Daily Archives: September 5, 2014

Scientific writing: The Anatomy of a Scientific Paper


Regardless of the topic at hand, all scientific reports and papers must follow a specific  format for presenting their information. While there may be variations, each paper must retain the skeleton structure of scientific writing, which is:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgements/Citations


 The title is self-explanatory but still valuable as it explains the purpose of the paper in a concise phrase.

 The abstract is usually the first paragraph in the paper and it details its entirety in 5-6 sentences.  It briefly introduces the problem or initial observation that led to the experiment; the purpose of the experiment; and the hypothesis (educated guess) that was tested for the project. It also briefly explains the procedure protocol, the results, and the conclusions drawn by the researchers.

The abstract often serves as Fork_in_the_Road_-_geograph.org.uk_-_823059 the proverbial fork in the road: it
will either direct you to continue reading the paper or inform you that you’re wasting your time and you should find better, more useful reports.    



The introduction provides more insight into the problem the researchers explored in the project. It briefly explores the scientific history relating to the topic and alludes to other papers and articles that have explored it as well. It also points out to inconsistencies in the scientific literature and questions that remain unanswered about topic. Finally, it concludes with the reasoning behind the experiment, the goals for the experiment, and the hypothesis proposed by the researchers.

As it is usually the lengthiest portion of a science paper, the intro is often considered the most intimidating section for novice readers.  If you struggle to comprehend what the text says in the introduction, read each paragraph separately, pause, reflect what the paragraph is trying to express in a manner you can understand, and continue to the next paragraph. It doesn’t hurt to look into your textbook and read chapters that relate to the topic in the paper as well.

paper 2

Following the introduction comes the procedure (or material and methods), which details the subjects and items used in the experiment, the units of measurement, and the exact protocol used in the project.  This is arguably the second most important aspect of a scientific paper.

The results portion follows, and presents s the findings statistically via charts, graphs, scatter plots or mathematical wording. It is a good idea to pay attention to what the results say. However, it you cannot understand the scientific and/or mathematical jargon embedded in this section, simply proceed to the discussion.


And the discussion; the most important aspect of a good scientific report. Here the author(s) report on whether their project answered the original question and whether the results reject or fail to reject their hypothesis.  It’s here where the results are interpreted in a straightforward manner and what implications may emerge. In addition, the discussion mentions any limitations noted in the experiment (what things could not be controlled, what was not accounted for, etc) and what future endeavors the author(s) want to pursue for follow-up projects.

paper4 What follows acknowledgement comes the reference list: the collection of all literature cited in the paper. These books and articles served as the initial foundation for the entire project. If you liked the paper or simply liked the topic, then it’s recommended that you checkout other articles mentioned in the reference list.

 And that is the basic skeleton of a good scientific paper. If you want to test your skills of analysis, click here. You will be taken to a published article on the effects of creatine on competitive swimmers.   See how well you can understand and decipher the entire report. If you have any questions or request, let know me know. Take care.