The most important information should be in the main text.
To avoid distraction, writers should put additional data in the supplementary material.
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When the discussion is all speculation, it’s no good because it is not rooted in the author’s experience. It is one of the most highly tweeted papers so far.
In the conclusion, include a one- or two-sentence statement on the research you plan to do in the future and on what else needs to be explored. In each paragraph, the first sentence defines the context, the body contains the new idea and the final sentence offers a conclusion.Examples such as this are not uncommon: “Though not inclusive, this paper provides a useful review of the well-known methods of physical oceanography using as examples various research that illustrates the methodological challenges that give rise to successful solutions to the difficulties inherent in oceanographic research.” Why not this instead: “We review methods of oceanographic research with examples that reveal specific challenges and solutions”?And if the prose muddies the science, the writer has not only failed to convey their idea, but they’ve also made the reader work so hard that they have alienated him or her.One of the most important is omitting crucial information from the methods section.It’s easy to do, especially in a complicated study, but missing information can make it difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce the study. It’s also important that the paper’s claims are consistent with collected evidence.Scientific writing should be factual, concise and evidence-based, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be creative — told in a voice that is original — and engaging (Z. Recently, after hearing me speak on this topic, a colleague mentioned that she had just rejected a review paper because she felt the style was too non-scientific.She admitted that she felt she had made the wrong decision and would try to reverse it. Figurative language can also bamboozle a non-native English speaker.I encourage scientists to read outside their field to better appreciate the craft and principles of writing. Writers can be stigmatized by mentors, manuscript reviewers or journal editors if they use their own voice.Beware the curse of ‘zombie nouns’Zoe Doubleday, ecologist, University of Adelaide, Australia; co-author of a paper on embracing creativity and writing accessible prose in scientific publications. Students tell me they are inspired to write, but worry that their adviser won’t be supportive of creativity. We need to take a fresh look at the ‘official style’ — the dry, technical language that hasn’t evolved in decades.And a clear message is even more important when there is a multidisciplinary group of authors, which is increasingly common.I encourage groups to sit together in person and seek consensus — not only in the main message, but also in the selection of data, the visual presentation and the information necessary to transmit a strong message.