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JUN19

Making Style Decisions

Filed on: June 19, 2013 | Written by Lindsey S. Buscher | Add new comment

When writing a research paper for publication in a journal, following the journal’s style is very important and can be beneficial during the review process. Content will, of course, always be the top priority, but if the journal editor and reviewers see that you took the time and effort to learn and follow the journal’s house style, there is a greater likelihood of acceptance. The process by which style decisions are made can be daunting, but fortunately there are some guidelines that all authors can follow.

First, to get an idea of the bigger picture: When editors are first setting up a journal and deciding which style manual to use as a standard (AMA Manual of Style, Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Chicago Manual of Style, Council of Science Editors Scientific Style and Format, etc.), they choose the one that is most fitting for the specific discipline. For example, a medical journal is most likely to follow AMA style because the style points are tailored to medical writing, such as how to write the plural form of a microorganism or the standard abbreviations for medical degrees of authors. Most style manuals cover the basics of what they recommend for general grammar, punctuation, reference formatting, and things of that nature, but the field-specific manuals are much more useful for such detailed points.

Once you have decided which journal you want to submit your research paper to, read the author instructions very carefully; most will, at the very least, indicate the style manual the journal follows. All journals do, however, make certain exceptions to the general style, some of which may also be listed in the author instructions, so pay attention to that, too. If you are unsure about how to format references, for example, and if the instructions are not helpful, read an article or two from the journal and check the references section. Or another example, if the journal is available online and if you are trying to find out whether or not to hyphenate a word or if it should be one word or two, search (Ctrl + F) the article for the word or phrase to see how it has been done before. Journal style does sometimes change, though, such as when a new edition of a style manual is published, so be sure to look at a recent article, if possible. If you are unable to find an example, then pick one way to format and at least be consistent—that way, if the journal style ends up being different, it will be easier for the copy editor to change as appropriate.

If you run into a case where you have to decide between style points if there is more than one option within a certain style manual, there are a few courses of action you could take. If you are an author, or especially if you happen to be a copy editor, think about what would make the most sense to the audience—consider the language (US or UK English?), consult with the editor of the journal, perhaps see how other journals in the same field handle similar situations, come to a decision, and make sure you document it. Sometimes a style manual refers to another authoritative source that you can also consult. For example, Chicago Manual of Style section 7.1 “recommends using Webster’s Third New International Dictionary and the latest edition of its chief abridgment, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary…. If more than one spelling is given, or more than one form of the plural (see 7.6), Chicago normally opts for the first form listed (even for equal variants), thus aiding consistency.” [1]

Ultimately, as a copy editor the most important things you can do are to document style decisions in the house style sheet, be consistent, and consider sharing at least parts of the style sheet with authors so they can help speed up the editorial process later in production if an article is accepted. As an author, your best bet is to read the author instructions thoroughly and have the journal’s general style manual handy.

 

[1] University of Chicago Press Staff. 2010. The Chicago manual of style: the essential guide for writers, editors, and publishers. 16th ed. Chicago (IL): Chicago University Press.

MAR 4

The Economist Style Guide, 10th edition

Filed on: March 4, 2011 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Although The Economist, a British weekly, is not a research journal, its writing is often praised for its clarity and precision. How does the The Economist manage this week after week?  Part of the credit must go to its style guide [1], the 10th edition of which was published a few months ago. Large parts of the guide are also available on the newspaper's website [2].

The Economist Style Guide devotes more space to the craft of writing - the choice and arrangement of words - than most other style guides do. See the opening lines of the book: "Only on two scores can The Economist hope to outdo its rivals consistently. One is the quality of its analysis; the other is the quality of its writing. . . . The first requirement of The Economist is that it should be readily understandable. Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought." The first section of the book is devoted to advice on writing clearly, concisely, and accurately. The second section highlights important differences between American and British conventions relevant to writing (spelling, punctuation, usage, and syntax), whereas the last section is a compilation of miscellaneous information, useful as a ready reference.

The guide's insistence on clear writing is seen throughout the book and often takes the form of warnings and terse advice against using fashionable terms, which are often vague. Here are some representative entries. "Venues  Avoid them. Try places." "Viable  means capable of living. Do not apply it to things like railway lines. Economically viable means profitable." "Factoid  A factoid is something that sounds like a fact, is thought by many to be a fact (perhaps because it is repeated so often), but is not in fact a fact."

If you are writing a grant application, an article, or a report - anything for a broader readership in fact - you will certainly find The Economist Style Guide a helpful companion.

[1] The Economist Newspaper. 2010. The Economist Style Guide: the bestselling guide to English usage. 10th edn. London: Profile Books. 264 pp.

[2] http://www.economist.com/research/styleguide/

 

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

SEP 8

Format the headings to conform to the journal’s style

Filed on: September 8, 2009 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

If you format a paper accepted for publication as per the journal’s style, the paper is likely to be published sooner. This blog tells you what to look for in formatting headings and, equally importantly, what to avoid.

For instance, conforming to a journal’s style does not mean using the same font (typeface) that the journal uses. The journal may use Plantin or Bembo: you can stick to plain Times New Roman. Similarly, if the journal uses small capitals for headings, use ordinary (lowercase) letters instead, and leave it to the journal to print them in proper small caps—if you use capitals (uppercase) instead, they may have to be changed into lowercase first before replacing them with proper small capitals. Lastly, you can safely ignore font size as an attribute: the journal may print the titles of papers in 18 points but you are better off sticking to just one font size throughout.

Most other attributes, however, require your attention. If the journal uses regular capitals for higher-level headings, you should use them too. The same goes for italics and bold. Pay attention to the case: if the journal uses “title” case for headings, follow that but pay attention to the prepositions and articles. Most journals will not begin these with capital letters even if the title case is used for headings—but some will.

Observe also whether the headings are “displayed,” that is, given in separate lines, or “run on”, that is, followed by regular text on the same line (usually for lower-level headings). If so, check whether any punctuation follows the headings (full stops or colons are often used).

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

JUL22

Useful reference books, 2: New Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors

Filed on: July 22, 2009 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | 1 comment

The first blog on this topic mentioned the New Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors in passing; this blog offers more details about the volume, the second edition of which was published recently (mid-2009).

The subtitle of the dictionary is “The essential A–Z style guide for scientists.” Although it is a moot point whether scientists will consider the dictionary essential, most professional copy editors, especially those who are required to follow the established British style in these matters, will find the handy (12 by 18 cm, 450 pages) volume indispensable.

Should you write “short wave” (two words) or “shortwave”? The dictionary recommends the first option but points out that the term is hyphenated when used as an adjective, as in “short-wave radiation.” It tells you that the abbreviation cv. (for cultivated variety) is now prohibited by the  International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants and recommends enclosing the name of the variety in quotes and beginning it with a capital letter: Oryza sativa “Sugandha” and not Oryza sativa cv. Sugandha, to take a variety of rice grown in India, for example.

Because the guide is a dictionary, it is organized alphabetically. However, its value has been enhanced by a few longer entries and a dozen appendices (including one on resources naming genes and one on geological time scales). Appendix 12 carries an annotated list of 45 useful websites, a somewhat unusual but very useful addition to such a guide.

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

JUN 9

Useful reference books 1: guides to style

Filed on: June 9, 2009 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

So far, this blog has dealt with a number of details related to preparing research papers for submission to journals. However, if you are stuck with any one of them – whether to print et al. in italics, whether to number each item in a list of bullet points, or whether to put a full stop after the title of a table – the blog is of little use because you cannot easily find out whether the point you are looking for has been covered so far, let alone the specific recommendation it makes.

This is where a special kind of reference book comes in handy. Most of such books feature the word style in their titles (although some use the word dictionary instead because the entries are arranged alphabetically). Here are a few examples: Scientific Style and Format, The Chicago Manual of Style, The ACS Style Guide, and The Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors. Future posts in this blog will deal with some of them.

These reference books – the term “manual” seems to be more common in the US whereas in Britain, “guide” is more likely to be encountered – are a compilation of decisions of publishers (the University of Chicago Press and the American Chemical Society, to mention the publishers of two of the guides mentioned above), which are used by copy editors in preparing texts for publication.

It is important to note that the word style in this context refers to something different from what is normally understood. Generally, the word refers to the characteristic way a writer uses words and arranges them in sentences – short or long words, short or long sentences, a predilection for some words or phrases, habits of punctuation, and so on. The style handbooks, however, mostly deal with individual words (analyse or analyze, foetus or fetus); matters of typography (when to use bold, italics, small capitals, and so on); methods of citing sources (numbers or author/year) and setting out references; guidance on organizing tables; and so on.

For a researcher preparing a paper for publication, the advantages of following a set style are not immediately obvious. The most important advantage is that once accepted for publication, a paper that follows the publisher’s style is likely to be published sooner than a paper that does not.

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

NOV14

Tactics for explanatory writing, 2: use analogies

Filed on: November 14, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

An earlier blog discussed the use of examples in explanatory writing. However, when it comes to explaining how something works, analogies often work better. Take quantitative information, for instance: to chemists, such expressions as a 0.4% solution, a limit of 80 ppm, and 4 µg/litre are clear enough but to the general reader, they do not mean much—saying that a 0.4% solution is like dissolving a teaspoonful of sugar in a litre of water goes a long way in helping readers to get a better idea of the strength of the solution.

Analogies help by linking what is new to what is known, a common enough principle in teaching. To explain why seeds taken from a perfect fruit do not always grow into plants that give perfect fruit, you can point out that children are not replicas of their parents. Knowledge and information are abstract concepts but one way to explain the difference is to compare knowledge to proteins and information to amino acids: even when we eat foods rich in protein, the body has to break the proteins into amino acids and re-build the proteins from scratch—just as we access information but build knowledge inside our heads.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing edited by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins presents excerpts of science writing at its best, and you will see how often good science writing uses the power of analogies.

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew. ]

SEP19

‘Asides’ or parenthetical additions: commas, brackets, or dashes?

Filed on: September 19, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

In writing to inform, all information is not equal: some of it is given as an aside—not essential, but interesting, useful, or "nice to know." How do you mark this kind of information? The most common, and least obtrusive, way is to enclose such information within a pair of commas, as in "Potassium cyanide, which has a characteristic bitter-almond smell, is a deadly poison." Grammarians call the additional information a "non-restrictive clause" and the pair "non-defining commas." But that is another post.

However, there are two other devices, namely enclosing the additional information within brackets (parentheses) or enclosing it—like this—with a pair of em dashes.

Now, how does one choose among the three alternatives? Well, the choice depends on the effect that you as a writer want to achieve or your assessment of the value of that additional information.

# Use commas when you do not want to disrupt the flow. A pair of commas encloses the additional information with least distraction: the extra info blends smoothly with the rest of the text.

# Use brackets when the information is purely incidental and unimportant but may help some readers. A typical use is to define a quantity in an alternative unit of measurement, as in "The car was traveling at 60 kilometers (roughly 37 miles) per hour."

# Use em dashes to emphasize or highlight the information, as in "It is possible—indeed very likely—that biotechnology will bring in prosperity for farmers."

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

SEP12

Lists of bullet points, part 1: numbers as item markers

Filed on: September 12, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

If you write non-fiction, sooner or later you will use bullet lists in your writing. Actually, if you make presentations, bullet lists are perhaps the only thing you will write.

Ever since word processors and laser printers made it easy to embellish lists with such symbols as arrows, pointing fingers, and stars, writers have had a field day using them. As a careful writer, how should you go about a suitable symbol to begin each new item in a list of bullet points?

First off, should you use numbers, letters, or symbols? A common convention is to use numbers when the list is a sequence, i.e., when the order of items in a list cannot be changed, as in a step-by-step procedure, and to use symbols when the list is not sequential, i.e., the order in which items appear does not have any obvious logic. It is best to keep letters for those rare lists in which each item is an option, and a mutually exclusive option at that (i.e., a list of investment options).

If using numbers, Arabic numerals work better than roman numerals because-at least up to 9-each Arabic numeral is a single character and it is easy to align the numbers one below the other, unlike roman numerals, which wax and wane: 1 and 5 are single characters (much like i and v) whereas 8 (like viii) calls for four characters. Further, even the single characters can be slim (i) or wide (v).

Even with Arabic numerals, a professionally formatted list will always right-align the numbers when they go beyond 9.

Please leave the numerals alone; they do not need any support in any form, be it dots [1., 2., 3., ...], brackets [1), 2), 3), ...], hash marks [#1, #2, #3, ...], or slashes [1/, 2/, 3/, ...].

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

AUG29

Rounding off numbers

Filed on: August 29, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

An average adult man weighs 65 kg-will it make any difference to you if the figure is changed to 65.7 kg? Mount Everest, the word's tallest peak, is 8848 m, and it makes no difference whether it turns out to be 8848.2 m or 8848.7 m, assuming that such precision is attainable in the first place. In giving numbers, we should avoid needless-or even dubious-precision and try to make it easy for readers to take in numerical information.

In research, few numbers are presented as measured. Usually, the numbers are averages of many observations, and the form of numbers should match not only the precision of measurement but also the purpose of presenting those numbers. Your experiment may have involved weighing all the apples, for example, from each of many trees to find out the effect of, say, fertilizers. If fertilizers are to make a worthwhile difference, it ought to show up as a difference of at least many kilograms-so why present the yields of individual trees to the nearest gram although you may have weighed them with that much precision?

Numbers based on surveys, samples, and assumptions-and calculations based on them-are inherently imprecise, and need to be presented accordingly. Whether it is population, energy consumption, emissions of greenhouse gases, or GDP, it makes no sense to present them without rounding off: it is easier to grasp that, in mid-2004, the estimated populations of China, India, and Japan were about 1.3, 1, and 0.1 billion respectively than taking in the more exact figures of 1 298 847 624 for China; 1 065 070 607 for India; and 127 333 002 for Japan.

Therefore, the next time you present numbers to your readers, see whether you can round off the numbers drastically.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

AUG29

Getting the references right, part 3: volume, issue, and page numbers

Filed on: August 29, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Papers published in journals are the most common form of sources of information that researchers append to their papers under the heading "References." Two earlier blogs in this series were about two elements of a typical reference, names of authors and the year of publication. This blog takes a few more elements that are essential in properly referencing a paper published in a journal.

Journals—librarians often refer to them as serials or periodicals—are the most important channel of publishing the results of research. Issues of a journal typically appear at regular intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly, and so on). A number of issues of a journal—typically all those published in one calendar year—together form a volume. Journals that are published more frequently have more than one volume in one year.

The first issue of a fresh volume begins with page 1. Most journals continue the pagination through a volume: if the last numbered page of the first issue was, say, 128 (always an even number), the second issue begins with page 129 (always an odd number), and so on. Most magazines and trade journals, however, are paginated afresh with each issue, which, therefore, always begins with page 1.

The format for citing references takes this practice into account. Accordingly, only the volume number is included in references to journal articles whereas both volume number and issue number are included in references to articles in newsletters, magazines, and trade journals. Here are two examples.

Bell H K. 2008. Editors and copy editors in fiction. Journal of Scholarly Publishing 39: 156-167

Cartwright J. 2008. Mind the hack. Physics World 21 (5): 14-15

Different journals follow different conventions about page numbers: some give only the first page; some give both the first page and the last page but in an elided form (702-7 means p. 702 to p. 707 and 702-17 means p. 702 to p. 717); and others give both in full.

The reason why the above is important is that many journals lay specific emphasis on how references should be presented. Simply put: Bad references, bad paper.

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

JUL25

Telephone Numbers in Journals

Filed on: July 25, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

Sometimes, journals can be very specific. Often, journal guidelines are (fortunately/unfortunately) immensely detailed. A tiny aspect that, according to me, most writers overlook is the issue of the correct format of telephone numbers. Yup, telephone numbers, of all the quadri-zillion things that you can miss, I've singled out telephone numbers.

The form to render numbers that express numerical quantities is well understood: separate multi-digit numbers into thousands and use space as a thousand separator (123 and 4321 but 12 235, 654 321, 1 234 567, and so on).

The style for giving telephone numbers varies: (203) 245 1235 is common in the United States whereas in France and Germany it is common to give a telephone number as a string of pairs of numbers (for instance, 21 59 55 56).

Then again, the international form of a telephone number is different from that used for local dialing and for dialing non-local domestic calls.

One standard international form is +91 (20) 2661 3832, where the plus sign represents (and replaces) the digits to be dialed to access the international network or to initiate an international call (the digits may vary from country to country), and is followed by (a) the country code (1 for USA, 49 for Germany, 86 for China, and so on), (b) the city or the area code, and (c) the local telephone number. The local telephone number usually contains a space if it is longer than 4 digits. The typical grouping is 4+4 for eight-digit local numbers, 3+4 for seven-digit local numbers, 2+4 for six-digit numbers, and 2+3 for five-digit numbers.

The logic is that the number for the local telephone exchange is separated from the rest of the number, the exchange number being common to all numbers in a given neighborhood served by one telephone company.

When most of the calls to a number are expected to be domestic calls, the number illustrated above is rendered without the plus sign and the country code but with a zero prefixed to the city code, as in (020) 2661 3832.

Numbers used by postal systems are governed by the norms set by the country's postal system, and we have postcodes (UK), ZIP codes (USA), and PIN codes (India), for example. But that is another blog, another day.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

JUL 4

Tactics for Explanatory Writing - 1: use examples

Filed on: July 4, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | Add new comment

So far, this blog has been dealing only with the minutiae of writing. But nobody can learn to write well simply by knowing all the rules. It's time we gave some thought to writing, that is, choosing and arranging words that express our ideas.

We may know a topic well enough but how do we explain it readers? Good writers use many tactics to put across their ideas to readers in ways that make it easier for readers to take in the ideas. And the most common tactic is to use examples.

In fact, we understand a concept only when we build (or re-build) it in our minds from examples. From an array of examples, we extract the feature common to all of them as an abstraction. If we understand right, we have no problem giving more examples on our own. Try explaining the concept of the colour red without referring to any red objects, and you will see what I mean. Think coal, oil, and natural gas-and you know what ‘fossil fuels' are. Think rice, wheat, and maize-and you know what a ‘cereal' is.

Hard put to explain a concept? Start with examples, and you will find that words come easier to you.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

MAY 9

The elements of the SI (Système International d’Unités)

Filed on: May 9, 2008 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | 2 comments

How much water does a lake hold? The capacity of any lake will, of course, depend on its dimensions: its length, breadth, and depth. In a table that compared a number of lakes, the capacity of each lake was given cubic metres, and the symbol used was Mm³, a notation that puzzled my students. However, this blog is for young researchers, and although they are less likely to stumble over such notations, it is just as well that we refresh our memories with a brief recap.

The notation Mm³ was logical enough: mega (106), that is million, cubic metres. The uppercase (capital) form is mandatory for all multipliers from mega onwards (and hence GW for gigawatts, Tg for teragrams - a common notation used to with carbon in discussions of climate change - and so on). The smaller multipliers, namely deca, hecto, and kilo, and all the dividers, from deci to atto, can only take the lowercase form: cm, mm, µm, and nm to denote progressively smaller lengths, for instance (as centimetres, millimetres, micrometres, and nanometres). Note also that SI favours metre and not meter.It is also important to remember that the prefixes (multiplier or dividers) combine with symbols to give the complete units and that the symbols appear only in the singular form: you may write kilograms and centimetres but never kgs and cms, nor can you write gms for grams.Lastly, symbols named after people, as in W, the SI unit for power (after James Watt) or Pa, the SI unit for pressure (named after Blaise Pascal), use the capital form but the units, when spelt out in full, go lowercase, as in watts, pascals, and newtons.

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

FEB15

Submitting Your Manuscript to an American Journal

Filed on: February 15, 2008 | Written by | Add new comment

While referring to journal guidelines for the preparation of a manuscript, you may come across statements such as "Use American English throughout" or "Use spellings as given in the Oxford dictionary." These statements convey the journal's language specification—American English or British English.

What do you do next?

It is often difficult enough for a nonnative author to write a manuscript in English and focusing on another aspect—American or British English—can make it even more confusing. Submitting Your Manuscript to an American Journal—7 American English Rules to Follow will help you understand certain rules followed in American English. By applying these rules, you can ensure that your manuscript conforms to the journal's language specification.

After reading Submitting Your Manuscript to an American Journal—7 American English Rules to Follow, you will have learned

 

bullet what should be done if language specifications are not clear
bullet how to represent quotation marks
bullet how to punctuate the salutation in a letter
bullet how to represent dates
bullet how to read an American English dictionary
bullet some common spelling differences between American and British English
bullet how to set language in Microsoft Word
bullet how to run a spell check in Microsoft Word

 

[This is a part of a series of posts, entitled Publish and Prosper, which talk about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit their papers to journals published in English. The series will touch upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]

OCT22

Sections of a Research Paper

Filed on: October 22, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

Some questions that I have often come across pertain to the sections of a paper. Though it may seem trivial, a paper badly paraphrased is a bad paper. Here are some questions that I was approached with:

In the IMRAD format, can results and discussion be combined?

Results and discussion can be presented as two separate sections or combined into a single section. The Instructions to Authors of many journals mention how results and discussion should be presented; the format specified by the journal should be used. However, if your journal does not specify the format, use the format that best conveys your results. If your paper is short, you should combine both the sections.

In an original paper, are conclusions of the study a part of the Discussion section or a separate section?

Some journals have a separate Conclusions section that is placed after the Discussion, whereas in others, conclusions are presented as the last paragraph of the Discussion. The format can be checked in the Instructions to Authors of your journal. However, if a format has not been specified, you can present the conclusions of your study in the format you find more suitable for your manuscript.

Will update if I come across any more.

 

[The above post is a part of the Ask a Question series of posts that will list questions that we are often approached with. You can also visit the Ask a Question page and post your queries that we will try to answer to the best of our abilities at the not-so-earliest possible time.]

OCT20

Style and format

Filed on: October 20, 2007 | Written by | Add new comment

In this post, I am clubbing together the various questions that we have been asked relating to Style and Format of your paper. You can also Ask your Question on Style and Format, research publishing, writing, and English in General.

I am writing a letter to the editor of a journal. Should the e be capital, i.e., Dear editor or Dear Editor?

The correct representation is Dear Editor and not Dear editor. This is because when you are addressing someone in a letter, the title becomes the equivalent of a name and names are always capitalized.

Is it correct to say HIV or HIV virus?

HIV is the abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus (abbreviations are short forms of words or terms). Therefore, it is redundant to use virus after HIV because the word is included in the abbreviation.

I am a bit confused with the term inclusive page numbers. Some journal guidelines state that inclusive page numbers should be provided in references. What does this mean? I am not clear which representation is inclusive: 21-25 or 21-5?

Both representations are those of inclusive page numbers. When the journal guidelines state that inclusive page numbers should be listed, it implies that the first page and the last page of the article should be mentioned. Both these representations include the first page and the last page. The only difference is that in the second case(21-5), the common digit (2) has not been repeated. This specification (whether to repeat the common digits) is also provided by many journals. Some journals only mention the first page of the article (noninclusive numbers). In that case, you would write only 21 instead of 21-25 or 21-5.

I have a formatting issue. I have received my manuscript with some comments inserted by the reviewer. I can see the comment when the mouse pointer is on the word/phrase. I want to print my manuscript along with all the comments. How do I do this?

You can view the comments as balloons. On the Reviewing toolbar (View > Toolbars > Reviewing), click on the Show drop-down list. Then, click on the Balloons option. You can see another drop-down list to the right of this option. Select the Only for Comments/Formatting option. Now you will be able to see all the comments in your manuscript. When you print your manuscript, the comments will also get printed. To hide the balloons, uncheck the Only for Comments/Formatting option and click on Never.

When we say Brown et al. should the verb be has or have. For example, Brown et al. has... or Brown et al. have...?

Et al. is an abbreviation for the Latin term et alia which means and others. Thus, the phrase Brown et al. could be read as Brown and others. This implies that Brown et al. is a plural noun, and thus, the plural verb have should be used.

Is it fine to begin a sentence with a Greek letter? For example, ß-carotene is an antioxidant.

You can begin a sentence with a Greek letter; however, please note that in such cases, the first non-Greek letter after the Greek letter should be capitalized. Thus, in your example, the c in carotene should be capitalized and the sentence would be ß-Carotene is an antioxidant.

Is it incorrect to not repeat a unit of measurement in a range, for example, should it be 10 mg to 15 mg or 10 to 15 mg or 10% to 15% or 10 to 15%?

The unit of measurement need not be repeated in a range; thus, 10 to 15 mg is correct. This holds true for cm, mL, etc. However, the percentage sign should be repeated with every numeral in a range. Also note that while a single space is inserted between a numeral and its corresponding unit of measurement, no space should be inserted between a numeral and the percentage sign. Thus, the correct representation would be 10% to 15%.

Is it Petri dish, petri dish, or petridish?

CBE lists petri dish as an example of an object whose name is derived from a proper noun but is still lower cased (CBE, Page 158). The McGraw Hill Dictionary of Scientific Terms also represents it in a similar manner. Interestingly the CBE also shows the following representations:

Gram stain but gram-negative bacteria (the rationale is that adjective/derived forms are not capitalized)

fallopian tube

graafian follicle

cesarean section

Are Southern blot, western blot, and northern blot capitalized?

Southern blot needs to be capitalized since it is derived from the name of Edwin Southern, who first described this technique. The names for northern blot and western blot are just derived based on analogy to the Southern blotting technique and should not be capitalized.

In certain documents the restriction site name is italicized, e.g., EcoRI, but there are numerous documents where organism abbreviations are not italicized. Is there a rule regarding this?

A three-letter italicized abbreviation represents the host organism. This includes an initial capital letter that is the first letter of the genus name and the first 2 letters of the species epithet. Strain designations consisting of Arabic numerals are spaced, for example, Bce 1229 while other strain designations are not spaced, for example, BamHI.

Sorry for the long post,

Regards.

 

[The above post is a part of the Ask a Question series of posts that will list questions that we are often approached with. You can also visit the Ask a Question page and post your queries that we will try to answer to the best of our abilities at the not-so-earliest possible time.]