November 2010 - Enago Blog: Scientific Publication Help
How to write a scientific paper, How to publish in a research journal English Editing and Publication Support for Scientific Manuscripts

Archive for November, 2010

29 November 2010  |  Posted in Research and Writing  |  1 Comment »

A very important element of research, particularly for students, is the thesis which constitutes a report of the work performed. A thesis allows the organization of thoughts and results, and also serves to fulfill institutional requirements. Judgments about how good is the work are based on the quality of the thesis, among other things. It is therefore essential to plan the thesis writing well in advance. Some of the essential steps in this process are summarized below.

Elements of thesis plan

Elements of thesis plan

  • The first phase of the process involves locating a suitable research advisor and institution, determining overlap of interest, and then formulating the research plan.
  • Attempt to anticipate all the tasks which will be involved and potential problems that you may encounter in consultation with your research advisor.
  • Devise a thesis proposal, which is a short description of why and how the research is expected to be completed, and define the eventual goal.
  • Before you embark on the actual work, perform a thorough search of existing literature which will help you put the proposed research in better perspective.
  • Construct or learn to use suitable apparatus and acquire a working knowledge of experimental and/or theoretical frameworks before you attack the research problem.
  • Once you begin the research, maintain detailed and clear notes at every stage so that these can be consulted when you begin writing the thesis.
  • On completion of the work, appropriate conclusions should be drawn from the work which can be put in the discussions section of the thesis.
  • The layout and format of the thesis should be decided before commencing writing. An outline of the front matter, body and concluding portions should be first prepared.
  • Once the details are written up, the thesis should be reviewed by not just the research advisor, but also peers and other experts in the field. The quality of the writing can be improved using professional help.
  • The final and critical part is the thesis defense: thoroughly revise every detail in the thesis and be prepared to field queries related to any aspect.

A well-planned and written thesis can be crucial to recognition by peers and also career advancement.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

24 November 2010  |  Posted in Research and Writing, Resubmission  |  Comment on this post »

Revision of a research paper may be required after the first draft is written or following comments from coauthors or peer reviewers. The changes may be related to either or both the content or structure of the manuscript. This post offers some tips about the process to be followed when revising a paper in order that there are no gaps in the content and a logical and easily comprehensible structure is maintained.

paper revision

Revising content and structure of a manuscript

Revising Content

  • Any inaccurate information: data, discussion points or citations should be corrected.
  • If the description of concepts or techniques is incomplete, then appropriate additions should be made.
  • Inconsistencies should be searched for and eliminated.
  • Explanations of technical terms should be provided wherever required according to the scope of the paper.
  • If the full form of an acronym or abbreviation is not provided, this should be done in the first instance where the short form appears.
  • Superfluous content should be removed.

Some of the content revision aspects mentioned above, and a few of the restructuring considerations below are covered under proofreading, copyediting or substantive editing services.

Revising Structure

  • Include a brief roadmap of the paper in the introduction, in case it is absent.
  • If appropriate headings or subheadings have not been given for different sections within the paper, then these should be provided.
  • Any deficiencies in the flow or organization of ideas should be rectified.
  • Sections can be added, rearranged or deleted as required.
  • The presentation of figures and tables should be put in the appropriate order.

This will contribute towards creating a manuscript that is more readable, and in addition, the research will be better appreciated.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

22 November 2010  |  Posted in Breaking News  |  1 Comment »

Antimatter is the “mirror image” of matter. Every particle that is a constituent of matter has an associated antiparticle. This was first postulated almost eighty years ago. Since then, positrons which are the antiparticles of electrons, antiprotons corresponding to protons and many others, have been created and identified at various experimental facilities around the world.

Whenever antimatter comes into contact with matter, it is annihilated (destroyed) with the release of an amount of energy equivalent to the sum of the mass of the matter and antimatter. Therefore, it is necessary to isolate antimatter from matter so that it can survive long enough to be studied or used.

Anti-hydrogen atom: mirror image of hydrogen atom

Schematic illustration of hydrogen and its mirror partner, anti-hydrogen (Image Courtesy: National Science Foundation)

Creating and then trapping an atom of antimatter, in contrast to individual antiparticles, has been an even greater challenge. This is because most antiparticles have an electric charge and therefore electric and/or magnetic fields can be used to confine them. Anti-atoms are however electrically neutral i.e. they have equal amounts of positive and negative charge. As a result, confining them is much more difficult. They are however characterized by weak magnetic properties which can be used to localize the anti-atoms using specialized configurations of magnetic fields: a so-called magnetic bottle.

Researchers at CERN (the Center for European Nuclear Research) recently accomplished this difficult feat i.e. creating low energy anti-hydrogen atoms and subsequently trapping them, as part of the ALPHA experiment. Thirty-eight anti-hydrogen atoms could be trapped for an average period of two-tenths of a second. The results were published in Nature a few days ago.

These results have potentially far-reaching impact, both in basic sciences and applications. A couple of examples are:

  • The overwhelming asymmetry between the amount of matter and anti-matter in the universe is an open puzzle i.e. there is far more matter than antimatter, the reasons for which are rooted in the origin of the universe. The current advances could provide some insight into this aspect.
  • Anti-atoms and antimatter can be developed to become an enormous energy resource through the controlled annihilation of matter and antimatter, and could dwarf all known sources of energy.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

17 November 2010  |  Posted in Review Criteria  |  2 Comments »

Most research journals employ the conventional approach to peer review. This involves evaluation of an article by one or more among a panel of recognized experts in the field who are nominated by the editorial board of the journal. While this method has worked quite well over the years, alternative strategies have been or are being explored. The basic goal is to determine whether and how improvements can be implemented in the traditional methods of peer review. Some of the new approaches are described below.

Pre-submission peer review
This has been an integral part of the publication process in the form of feedback obtained by the principal author from co-authors or known experts in the field. This process has also been formalized in certain subject areas by setting up customized pre-print repositories like arXiv. Recently, professional pre-submission peer review services have also been introduced which offer researchers the opportunity to improve on the papers prior to submission.

Commentary following publication
Readers are allowed to post their comments or thoughts about the article online along with the paper. This process obviously has to be moderated to weed out unsuitable comments. Publishers like BioMed Central and the British Medical Journal invite post-publication comments.

Online peer review
Among others, the journal Nature has experimented with this system. The procedure worked in parallel with external peer review, with the manuscripts being placed on an open website, where individuals who identified themselves could comment on the paper. All comments were taken into account by the editorial board in reaching a decision regarding publication.

Interactive review and discussions
In this method (adopted by the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics), manuscripts are pre-screened by the editorial board before posting online, where anonymous reviewers, other individuals and also authors can put up their comments and responses during a specified period. Following this, revision of the manuscript based on the comments follows.

Mix of pre- and post-publication review
A combination of pre- and post-publication review has been adopted by PLoS One. The first stage involves evaluation of the article by members of the editorial board. Following publication, readers can post their comments in different forms: annotations, ratings or debates.

A more detailed discussion about the various approaches described above can be found in the in-depth analysis of peer review by Irene Hames. While these methodologies have met with different degrees of success, and have been implemented to varying extents, conventional post-submission (or pre-publication) peer review remains by far the predominant mode employed by most journals.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

15 November 2010  |  Posted in Research and Writing  |  Comment on this post »

Scientific endeavors are, by definition, expected to be characterized by objectivity. It is therefore essential to steer clear of obvious or potential conflict of interest issues. To achieve this goal, it is important to recognize the sources of such conflict and then actively work toward avoiding them. Research and writing that is free from bias or prejudice is more acceptable to both journals and the scientific community.

Sources of conflict of interest

Sources of conflict of interest

A conflict of interest involves a clash between potential or direct personal gains and professional responsibilities. These can involve both individuals and organizations, and can affect everyone related to the academic publication cycle viz. authors, editorial staff and peer reviewers.

There are different types of conflict of interest, the broad categories for which are outlined below. It is essential for authors to carefully scrutinize all aspects of their work to identify and if possible, avoid all such issues.

  • Financial gains
  • This is the type that is most commonly encountered. It is inappropriate to receive research funding or support of any kind from individuals or organizations which may stand to benefit from a specific outcome or interpretation of the research. Further, the author/s or their employers should not be in a position where they have a financial stake in the publication of the work.

  • Professional aspects
  • Since research activities can be competitive in nature, peer reviewers or sometimes even editorial staff may have interests opposite to those of the authors, or may not be able to make an impartial assessment of the research.

  • Personal relationships
  • If any of the people involved in the publication cycle are personally related, then they may have a vested interest in the positive outcome of the research or publication of the article. Other situations can involve personal animosities leading to a negative bias in terms of publication of an article.

  • Prejudices
  • Editors or peer reviewers may have strongly-held opinions or beliefs about certain ideas leading to an intellectual bias or they may have conscious or unintentional preferences about various aspects like race, nationality or gender.

Some journals require authors to declare competing financial interests during the submission process. However, for the other factors mentioned above, it is necessary for all parties involved in the publication cycle to imbibe and inculcate healthy practices in order to minimize or eliminate conflicts of interest.

This post was written by William Stevenson, an English editor with Enago based out of the USA.

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