot be left open for interpretation. Be sure to avoid over-interpreting the results and make general conclusions that cannot be justifiably derived from the parameters of the study. Discuss any clinical implications and limitations of the study as well as to what extent the conclusions are in concert with other scientists.
All references used for the study should be cited in accordance with guidelines set by the journal in which the author wishes to be published in. In general, most journals have adopted the citation format underlined in the Uniform Requirements for Manuscript Submitted to Biomedical Journals set forth by the International Committee of medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). As an example, a primary research article can be cited in the following manner:
Rettger LF. Some of the newer conceptions of milk in its relation to health. The Scientific Monthly. 1917; 5(1): 64-79.
References should be listed in the order in which they appear in the manuscript and within the manuscript they should be cited using a number enclosed in parenthesis.
Format: A General Template
- Significance of your research
- Background based on a literature review
Materials & Method
- Context of study
- Subjects (population, demographic, recruitment criteria etc.)
- Study design
- Procedures and data collection method
- Statistical tests
- An outline of the method used for analysis
- Describe results using numbers, chart, table, graphs, or tables
- Statistical analysis
- State whether the objectives of the experiment were met
- Interpret results
- Explain statistical significance in words
- State the finding with respect to other studies
- Clinical implications
- Future work
Example using primary research paper, books, and new paper articles:
Tobey JA. Milk in many forms. The American Journal of Nursing. 1932; 32(2): 126-128.
Brody S and Sadhu DP. The nutritional significance of milk with special reference to milk sugar. The Scientific Monthly. 1947; 64(1): 5-13.
Piper DW. Peptic ulcer. Balgowlah, NSW, Australia: ADIS Health Science Press; 1982.
Cassel C. The medical management of peptic ulcer. The American Journal of Nursing. 1952; 52(7): 852-855.
Kaplan H. Peptic ulcer. New York: Medical Examination Publishing Co, Inc; 1982.Friedenwald J and Ruhrah J. Diet in health and Disease, 5th ed. Philadelphia and London: W. B. Saunders Company; 1919.
Driver RL, Dozier GS, Denham HC. Effect of various chemical agents affecting permeability of the mucosa on the formation of ulcers. 1943; 98(2537): 158-159.
Author not listed. Drip cure for ulcers. Time Magazine. 1942 June 22.
Colburn D. Ulcers: its not what you eat, it’s what’s eating you. The mysterious bacteria H. pylori and common pain relievers are the prime culprits. Washington Post. 1994.