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Abstract

Writing a good quality scientific article takes experience and skill. I propose 'Ten Tips' that may help to improve the quality of manuscripts for scholarly journals. It is advisable to draft first version of manuscript and revise it repeatedly for consistency and accuracy of the writing. During the drafting and revising the following tips can be considered: 1) focus on design to have proper content, conclusion, points compliant with scope of the target journal, appropriate authors and contributors list, and relevant references from widely visible sources; 2) format the manuscript in accordance with instructions to authors of the target journal; 3) ensure consistency and logical flow of ideas and scientific facts; 4) provide scientific confidence; 5) make your story interesting for your readers; 6) write up short, simple and attractive sentences; 7) bear in mind that properly composed and reflective titles increase chances of attracting more readers; 8) do not forget that well-structured and readable abstracts improve citability of your publications; 9) when revising adhere to the rule of 'First and Last' - open your text with topic paragraph and close it with resolution paragraph; 10) use connecting words linking sentences within a paragraph by repeating relevant keywords.
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Ten Tips for Authors of Scientic Articles
Writing a good quality scientific article takes experience and skill. I propose ‘Ten Tips’ that
may help to improve the quality of manuscripts for scholarly journals. It is advisable to
draft first version of manuscript and revise it repeatedly for consistency and accuracy of
the writing. During the drafting and revising the following tips can be considered: 1) focus
on design to have proper content, conclusion, points compliant with scope of the target
journal, appropriate authors and contributors list, and relevant references from widely
visible sources; 2) format the manuscript in accordance with instructions to authors of the
target journal; 3) ensure consistency and logical flow of ideas and scientific facts; 4)
provide scientific confidence; 5) make your story interesting for your readers; 6) write up
short, simple and attractive sentences; 7) bear in mind that properly composed and
reflective titles increase chances of attracting more readers; 8) do not forget that well-
structured and readable abstracts improve citability of your publications; 9) when revising
adhere to the rule of ‘First and Last’ - open your text with topic paragraph and close it with
resolution paragraph; 10) use connecting words linking sentences within a paragraph by
repeating relevant keywords.
Keywords: Science Communication; Scientific Article; Periodicals as Topic; Publishing;
Ten Tips
Sung-Tae Hong
Department of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine,
Seoul National University College of Medicine,
Journal of Korean Medical Science, Korean Academy
of Medical Sciences, Seoul, Korea
Received: 29 May 2014
Accepted: 10 June 2014
Address for Correspondence:
Sung-Tae Hong, MD
Department of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine,
Seoul National University College of Medicine, 103 Daehak-ro,
Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-799, Korea
Tel: +82.2-740-8343, Fax: +82.2-765-6142
E-mail: hst@snu.ac.kr
http://dx.doi.org/10.3346/jkms.2014.29.8.1035
J Korean Med Sci 2014; 29: 1035-1037
INTRODUCTION
Scientic articles are means for scholarly communication. e
quality writing of articles leads to successful publications of in-
terest to the global readership. Although scientic and evidence
based contents of an article are critical for successful publishing
and attracting citations, articulate writing easily understand-
able for non-expert readers value highly. Once a scientic ex-
periment or an observation are accomplished, authors should
think over how to properly describe their research and express
their ideas in the context of previous publications. Writing sci-
entic articles is a creative intellectual process which requires
professional training in the subject area and accrued writing
skills. e accuracy of expressing ideas and referring to scientif-
ic facts heavily depends of authors’ mentality in their mother
tongue. Writing in English is often an uphill task for non-native
English speakers, who may succeed by working in a competi-
tive academic environment supporting quality writing.
Numerous guidelines and toolkits from learned associations
and experienced researchers are now available for native Eng-
lish and non-English speakers from diverse professional back-
grounds (1-4). All of them are helpful novice and seasoned au-
thors. For example, the International Committee of Medical
Journal Editors (ICMJE) proposed a comprehensive set of rec-
ommendations which aim to standardize the writing by authors,
reviewers, and editors (1). e European Association of Science
Editing (EASE) guidelines guide authors how to prepare their
manuscript in details over language barrier by collecting many
experts’ suggestions (2). The American Medical Association
(AMA) manual describes every practical item boosting the IC-
MJE Recommendation with special references for editors (3).
My own life-long editorial experience and analysis of the guid-
ance from large editorial associations allowed me to develop
‘TenTips’, which may be of help for current and future genera-
tions of scientic authors (4). ese ‘Ten Tips’ are aimed at im-
proving quality of scholarly works and supporting communica-
tion between authors, reviewers, editors, and readers.
TEN TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WRITE SCHOLARLY
ARTICLES
Design of articles
First version of an article should have well-thought-out design
and structure oriented towards scope of the target journal. All
co-authors have to take part at all stages of the writing and be
responsible for each and every bit of the scientic contents and
conclusions. Non-substantive contributions, writing assistance,
reference selection and accurate formatting should be also con-
sidered and acknowledged. Proper designing of the work at the
start may ease drafting and revising at a later stage and avoid
unpleasant conicts between co-authors and those responsible
for the whole process of science communication.
SPECIAL ARTICLE
Editing, Writing & Publishing
Hong S-T
Ten Tips in Writing
1036
http://jkms.org
http://dx.doi.org/10.3346/jkms.2014.29.8.1035
Formatting in compliance with target journal instructions
Careful (re)drafting and formatting is strongly advisable to meet
the requirements of the target journal. e absolute majority of
biomedical journals adhere to the ICMJE recommended for-
mat of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the so-called
Vancouver style. Biomedical authors are strongly advised to fa-
miliarize with the original style and its deviations endorsed by
the target journal. Instructions to authors often provide descrip-
tions of the modied Vancouver style, which have to be consult-
ed before manuscript submission.
Consistency and logical ow of the writing
Consistency of writing, logical ow of ideas and scientic facts
in a manuscript is critical for readability. Consistent tagging of
title, abstract and main text with relevant keywords help read-
ers to easily understand scientic content, to draw conclusions,
and to refer to specic points in future publications. Proper co-
ordination of multi-authored works throughout manuscript pre-
paration, submission and revision is a key to consistent writing.
Scientic condence
All co-authors must be condent of their study design, research
methodology, results, interpretations, and conclusions. Failure
to ensure such condence at the manuscript submission may
result in undesirable ethical investigations, especially when er-
rors, research misconduct and manipulations are surfaced at
the peer review and post-publication. Scientic condence of
all co-authors makes their work solid and easily understand-
able for readers, who may cite it in their own articles.
Each scientic article is a story
Each scientic item should tell readers a story. It starts with an
informative background and ends with a conclusion, contain-
ing a new and citable scientific fact. Validated methodology
and ethical conduct throughout the research and writing guar-
antee the objectivity and evidence base of the story. e story
must be unique and complete. And the authors should take an
effort to make their story attractive for a wider readership by
avoiding the use of terms and passages hardly understandable
for non-experts.
Write short and simple sentences
Scholarly articles differ from novels and other non-scientific
writings. And short and simple sentences are keys to successful
scientific communications. Non-native English-speaking au-
thors often try to impress their readers by using complicated
sentences full of odd and circuitous phrases. eir writings are
too often inuenced by their mother tongue and mentality es-
tablished in non-English environment which makes it dicult
to articulate in a simple and concise manner. Long sentences
are hardly understandable and aect readability of articles. is
is why scientic authors should compose short and simple sen-
tences. e short and simple writing style can be learned by re-
gular reading of scientic articles in traditional and well-edited
multi-disciplinary journals such as Science, Nature, Cell, and
e Lancet.
ose who read titles not always read abstracts
Researchers, seeking relevant sources for their studies, perform
initial searches by retrieving titles of scientic articles from bib-
liographic databases and platforms. Only a small proportion of
those who read titles retrieve abstracts and cite the whole arti-
cle. I suppose that only a small part of primary title readers click
to open its abstract. We can attract more readers by good title.
Short and content-reecting titles, relating to evidence of global
interest, attract attention of most readers, who cite and boost
prole of the articles in citation-tracking databases (5). One more
recent skill is making a search engine-friendly title (6). Since ar-
ticle titles are sorted by online engine rst, online visibility of an
article determines the fate of an article. It is thus advisable to
compose short, attractive, tagged with keywords titles of inter-
est to readers from all over the world. Authors from non-Anglo-
phone and small professional communities may particularly
improve impact of their articles by sharpening title writing skills.
ose who read abstracts not always read full-texts
Science editors currently advocate relevant and accurate refer-
encing, which primarily implies retrieving and careful reading
of full-texts of primary sources (i.e., original articles rather than
reviews) (7, 8). Too often, however, those who read abstracts
never access full-texts and either cite inappropriately or do not
cite relevant sources at all. Proper understanding after reading
an abstract should drive readers to look into the full-text. Avail-
able evidence suggests that roughly 20% of cited articles are read
by citers (9). Apparently, well-structured and informative ab-
stracts may increase citation rates and their correctness.
Relationship between rst and last parts
e structure of well-edited articles is based on logical relation-
ship between initial and nal parts. An article starts with a para-
graph introducing a topic and ends with a concluding paragraph.
Likewise, rst (topical) and last (concluding) sentences of each
paragraph in an article are interrelated and complement each
other (10). Intermediate paragraphs (sentences) connect neigh-
boring paragraphs (sentences) to build up full story. Keeping in
mind such writing structure helps prepare an article with logi-
cal ow of information.
Use of connecting words
When dierent parts (sentences) of an article are interconnect-
ed by (key)words, readability of the whole article improves sub-
stantially. Authors are thus recommended to pick and properly
Hong S-T
Ten Tips in Writing
http://jkms.org
1037
http://dx.doi.org/10.3346/jkms.2014.29.8.1035
place connecting words, and particularly to provide links be-
tween sentences within a paragraph. Such words make the read-
ing uent and understandable, particularly in extensive discus-
sion parts.
DISCUSSION
e ‘Ten Tips’ presented above may help authors express their
ideas and communicate with readers more eectively. e rst
tip guides authors how to design (structure) contents of their
articles and pick target journal(s). e tip is aimed at easing the
drafting and avoiding conicts between co-authors.
Adhering to technical formatting requirements is essential
for most, but not all journals. Current digital publishing pro-
vides formatting services that automatically convert texts and
references to a style acceptable for a specic journal. e quali-
ty of scientic contents is often a top priority for most journal
editors. Nontheless, since proper formatting is a basic require-
ment of manuscript submission, it is recommended to write
the rst draft following the format of a target journal.
Keeping consistency of writing is especially important at the
current stage of scientic progress, when complicated ideas, com-
plex data and graphics are often tted into one article. Sharpen-
ing skills of consistently expressing ideas and logically linking
words, sentences, and paragraphs is thus becoming increasing-
ly important.
Building up a story and properly linking fragmented parts of
an article is an essential step towards an intellectual product
(11). Easily understandable and readable sentences and para-
graphs are building blocks of such product. e golden rule of
scientic writing is to have short and simple sentences, which
may require intensive and regular reading of the best scientic
pieces.
Relevant citations of articles are valued high at the current
stage of scholarly publishing. Citation chances improve when
authors accurately choose target journals, properly edit titles,
and tag titles, abstracts, and full-texts of their articles with rele-
vant keywords.
At the re-drafting of an article authors have to analyze ow of
information and links between rst and last parts (sentences,
paragraphs). Two or more sentences build a paragraph while
the paragraphs build an article. When a paragraph starts with
topic sentence and ends with concluding sentence, it delivers
its message eectively. Within a paragraph, sentences have to
be connected by repeatedly used keywords. Readers may com-
prehend the main message of an article by focusing on connect-
ing words.
e Ten Tips are originally proposed to improve writing skills
of non-native English speakers (4). The guidance can be also
helpful for authors working in small professional communities
struggling with low visibility and citation rates. In conclusion, I
do hope that the ‘Ten Tips’ will meet the requirements of most
journal editors, who wish to produce reader-friendly scientic
articles.
ACKNOWLDGMENTS
I extend my gratitude to Joan Marsh and Armen Yuri Gaspary-
an (European Association of Science Editors) for their critical
reading and comments at the drafting of this article.
DISCLOSURE
e author has no conicts of interest to disclose.
ORCID
Sung-Tae Hong http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0300-1944
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... Be mindful of the logical interrelationship between the first and final parts, together with the supporting middle parts. 61 This means that the first (topic), middle, and final sentences in paragraphs are logically connected, and that the first, middle, and final paragraphs in an article are logically interrelated 61 (Fig. 2). ...
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Tips to write attractive medical articles
  • S T Hong
Hong ST. Tips to write attractive medical articles. Seoul: Seoul National University Press, 2012.
  • M V Simkin
  • V P Roychowdhury
Simkin MV, Roychowdhury VP. Read before you cite! Complex Systems 2003; 14: 269-74.
Available at http://www.biomedcentral .com/about/editorialpolicies#Citations
BioMed Central. Editorial policies. Available at http://www.biomedcentral.com/about/editorialpolicies#Citations [accessed on 2 May 2014].