How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal

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  • Published: 30 April 2020
  • Volume 36 , pages 909–913, ( 2021 )

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  • Clara Busse   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0178-1000 1 &
  • Ella August   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-5151-1036 1 , 2  

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Communicating research findings is an essential step in the research process. Often, peer-reviewed journals are the forum for such communication, yet many researchers are never taught how to write a publishable scientific paper. In this article, we explain the basic structure of a scientific paper and describe the information that should be included in each section. We also identify common pitfalls for each section and recommend strategies to avoid them. Further, we give advice about target journal selection and authorship. In the online resource 1 , we provide an example of a high-quality scientific paper, with annotations identifying the elements we describe in this article.

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Introduction

Writing a scientific paper is an important component of the research process, yet researchers often receive little formal training in scientific writing. This is especially true in low-resource settings. In this article, we explain why choosing a target journal is important, give advice about authorship, provide a basic structure for writing each section of a scientific paper, and describe common pitfalls and recommendations for each section. In the online resource 1 , we also include an annotated journal article that identifies the key elements and writing approaches that we detail here. Before you begin your research, make sure you have ethical clearance from all relevant ethical review boards.

Select a Target Journal Early in the Writing Process

We recommend that you select a “target journal” early in the writing process; a “target journal” is the journal to which you plan to submit your paper. Each journal has a set of core readers and you should tailor your writing to this readership. For example, if you plan to submit a manuscript about vaping during pregnancy to a pregnancy-focused journal, you will need to explain what vaping is because readers of this journal may not have a background in this topic. However, if you were to submit that same article to a tobacco journal, you would not need to provide as much background information about vaping.

Information about a journal’s core readership can be found on its website, usually in a section called “About this journal” or something similar. For example, the Journal of Cancer Education presents such information on the “Aims and Scope” page of its website, which can be found here: https://www.springer.com/journal/13187/aims-and-scope .

Peer reviewer guidelines from your target journal are an additional resource that can help you tailor your writing to the journal and provide additional advice about crafting an effective article [ 1 ]. These are not always available, but it is worth a quick web search to find out.

Identify Author Roles Early in the Process

Early in the writing process, identify authors, determine the order of authors, and discuss the responsibilities of each author. Standard author responsibilities have been identified by The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) [ 2 ]. To set clear expectations about each team member’s responsibilities and prevent errors in communication, we also suggest outlining more detailed roles, such as who will draft each section of the manuscript, write the abstract, submit the paper electronically, serve as corresponding author, and write the cover letter. It is best to formalize this agreement in writing after discussing it, circulating the document to the author team for approval. We suggest creating a title page on which all authors are listed in the agreed-upon order. It may be necessary to adjust authorship roles and order during the development of the paper. If a new author order is agreed upon, be sure to update the title page in the manuscript draft.

In the case where multiple papers will result from a single study, authors should discuss who will author each paper. Additionally, authors should agree on a deadline for each paper and the lead author should take responsibility for producing an initial draft by this deadline.

Structure of the Introduction Section

The introduction section should be approximately three to five paragraphs in length. Look at examples from your target journal to decide the appropriate length. This section should include the elements shown in Fig.  1 . Begin with a general context, narrowing to the specific focus of the paper. Include five main elements: why your research is important, what is already known about the topic, the “gap” or what is not yet known about the topic, why it is important to learn the new information that your research adds, and the specific research aim(s) that your paper addresses. Your research aim should address the gap you identified. Be sure to add enough background information to enable readers to understand your study. Table 1 provides common introduction section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

figure 1

The main elements of the introduction section of an original research article. Often, the elements overlap

Methods Section

The purpose of the methods section is twofold: to explain how the study was done in enough detail to enable its replication and to provide enough contextual detail to enable readers to understand and interpret the results. In general, the essential elements of a methods section are the following: a description of the setting and participants, the study design and timing, the recruitment and sampling, the data collection process, the dataset, the dependent and independent variables, the covariates, the analytic approach for each research objective, and the ethical approval. The hallmark of an exemplary methods section is the justification of why each method was used. Table 2 provides common methods section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

Results Section

The focus of the results section should be associations, or lack thereof, rather than statistical tests. Two considerations should guide your writing here. First, the results should present answers to each part of the research aim. Second, return to the methods section to ensure that the analysis and variables for each result have been explained.

Begin the results section by describing the number of participants in the final sample and details such as the number who were approached to participate, the proportion who were eligible and who enrolled, and the number of participants who dropped out. The next part of the results should describe the participant characteristics. After that, you may organize your results by the aim or by putting the most exciting results first. Do not forget to report your non-significant associations. These are still findings.

Tables and figures capture the reader’s attention and efficiently communicate your main findings [ 3 ]. Each table and figure should have a clear message and should complement, rather than repeat, the text. Tables and figures should communicate all salient details necessary for a reader to understand the findings without consulting the text. Include information on comparisons and tests, as well as information about the sample and timing of the study in the title, legend, or in a footnote. Note that figures are often more visually interesting than tables, so if it is feasible to make a figure, make a figure. To avoid confusing the reader, either avoid abbreviations in tables and figures, or define them in a footnote. Note that there should not be citations in the results section and you should not interpret results here. Table 3 provides common results section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

Discussion Section

Opposite the introduction section, the discussion should take the form of a right-side-up triangle beginning with interpretation of your results and moving to general implications (Fig.  2 ). This section typically begins with a restatement of the main findings, which can usually be accomplished with a few carefully-crafted sentences.

figure 2

Major elements of the discussion section of an original research article. Often, the elements overlap

Next, interpret the meaning or explain the significance of your results, lifting the reader’s gaze from the study’s specific findings to more general applications. Then, compare these study findings with other research. Are these findings in agreement or disagreement with those from other studies? Does this study impart additional nuance to well-accepted theories? Situate your findings within the broader context of scientific literature, then explain the pathways or mechanisms that might give rise to, or explain, the results.

Journals vary in their approach to strengths and limitations sections: some are embedded paragraphs within the discussion section, while some mandate separate section headings. Keep in mind that every study has strengths and limitations. Candidly reporting yours helps readers to correctly interpret your research findings.

The next element of the discussion is a summary of the potential impacts and applications of the research. Should these results be used to optimally design an intervention? Does the work have implications for clinical protocols or public policy? These considerations will help the reader to further grasp the possible impacts of the presented work.

Finally, the discussion should conclude with specific suggestions for future work. Here, you have an opportunity to illuminate specific gaps in the literature that compel further study. Avoid the phrase “future research is necessary” because the recommendation is too general to be helpful to readers. Instead, provide substantive and specific recommendations for future studies. Table 4 provides common discussion section pitfalls and recommendations for addressing them.

Follow the Journal’s Author Guidelines

After you select a target journal, identify the journal’s author guidelines to guide the formatting of your manuscript and references. Author guidelines will often (but not always) include instructions for titles, cover letters, and other components of a manuscript submission. Read the guidelines carefully. If you do not follow the guidelines, your article will be sent back to you.

Finally, do not submit your paper to more than one journal at a time. Even if this is not explicitly stated in the author guidelines of your target journal, it is considered inappropriate and unprofessional.

Your title should invite readers to continue reading beyond the first page [ 4 , 5 ]. It should be informative and interesting. Consider describing the independent and dependent variables, the population and setting, the study design, the timing, and even the main result in your title. Because the focus of the paper can change as you write and revise, we recommend you wait until you have finished writing your paper before composing the title.

Be sure that the title is useful for potential readers searching for your topic. The keywords you select should complement those in your title to maximize the likelihood that a researcher will find your paper through a database search. Avoid using abbreviations in your title unless they are very well known, such as SNP, because it is more likely that someone will use a complete word rather than an abbreviation as a search term to help readers find your paper.

After you have written a complete draft, use the checklist (Fig. 3 ) below to guide your revisions and editing. Additional resources are available on writing the abstract and citing references [ 5 ]. When you feel that your work is ready, ask a trusted colleague or two to read the work and provide informal feedback. The box below provides a checklist that summarizes the key points offered in this article.

figure 3

Checklist for manuscript quality

Data Availability

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Acknowledgments

Ella August is grateful to the Sustainable Sciences Institute for mentoring her in training researchers on writing and publishing their research.

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Busse, C., August, E. How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal. J Canc Educ 36 , 909–913 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-020-01751-z

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Published : 30 April 2020

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How to Write and Publish a Research Paper in 7 Steps

What comes next after you're done with your research? Publishing the results in a journal of course! We tell you how to present your work in the best way possible.

This post is part of a series, which serves to provide hands-on information and resources for authors and editors.

Things have gotten busy in scholarly publishing: These days, a new article gets published in the 50,000 most important peer-reviewed journals every few seconds, while each one takes on average 40 minutes to read. Hundreds of thousands of papers reach the desks of editors and reviewers worldwide each year and 50% of all submissions end up rejected at some stage.

In a nutshell: there is a lot of competition, and the people who decide upon the fate of your manuscript are short on time and overworked. But there are ways to make their lives a little easier and improve your own chances of getting your work published!

Well, it may seem obvious, but before submitting an academic paper, always make sure that it is an excellent reflection of the research you have done and that you present it in the most professional way possible. Incomplete or poorly presented manuscripts can create a great deal of frustration and annoyance for editors who probably won’t even bother wasting the time of the reviewers!

This post will discuss 7 steps to the successful publication of your research paper:

  • Check whether your research is publication-ready
  • Choose an article type
  • Choose a journal
  • Construct your paper
  • Decide the order of authors
  • Check and double-check
  • Submit your paper

1. Check Whether Your Research Is Publication-Ready

Should you publish your research at all?

If your work holds academic value – of course – a well-written scholarly article could open doors to your research community. However, if you are not yet sure, whether your research is ready for publication, here are some key questions to ask yourself depending on your field of expertise:

  • Have you done or found something new and interesting? Something unique?
  • Is the work directly related to a current hot topic?
  • Have you checked the latest results or research in the field?
  • Have you provided solutions to any difficult problems?
  • Have the findings been verified?
  • Have the appropriate controls been performed if required?
  • Are your findings comprehensive?

If the answers to all relevant questions are “yes”, you need to prepare a good, strong manuscript. Remember, a research paper is only useful if it is clearly understood, reproducible and if it is read and used .

2. Choose An Article Type

The first step is to determine which type of paper is most appropriate for your work and what you want to achieve. The following list contains the most important, usually peer-reviewed article types in the natural sciences:

Full original research papers disseminate completed research findings. On average this type of paper is 8-10 pages long, contains five figures, and 25-30 references. Full original research papers are an important part of the process when developing your career.

Review papers present a critical synthesis of a specific research topic. These papers are usually much longer than original papers and will contain numerous references. More often than not, they will be commissioned by journal editors. Reviews present an excellent way to solidify your research career.

Letters, Rapid or Short Communications are often published for the quick and early communication of significant and original advances. They are much shorter than full articles and usually limited in length by the journal. Journals specifically dedicated to short communications or letters are also published in some fields. In these the authors can present short preliminary findings before developing a full-length paper.

3. Choose a Journal

Are you looking for the right place to publish your paper? Find out here whether a De Gruyter journal might be the right fit.

Submit to journals that you already read, that you have a good feel for. If you do so, you will have a better appreciation of both its culture and the requirements of the editors and reviewers.

Other factors to consider are:

  • The specific subject area
  • The aims and scope of the journal
  • The type of manuscript you have written
  • The significance of your work
  • The reputation of the journal
  • The reputation of the editors within the community
  • The editorial/review and production speeds of the journal
  • The community served by the journal
  • The coverage and distribution
  • The accessibility ( open access vs. closed access)

4. Construct Your Paper

Each element of a paper has its purpose, so you should make these sections easy to index and search.

Don’t forget that requirements can differ highly per publication, so always make sure to apply a journal’s specific instructions – or guide – for authors to your manuscript, even to the first draft (text layout, paper citation, nomenclature, figures and table, etc.) It will save you time, and the editor’s.

Also, even in these days of Internet-based publishing, space is still at a premium, so be as concise as possible. As a good journalist would say: “Never use three words when one will do!”

Let’s look at the typical structure of a full research paper, but bear in mind certain subject disciplines may have their own specific requirements so check the instructions for authors on the journal’s home page.

4.1 The Title

It’s important to use the title to tell the reader what your paper is all about! You want to attract their attention, a bit like a newspaper headline does. Be specific and to the point. Keep it informative and concise, and avoid jargon and abbreviations (unless they are universally recognized like DNA, for example).

4.2 The Abstract

This could be termed as the “advertisement” for your article. Make it interesting and easily understood without the reader having to read the whole article. Be accurate and specific, and keep it as brief and concise as possible. Some journals (particularly in the medical fields) will ask you to structure the abstract in distinct, labeled sections, which makes it even more accessible.

A clear abstract will influence whether or not your work is considered and whether an editor should invest more time on it or send it for review.

4.3 Keywords

Keywords are used by abstracting and indexing services, such as PubMed and Web of Science. They are the labels of your manuscript, which make it “searchable” online by other researchers.

Include words or phrases (usually 4-8) that are closely related to your topic but not “too niche” for anyone to find them. Make sure to only use established abbreviations. Think about what scientific terms and its variations your potential readers are likely to use and search for. You can also do a test run of your selected keywords in one of the common academic search engines. Do similar articles to your own appear? Yes? Then that’s a good sign.

4.4 Introduction

This first part of the main text should introduce the problem, as well as any existing solutions you are aware of and the main limitations. Also, state what you hope to achieve with your research.

Do not confuse the introduction with the results, discussion or conclusion.

4.5 Methods

Every research article should include a detailed Methods section (also referred to as “Materials and Methods”) to provide the reader with enough information to be able to judge whether the study is valid and reproducible.

Include detailed information so that a knowledgeable reader can reproduce the experiment. However, use references and supplementary materials to indicate previously published procedures.

4.6 Results

In this section, you will present the essential or primary results of your study. To display them in a comprehensible way, you should use subheadings as well as illustrations such as figures, graphs, tables and photos, as appropriate.

4.7 Discussion

Here you should tell your readers what the results mean .

Do state how the results relate to the study’s aims and hypotheses and how the findings relate to those of other studies. Explain all possible interpretations of your findings and the study’s limitations.

Do not make “grand statements” that are not supported by the data. Also, do not introduce any new results or terms. Moreover, do not ignore work that conflicts or disagrees with your findings. Instead …

Be brave! Address conflicting study results and convince the reader you are the one who is correct.

4.8 Conclusion

Your conclusion isn’t just a summary of what you’ve already written. It should take your paper one step further and answer any unresolved questions.

Sum up what you have shown in your study and indicate possible applications and extensions. The main question your conclusion should answer is: What do my results mean for the research field and my community?

4.9 Acknowledgments and Ethical Statements

It is extremely important to acknowledge anyone who has helped you with your paper, including researchers who supplied materials or reagents (e.g. vectors or antibodies); and anyone who helped with the writing or English, or offered critical comments about the content.

Learn more about academic integrity in our blog post “Scholarly Publication Ethics: 4 Common Mistakes You Want To Avoid” .

Remember to state why people have been acknowledged and ask their permission . Ensure that you acknowledge sources of funding, including any grant or reference numbers.

Furthermore, if you have worked with animals or humans, you need to include information about the ethical approval of your study and, if applicable, whether informed consent was given. Also, state whether you have any competing interests regarding the study (e.g. because of financial or personal relationships.)

4.10 References

The end is in sight, but don’t relax just yet!

De facto, there are often more mistakes in the references than in any other part of the manuscript. It is also one of the most annoying and time-consuming problems for editors.

Remember to cite the main scientific publications on which your work is based. But do not inflate the manuscript with too many references. Avoid excessive – and especially unnecessary – self-citations. Also, avoid excessive citations of publications from the same institute or region.

5. Decide the Order of Authors

In the sciences, the most common way to order the names of the authors is by relative contribution.

Generally, the first author conducts and/or supervises the data analysis and the proper presentation and interpretation of the results. They put the paper together and usually submit the paper to the journal.

Co-authors make intellectual contributions to the data analysis and contribute to data interpretation. They review each paper draft. All of them must be able to present the paper and its results, as well as to defend the implications and discuss study limitations.

Do not leave out authors who should be included or add “gift authors”, i.e. authors who did not contribute significantly.

6. Check and Double-Check

As a final step before submission, ask colleagues to read your work and be constructively critical .

Make sure that the paper is appropriate for the journal – take a last look at their aims and scope. Check if all of the requirements in the instructions for authors are met.

Ensure that the cited literature is balanced. Are the aims, purpose and significance of the results clear?

Conduct a final check for language, either by a native English speaker or an editing service.

7. Submit Your Paper

When you and your co-authors have double-, triple-, quadruple-checked the manuscript: submit it via e-mail or online submission system. Along with your manuscript, submit a cover letter, which highlights the reasons why your paper would appeal to the journal and which ensures that you have received approval of all authors for submission.

It is up to the editors and the peer-reviewers now to provide you with their (ideally constructive and helpful) comments and feedback. Time to take a breather!

If the paper gets rejected, do not despair – it happens to literally everybody. If the journal suggests major or minor revisions, take the chance to provide a thorough response and make improvements as you see fit. If the paper gets accepted, congrats!

It’s now time to get writing and share your hard work – good luck!

If you are interested, check out this related blog post

how to write publications in research paper

[Title Image by Nick Morrison via Unsplash]

David Sleeman

David Sleeman worked as Senior Journals Manager in the field of Physical Sciences at De Gruyter.

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  • How to write a research paper

Last updated

11 January 2024

Reviewed by

With proper planning, knowledge, and framework, completing a research paper can be a fulfilling and exciting experience. 

Though it might initially sound slightly intimidating, this guide will help you embrace the challenge. 

By documenting your findings, you can inspire others and make a difference in your field. Here's how you can make your research paper unique and comprehensive.

  • What is a research paper?

Research papers allow you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a particular topic. These papers are usually lengthier and more detailed than typical essays, requiring deeper insight into the chosen topic.

To write a research paper, you must first choose a topic that interests you and is relevant to the field of study. Once you’ve selected your topic, gathering as many relevant resources as possible, including books, scholarly articles, credible websites, and other academic materials, is essential. You must then read and analyze these sources, summarizing their key points and identifying gaps in the current research.

You can formulate your ideas and opinions once you thoroughly understand the existing research. To get there might involve conducting original research, gathering data, or analyzing existing data sets. It could also involve presenting an original argument or interpretation of the existing research.

Writing a successful research paper involves presenting your findings clearly and engagingly, which might involve using charts, graphs, or other visual aids to present your data and using concise language to explain your findings. You must also ensure your paper adheres to relevant academic formatting guidelines, including proper citations and references.

Overall, writing a research paper requires a significant amount of time, effort, and attention to detail. However, it is also an enriching experience that allows you to delve deeply into a subject that interests you and contribute to the existing body of knowledge in your chosen field.

  • How long should a research paper be?

Research papers are deep dives into a topic. Therefore, they tend to be longer pieces of work than essays or opinion pieces. 

However, a suitable length depends on the complexity of the topic and your level of expertise. For instance, are you a first-year college student or an experienced professional? 

Also, remember that the best research papers provide valuable information for the benefit of others. Therefore, the quality of information matters most, not necessarily the length. Being concise is valuable.

Following these best practice steps will help keep your process simple and productive:

1. Gaining a deep understanding of any expectations

Before diving into your intended topic or beginning the research phase, take some time to orient yourself. Suppose there’s a specific topic assigned to you. In that case, it’s essential to deeply understand the question and organize your planning and approach in response. Pay attention to the key requirements and ensure you align your writing accordingly. 

This preparation step entails

Deeply understanding the task or assignment

Being clear about the expected format and length

Familiarizing yourself with the citation and referencing requirements 

Understanding any defined limits for your research contribution

Where applicable, speaking to your professor or research supervisor for further clarification

2. Choose your research topic

Select a research topic that aligns with both your interests and available resources. Ideally, focus on a field where you possess significant experience and analytical skills. In crafting your research paper, it's crucial to go beyond summarizing existing data and contribute fresh insights to the chosen area.

Consider narrowing your focus to a specific aspect of the topic. For example, if exploring the link between technology and mental health, delve into how social media use during the pandemic impacts the well-being of college students. Conducting interviews and surveys with students could provide firsthand data and unique perspectives, adding substantial value to the existing knowledge.

When finalizing your topic, adhere to legal and ethical norms in the relevant area (this ensures the integrity of your research, protects participants' rights, upholds intellectual property standards, and ensures transparency and accountability). Following these principles not only maintains the credibility of your work but also builds trust within your academic or professional community.

For instance, in writing about medical research, consider legal and ethical norms, including patient confidentiality laws and informed consent requirements. Similarly, if analyzing user data on social media platforms, be mindful of data privacy regulations, ensuring compliance with laws governing personal information collection and use. Aligning with legal and ethical standards not only avoids potential issues but also underscores the responsible conduct of your research.

3. Gather preliminary research

Once you’ve landed on your topic, it’s time to explore it further. You’ll want to discover more about available resources and existing research relevant to your assignment at this stage. 

This exploratory phase is vital as you may discover issues with your original idea or realize you have insufficient resources to explore the topic effectively. This key bit of groundwork allows you to redirect your research topic in a different, more feasible, or more relevant direction if necessary. 

Spending ample time at this stage ensures you gather everything you need, learn as much as you can about the topic, and discover gaps where the topic has yet to be sufficiently covered, offering an opportunity to research it further. 

4. Define your research question

To produce a well-structured and focused paper, it is imperative to formulate a clear and precise research question that will guide your work. Your research question must be informed by the existing literature and tailored to the scope and objectives of your project. By refining your focus, you can produce a thoughtful and engaging paper that effectively communicates your ideas to your readers.

5. Write a thesis statement

A thesis statement is a one-to-two-sentence summary of your research paper's main argument or direction. It serves as an overall guide to summarize the overall intent of the research paper for you and anyone wanting to know more about the research.

A strong thesis statement is:

Concise and clear: Explain your case in simple sentences (avoid covering multiple ideas). It might help to think of this section as an elevator pitch.

Specific: Ensure that there is no ambiguity in your statement and that your summary covers the points argued in the paper.

Debatable: A thesis statement puts forward a specific argument––it is not merely a statement but a debatable point that can be analyzed and discussed.

Here are three thesis statement examples from different disciplines:

Psychology thesis example: "We're studying adults aged 25-40 to see if taking short breaks for mindfulness can help with stress. Our goal is to find practical ways to manage anxiety better."

Environmental science thesis example: "This research paper looks into how having more city parks might make the air cleaner and keep people healthier. I want to find out if more green spaces means breathing fewer carcinogens in big cities."

UX research thesis example: "This study focuses on improving mobile banking for older adults using ethnographic research, eye-tracking analysis, and interactive prototyping. We investigate the usefulness of eye-tracking analysis with older individuals, aiming to spark debate and offer fresh perspectives on UX design and digital inclusivity for the aging population."

6. Conduct in-depth research

A research paper doesn’t just include research that you’ve uncovered from other papers and studies but your fresh insights, too. You will seek to become an expert on your topic––understanding the nuances in the current leading theories. You will analyze existing research and add your thinking and discoveries.  It's crucial to conduct well-designed research that is rigorous, robust, and based on reliable sources. Suppose a research paper lacks evidence or is biased. In that case, it won't benefit the academic community or the general public. Therefore, examining the topic thoroughly and furthering its understanding through high-quality research is essential. That usually means conducting new research. Depending on the area under investigation, you may conduct surveys, interviews, diary studies, or observational research to uncover new insights or bolster current claims.

7. Determine supporting evidence

Not every piece of research you’ve discovered will be relevant to your research paper. It’s important to categorize the most meaningful evidence to include alongside your discoveries. It's important to include evidence that doesn't support your claims to avoid exclusion bias and ensure a fair research paper.

8. Write a research paper outline

Before diving in and writing the whole paper, start with an outline. It will help you to see if more research is needed, and it will provide a framework by which to write a more compelling paper. Your supervisor may even request an outline to approve before beginning to write the first draft of the full paper. An outline will include your topic, thesis statement, key headings, short summaries of the research, and your arguments.

9. Write your first draft

Once you feel confident about your outline and sources, it’s time to write your first draft. While penning a long piece of content can be intimidating, if you’ve laid the groundwork, you will have a structure to help you move steadily through each section. To keep up motivation and inspiration, it’s often best to keep the pace quick. Stopping for long periods can interrupt your flow and make jumping back in harder than writing when things are fresh in your mind.

10. Cite your sources correctly

It's always a good practice to give credit where it's due, and the same goes for citing any works that have influenced your paper. Building your arguments on credible references adds value and authenticity to your research. In the formatting guidelines section, you’ll find an overview of different citation styles (MLA, CMOS, or APA), which will help you meet any publishing or academic requirements and strengthen your paper's credibility. It is essential to follow the guidelines provided by your school or the publication you are submitting to ensure the accuracy and relevance of your citations.

11. Ensure your work is original

It is crucial to ensure the originality of your paper, as plagiarism can lead to serious consequences. To avoid plagiarism, you should use proper paraphrasing and quoting techniques. Paraphrasing is rewriting a text in your own words while maintaining the original meaning. Quoting involves directly citing the source. Giving credit to the original author or source is essential whenever you borrow their ideas or words. You can also use plagiarism detection tools such as Scribbr or Grammarly to check the originality of your paper. These tools compare your draft writing to a vast database of online sources. If you find any accidental plagiarism, you should correct it immediately by rephrasing or citing the source.

12. Revise, edit, and proofread

One of the essential qualities of excellent writers is their ability to understand the importance of editing and proofreading. Even though it's tempting to call it a day once you've finished your writing, editing your work can significantly improve its quality. It's natural to overlook the weaker areas when you've just finished writing a paper. Therefore, it's best to take a break of a day or two, or even up to a week, to refresh your mind. This way, you can return to your work with a new perspective. After some breathing room, you can spot any inconsistencies, spelling and grammar errors, typos, or missing citations and correct them. 

  • The best research paper format 

The format of your research paper should align with the requirements set forth by your college, school, or target publication. 

There is no one “best” format, per se. Depending on the stated requirements, you may need to include the following elements:

Title page: The title page of a research paper typically includes the title, author's name, and institutional affiliation and may include additional information such as a course name or instructor's name. 

Table of contents: Include a table of contents to make it easy for readers to find specific sections of your paper.

Abstract: The abstract is a summary of the purpose of the paper.

Methods : In this section, describe the research methods used. This may include collecting data, conducting interviews, or doing field research.

Results: Summarize the conclusions you drew from your research in this section.

Discussion: In this section, discuss the implications of your research. Be sure to mention any significant limitations to your approach and suggest areas for further research.

Tables, charts, and illustrations: Use tables, charts, and illustrations to help convey your research findings and make them easier to understand.

Works cited or reference page: Include a works cited or reference page to give credit to the sources that you used to conduct your research.

Bibliography: Provide a list of all the sources you consulted while conducting your research.

Dedication and acknowledgments : Optionally, you may include a dedication and acknowledgments section to thank individuals who helped you with your research.

  • General style and formatting guidelines

Formatting your research paper means you can submit it to your college, journal, or other publications in compliance with their criteria.

Research papers tend to follow the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), or Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) guidelines.

Here’s how each style guide is typically used:

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS):

CMOS is a versatile style guide used for various types of writing. It's known for its flexibility and use in the humanities. CMOS provides guidelines for citations, formatting, and overall writing style. It allows for both footnotes and in-text citations, giving writers options based on their preferences or publication requirements.

American Psychological Association (APA):

APA is common in the social sciences. It’s hailed for its clarity and emphasis on precision. It has specific rules for citing sources, creating references, and formatting papers. APA style uses in-text citations with an accompanying reference list. It's designed to convey information efficiently and is widely used in academic and scientific writing.

Modern Language Association (MLA):

MLA is widely used in the humanities, especially literature and language studies. It emphasizes the author-page format for in-text citations and provides guidelines for creating a "Works Cited" page. MLA is known for its focus on the author's name and the literary works cited. It’s frequently used in disciplines that prioritize literary analysis and critical thinking.

To confirm you're using the latest style guide, check the official website or publisher's site for updates, consult academic resources, and verify the guide's publication date. Online platforms and educational resources may also provide summaries and alerts about any revisions or additions to the style guide.

Citing sources

When working on your research paper, it's important to cite the sources you used properly. Your citation style will guide you through this process. Generally, there are three parts to citing sources in your research paper: 

First, provide a brief citation in the body of your essay. This is also known as a parenthetical or in-text citation. 

Second, include a full citation in the Reference list at the end of your paper. Different types of citations include in-text citations, footnotes, and reference lists. 

In-text citations include the author's surname and the date of the citation. 

Footnotes appear at the bottom of each page of your research paper. They may also be summarized within a reference list at the end of the paper. 

A reference list includes all of the research used within the paper at the end of the document. It should include the author, date, paper title, and publisher listed in the order that aligns with your citation style.

10 research paper writing tips:

Following some best practices is essential to writing a research paper that contributes to your field of study and creates a positive impact.

These tactics will help you structure your argument effectively and ensure your work benefits others:

Clear and precise language:  Ensure your language is unambiguous. Use academic language appropriately, but keep it simple. Also, provide clear takeaways for your audience.

Effective idea separation:  Organize the vast amount of information and sources in your paper with paragraphs and titles. Create easily digestible sections for your readers to navigate through.

Compelling intro:  Craft an engaging introduction that captures your reader's interest. Hook your audience and motivate them to continue reading.

Thorough revision and editing:  Take the time to review and edit your paper comprehensively. Use tools like Grammarly to detect and correct small, overlooked errors.

Thesis precision:  Develop a clear and concise thesis statement that guides your paper. Ensure that your thesis aligns with your research's overall purpose and contribution.

Logical flow of ideas:  Maintain a logical progression throughout the paper. Use transitions effectively to connect different sections and maintain coherence.

Critical evaluation of sources:  Evaluate and critically assess the relevance and reliability of your sources. Ensure that your research is based on credible and up-to-date information.

Thematic consistency:  Maintain a consistent theme throughout the paper. Ensure that all sections contribute cohesively to the overall argument.

Relevant supporting evidence:  Provide concise and relevant evidence to support your arguments. Avoid unnecessary details that may distract from the main points.

Embrace counterarguments:  Acknowledge and address opposing views to strengthen your position. Show that you have considered alternative arguments in your field.

7 research tips 

If you want your paper to not only be well-written but also contribute to the progress of human knowledge, consider these tips to take your paper to the next level:

Selecting the appropriate topic: The topic you select should align with your area of expertise, comply with the requirements of your project, and have sufficient resources for a comprehensive investigation.

Use academic databases: Academic databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and JSTOR offer a wealth of research papers that can help you discover everything you need to know about your chosen topic.

Critically evaluate sources: It is important not to accept research findings at face value. Instead, it is crucial to critically analyze the information to avoid jumping to conclusions or overlooking important details. A well-written research paper requires a critical analysis with thorough reasoning to support claims.

Diversify your sources: Expand your research horizons by exploring a variety of sources beyond the standard databases. Utilize books, conference proceedings, and interviews to gather diverse perspectives and enrich your understanding of the topic.

Take detailed notes: Detailed note-taking is crucial during research and can help you form the outline and body of your paper.

Stay up on trends: Keep abreast of the latest developments in your field by regularly checking for recent publications. Subscribe to newsletters, follow relevant journals, and attend conferences to stay informed about emerging trends and advancements. 

Engage in peer review: Seek feedback from peers or mentors to ensure the rigor and validity of your research. Peer review helps identify potential weaknesses in your methodology and strengthens the overall credibility of your findings.

  • The real-world impact of research papers

Writing a research paper is more than an academic or business exercise. The experience provides an opportunity to explore a subject in-depth, broaden one's understanding, and arrive at meaningful conclusions. With careful planning, dedication, and hard work, writing a research paper can be a fulfilling and enriching experience contributing to advancing knowledge.

How do I publish my research paper? 

Many academics wish to publish their research papers. While challenging, your paper might get traction if it covers new and well-written information. To publish your research paper, find a target publication, thoroughly read their guidelines, format your paper accordingly, and send it to them per their instructions. You may need to include a cover letter, too. After submission, your paper may be peer-reviewed by experts to assess its legitimacy, quality, originality, and methodology. Following review, you will be informed by the publication whether they have accepted or rejected your paper. 

What is a good opening sentence for a research paper? 

Beginning your research paper with a compelling introduction can ensure readers are interested in going further. A relevant quote, a compelling statistic, or a bold argument can start the paper and hook your reader. Remember, though, that the most important aspect of a research paper is the quality of the information––not necessarily your ability to storytell, so ensure anything you write aligns with your goals.

Research paper vs. a research proposal—what’s the difference?

While some may confuse research papers and proposals, they are different documents. 

A research proposal comes before a research paper. It is a detailed document that outlines an intended area of exploration. It includes the research topic, methodology, timeline, sources, and potential conclusions. Research proposals are often required when seeking approval to conduct research. 

A research paper is a summary of research findings. A research paper follows a structured format to present those findings and construct an argument or conclusion.

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Writing for publication, part 1 what makes a paper publishable (6:17).

Let's begin thinking about what makes a paper publishable by looking at a hypothetical paper, "Guppies Love Cheerios." Even with a set of valid, novel, and statistically significant findings, research isn't necessarily publishable. The work also needs to contribute to the human knowledge base in a meaningful way, and it always helps to relate the work in an interesting and compelling storyline.

Part 2 Common Reasons Articles are Rejected (or Accepted) (9:55)

An article can be rejected for eight basic reasons, according to Dr. Peter Thrower, editor-in-chief of Carbon :

  • technical reasons (e.g., plagiarism, or not following the journal's Instructions for Authors).
  • improper content for the journal's readership.
  • incomplete work.
  • procedural or statistical analysis flaws.
  • Unjustified conclusions
  • Incremental or insignificant work
  • Incomprehensibility
  • Marginally interesting to editors or readership

According to Elizabeth Zwaaf of Elsevier , there are also eight basic reasons your work would be accepted for publication, one of which is that your article tells a good story. Part 3 explains what is meant by that.

Part 3 How To Tell A Good "Story" In Your Article (10:00)

The "research story" of a publishable article is true, credible, and interesting. It should have a beginning, middle, and end, where each part leads the reader to keep reading. A conceptual framework for this kind of story looks like an hourglass. The top funnel sets the context of the research and identifies gaps in the knowledge that validates the purpose and questions of the work described in the new publication. With these concepts in mind, what advice could you offer to the author of "Guppies Love Cheerios?"

Part 4 Strategies for Selecting Journals for Submission (11:33)

Begin selecting an appropriate venue for a new article by taking inventory of journals cited by the papers you reference in your work. Instructions to Authors usually include Aim and Scope of the journal. Consider the following as well: the type of article you've written, the target audience, the types of papers each journal publishes, typical time from submission to publication, the "impact factor" of the journal, and publication models and costs to authors. Be wary of "fake journals" that solicit submissions and publish without valid peer review.

Part 5 The Writing Process - Prewriting and Abstract (11:37)

Start writing by following the Instructions for Authors for the journal you've selected. Writing and formatting your paper properly now will save a lot of time later. Another time-saving strategy is to use RefWorks (available free to UNL personnel) or another reference manager to track your resources, format your citations; many of these resources also provide tips on assigning authorship, and writing titles, keywords, abstracts, and cover letters.

Part 6 How Will You Write The Cover Letter? (4:44)

A good way to organize your thoughts—and tell your research story—is as follows:

  • address your general topic to provide your readers context for your work;
  • describe a problem circumscribed by the topic at hand and explain why it's important;
  • present your solution to the problem; and
  • explain the attendant benefits of your findings with respect to the described problem.

This approach is especially helpful in writing a submission letter to the editor of the journal. In addition, be sure to follow the journal's Instructions to Authors to prepare your letter.

Part 7 The Scholarly Publication Process (4:08)

Submitting your manuscript to your chosen journal will be relatively straightforward if you're prepared according to the suggestions in this seminar and the Instructions to Authors. You'll almost certainly submit your materials online. Clicking Submit will set in motion a review process with one of the following results. Your manuscript will be

  • accepted as-is for publication (not likely, but it's possible);
  • accepted, with revisions;
  • rejected, with chance to resubmit; or

What you do now as the author is the subject of the next video.

Part 8 Dealing Effectively With Reviewers' Reports (8:12)

You've heard back from the editor and your reviewers have suggested some revisions. It happens to everyone, so it's best to address the suggestions objectively and respond effectively. This video provides some ways to do that.

Writing a Research Paper for an Academic Journal: A Five-step Recipe for Perfection

The answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a step-by-step recipe. Here we bring to you a recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article.

Updated on March 15, 2022

pen with post-it notes on a laptop

As a young researcher, getting your paper published as a journal article is a huge milestone; but producing it may seem like climbing a mountain compared to, perhaps, the theses, essays, or conference papers you have produced in the past.

You may feel overwhelmed with the thought of carrying innumerable equipment and may feel incapable of completing the task. But, in reality, the answer to writing the perfect research paper is as simple as following a recipe with step-by-step instructions.

In this blog, I aim to bring to you the recipe for effortlessly planning, writing, and publishing your paper as a peer reviewed journal article. I will give you the essential information, key points, and resources to keep in mind before you begin the writing process for your research papers.

Secret ingredient 1: Make notes before you begin the writing process

Because I want you to benefit from this article on a personal level, I am going to give away my secret ingredient for producing a good research paper right at the beginning. The one thing that helps me write literally anything is — cue the drum rolls — making notes.

Yes, making notes is the best way to remember and store all that information, which is definitely going to help you throughout the process of writing your paper. So, please pick up a pen and start making notes for writing your research paper.

Step 1. Choose the right research topic

Although it is important to be passionate and curious about your research article topic, it is not enough. Sometimes the sheer excitement of having an idea may take away your ability to focus on and question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research topic.

On the contrary, the first thing that you should do when you write a journal paper is question the novelty, credibility, and potential impact of your research question.

It is also important to remember that your research, along with the aforementioned points, must be original and relevant: It must benefit and interest the scientific community.

All you have to do is perform a thorough literature search in your research field and have a look at what is currently going on in the field of your topic of interest. This step in academic writing is not as daunting as it may seem and, in fact, is quite beneficial for the following reasons:

  • You can determine what is already known about the research topic and the gaps that exist.
  • You can determine the credibility and novelty of your research question by comparing it with previously published papers.
  • If your research question has already been studied or answered before your first draft, you first save a substantial amount of time by avoiding rejections from journals at a much later stage; and second, you can study and aim to bridge the gaps of previous studies, perhaps, by using a different methodology or a bigger sample size.

So, carefully read as much as you can about what has already been published in your field of research; and when you are doing so, make sure that you make lots of relevant notes as you go along in the process. Remember, your study does not necessarily have to be groundbreaking, but it should definitely extend previous knowledge or refute existing statements on the topic.

Secret ingredient 2: Use a thematic approach while drafting your manuscript

For instance, if you are writing about the association between the level of breast cancer awareness and socioeconomic status, open a new Word or Notes file and create subheadings such as “breast cancer awareness in low- and middle-income countries,” “reasons for lack of awareness,” or “ways to increase awareness.”

Under these subheadings, make notes of the information that you think may be suitable to be included in your paper as you carry out your literature review. Ensure that you make a draft reference list so that you don't miss out on the references.

Step 2: Know your audience

Finding your research topic is not synonymous with communicating it, it is merely a step, albeit an important one; however, there are other crucial steps that follow. One of which is identifying your target audience.

Now that you know what your topic of interest is, you need to ask yourself “Who am I trying to benefit with my research?” A general mistake is assuming that your reader knows everything about your research topic. Drafting a peer reviewed journal article often means that your work may reach a wide and varied audience.

Therefore, it is a good idea to ponder over who you want to reach and why, rather than simply delivering chunks of information, facts, and statistics. Along with considering the above factors, evaluate your reader's level of education, expertise, and scientific field as this may help you design and write your manuscript, tailoring it specifically for your target audience.

Here are a few points that you must consider after you have identified your target audience:

  • Shortlist a few target journals: The aims and scope of the journal usually mention their audience. This may help you know your readers and visualize them as you write your manuscript. This will further help you include just the right amount of background and details.
  • View your manuscript from the reader's perspective: Try to think about what they might already know or what they would like more details on.
  • Include the appropriate amount of jargon: Ensure that your article text is familiar to your target audience and use the correct terminology to make your content more relatable for readers - and journal editors as your paper goes through the peer review process.
  • Keep your readers engaged: Write with an aim to fill a knowledge gap or add purpose and value to your reader's intellect. Your manuscript does not necessarily have to be complex, write with a simple yet profound tone, layer (or sub-divide) simple points and build complexity as you go along, rather than stating dry facts.
  • Be specific: It is easy to get carried away and forget the essence of your study. Make sure that you stick to your topic and be as specific as you can to your research topic and audience.

Secret ingredient 3: Clearly define your key terms and key concepts

Do not assume that your audience will know your research topic as well as you do, provide compelling details where it is due. This can be tricky. Using the example from “Secret ingredient 2,” you may not need to define breast cancer while writing about breast cancer awareness. However, while talking about the benefits of awareness, such as early presentation of the disease, it is important to explain these benefits, for instance, in terms of superior survival rates.

Step 3: Structure your research paper with care

After determining the topic of your research and your target audience, your overflowing ideas and information need to be structured in a format generally accepted by journals.

Most academic journals conventionally accept original research articles in the following format: Abstract, followed by the Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections, also known as the IMRaD, which is a brilliant way of structuring a research paper outline in a simplified and layered format. In brief, these sections comprise the following information:

In closed-access journals, readers have access to the abstract/summary for them to decide if they wish to purchase the research paper. It's an extremely important representative of the entire manuscript.

All information provided in the abstract must be present in the manuscript, it should include a stand-alone summary of the research, the main findings, the abbreviations should be defined separately in this section, and this section should be clear, decluttered, and concise.

Introduction

This section should begin with a background of the study topic, i.e., what is already known, moving on to the knowledge gaps that exist, and finally, end with how the present study aims to fill these gaps, or any hypotheses that the authors may have proposed.

This section describes, with compelling details, the procedures that were followed to answer the research question.

The ultimate factor to consider while producing the methods section is reproducibility; this section should be detailed enough for other researchers to reproduce your study and validate your results. It should include ethical information (ethical board approval, informed consent, etc.) and must be written in the past tense.

This section typically presents the findings of the study, with no explanations or interpretations. Here, the findings are simply stated alongside figures or tables mentioned in the text in the correct sequential order. Because you are describing what you found, this section is also written in the past tense.

Discussion and conclusion

This section begins with a summary of your findings and is meant for you to interpret your results, compare them with previously published papers, and elaborate on whether your findings are comparable or contradictory to previous literature.

This section also contains the strengths and limitations of your study, and the latter can be used to suggest future research. End this section with a conclusion paragraph, briefly summarizing and highlighting the main findings and novelty of your study.

Step 4: Cite credible research sources

Now that you know who and what you are writing for, it's time to begin the writing process for your research paper. Another crucial factor that determines the quality of your manuscript is the detailed information within. The introduction and discussion sections, which make a massive portion of the manuscript, majorly rely on external sources of information that have already been published.

Therefore, it is absolutely indispensable to extract and cite these statements from appropriate, credible, recent, and relevant literature to support your claims. Here are a few pointers to consider while choosing the right sources:

Cite academic journals

These are the best sources to refer to while writing your research paper, because most articles submitted to top journals are rejected, resulting in high-quality articles being filtered-out. In particular, peer reviewed articles are of the highest quality because they undergo a rigorous process of editorial review, along with revisions until they are judged to be satisfactory.

But not just any book, ideally, the credibility of a book can be judged by whether it is published by an academic publisher, is written by multiple authors who are experts in the field of interest, and is carefully reviewed by multiple editors. It can be beneficial to review the background of the author(s) and check their previous publications.

Cite an official online source

Although it may be difficult to judge the trustworthiness of web content, a few factors may help determine its accuracy. These include demographic data obtained from government websites (.gov), educational resources (.edu), websites that cite other pertinent and trustworthy sources, content meant for education and not product promotion, unbiased sources, or sources with backlinks that are up to date. It is best to avoid referring to online sources such as blogs and Wikipedia.

Do not cite the following sources

While citing sources, you should steer clear from encyclopedias, citing review articles instead of directly citing the original work, referring to sources that you have not read, citing research papers solely from one country (be extensively diverse), anything that is not backed up by evidence, and material with considerable grammatical errors.

Although these sources are generally most appropriate and valid, it is your job to critically read and carefully evaluate all sources prior to citing them.

Step 5: Pick the correct journal

Selecting the correct journal is one of the most crucial steps toward getting published, as it not only determines the weightage of your research but also of your career as a researcher. The journals in which you choose to publish your research are part of your portfolio; it directly or indirectly determines many factors, such as funding, professional advancement, and future collaborations.

The best thing you can do for your work is to pick a peer-reviewed journal. Not only will your paper be polished to the highest quality for editors, but you will also be able to address certain gaps that you may have missed out.

Besides, it always helps to have another perspective, and what better than to have it from an experienced peer?

A common mistake that researchers tend to make is leave the task of choosing the target journal after they have written their paper.

Now, I understand that due to certain factors, it can be challenging to decide what journal you want to publish in before you start drafting your paper, therefore, the best time to make this decision is while you are working on writing your manuscript. Having a target journal in mind while writing your paper has a great deal of benefits.

  • As the most basic benefit, you can know beforehand if your study meets the aims and scope of your desired journal. It will ensure you're not wasting valuable time for editors or yourself.
  • While drafting your manuscript, you could keep in mind the requirements of your target journal, such as the word limit for the main article text and abstract, the maximum number of figures or tables that are allowed, or perhaps, the maximum number of references that you may include.
  • Also, if you choose to submit to an open-access journal, you have ample amount of time to figure out the funding.
  • Another major benefit is that, as mentioned in the previous section, the aims and scope of the journal will give you a fair idea on your target audience and will help you draft your manuscript appropriately.

It is definitely easier to know that your target journal requires the text to be within 3,500 words than spending weeks writing a manuscript that is around, say, 5,000 words, and then spending a substantial amount of time decluttering. Now, while not all journals have very specific requirements, it always helps to short-list a few journals, if not concretely choose one to publish your paper in.

AJE also offers journal recommendation services if you need professional help with finding a target journal.

Secret ingredient 4: Follow the journal guidelines

Perfectly written manuscripts may get rejected by the journal on account of not adhering to their formatting requirements. You can find the author guidelines/instructions on the home page of every journal. Ensure that as you write your manuscript, you follow the journal guidelines such as the word limit, British or American English, formatting references, line spacing, line/page numbering, and so on.

Our ultimate aim is to instill confidence in young researchers like you and help you become independent as you write and communicate your research. With the help of these easy steps and secret ingredients, you are now ready to prepare your flavorful manuscript and serve your research to editors and ultimately the journal readers with a side of impact and a dash of success.

Lubaina Koti, Scientific Writer, BS, Biomedical Sciences, Coventry University

Lubaina Koti, BS

Scientific Writer

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  • v.11(2); 2013 Apr

How to write a scientific manuscript for publication

Giancarlo maria liumbruno.

1 Immunohaematology, Transfusion Medicine and Clinical Pathology Units, “San Giovanni Calibita” Fatebenefratelli Hospital, AFAR, Rome, Italy

Claudio Velati

2 Immunohaematology and Transfusion Medicine Department, Ospedale Maggiore Pizzardi, Azienda USL Bologna, Bologna, Italy

Patrizio Pasqualetti

3 Medical Statistics & Information Technology, Fatebenefratelli Association for Research, Isola Tiberina, Rome, Italy

Massimo Franchini

4 Department of Transfusion Medicine and Haematology, Carlo Poma Hospital, Mantua, Italy

Introduction

The origins and development of the scientific and technical press can be traced back to 1665 when the first “modern” scientific papers appeared and were characterized by non standardised form and style 1 . Subsequently, nearly 300 years ago 2 , in an attempt to ensure that articles met the journal’s standards of quality and scientific validity, the peer-reviewed process for scientific manuscripts was born in England and France. Since then, there has been an enormous proliferation of scientific journals and manuscripts so that, at present, the numbers of biomedical papers published annually by over 20,000 journals, at a rate of 5,500 new papers per day, far exceeds 2,000,000 1 , 2 .

Published scientific papers and professional meetings are really essential to disseminate relevant information and research findings. However, most of the abstracts of presentations given at scientific meetings are usually available only in conference proceedings although they have the potential to be subsequently published as articles in peer-reviewed journals.

A recently published Cochrane review showed that only 44.5% of almost 30,000 scientific meeting abstracts were published as articles 3 . No association between full publication and authors’ country of origin was detected. Factors associated with full publication included acceptance vs rejection of abstracts for oral or poster presentations, acceptance for oral presentations rather than poster sessions, “positive” results, using the report authors’ definition of “positive”, randomised trial study design and basic rather than clinical research.

Possible reasons for failed publication include lack of time, research still underway, problems with co-authors and negative results 4 . Undoubtedly, lack of the necessary skills and experience in the process of writing and publishing is another possible contributing factor also in the field of Transfusion Medicine although the specialists in this discipline are currently adopting the principles and research methodologies that support evidence-based medicine 5 , and high-level research is actually being carried out at the same rate as in all medical specialties.

There are three broad groups of manuscripts: original scientific articles, reviews and case reports. Although case reports are part of the evidence hierarchy in evidence-based practice, albeit at a lower level, and case series are incorporated in a significant proportion of health technology assessments 6 , this article will address the multiple steps required in writing original articles and reviews with the aim of providing the reader with the necessary tools to prepare, submit and successfully publish a manuscript.

The anatomy of a paper: from origin to current format

The history of scientific journals dates from 1665, when the French “Journal des sçavans” and the English “Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society” first began systematically publishing research results 7 . From then on, the initial structure of scientific papers evolved gradually from letters (usually by a single author, with a polite style and contemporarily addressing multiple subjects) and experimental reports (essentially descriptive and presenting experiences and effects in chronological order) to a better structured and more fluent form characterised by an embryonic description of methods and interpretation of results. This evolved way of reporting experiments gradually replaced the letter form.

It was not, however, until the second half of the 19 th century that the method description became fully developed and a comprehensive organisation of the manuscripts known as “theory-experiment-discussion” emerged 1 . At the beginning of the last century a gradual decrease of the use of the literary style coincided with a growing standardisation of the editorial rules that paved the way for the formal established Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (IMRAD) structure of scientific papers, which was adopted in the 1980s.

At present, IMRAD is the format encouraged for the text of observational (i.e. retrospective/descriptive) and experimental (i.e. randomised controlled) studies by the “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals” which have become the most important and widely accepted (by over 500 biomedical journals) guide to writing, publishing, and editing in international biomedical publications 8 . The Uniform Requirements are released by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), an evolution of the initial group of Journal Editors who met for the first time in Vancouver in 1978 and subsequently issued a number of editorial policy statements and guidelines for manuscript submission.

According to the ICMJE, “this so-called IMRAD structure is not an arbitrary publication format but rather a direct reflection of the process of scientific discovery” 9 . In addition it facilitates modular reading and locating of specific information, which is normally found in pre-established sections of an article 7 .

“Long articles may need subheadings within some sections (especially Results and Discussion) to clarify their content. Other types of articles, such as case reports, reviews and editorials, probably need to be formatted differently” 9 .

This format does not comprise other important and integral parts of the article, such as the Title Page, Abstract, Acknowledgements, Figures and Tables (comprising their legends) and References 8 .

There are often slight variations from one journal’s format to another but every journal has instructions to authors available on their website and it is crucial that authors download and comply with them.

The latest edition of the Uniform Requirements was updated in April 2010; it is available at the ICMJE website and is an essential guideline for all authors writing a biomedical manuscript 9 .

Consolidated standards of reporting trials

Medical science depends entirely on the transparent reporting of clinical trials 10 .

Unfortunately, several reviews have documented deficiencies in reports of clinical trials 11 – 15 .

In 1996, a group of scientists and editors developed the CONsolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement which is intended to improve the reporting of a randomised, controlled trial (RCT), enabling readers to understand the design of a trial, its conduct, analysis and interpretation and to assess the validity of its results 16 . It emphasises that this can only be achieved through complete transparency from authors.

The CONSORT statement was updated in 2001 and after the 2007 meeting the statement was further revised and published as CONSORT 2010 which is the most up-to-date version and can be freely viewed and downloaded through one of the several link to Journals available at the CONSORT website under the section “CONSORT Statement - Downloads” 17 . The statement facilitates critical appraisal and interpretation of RCT and many leading medical journals and major international editorial groups have endorsed it.

The statement consists of a checklist (25 items) and a flow diagram that authors can use for reporting a RCT. The checklist items pertain to the content of the Title, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion and Other information. The flow diagram is intended to depict the passage of participants through a RCT (enrolment, intervention allocation, follow-up and analysis). It is strongly recommended that the CONSORT Statement be used in conjunction with the CONSORT Explanation and Elaboration Document which is available at the CONSORT website under the above mentioned section 17 .

Another major point to consider is the obligation to register clinical trials 9 .

In September 2004 the ICMJE changed their policy and decided they would consider trials for publication only if they had been registered before the enrolment of the first participant. The ICMJE accepts registration in the international registries listed in Table I .

International trial registries acceptable to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and relevant websites.

Strengthening the reporting of observational studies in epidemiology

The reporting of observational studies frequently lacks details and is not clear enough 18 , 19 . Consequently the quality is poor although many questions in medical research are investigated in observational studies and overwhelming evidence is also extrapolated from them 20 . In fact, observational studies are more suitable for the detection of rare or late adverse effects of treatments, and are more likely to provide an indication of what is achieved in daily medical practice 21 .

To improve the reporting of observational studies (cohort, case-control or cross-sectional studies) a group of methodologists, researchers and editors developed a useful checklist of 22 items: the StrengThening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Statement 21 . The checklist items pertain to the content of the Title, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion and Other information sections of articles. The STROBE checklists can be freely viewed and downloaded at the STROBE website under the section “Available checklists” 22 . They also include a draft checklist for conference abstracts (items to be included when reporting observational studies in a conference abstract) pertaining to the content of the following sections: Title, Authors, Study design, Objective, Methods, Results and Conclusion.

The STROBE Statement provides guidance to authors on how to improve the reporting of observational studies, it facilitates critical appraisal and interpretation of studies and is widely supported by reviewers, a growing number of biomedical journal editors and readers.

The STROBE checklist is best used in conjunction with an explanation and elaboration article which discusses each of the 22 checklist items, gives methodological background, publishes examples of transparent reporting and is freely available at the STROBE Statement website under the above mentioned section through the link with the Journals in which the document has been published (PLoS Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology) 22 .

As review articles comprehensively cover a specific biomedical topic and justify future research directions, they require that the author extensively review and master the literature and then develop some general statements and conclusions with practical implications for patients’ care 23 , 24 . In addition, they should provide an updated reference for those readers interested in broadening their knowledge of critical issues. Review articles are, therefore, important not only for younger physicians early in their career but also for senior academic staff as they represent a tool for intellectual enrichment and enhancement of the standards of research. Writing a review requires knowledge and continuous improvement of qualifications in line with the accumulation of better and updated scientific literature evidence. For this reason, journals often invite experts on a specific topic to write a review article. However, authors can also ask Editors if they would be interested in publishing a review article on a particular, topical, relevant and debated issue.

As reviews are the most accessed among the various types of articles and contribute substantially to the impact factor of journals, obviously they are welcomed and encouraged by many journals and have become an inseparable part of the writing scientific culture.

The three basic types of literature reviews are narrative reviews (which include editorials, commentaries and narrative overviews or non-systematic narrative reviews), qualitative systematic reviews and quantitative systematic reviews (meta-analyses) ( Table II ) 25 .

Summary of the types of literature reviews.

Editorials, typically written by the editor of the journal or an invited guest, may be a narrative review if the author retrieves and summarises information about a particular topic for the reader 25 . Usually, these types of narrative reviews are based upon a short, select and narrowly focused review of only a few papers. However, editorials may be no more than the editor’s comments regarding a current issue of the journal or a current event in health care and do not, therefore, automatically qualify as narrative reviews.

Commentaries

Commentaries may also be written as a narrative review; however, they are typically written with a particular opinion being expressed 25 . Research methodology is not usually presented in these articles which reflect the author’s biased synthesis of other articles. Commentaries are usually shorter than a full-length review article and the author should be an expert in the content area of the commentary. Usually, the purpose of a commentary is to stimulate academic debate between the journal’s readers.

Narrative reviews

Non-systematic narrative reviews are comprehensive narrative syntheses of previously published information 26 . This type of literature review reports the author’s findings in a condensed format that typically summarises the contents of each article. Authors of narrative overviews are often acknowledged experts in the field and have conducted research themselves. Editors sometimes solicit narrative overviews from specific authors in order to bring certain issues to light. Although the bibliographic research methodology is an obligatory section in systematic reviews and meta-analyses, it is also becoming an inseparable part of narrative literature reviews. Providing information on the databases accessed, terms, inclusion and exclusion criteria and time limits adds objectivity to the main messages and conclusions. It is advisable to use only credible databases (at least two or three) which only select high-quality publications that contain the most up-to-date information (see Table III ) 24 . The best way to organise the analysis of the sources in the main text of a narrative biomedical review is to transform information from the retrieved publications into bibliographic cards with a short description of the main results, level of evidence, strengths and limitations of each study and relevance to each section of the manuscript. Furthermore, the readability of a review can be improved by including a few self-explanatory tables, boxes, and figures synthesising essential information and conveying original messages 24 . We also suggest the use of software packages for reference management, which saves time during the multiple revisions.

Main online libraries, catalogues and databases.

In conclusion, a successful narrative review should have the following characteristics: be well-structured, synthesise the available evidence pertaining to the topic, convey a clear message and draw conclusions supported by data analysis.

Qualitative systematic reviews

Qualitative systematic reviews are a type of literature review that employ detailed, rigorous and explicit methods and are, therefore, a more powerful evidence-based source to garner clinical information than narrative reviews, case reports, case series, and poorly conducted cohort studies. A detailed bibliographic research based upon a focused question or purpose is the peculiar characteristic of a systematic review 27 . These reviews are called qualitative because the process by which the individual studies are integrated includes a summary and critique of the findings derived from systematic methods, but does not statistically combine the results of all of the studies reviewed.

Quantitative systematic reviews

A quantitative systematic review or meta-analysis critically evaluates each paper and statistically combines the results of the studies 28 . The authors of a meta-analysis employ all of the rigorous methodology of qualitative systematic reviews and, in addition, gather the original patients’ data from each of the studies under review, pool it all together in a database and produce the appropriate statistics on this larger sample. While this process leads to a more powerful and generalizable conclusion, which is the strength of the meta-analysis, on the other hand it can pool together studies that are very heterogeneous which is the main drawback of a quantitative systematic review. Nevertheless, well-executed quantitative systematic reviews constitute the highest level of evidence for medical decision making 28 .

The recently published Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement aims to help improve reporting, focusing on systematic reviews of RCT. The Statement consists of a checklist of 27 essential items for transparent reporting and a flow diagram for the phases of study selection and is accompanied by the PRISMA Explanation and Elaboration Document, which, among other things, provides examples of good reporting for the various review sections 29 .

A further guidance on the reporting of systematic reviews has been published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organisation that prepares, updates and publishes systematic reviews of the effects of health-care interventions following a standardised format 30 .

Preparing to write a manuscript Background information

The question or hypothesis formulated by the investigator is the common starting point to search the relevant published literature for an answer 31 . Gathering the background information through an extensive literature search relevant to the topic of interest is the subsequent essential step. Peer reviewers are often experts and not citing important articles poses the manuscript at risk of rejection. It is advisable to consult at least two or three credible databases (see Table III ) to identify the crucial relevant articles and to track down “landmark” articles. In addition, avoid using papers published more than 10 years ago and do not rely on just the abstracts but obtain full-text articles. Articles relevant to the research topic and published in the journal in which the paper is to be submitted should be reviewed and cited 32 .

Last but not least, the bibliographical search should also aim at finding recently published articles similar to the one the author intends to submit. In fact, a journal can be less interested in publishing such a manuscript unless the results reflect new or different findings.

Target journal

It can be worth thinking about this issue before starting to write as a proper choice of the journal can affect not only the writing style but also the ease of publication and the prompt dissemination of research. Ideally, the target journal should be the one in which similar work has been published 32 .

Electronic and open-access journals are the latest resources for publishing and data dissemination available on the scientific journal horizon.

It is also worth considering an appropriate level of impact factor or journal quality. The impact factor of a journal is a measure reflecting the average number of citations to recent articles published in science and social science journals. It is determined by the ratio of the number of citations of papers from that journal in the whole of the biomedical literature over a 2-year period. It is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field, with journals with higher impact factors deemed to be more important than those with lower ones.

It is also extremely important to read the instructions to authors section of the selected journal carefully. In fact, although there is a general style for most biomedical journals as agreed by the ICMJE in the Uniform Requirements 9 , individual journals may differ slightly in detail.

It is always best to sort out authorship before writing a manuscript as authorship order can be a source of problems once the paper has been written 23 .

Several guidelines relating to authorship are available and this issue has been extensively addressed in a recently published review article by Elizabeth Wager 33 . Most guidelines on the authorship of scientific articles are focused more on creative and intellectual aspects of research than on routine or technical contributions.

Alhough not universally accepted, the authorship criteria suggested by the ICMJE are the ones most widely promoted by medical journals 9 . According to these criteria, co-authors should: (i) substantially contribute to conception and design of the study, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; (ii) draft the article or revise it critically for important intellectual content; and (iii) approve the final version.

The authors are listed in decreasing order of their contribution and the senior author, or mentor, should be the last but this convention has never been codified 33 .

It is advisable to provide accurate affiliations and contacts as they will be published on PubMed as well as in the journal but it is also important to agree on the corresponding author who should have full access to the study data and through the provided e-mail address will be the link with the scientific community for the future 1 .

Ethical issues

In addition to the authorship discussed above, there are several ethical issues involved in writing a paper. These include fabrication of data, duplicate publication, plagiarism, misuse of statistics, manipulation of images and inadequate or obviously false citations 31 .

A must-read for all those who are involved in any editorial activity are the guidelines released by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) which is a forum for editors and publishers of peer-reviewed journals to discuss all aspects of publication ethics 34 . COPE provides advice to editors and publishers on all aspects of publication ethics and, in particular, how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct.

Writing the manuscript

Several models for the initial draft exist. A useful algorithm for writing a scientific manuscript is the one recently published by O’Connor and Holmquist 35 . According to these authors, the writing should start with making figures and tables, and then proceed with summary statements (the conclusions summarising the major contributions of the manuscript to the scientific community), identification of the audience, materials and methods, results, discussion, references, introduction, title and conclusion. The aim of this algorithm is to give the structural backbone to the manuscript and is designed to overcome writer’s block and to assist scientists who are not native English speakers.

A further and more general strategy to increase productivity during the early phases of manuscript writing is to ignore at the outset all the details that can be approached later such as structure, grammar and spelling.

The sequence of writing should address the following core sections of the paper in the order from first to last: methods, results, discussion and introduction 31 , 36 , 37 .

“Like every well-written story, a scientific manuscript should have a beginning (Introduction), middle (Materials and Methods), and an end (Results). The Discussion (the moral of the story) puts the study in perspective. The Abstract is an opening summary of the story and the Title gives the story a name” 38 . However, as correctly pointed out by Michael McKay, “writing is not necessarily in the temporal order of the final document (i.e. the IMRAD format)” 39 .

The take-home messages are, therefore: (i) a clear understanding of the essential components of each of these sections is critical to the successful composition of a scientific manuscript; (ii) the proper order of writing greatly facilitates the ease of writing; (iii) the approach to writing can be customised by authors on the basis both of the subject they are dealing with and their personal experience; (iv) the CONSORT 16 , 17 , STROBE 21 , 22 or PRISMA 29 statement must be used as a guidance document for the appropriate reporting of the type of study the authors are dealing with 31 , 32 , 38 .

In the following part of this paper the different sections of a manuscript will be dealt with in the order they are presented in the final document.

Title, keywords and abstract

The title is determinant for the indexing process of the article and greatly contributes to the visibility of the paper. It should reflect the essence of the article, its novelty and its relevance to the biomedical field it deals with 24 . It should be clear, brief, specific, not include jargon or non-standard and unexplained abbreviations, reflect the purpose of the study and state the issue(s) addressed rather than the conclusions 38 . Indicative titles are, therefore, better than declarative ones. Obviously, the title and abstract should correlate with each other.

Available evidence suggests that the presence of a colon in the title positively correlates with the number of citations 40 . In other words, the more specific and accurate the description of the content is, the more chance the manuscript has of being cited 38 .

The title of systematic reviews should ideally follow the participants, interventions, comparisons, outcomes, and study design (PICOS) approach, and include the terms “systematic review”, “meta-analysis”, or both 41 .

The keywords enable the database searching of the article and should be provided in compliance with the instructions to authors. A careful choice from the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) controlled vocabulary thesaurus used for indexing articles in PubMed greatly increases the chances the paper is retrieved and cited by other authors 42 .

The abstract is the last section to be written but it is the most important part of a paper because it is usually the first to be read and readers use the information contained in it to decide whether to read the whole article or not. It should be a concise summary of the manuscript and no longer than specified in the instructions to authors. Usually, abstracts do not contain references and abbreviations and acronyms are not always allowed. If required, it has to be structured in a specific way. For example, original articles submitted to Blood Transfusion, require an abstract of no more than 2,000 characters (including spaces), structured as follows: Background, Materials and methods, Results, Discussion 43 .

A good abstract should be easy to understand and broadly appealing, informative but not too detailed. It can start with a sentence or two outlining the work; then the disease and/or system studied must be introduced and what was previously unknown has to be stated in order to provide a brief overview of the current state-of-the art knowledge on the issue. The methods must be summarised without too many details; the major findings must be clearly indicated and followed by a sentence or two showing the major implications of the paper that must be consistent with the study conclusions without overestimating their possible relevance 44 . In the abstract the present tense should be used to refer to facts already established in the field, while the findings from the current study should be dealt with in the past tense.

The aim of the introduction is to introduce the topic to the readers in a straightforward way, avoiding excessive wordiness 42 . For this reason it should be short and focused, comprising approximately three paragraphs in one page 37 .

The first paragraph should mention the questions or issues that outline the background of the study and establish, using the present tense, the context, relevance, or nature of the problem, question, or purpose (what is known) 23 , 37 .

The second paragraph may include the importance of the problem and unclear issues (what is unknown).

The last paragraph should state the rationale, hypothesis, main objective, or purpose thus clearly identifying the hypothesis to be treated and the questions addressed in the manuscript (why the study was done).

One of the most common mistakes is the failure to make a clear statement of purpose. This is because many research projects, especially retrospective clinical studies, do not start at the beginning (with the identification of a specific question, followed by methods and data collection) but begin by collecting data without first identifying a specific question to be addressed that must in any case be established before beginning to write 38 . Data or conclusions from the study should not be presented or anticipated in the introduction section.

Writing the introduction at the end of the process prevents any block and it is easier after the methods, results and discussion have been completed.

Materials and methods

The methods section is one of the most important parts of a scientific manuscript and its aim is to give the reader all the necessary details to replicate the study.

CONSORT 16 , 17 , STROBE 21 , 22 and PRISMA 29 statements provide a guideline relevant to the particular type of study 2 , 42 .

The two essential elements of this section are a clear presentation of the study design and the identification and description of the measurement parameters used to evaluate the purpose of the study.

It is, therefore, necessary to provide a thorough explanation of the research methodology, including the study design, data collection, analysis principles and rationale. Special attention should be paid to the sample selection, including inclusion and exclusion criteria and to any relevant ethical considerations. A description of the randomisation or other group assignment methods used should be included, as should be the pre-specified primary and secondary outcome(s) and other variables.

According to the Uniform Requirements 9 , in the case of experimental/clinical reports involving patients or volunteers, the authors must provide information about institutional, regulatory and ethical Committee authorisation, informed consent from patients and volunteers and the observance of the latest release of the Helsinki Declaration 45 .

When reporting experiments on animals, authors should state which institutional authority granted approval for the animal experiments 9 .

Finally, in addition to describing and identifying all the measurement parameters used, it is also important to describe any unusual statistical methodology applied, how subjects were recruited and compensated and how compliance was measured (if applicable).

The results section consists of the organised presentation of the collected data. All measurements that the authors described in the materials and methods section must be reported in the results section and be presented in the same order as they were in that section 35 . The past tense should be used as results were obtained in the past. Author(s) must ensure that they use proper words when describing the relationship between data or variables. These “data relation words” should be turned into “cause/effect logic and mechanistic words” in the discussion section. A clear example of the use of this appropriate language can be found in the article by O’Connor 35 .

This section should include only data, including negative findings, and not background or methods or results of measurements that were not described in the methods section 2 . The interpretation of presented data must not be included in this section.

Results for primary and secondary outcomes can be reported using tables and figures for additional clarity. The rationale for end-point selection and the reason for the non-collection of information on important non-measured variables must be explained 35 .

Figures and tables should be simple, expand text information rather than repeat it, be consistent with reported data and summarise them 23 . In addition, they should be comprehensible on their own, that is, with only title, footnotes, abbreviations and comments.

References in this section should be limited to methods developed in the manuscript or to similar methods reported in the literature.

Patients’ anonymity is essential unless consent for publication is obtained.

The main objective of the discussion is to explain the meaning of the results.

This section should be structured as if it were a natural flow of ideas and should start with a simple statement of the key findings and whether they are consistent with the study objectives enunciated in the last paragraph of the introduction. The strengths and the limitations of the research and what the study adds to current knowledge should then be addressed 42 .

Through logical arguments, the authors should convert the relations of the variables stated in the results section into mechanistic interpretations of cause and effect using the present tense as these relations do exist at present 35 . In addition, they should describe how the results are consistent or not with similar studies and discuss any confounding factors and their impact.

They should avoid excessive wordiness and other commonly made errors such as 38 : (i) including information unrelated to the stated purpose of the article; (ii) repeating detailed data previously presented in the Results section; (iii) not interpreting and not critically analysing results of other studies reviewed and cited but rather just repeating their findings; (iv) presenting new data or new details about techniques and enrolment criteria, and (v) overstating the interpretation of the results.

Another common mistake is to forget to criticise the research described in the manuscript by highlighting the limitations of the study. The value of a scientific article is enhanced not only by showing the strengths but also the weak points of the evidence reported in the paper.

The conclusion is a separate, last paragraph that should present a concise and clear “take home” message avoiding repetition of concepts already expressed 32 . The authors should also avoid excessive generalizations of the implications of the study and remember that except for RCT there can only be testable hypotheses and observed associations, rather than rigorous proof of cause and effect 42 . Possible implications for current clinical practice or recommendations should be addressed only if appropriate.

Finally, the areas for possible improvement with future studies should be addressed avoiding ambiguous comments such as “there is a need for further research” and if there is a real need for further studies on the topic it is strongly advisable to be specific about the type of research suggested.

Acknowledgements

All contributors who do not meet the criteria for authorship should be listed in an Acknowledgements section 9 . The authors should, therefore, add a statement on the type of assistance, if any, received from the sponsor or the sponsor’s representative and include the names of any person who provided technical help, writing assistance, editorial support or any type of participation in writing the manuscript.

In addition, “when submitting a manuscript authored by a group, the corresponding author should clearly indicate the preferred citation and identify all individual authors as well as the group name. Journals generally list other members of the group in the Acknowledgments. The NLM indexes the group name and the names of individuals the group has identified as being directly responsible for the manuscript; it also lists the names of collaborators if they are listed in Acknowledgments” 9 .

The first suggestion is to follow the journal’s policies and formatting instructions, including those for books and web-based references. Other general considerations related to references, including the following ones, can be found in the Uniform Requirements 9 .

References to review articles are an efficient way to guide readers to a body of literature but they do not always reflect original work accurately. Papers accepted but not yet published should be designated as “in press” or “forthcoming” and information from manuscripts submitted but not accepted should be cited in the text as “unpublished observations”.

Avoid using abstracts as references and citing a “personal communication” unless it provides essential information not available from a public source. In this case the name of the person and date of communication should be cited in parentheses in the text. Do not include manuscripts “in submission”

In addition it is important to remember that “authors are responsible for checking that none of the references cite retracted articles except in the context of referring to the retraction. Authors can identify retracted articles in MEDLINE by using the following search term, where pt in square brackets stands for publication type: Retracted publication [pt] in PubMed” 9 . Last but not least, remember that if a reviewer does not have access to any references he or she can ask the author for a full (pdf) copy of the relevant works.

Tips for successful revision of a manuscript

Most papers are accepted after some degree of revision. In some cases, a manuscript may be rejected after internal and editorial review only.

The process of revising a manuscript and successfully responding to the comments of reviewers and Editor can be challenging. Little has been published addressing the issue of effectively revising a manuscript according to the (minor or major) comments of reviewers. This topic was recently extensively and pragmatically covered by James M. Provenzale 46 . The ten principles for revising a manuscript suggested by the author are reported in Table IV .

Ten principles for revising a manuscript suggested by James M. Provenzale 46 .

Many manuscripts are not published simply because the authors have not followed the few simple rules needed to write a good article. We hope that this paper provides the reader with the basic steps to build a draft manuscript and an outline of the process needed for publishing a manuscript. However, in Table V we summarise the ten principles we strongly recommend to comply with in order to improve the likelihood of publication of a scientific manuscript 47 .

Ten principles to improve the likelihood of publication of a scientific manuscript, suggested by James M. Provenzale 47 .

The Authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Home » Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

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Research Paper

Research Paper

Definition:

Research Paper is a written document that presents the author’s original research, analysis, and interpretation of a specific topic or issue.

It is typically based on Empirical Evidence, and may involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or a combination of both. The purpose of a research paper is to contribute new knowledge or insights to a particular field of study, and to demonstrate the author’s understanding of the existing literature and theories related to the topic.

Structure of Research Paper

The structure of a research paper typically follows a standard format, consisting of several sections that convey specific information about the research study. The following is a detailed explanation of the structure of a research paper:

The title page contains the title of the paper, the name(s) of the author(s), and the affiliation(s) of the author(s). It also includes the date of submission and possibly, the name of the journal or conference where the paper is to be published.

The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper, typically ranging from 100 to 250 words. It should include the research question, the methods used, the key findings, and the implications of the results. The abstract should be written in a concise and clear manner to allow readers to quickly grasp the essence of the research.

Introduction

The introduction section of a research paper provides background information about the research problem, the research question, and the research objectives. It also outlines the significance of the research, the research gap that it aims to fill, and the approach taken to address the research question. Finally, the introduction section ends with a clear statement of the research hypothesis or research question.

Literature Review

The literature review section of a research paper provides an overview of the existing literature on the topic of study. It includes a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature, highlighting the key concepts, themes, and debates. The literature review should also demonstrate the research gap and how the current study seeks to address it.

The methods section of a research paper describes the research design, the sample selection, the data collection and analysis procedures, and the statistical methods used to analyze the data. This section should provide sufficient detail for other researchers to replicate the study.

The results section presents the findings of the research, using tables, graphs, and figures to illustrate the data. The findings should be presented in a clear and concise manner, with reference to the research question and hypothesis.

The discussion section of a research paper interprets the findings and discusses their implications for the research question, the literature review, and the field of study. It should also address the limitations of the study and suggest future research directions.

The conclusion section summarizes the main findings of the study, restates the research question and hypothesis, and provides a final reflection on the significance of the research.

The references section provides a list of all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style such as APA, MLA or Chicago.

How to Write Research Paper

You can write Research Paper by the following guide:

  • Choose a Topic: The first step is to select a topic that interests you and is relevant to your field of study. Brainstorm ideas and narrow down to a research question that is specific and researchable.
  • Conduct a Literature Review: The literature review helps you identify the gap in the existing research and provides a basis for your research question. It also helps you to develop a theoretical framework and research hypothesis.
  • Develop a Thesis Statement : The thesis statement is the main argument of your research paper. It should be clear, concise and specific to your research question.
  • Plan your Research: Develop a research plan that outlines the methods, data sources, and data analysis procedures. This will help you to collect and analyze data effectively.
  • Collect and Analyze Data: Collect data using various methods such as surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments. Analyze data using statistical tools or other qualitative methods.
  • Organize your Paper : Organize your paper into sections such as Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. Ensure that each section is coherent and follows a logical flow.
  • Write your Paper : Start by writing the introduction, followed by the literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and follows the required formatting and citation styles.
  • Edit and Proofread your Paper: Review your paper for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that it is well-structured and easy to read. Ask someone else to review your paper to get feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • Cite your Sources: Ensure that you properly cite all sources used in your research paper. This is essential for giving credit to the original authors and avoiding plagiarism.

Research Paper Example

Note : The below example research paper is for illustrative purposes only and is not an actual research paper. Actual research papers may have different structures, contents, and formats depending on the field of study, research question, data collection and analysis methods, and other factors. Students should always consult with their professors or supervisors for specific guidelines and expectations for their research papers.

Research Paper Example sample for Students:

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health among Young Adults

Abstract: This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults. A literature review was conducted to examine the existing research on the topic. A survey was then administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Introduction: Social media has become an integral part of modern life, particularly among young adults. While social media has many benefits, including increased communication and social connectivity, it has also been associated with negative outcomes, such as addiction, cyberbullying, and mental health problems. This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults.

Literature Review: The literature review highlights the existing research on the impact of social media use on mental health. The review shows that social media use is associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems. The review also identifies the factors that contribute to the negative impact of social media, including social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Methods : A survey was administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The survey included questions on social media use, mental health status (measured using the DASS-21), and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression analysis.

Results : The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Discussion : The study’s findings suggest that social media use has a negative impact on the mental health of young adults. The study highlights the need for interventions that address the factors contributing to the negative impact of social media, such as social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Conclusion : In conclusion, social media use has a significant impact on the mental health of young adults. The study’s findings underscore the need for interventions that promote healthy social media use and address the negative outcomes associated with social media use. Future research can explore the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health. Additionally, longitudinal studies can investigate the long-term effects of social media use on mental health.

Limitations : The study has some limitations, including the use of self-report measures and a cross-sectional design. The use of self-report measures may result in biased responses, and a cross-sectional design limits the ability to establish causality.

Implications: The study’s findings have implications for mental health professionals, educators, and policymakers. Mental health professionals can use the findings to develop interventions that address the negative impact of social media use on mental health. Educators can incorporate social media literacy into their curriculum to promote healthy social media use among young adults. Policymakers can use the findings to develop policies that protect young adults from the negative outcomes associated with social media use.

References :

  • Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2019). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 15, 100918.
  • Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., Barrett, E. L., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., … & James, A. E. (2017). Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among US young adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 1-9.
  • Van der Meer, T. G., & Verhoeven, J. W. (2017). Social media and its impact on academic performance of students. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 16, 383-398.

Appendix : The survey used in this study is provided below.

Social Media and Mental Health Survey

  • How often do you use social media per day?
  • Less than 30 minutes
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • 1 to 2 hours
  • 2 to 4 hours
  • More than 4 hours
  • Which social media platforms do you use?
  • Others (Please specify)
  • How often do you experience the following on social media?
  • Social comparison (comparing yourself to others)
  • Cyberbullying
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
  • Have you ever experienced any of the following mental health problems in the past month?
  • Do you think social media use has a positive or negative impact on your mental health?
  • Very positive
  • Somewhat positive
  • Somewhat negative
  • Very negative
  • In your opinion, which factors contribute to the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Social comparison
  • In your opinion, what interventions could be effective in reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Education on healthy social media use
  • Counseling for mental health problems caused by social media
  • Social media detox programs
  • Regulation of social media use

Thank you for your participation!

Applications of Research Paper

Research papers have several applications in various fields, including:

  • Advancing knowledge: Research papers contribute to the advancement of knowledge by generating new insights, theories, and findings that can inform future research and practice. They help to answer important questions, clarify existing knowledge, and identify areas that require further investigation.
  • Informing policy: Research papers can inform policy decisions by providing evidence-based recommendations for policymakers. They can help to identify gaps in current policies, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and inform the development of new policies and regulations.
  • Improving practice: Research papers can improve practice by providing evidence-based guidance for professionals in various fields, including medicine, education, business, and psychology. They can inform the development of best practices, guidelines, and standards of care that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • Educating students : Research papers are often used as teaching tools in universities and colleges to educate students about research methods, data analysis, and academic writing. They help students to develop critical thinking skills, research skills, and communication skills that are essential for success in many careers.
  • Fostering collaboration: Research papers can foster collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers by providing a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas. They can facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships that can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems.

When to Write Research Paper

Research papers are typically written when a person has completed a research project or when they have conducted a study and have obtained data or findings that they want to share with the academic or professional community. Research papers are usually written in academic settings, such as universities, but they can also be written in professional settings, such as research organizations, government agencies, or private companies.

Here are some common situations where a person might need to write a research paper:

  • For academic purposes: Students in universities and colleges are often required to write research papers as part of their coursework, particularly in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Writing research papers helps students to develop research skills, critical thinking skills, and academic writing skills.
  • For publication: Researchers often write research papers to publish their findings in academic journals or to present their work at academic conferences. Publishing research papers is an important way to disseminate research findings to the academic community and to establish oneself as an expert in a particular field.
  • To inform policy or practice : Researchers may write research papers to inform policy decisions or to improve practice in various fields. Research findings can be used to inform the development of policies, guidelines, and best practices that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • To share new insights or ideas: Researchers may write research papers to share new insights or ideas with the academic or professional community. They may present new theories, propose new research methods, or challenge existing paradigms in their field.

Purpose of Research Paper

The purpose of a research paper is to present the results of a study or investigation in a clear, concise, and structured manner. Research papers are written to communicate new knowledge, ideas, or findings to a specific audience, such as researchers, scholars, practitioners, or policymakers. The primary purposes of a research paper are:

  • To contribute to the body of knowledge : Research papers aim to add new knowledge or insights to a particular field or discipline. They do this by reporting the results of empirical studies, reviewing and synthesizing existing literature, proposing new theories, or providing new perspectives on a topic.
  • To inform or persuade: Research papers are written to inform or persuade the reader about a particular issue, topic, or phenomenon. They present evidence and arguments to support their claims and seek to persuade the reader of the validity of their findings or recommendations.
  • To advance the field: Research papers seek to advance the field or discipline by identifying gaps in knowledge, proposing new research questions or approaches, or challenging existing assumptions or paradigms. They aim to contribute to ongoing debates and discussions within a field and to stimulate further research and inquiry.
  • To demonstrate research skills: Research papers demonstrate the author’s research skills, including their ability to design and conduct a study, collect and analyze data, and interpret and communicate findings. They also demonstrate the author’s ability to critically evaluate existing literature, synthesize information from multiple sources, and write in a clear and structured manner.

Characteristics of Research Paper

Research papers have several characteristics that distinguish them from other forms of academic or professional writing. Here are some common characteristics of research papers:

  • Evidence-based: Research papers are based on empirical evidence, which is collected through rigorous research methods such as experiments, surveys, observations, or interviews. They rely on objective data and facts to support their claims and conclusions.
  • Structured and organized: Research papers have a clear and logical structure, with sections such as introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. They are organized in a way that helps the reader to follow the argument and understand the findings.
  • Formal and objective: Research papers are written in a formal and objective tone, with an emphasis on clarity, precision, and accuracy. They avoid subjective language or personal opinions and instead rely on objective data and analysis to support their arguments.
  • Citations and references: Research papers include citations and references to acknowledge the sources of information and ideas used in the paper. They use a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, to ensure consistency and accuracy.
  • Peer-reviewed: Research papers are often peer-reviewed, which means they are evaluated by other experts in the field before they are published. Peer-review ensures that the research is of high quality, meets ethical standards, and contributes to the advancement of knowledge in the field.
  • Objective and unbiased: Research papers strive to be objective and unbiased in their presentation of the findings. They avoid personal biases or preconceptions and instead rely on the data and analysis to draw conclusions.

Advantages of Research Paper

Research papers have many advantages, both for the individual researcher and for the broader academic and professional community. Here are some advantages of research papers:

  • Contribution to knowledge: Research papers contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field or discipline. They add new information, insights, and perspectives to existing literature and help advance the understanding of a particular phenomenon or issue.
  • Opportunity for intellectual growth: Research papers provide an opportunity for intellectual growth for the researcher. They require critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which can help develop the researcher’s skills and knowledge.
  • Career advancement: Research papers can help advance the researcher’s career by demonstrating their expertise and contributions to the field. They can also lead to new research opportunities, collaborations, and funding.
  • Academic recognition: Research papers can lead to academic recognition in the form of awards, grants, or invitations to speak at conferences or events. They can also contribute to the researcher’s reputation and standing in the field.
  • Impact on policy and practice: Research papers can have a significant impact on policy and practice. They can inform policy decisions, guide practice, and lead to changes in laws, regulations, or procedures.
  • Advancement of society: Research papers can contribute to the advancement of society by addressing important issues, identifying solutions to problems, and promoting social justice and equality.

Limitations of Research Paper

Research papers also have some limitations that should be considered when interpreting their findings or implications. Here are some common limitations of research papers:

  • Limited generalizability: Research findings may not be generalizable to other populations, settings, or contexts. Studies often use specific samples or conditions that may not reflect the broader population or real-world situations.
  • Potential for bias : Research papers may be biased due to factors such as sample selection, measurement errors, or researcher biases. It is important to evaluate the quality of the research design and methods used to ensure that the findings are valid and reliable.
  • Ethical concerns: Research papers may raise ethical concerns, such as the use of vulnerable populations or invasive procedures. Researchers must adhere to ethical guidelines and obtain informed consent from participants to ensure that the research is conducted in a responsible and respectful manner.
  • Limitations of methodology: Research papers may be limited by the methodology used to collect and analyze data. For example, certain research methods may not capture the complexity or nuance of a particular phenomenon, or may not be appropriate for certain research questions.
  • Publication bias: Research papers may be subject to publication bias, where positive or significant findings are more likely to be published than negative or non-significant findings. This can skew the overall findings of a particular area of research.
  • Time and resource constraints: Research papers may be limited by time and resource constraints, which can affect the quality and scope of the research. Researchers may not have access to certain data or resources, or may be unable to conduct long-term studies due to practical limitations.

About the author

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Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer

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How to Write and Publish Your Research in a Journal

Last Updated: February 26, 2024 Fact Checked

Choosing a Journal

Writing the research paper, editing & revising your paper, submitting your paper, navigating the peer review process, research paper help.

This article was co-authored by Matthew Snipp, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Cheyenne Main . C. Matthew Snipp is the Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. He is also the Director for the Institute for Research in the Social Science’s Secure Data Center. He has been a Research Fellow at the U.S. Bureau of the Census and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has published 3 books and over 70 articles and book chapters on demography, economic development, poverty and unemployment. He is also currently serving on the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Population Science Subcommittee. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 695,578 times.

Publishing a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal allows you to network with other scholars, get your name and work into circulation, and further refine your ideas and research. Before submitting your paper, make sure it reflects all the work you’ve done and have several people read over it and make comments. Keep reading to learn how you can choose a journal, prepare your work for publication, submit it, and revise it after you get a response back.

Things You Should Know

  • Create a list of journals you’d like to publish your work in and choose one that best aligns with your topic and your desired audience.
  • Prepare your manuscript using the journal’s requirements and ask at least 2 professors or supervisors to review your paper.
  • Write a cover letter that “sells” your manuscript, says how your research adds to your field and explains why you chose the specific journal you’re submitting to.

Step 1 Create a list of journals you’d like to publish your work in.

  • Ask your professors or supervisors for well-respected journals that they’ve had good experiences publishing with and that they read regularly.
  • Many journals also only accept specific formats, so by choosing a journal before you start, you can write your article to their specifications and increase your chances of being accepted.
  • If you’ve already written a paper you’d like to publish, consider whether your research directly relates to a hot topic or area of research in the journals you’re looking into.

Step 2 Look at each journal’s audience, exposure, policies, and procedures.

  • Review the journal’s peer review policies and submission process to see if you’re comfortable creating or adjusting your work according to their standards.
  • Open-access journals can increase your readership because anyone can access them.

Step 1 Craft an effective introduction with a thesis statement.

  • Scientific research papers: Instead of a “thesis,” you might write a “research objective” instead. This is where you state the purpose of your research.
  • “This paper explores how George Washington’s experiences as a young officer may have shaped his views during difficult circumstances as a commanding officer.”
  • “This paper contends that George Washington’s experiences as a young officer on the 1750s Pennsylvania frontier directly impacted his relationship with his Continental Army troops during the harsh winter at Valley Forge.”

Step 2 Write the literature review and the body of your paper.

  • Scientific research papers: Include a “materials and methods” section with the step-by-step process you followed and the materials you used. [5] X Research source
  • Read other research papers in your field to see how they’re written. Their format, writing style, subject matter, and vocabulary can help guide your own paper. [6] X Research source

Step 3 Write your conclusion that ties back to your thesis or research objective.

  • If you’re writing about George Washington’s experiences as a young officer, you might emphasize how this research changes our perspective of the first president of the U.S.
  • Link this section to your thesis or research objective.
  • If you’re writing a paper about ADHD, you might discuss other applications for your research.

Step 4 Write an abstract that describes what your paper is about.

  • Scientific research papers: You might include your research and/or analytical methods, your main findings or results, and the significance or implications of your research.
  • Try to get as many people as you can to read over your abstract and provide feedback before you submit your paper to a journal.

Step 1 Prepare your manuscript according to the journal’s requirements.

  • They might also provide templates to help you structure your manuscript according to their specific guidelines. [11] X Research source

Step 2 Ask 2 colleagues to review your paper and revise it with their notes.

  • Not all journal reviewers will be experts on your specific topic, so a non-expert “outsider’s perspective” can be valuable.

Step 1 Check your sources for plagiarism and identify 5 to 6 keywords.

  • If you have a paper on the purification of wastewater with fungi, you might use both the words “fungi” and “mushrooms.”
  • Use software like iThenticate, Turnitin, or PlagScan to check for similarities between the submitted article and published material available online. [15] X Research source

Step 2 Write a cover letter explaining why you chose their journal.

  • Header: Address the editor who will be reviewing your manuscript by their name, include the date of submission, and the journal you are submitting to.
  • First paragraph: Include the title of your manuscript, the type of paper it is (like review, research, or case study), and the research question you wanted to answer and why.
  • Second paragraph: Explain what was done in your research, your main findings, and why they are significant to your field.
  • Third paragraph: Explain why the journal’s readers would be interested in your work and why your results are important to your field.
  • Conclusion: State the author(s) and any journal requirements that your work complies with (like ethical standards”).
  • “We confirm that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration by another journal.”
  • “All authors have approved the manuscript and agree with its submission to [insert the name of the target journal].”

Step 3 Submit your article according to the journal’s submission guidelines.

  • Submit your article to only one journal at a time.
  • When submitting online, use your university email account. This connects you with a scholarly institution, which can add credibility to your work.

Step 1 Try not to panic when you get the journal’s initial response.

  • Accept: Only minor adjustments are needed, based on the provided feedback by the reviewers. A first submission will rarely be accepted without any changes needed.
  • Revise and Resubmit: Changes are needed before publication can be considered, but the journal is still very interested in your work.
  • Reject and Resubmit: Extensive revisions are needed. Your work may not be acceptable for this journal, but they might also accept it if significant changes are made.
  • Reject: The paper isn’t and won’t be suitable for this publication, but that doesn’t mean it might not work for another journal.

Step 2 Revise your paper based on the reviewers’ feedback.

  • Try organizing the reviewer comments by how easy it is to address them. That way, you can break your revisions down into more manageable parts.
  • If you disagree with a comment made by a reviewer, try to provide an evidence-based explanation when you resubmit your paper.

Step 3 Resubmit to the same journal or choose another from your list.

  • If you’re resubmitting your paper to the same journal, include a point-by-point response paper that talks about how you addressed all of the reviewers’ comments in your revision. [22] X Research source
  • If you’re not sure which journal to submit to next, you might be able to ask the journal editor which publications they recommend.

how to write publications in research paper

Expert Q&A

You might also like.

Develop a Questionnaire for Research

  • If reviewers suspect that your submitted manuscript plagiarizes another work, they may refer to a Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) flowchart to see how to move forward. [23] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write publications in research paper

  • ↑ https://www.wiley.com/en-us/network/publishing/research-publishing/choosing-a-journal/6-steps-to-choosing-the-right-journal-for-your-research-infographic
  • ↑ https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13187-020-01751-z
  • ↑ https://libguides.unomaha.edu/c.php?g=100510&p=651627
  • ↑ http://www.canberra.edu.au/library/start-your-research/research_help/publishing-research
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/conclusions
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/writing-an-abstract-for-your-research-paper/
  • ↑ https://www.springer.com/gp/authors-editors/book-authors-editors/your-publication-journey/manuscript-preparation
  • ↑ https://apus.libanswers.com/writing/faq/2391
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/library/keyword/search-strategy
  • ↑ https://ifis.libguides.com/journal-publishing-guide/submitting-your-paper
  • ↑ https://www.springer.com/kr/authors-editors/authorandreviewertutorials/submitting-to-a-journal-and-peer-review/cover-letters/10285574
  • ↑ http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep02/publish.aspx
  • ↑ Matthew Snipp, PhD. Research Fellow, U.S. Bureau of the Census. Expert Interview. 26 March 2020.

About This Article

Matthew Snipp, PhD

To publish a research paper, ask a colleague or professor to review your paper and give you feedback. Once you've revised your work, familiarize yourself with different academic journals so that you can choose the publication that best suits your paper. Make sure to look at the "Author's Guide" so you can format your paper according to the guidelines for that publication. Then, submit your paper and don't get discouraged if it is not accepted right away. You may need to revise your paper and try again. To learn about the different responses you might get from journals, see our reviewer's explanation below. Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example

Published on August 7, 2022 by Courtney Gahan . Revised on August 15, 2023.

How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process , providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized.

A quality outline can make writing your research paper more efficient by helping to:

  • Organize your thoughts
  • Understand the flow of information and how ideas are related
  • Ensure nothing is forgotten

A research paper outline can also give your teacher an early idea of the final product.

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Table of contents

Research paper outline example, how to write a research paper outline, formatting your research paper outline, language in research paper outlines.

  • Definition of measles
  • Rise in cases in recent years in places the disease was previously eliminated or had very low rates of infection
  • Figures: Number of cases per year on average, number in recent years. Relate to immunization
  • Symptoms and timeframes of disease
  • Risk of fatality, including statistics
  • How measles is spread
  • Immunization procedures in different regions
  • Different regions, focusing on the arguments from those against immunization
  • Immunization figures in affected regions
  • High number of cases in non-immunizing regions
  • Illnesses that can result from measles virus
  • Fatal cases of other illnesses after patient contracted measles
  • Summary of arguments of different groups
  • Summary of figures and relationship with recent immunization debate
  • Which side of the argument appears to be correct?

Scribbr Citation Checker New

The AI-powered Citation Checker helps you avoid common mistakes such as:

  • Missing commas and periods
  • Incorrect usage of “et al.”
  • Ampersands (&) in narrative citations
  • Missing reference entries

how to write publications in research paper

Follow these steps to start your research paper outline:

  • Decide on the subject of the paper
  • Write down all the ideas you want to include or discuss
  • Organize related ideas into sub-groups
  • Arrange your ideas into a hierarchy: What should the reader learn first? What is most important? Which idea will help end your paper most effectively?
  • Create headings and subheadings that are effective
  • Format the outline in either alphanumeric, full-sentence or decimal format

There are three different kinds of research paper outline: alphanumeric, full-sentence and decimal outlines. The differences relate to formatting and style of writing.

  • Alphanumeric
  • Full-sentence

An alphanumeric outline is most commonly used. It uses Roman numerals, capitalized letters, arabic numerals, lowercase letters to organize the flow of information. Text is written with short notes rather than full sentences.

  • Sub-point of sub-point 1

Essentially the same as the alphanumeric outline, but with the text written in full sentences rather than short points.

  • Additional sub-point to conclude discussion of point of evidence introduced in point A

A decimal outline is similar in format to the alphanumeric outline, but with a different numbering system: 1, 1.1, 1.2, etc. Text is written as short notes rather than full sentences.

  • 1.1.1 Sub-point of first point
  • 1.1.2 Sub-point of first point
  • 1.2 Second point

To write an effective research paper outline, it is important to pay attention to language. This is especially important if it is one you will show to your teacher or be assessed on.

There are four main considerations: parallelism, coordination, subordination and division.

Parallelism: Be consistent with grammatical form

Parallel structure or parallelism is the repetition of a particular grammatical form within a sentence, or in this case, between points and sub-points. This simply means that if the first point is a verb , the sub-point should also be a verb.

Example of parallelism:

  • Include different regions, focusing on the different arguments from those against immunization

Coordination: Be aware of each point’s weight

Your chosen subheadings should hold the same significance as each other, as should all first sub-points, secondary sub-points, and so on.

Example of coordination:

  • Include immunization figures in affected regions
  • Illnesses that can result from the measles virus

Subordination: Work from general to specific

Subordination refers to the separation of general points from specific. Your main headings should be quite general, and each level of sub-point should become more specific.

Example of subordination:

Division: break information into sub-points.

Your headings should be divided into two or more subsections. There is no limit to how many subsections you can include under each heading, but keep in mind that the information will be structured into a paragraph during the writing stage, so you should not go overboard with the number of sub-points.

Ready to start writing or looking for guidance on a different step in the process? Read our step-by-step guide on how to write a research paper .

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Gahan, C. (2023, August 15). How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline | Example. Scribbr. Retrieved March 28, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-paper/outline/

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  • Step 1: Sections in a Research Paper
  • Step 2: Order for Preparation
  • Step 3: Conceptualizing an Attractive Title
  • Step 4: Effectively Reviewing Literature
  • Step 5: Drafting the Abstract
  • Step 6: Drafting Introduction
  • Step 7: Drafting Materials and Methods
  • Step 8: Drafting Results
  • Step 9: Drafting Discussion
  • Step 10: Drafting the Conclusion
  • Step 11: Citing and Referencing
  • Step 12: Preparing Figures
  • Step 13: Preparing Tables
  • Step 14: Assigning Authorship
  • Step 15: Acknowledgements Section
  • Step 16: Checking the Author Guidelines
  • Step 17: Proofreading and Editing
  • Step 18: Pre-submission Peer-Review
  • Step 1: How to Structure a Research Paper?
  • Step 3: How to Conceptualize an Attractive Research Paper Title?
  • Step 4: How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review
  • Step 5: How to Write a Good Research Paper Abstract
  • Step 6: How to Write a Compelling Introduction for a Research Paper
  • Step 7: How to Write the Materials and Methods Section of a Research Paper
  • Step 8: How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper
  • Step 9: How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper
  • Step 10: How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper
  • Step 15: How to Write an Acknowledgment Section for a Research Paper

How to Write a Research Paper – A to Z of Academic Writing

Part of a scientist’s job is to publish research. In fact, some would argue that your experiment is only complete once you have published the results. This makes it available to the scientific community for authentication and the advancement of science. In addition, publishing is essential for a researcher’s career as it validates the research and opens doors for funding and employment. In this section, we give you a step-by-step guide to help you write an effective research paper. So, remember to set aside half an hour each day to write. This habit will make your writing manageable and keep you focused.

There are different types of research papers. The most common ones include:

Original research paper, rapid communication or letter, review article, meeting abstract, paper, and proceedings.

how to write publications in research paper

This is a full report written by researchers covering the analysis of their experimental study from start to finish. It is the most common type research manuscript that is published in academic journals. Original articles are expected to follow the IMRAD format.

These are usually written to publish results urgently in rapidly changing or highly competitive fields. They will be brief and may not be separated by headings.It consists of original preliminary results that are likely to have a significant impact in the respective field.

This is a comprehensive summary of a certain topic. It is usually requested by a journal editor and written by a leader in the field. It includes current assessment, latest findings, and future directions of the field. It is a massive undertaking in which approximately 100 research articles are cited. Uninvited reviews are published too, but it is best to send a pre-submission enquiry letter to the journal editor first.

This is mostly used in the medical field to report interesting occurrences such as previously unknown or emerging pathologies. It could be a report of a single case or multiple cases and will include a short introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

This is a brief report of research presented at an organized meeting such as a conference. These range from an abstract to a full report of the research. It needs to be focused and clear in explaining your topic and the main points of the study that will be shared with the audience.

  • STEP 1: How to Structure a Research Paper?
  • STEP 2: Order for Preparation of the Manuscript
  • STEP 3: How to Conceptualize an Attractive Research Paper Title?
  • STEP 4: How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review
  • STEP 5: How to Write a Good Research Paper Abstract
  • STEP 6: How to Write a Compelling Introduction for a Research Paper
  • STEP 7: How to Write the Materials and Methods Section of a Research Paper
  • STEP 8: How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper
  • STEP 9: How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper
  • STEP 10: How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper
  • STEP 11: Effectively Citing and Referencing Your Sources
  • STEP 12: Preparing Figures
  • STEP 13: Preparing Tables
  • STEP 14: Assigning Authorship
  • STEP 15: How to Write an Acknowledgment Section for a Research Paper
  • STEP 16: Checking the Author Guidelines Before Preparing the Manuscript
  • STEP 17: Proofreading and Editing Your Manuscript
  • STEP 18: Pre-submission Peer-Review

How to Structure a Research Paper?

Your research paper should tell a story of how you began your research, what you found, and how it advances your research field. It is important to structure your research paper so that editors and readers can easily find information. The widely adopted structure that research papers mostly follow is the IMRaD format . IMRaD stands for Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. Additional requirements from journals include an abstract, keywords, acknowledgements, and references. This format helps scientists to tell their story in an organized manner. Authors often find it easier to write the IMRaD sections in a different order. However, the final paper should be collated in the IMRaD format as follows:

how to write publications in research paper

Case studies follow a slightly different format to the traditional IMRAD format. They include the following extra sections:

  • History and physical examination: Details of the patient’s history. It provides the story of when a patient first sought medical care.
  • Diagnostic focus and assessment : Describe the steps taken that lead to a diagnosis and any test results.
  • Therapeutic focus and assessment: Explain therapies tried and any other recommendations from consultants. Assess the efficacy of the treatments given.
  • Follow-up and outcome: Provide results and state the patient adhered to treatment. Include any side effects.
  • Patient perspective: Describe the patient’s experience.
  • Patient consent: State that informed consent was obtained from the patient.

Order for Preparation of the Manuscript

As mentioned above, most research publications follow the IMRAD format. However, it is often easier to write each section in a different order than that of the final paper.

Authors recommend you organize the data first and then write the sections as follows:

  • Figures and tables: Decide how your data should be presented. You can use graphics, tables or describe it in the text.
  • Methods: It is important that anyone can use your methods to reproduce your experiments.
  • Results: Here you write only what the results of your experiments were. You do not discuss them here.
  • Discussion: This section requires analysis, thought, and a thorough understanding of the literature. You need to discuss your results without repeating the results section.
  • Conclusion: This section can either be under a sub-heading or the last paragraph of the discussion. It should inform the reader how your results advance the field.
  • Introduction: Now that you have thought about your results in the context of the literature, you can write your introduction.
  • Abstract: This is an overview of your paper. Give a concise background of the problem and how you tried to solve it. Next state your main findings.
  • Title: As discussed above, this needs to be concise as well as informative. Ensure that it makes sense.
  • Keywords: These are used for indexing. Keywords need to be specific. Often you are not allowed to use words that appear in the journal name. Use abbreviations with care and only well-established ones.
  • Acknowledgements: This section is to thank anyone involved in the research that does not qualify as an author.
  • References: Check the “Guide for authors” for the formatting style. Be accurate and do not include unnecessary references.

How to Conceptualize an Attractive Research Paper Title?

Your research title is the first impression of your paper. A good research paper title is a brief description of the topic, method, sample, and results of your study. A useful formula you could use is:

how to write publications in research paper

There are different ways to write a research paper title :

Declarative

State the main conclusions. Example: Mixed strains of probiotics improve antibiotic associated diarrhea.

Descriptive

Describe the subject. Example: Effects of mixed strains of probiotics on antibiotic associated diarrhea.

Interrogative

Use a question for the subject. Example: Do mixed strains of probiotics improve antibiotic associated diarrhea?

We recommend the following five top tips to conceptualize an attractive research title:

  • Be descriptive
  • Use a low word count (5-15 words)
  • Check journal guidelines
  • Avoid jargon and symbols

How to Conduct an Effective Literature Review

The process of conducting a literature review can be overwhelming. However, if you start with a clear research question, you can stay focused.

  • Literature search: Search for articles related to your research question. Keep notes of the search terms and keywords you use. A list of databases to search and notes of the ones you have searched will prevent duplicate searches.

- What is their research question?

- Are there potential conflicts of interest such as funders who may want a particular result?

- Are their methods sufficient to test the objectives?

- Can you identify any flaws in the research?

- Do their results make sense, or could there be other reasons for their conclusion?

- Are the authors respected in the field?

- Has the research been cited?

- Introduction: Here you introduce the topic. The introduction describes the problem and identifies gaps in knowledge. It also rationalizes your research.

- Discussion: Here you support and compare your results. Use the literature to put your research in context with the current state of knowledge. Furthermore, show how your research has advanced the field.

How to Write a Good Research Paper Abstract

The importance of research paper abstracts  cannot be emphasized enough.

  • They are used by online databases to index large research works. Therefore, critical keywords must be used.
  • Editors and reviewers read an abstract to decide whether an article is worth considering for publication.
  • Readers use an abstract to decide whether the research is relevant to them.

A good research paper abstract is a concise and appealing synopsis of your research. There are two ways to write an abstract:  structured and unstructured research abstracts . The author guidelines of the journal you are submitting your research to will tell you the format they require.

  • The structured abstract has distinct sections with headings. This style enables a reader to easily find the relevant information under clear headings (objective, methods, results, and conclusion). Think of each section as a question and provide a concise but detailed answer under each heading.
  • The unstructured abstract is a narrative paragraph of your research. It is similar to the structured abstract but does not contain headings. It gives the context, findings, conclusion, and implications of your paper.

How to Write a Compelling Introduction for a Research Paper

The Introduction section of your research paper introduces your research  in the context of the knowledge in the field. First introduce the topic including the problem you are addressing, the importance of solving this problem, and known research and gaps in the knowledge. Then narrow it down to your research questions and hypothesis.

Tips to write an effective introduction for your research paper :

  • Give broad background information about the problem.
  • Write it in a logical manner so that the reader can follow your thought process.
  • Focus on the problem you intend to solve with your research
  • Note any solutions in the literature thus far.
  • Propose your solution to the problem with reasons.

Done with drafting your research paper?

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how to write publications in research paper

How to Write the Materials and Methods Section of a Research Paper

When writing the Materials and Methods section of a research paper, you need to give enough detail in your methods  so that others can reproduce your experiments. However, there is no need to detail established experiments. Readers can find these details in the previously published references you refer to in the methods. Follow these tips to write the Materials and Methods section of your research paper: :

  • Write in the past tense because you are reporting on procedures you carried out.
  • Avoid unnecessary details that disrupts the flow.
  • Materials and equipments should be mentioned throughout the procedure, rather than listed at the beginning of a section.
  • Detail any ethics or consent requirements if your study included humans or animal subjects.
  • Use standard nomenclature and numbers.
  • Ensure you have the correct control experiments.
  • Methods should be listed logically.
  • Detail statistical methods used to analyze your data.

Here is a checklist of things that should be in your Materials and Methods:

  • References of previously published methods.
  • Study settings : If the research involves studying a population, give location and context of the site.
  • Cell lines : Give their source and detail any contamination tests performed.
  • Antibodies : Give details such as catalogue numbers, citations, dilutions used, and batch numbers.
  • Animal models : Species, age, and sex of animals as well as ethical compliance information.
  • Human subjects : Ethics committee requirements and a statement confirming you received informed consent. If relevant, clinical trial registration numbers and selection criteria.
  • Data accession codes for data you deposited in a repository.
  • Software : Where you obtained the programs and their version numbers.
  • Statistics : Criteria for including or excluding samples or subjects, randomisation methods, details of investigator blinding to avoid bias, appropriateness of statistical tests used for your study.
  • Timeframes if relevant.

How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper

Some journals combine the results and discussion section, whereas others have separate headings for each section. If the two sections are combined, you state the results of your research   and discuss them immediately afterwards, before presenting your next set of results.  The challenge is to present your data in a way that is logical and accurate. Set out your results in the same order as you set out your methods.

When writing the Results section of your research paper remember to include:

  • Control group data.
  • Relevant statistical values such as p-values.
  • Visual illustrations of your results such as figures and tables.

Things that do not belong in the results section:

  • Speculation or commentary about the results.
  • References – you are reporting your own data.
  • Do not repeat data in text if it has been presented in a table or graph.

Keep the discussion section separate . Keep explanations, interpretations, limitations, and comparisons to the literature for the discussion.

How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper

The discussion section of your research paper answers several questions such as: did you achieve your objectives? How do your results compare to other studies? Were there any limitations to your research? Start discussing your data specifically and then broaden out to how it furthers your field of interest.

Questions to get you started:

  • How do your results answer your objectives?
  • Why do you think your results are different to published data?
  • Do you think further research would help clarify any issues with your data?

The aim is to tell the reader what your results mean. Structure the discussion section of your research paper  in a logical manner. Start with an introductory paragraph where you set out the context and main aims of the study. Do this without repeating the introduction. Some authors prefer starting with the major findings first to keep the readers interested.

The next paragraph should discuss what you found, how it compares to other studies, any limitations, your opinion, and what they mean for the field.

The concluding paragraph should talk about the major outcomes of the study. Be careful not to write your conclusion here. Merely highlight the main themes emerging from your data.

Tips to write an effective discussion:

  • It is not a literature review. Keep your comments relevant to your results.
  • Interpret your results.
  • Be concise and remove unnecessary words.
  • Do not include results not presented in the result section.
  • Ensure your conclusions are supported by your data.

How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper

While writing the conclusion for your research paper, give a summary of your research with emphasis on your findings. Again, structuring the conclusion section of your research paper  will make it easier to draft this section. Here are some tips when writing the conclusion of your paper:

  • State what you set out to achieve.
  • Tell the reader what your major findings were.
  • How has your study contributed to the field?
  • Mention any limitations.
  • End with recommendations for future research.

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how to write publications in research paper

Effectively Citing and Referencing Your Sources

You need to acknowledge the original work  that you talk about in your write-up. There are two reasons for this. First, cite someone’s idea  to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism is when you use words or ideas of others without acknowledging them and this is a serious offence. Second, readers will be able to source the literature you cited easily.

This is done by citing works  in your text and providing the full reference for this citation in a reference list at the end of your document.

Tips for effective refencing/citations:

  • Keep a detailed list of your references including author(s), publication, year of publication, title, and page numbers.
  • Insert a citation (either a number or author name) in-text as you write.
  • List the full reference in a reference list according to the style required by the publication.
  • Pay attention to details as mistakes will misdirect readers.

Try referencing software tools “cite while you write”. Examples of such referencing software programs include: Mendeley , Endnote , Refworks  and Zotero .

Preparing Figures

Some quick tips about figures:

  • Legends of graphs and tables must be self-explanatory.
  • Use easily distinguishable symbols.
  • Place long tables of data in the supplementary material.
  • Include a scale bar in photographs.

Preparing Tables

Important pointers for tables:

  • Check the author guidelines for table formatting requirements.
  • Tables do not have vertical lines in publications.
  • Legends must be self-explanatory.

Assigning Authorship

To qualify as an author  on a paper, an individual must:

  • Make substantial contributions to all stages of the research.
  • Draft or revise the manuscript.
  • Approve the final version of the article.
  • Be accountable for the accuracy and integrity of the research.

Unethical and unprofessional authorships  have emerged over the years. These include:

  • Gift authorship : An individual is listed as a co-author in lieu of funding or supervision.
  • Ghost authorship : An author is paid to write an article but does not contribute to the article in any other way.
  • Guest authorship : An individual who is given authorship because they are well known and respected in the field, or they are senior members of staff.

These authors pose a threat to research. Readers may override their concerns with an article if it includes a well-respected co-author. This is especially problematic when decisions about medical interventions are concerned.

How to Write an Acknowledgment Section for a Research Paper

Those who do not qualify as authors but have contributed to the research should be given credit in the acknowledgements section of your research paper . These include funders, supervisors, administrative supporters, writing, editing, and proofreading assistance .

The contributions made by these individuals should be stated and sometimes their written permission to be acknowledged is required by editors.

Has your target journal's author guidelines left you confused?

With enago consult you can talk to our experts through live 1-to-1 video calls.

how to write publications in research paper

Points to Note from the Author Instructions Before Preparing the Manuscript

Check the author guidelines for your chosen publication before submission. Publishers mostly have a “House Style” that ensures all their manuscripts are consistent with regards to language, formatting, and style. For example, these guidelines will tell you whether to use UK or US English, which abbreviations are allowed, and how to format figures and tables. They are also especially important for the references section as each journal has their own style.

Proofreading/Editing your Manuscript

Ensure that your manuscript is structured correctly, clearly written, contains the correct technical language, and supports your claims with proper evidence. To ensure the structure is correct, it is essential to edit your paper .

Once you are happy with the manuscript, proofread for small errors. These could be spelling, consistency, spacing, and so forth. Importantly, check that figures and tables include all the necessary data and statistical values. Seek assistance from colleagues or professional editing companies to edit and proofread your manuscript too.

Pre-submission Peer-Review of Your Manuscript

A pre-submission peer-review  could improve the quality of articles submitted to journals in general. The benefits include:

  • A fresh eye to spot gaps or errors.
  • Receiving constructive feedback on your work and writing.
  • Improves the clarity of your paper.

You could ask experienced colleagues, supervisors or even professional editing services to review your article.

I am looking for Editing/ Proofreading services for my manuscript Tentative date of next journal submission:

how to write publications in research paper

What should universities' stance be on AI tools in research and academic writing?

How To Write A Research Paper

Find Sources For A Research Paper

Cathy A.

How to Find Sources For a Research Paper | A Guide

10 min read

Published on: Mar 26, 2024

Last updated on: Mar 25, 2024

How to find sources for a research paper

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Research papers are an essential part of academic life, but one of the most challenging aspects can be finding credible sources to support your arguments. 

With the vast amount of information available online, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. However, by following some simple steps, you can streamline the process of finding reliable sources for your research paper . 

In this guide, we'll break down the process into easy-to-follow steps to help you find the best sources for your paper.

On This Page On This Page -->

Step 1: Define Your Topic and Research Questions

Before you venture into your quest for sources, it's essential to have a clear understanding of your research topic and the specific questions you aim to address. Define the scope of your paper and identify keywords and key concepts that will guide your search for relevant sources.

Step 2: Utilize Academic Databases

Academic databases are treasure troves of scholarly articles, research papers, and academic journals covering a wide range of subjects. Institutions often provide access to these databases through their libraries. Some popular academic databases include:

  • IEEE Xplore
  • Google Scholar

These databases allow you to search for peer-reviewed articles and academic papers related to your topic. 

Use advanced search features to narrow down your results based on publication date, author, and keywords .

Academic Resources Classified by Discipline

Here's a breakdown of prominent databases categorized by academic discipline:

Step 3: Explore Library Catalogs

Your university or local library's catalog is another valuable resource for finding sources. Library catalogs contain books, periodicals, and other materials that may not be available online. 

Use the catalog's search function to locate relevant books, journals, and other materials that can contribute to your research.

Step 4: Consult Bibliographies and References

When you find a relevant source, take note of its bibliography or make a list of sources for the research paper. These lists often contain citations to other works that may be useful for your research. 

By exploring the references cited in a particular source, you can uncover additional resources and expand your understanding of the topic.

Step 5: Boolean Operators for Effective Searches

Boolean operators are words or symbols used to refine search queries by defining the relationships between search terms. The three primary operators include "AND," which narrows searches by requiring all terms to be present; "OR," which broadens searches by including either term or both; and "NOT," which excludes specific terms to refine results further. 

Most databases provide advanced search features for seamless application of Boolean logic.

Step 6: Consider Primary Sources 

Depending on your research topic, primary sources such as interviews, surveys, archival documents, and original data sets can provide valuable insights and support for your arguments. 

Primary sources offer firsthand accounts and original perspectives on historical events, social phenomena, and scientific discoveries.

Step 7: Evaluate the Credibility of Sources

Not all sources are created equal, and it's crucial to evaluate the credibility and reliability of the information you encounter. 

Consider the author's credentials, the publication venue, and whether the source is peer-reviewed. Look for evidence of bias or conflicts of interest that may undermine the source's credibility.

Step 8: Keep Track of Your Sources

As you gather sources for your research paper, maintain a systematic record of the materials you consult.  Keep track of bibliographic information, including author names, publication dates, titles, and page numbers . This information will be invaluable when citing your sources and creating a bibliography or works cited page.

Other Online Sources

In addition to academic databases and library catalogs, exploring popular online sources can provide valuable insights and perspectives on your research topic.  Here are some types of online sources you can consider:

Websites hosted by reputable organizations, institutions, and experts (such as the New York Times) can offer valuable information and analysis on a wide range of topics. Look for websites belonging to universities, research institutions, government agencies, and established non-profit organizations.

Crowdsourced Encyclopedias like Wikipedia

While Wikipedia can provide a broad overview of a topic and lead you to other sources, it's essential to verify the information found there with more authoritative sources. 

Use Wikipedia as a starting point for your research, but rely on peer-reviewed journal articles and academic sources for in-depth analysis and evidence.

Tips for Assessing the Credibility of Online Sources

When using online sources, it's important to exercise caution and critically evaluate the credibility and reliability of the information you find. Here are some tips for assessing the credibility of online sources:

  • Check the Domain Extension: Look for websites with domain extensions that indicate credibility. URLs ending in .edu are educational resources, while URLs ending in .gov are government-related resources. These sites often provide reliable and authoritative information.
  • Look for DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers): DOIs are unique alphanumeric strings assigned to scholarly articles and indicate that the article has been published in a peer-reviewed, scientific journal. Finding a DOI can help you assess the scholarly rigor of the source.
  • Evaluate the Authorship and Credentials: Consider the qualifications and expertise of the author or organization behind the website or blog. Look for information about the author's credentials, affiliations, and expertise in the subject matter.
  • Consider the Currency and Relevance: Assess how up-to-date the information is and whether it aligns with the scope and focus of your research. Look for recent publications and timely analyses that reflect current trends and developments in the field.

Wrapping it up!

Finding sources for your research paper may seem like a challenge, but by following these steps, you can locate credible sources to support your arguments and enhance the quality of your paper. 

By approaching the research process systematically and critically evaluating the information you encounter, you can produce a well-researched and compelling research paper.

If you are struggling with finding credible sources or have time constraints, do not hesitate to seek writing help for your research papers . CollegeEssay.org has professional writers ready to assist you. 

Connect with our essay writing service now and receive expert guidance and support to elevate your research paper to the next level.

Cathy A. (Law)

For more than five years now, Cathy has been one of our most hardworking authors on the platform. With a Masters degree in mass communication, she knows the ins and outs of professional writing. Clients often leave her glowing reviews for being an amazing writer who takes her work very seriously.

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READ: Ruby Franke kept handwritten timeline journal over months her children were abused

by Michelle Poe, KUTV

A photo from the arrest video of Ruby Franke for child abuse after her interview with Washington County Sheriff's investigators August 30, 2023. (Washington County Sheriff's Office).

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — As part of the evidence released by the Washing County Attorney in the child abuse case against Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt on Friday is a handwritten account from Ruby of the months of abuse the children were put through.

The document is 60 pages long and is heavily redacted.

On June 30, 2023 she says that her son who is referred to as R “refuses to do wall sits. He says he is done. The next day on July 1, 2023 Ruby says “R is to stay outside. Sleep outside.”

R’s sister E on July 14, 2023 “refuses to work. Screams. Has hair shaved off.”

We learn in the document that Ruby’s son did run away on July 15th. Ruby says she found him two hours after and that he, his sister, Ruby and Jodi all “drive to Arizona and find property. Land!”

Throughout the document Ruby talks about both children being possessed. One time saying her son’s behavior is “Satanic chaos.” She goes on to say that both children have “deviant behavior” and that “they are both furious their selfish sinful lifestyle is being intervened upon.” Ruby says she told her son “that he needs God. I invited him to fast and pray. R is in and out of possession.”

Related stories from the 8 Passengers case

  • WATCH: Utah police make first entry into Jodi Hildebrandt's home
  • Footage shows police, EMTs coaxing abused Franke child out of closet
  • Video shows moment abused Franke child asks Hildebrandt's neighbor for help
  • Evidence released in child abuse case of YouTubers Ruby Franke, Jodi Hildebrandt

Only July 11, 2023, Ruby starts her entry with “Big day for evil.”

Several times in the document Ruby describes outings she takes the kids on. In mid-July she took both children on a four hour car ride to Gunlock Lake. Another time she takes the children to a cemetery to pick up glass and weeks.

If you suspect child abuse is occurring, report it to state officials at 855-323-3237. You can submit a tip to the Utah Attorney General's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force by calling 801-281-1211 or emailing [email protected].

Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at missingkids.org.

how to write publications in research paper

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  • Published: 26 March 2024

Predicting and improving complex beer flavor through machine learning

  • Michiel Schreurs   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-9449-5619 1 , 2 , 3   na1 ,
  • Supinya Piampongsant 1 , 2 , 3   na1 ,
  • Miguel Roncoroni   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7461-1427 1 , 2 , 3   na1 ,
  • Lloyd Cool   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-9936-3124 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ,
  • Beatriz Herrera-Malaver   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-5096-9974 1 , 2 , 3 ,
  • Christophe Vanderaa   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7443-5427 4 ,
  • Florian A. Theßeling 1 , 2 , 3 ,
  • Łukasz Kreft   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7620-4657 5 ,
  • Alexander Botzki   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-6691-4233 5 ,
  • Philippe Malcorps 6 ,
  • Luk Daenen 6 ,
  • Tom Wenseleers   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-1434-861X 4 &
  • Kevin J. Verstrepen   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-3077-6219 1 , 2 , 3  

Nature Communications volume  15 , Article number:  2368 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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  • Chemical engineering
  • Gas chromatography
  • Machine learning
  • Metabolomics
  • Taste receptors

The perception and appreciation of food flavor depends on many interacting chemical compounds and external factors, and therefore proves challenging to understand and predict. Here, we combine extensive chemical and sensory analyses of 250 different beers to train machine learning models that allow predicting flavor and consumer appreciation. For each beer, we measure over 200 chemical properties, perform quantitative descriptive sensory analysis with a trained tasting panel and map data from over 180,000 consumer reviews to train 10 different machine learning models. The best-performing algorithm, Gradient Boosting, yields models that significantly outperform predictions based on conventional statistics and accurately predict complex food features and consumer appreciation from chemical profiles. Model dissection allows identifying specific and unexpected compounds as drivers of beer flavor and appreciation. Adding these compounds results in variants of commercial alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers with improved consumer appreciation. Together, our study reveals how big data and machine learning uncover complex links between food chemistry, flavor and consumer perception, and lays the foundation to develop novel, tailored foods with superior flavors.

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Introduction

Predicting and understanding food perception and appreciation is one of the major challenges in food science. Accurate modeling of food flavor and appreciation could yield important opportunities for both producers and consumers, including quality control, product fingerprinting, counterfeit detection, spoilage detection, and the development of new products and product combinations (food pairing) 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 . Accurate models for flavor and consumer appreciation would contribute greatly to our scientific understanding of how humans perceive and appreciate flavor. Moreover, accurate predictive models would also facilitate and standardize existing food assessment methods and could supplement or replace assessments by trained and consumer tasting panels, which are variable, expensive and time-consuming 7 , 8 , 9 . Lastly, apart from providing objective, quantitative, accurate and contextual information that can help producers, models can also guide consumers in understanding their personal preferences 10 .

Despite the myriad of applications, predicting food flavor and appreciation from its chemical properties remains a largely elusive goal in sensory science, especially for complex food and beverages 11 , 12 . A key obstacle is the immense number of flavor-active chemicals underlying food flavor. Flavor compounds can vary widely in chemical structure and concentration, making them technically challenging and labor-intensive to quantify, even in the face of innovations in metabolomics, such as non-targeted metabolic fingerprinting 13 , 14 . Moreover, sensory analysis is perhaps even more complicated. Flavor perception is highly complex, resulting from hundreds of different molecules interacting at the physiochemical and sensorial level. Sensory perception is often non-linear, characterized by complex and concentration-dependent synergistic and antagonistic effects 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 that are further convoluted by the genetics, environment, culture and psychology of consumers 22 , 23 , 24 . Perceived flavor is therefore difficult to measure, with problems of sensitivity, accuracy, and reproducibility that can only be resolved by gathering sufficiently large datasets 25 . Trained tasting panels are considered the prime source of quality sensory data, but require meticulous training, are low throughput and high cost. Public databases containing consumer reviews of food products could provide a valuable alternative, especially for studying appreciation scores, which do not require formal training 25 . Public databases offer the advantage of amassing large amounts of data, increasing the statistical power to identify potential drivers of appreciation. However, public datasets suffer from biases, including a bias in the volunteers that contribute to the database, as well as confounding factors such as price, cult status and psychological conformity towards previous ratings of the product.

Classical multivariate statistics and machine learning methods have been used to predict flavor of specific compounds by, for example, linking structural properties of a compound to its potential biological activities or linking concentrations of specific compounds to sensory profiles 1 , 26 . Importantly, most previous studies focused on predicting organoleptic properties of single compounds (often based on their chemical structure) 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , thus ignoring the fact that these compounds are present in a complex matrix in food or beverages and excluding complex interactions between compounds. Moreover, the classical statistics commonly used in sensory science 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 require a large sample size and sufficient variance amongst predictors to create accurate models. They are not fit for studying an extensive set of hundreds of interacting flavor compounds, since they are sensitive to outliers, have a high tendency to overfit and are less suited for non-linear and discontinuous relationships 40 .

In this study, we combine extensive chemical analyses and sensory data of a set of different commercial beers with machine learning approaches to develop models that predict taste, smell, mouthfeel and appreciation from compound concentrations. Beer is particularly suited to model the relationship between chemistry, flavor and appreciation. First, beer is a complex product, consisting of thousands of flavor compounds that partake in complex sensory interactions 41 , 42 , 43 . This chemical diversity arises from the raw materials (malt, yeast, hops, water and spices) and biochemical conversions during the brewing process (kilning, mashing, boiling, fermentation, maturation and aging) 44 , 45 . Second, the advent of the internet saw beer consumers embrace online review platforms, such as RateBeer (ZX Ventures, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV) and BeerAdvocate (Next Glass, inc.). In this way, the beer community provides massive data sets of beer flavor and appreciation scores, creating extraordinarily large sensory databases to complement the analyses of our professional sensory panel. Specifically, we characterize over 200 chemical properties of 250 commercial beers, spread across 22 beer styles, and link these to the descriptive sensory profiling data of a 16-person in-house trained tasting panel and data acquired from over 180,000 public consumer reviews. These unique and extensive datasets enable us to train a suite of machine learning models to predict flavor and appreciation from a beer’s chemical profile. Dissection of the best-performing models allows us to pinpoint specific compounds as potential drivers of beer flavor and appreciation. Follow-up experiments confirm the importance of these compounds and ultimately allow us to significantly improve the flavor and appreciation of selected commercial beers. Together, our study represents a significant step towards understanding complex flavors and reinforces the value of machine learning to develop and refine complex foods. In this way, it represents a stepping stone for further computer-aided food engineering applications 46 .

To generate a comprehensive dataset on beer flavor, we selected 250 commercial Belgian beers across 22 different beer styles (Supplementary Fig.  S1 ). Beers with ≤ 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV) were classified as non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic. Blonds and Tripels constitute a significant portion of the dataset (12.4% and 11.2%, respectively) reflecting their presence on the Belgian beer market and the heterogeneity of beers within these styles. By contrast, lager beers are less diverse and dominated by a handful of brands. Rare styles such as Brut or Faro make up only a small fraction of the dataset (2% and 1%, respectively) because fewer of these beers are produced and because they are dominated by distinct characteristics in terms of flavor and chemical composition.

Extensive analysis identifies relationships between chemical compounds in beer

For each beer, we measured 226 different chemical properties, including common brewing parameters such as alcohol content, iso-alpha acids, pH, sugar concentration 47 , and over 200 flavor compounds (Methods, Supplementary Table  S1 ). A large portion (37.2%) are terpenoids arising from hopping, responsible for herbal and fruity flavors 16 , 48 . A second major category are yeast metabolites, such as esters and alcohols, that result in fruity and solvent notes 48 , 49 , 50 . Other measured compounds are primarily derived from malt, or other microbes such as non- Saccharomyces yeasts and bacteria (‘wild flora’). Compounds that arise from spices or staling are labeled under ‘Others’. Five attributes (caloric value, total acids and total ester, hop aroma and sulfur compounds) are calculated from multiple individually measured compounds.

As a first step in identifying relationships between chemical properties, we determined correlations between the concentrations of the compounds (Fig.  1 , upper panel, Supplementary Data  1 and 2 , and Supplementary Fig.  S2 . For the sake of clarity, only a subset of the measured compounds is shown in Fig.  1 ). Compounds of the same origin typically show a positive correlation, while absence of correlation hints at parameters varying independently. For example, the hop aroma compounds citronellol, and alpha-terpineol show moderate correlations with each other (Spearman’s rho=0.39 and 0.57), but not with the bittering hop component iso-alpha acids (Spearman’s rho=0.16 and −0.07). This illustrates how brewers can independently modify hop aroma and bitterness by selecting hop varieties and dosage time. If hops are added early in the boiling phase, chemical conversions increase bitterness while aromas evaporate, conversely, late addition of hops preserves aroma but limits bitterness 51 . Similarly, hop-derived iso-alpha acids show a strong anti-correlation with lactic acid and acetic acid, likely reflecting growth inhibition of lactic acid and acetic acid bacteria, or the consequent use of fewer hops in sour beer styles, such as West Flanders ales and Fruit beers, that rely on these bacteria for their distinct flavors 52 . Finally, yeast-derived esters (ethyl acetate, ethyl decanoate, ethyl hexanoate, ethyl octanoate) and alcohols (ethanol, isoamyl alcohol, isobutanol, and glycerol), correlate with Spearman coefficients above 0.5, suggesting that these secondary metabolites are correlated with the yeast genetic background and/or fermentation parameters and may be difficult to influence individually, although the choice of yeast strain may offer some control 53 .

figure 1

Spearman rank correlations are shown. Descriptors are grouped according to their origin (malt (blue), hops (green), yeast (red), wild flora (yellow), Others (black)), and sensory aspect (aroma, taste, palate, and overall appreciation). Please note that for the chemical compounds, for the sake of clarity, only a subset of the total number of measured compounds is shown, with an emphasis on the key compounds for each source. For more details, see the main text and Methods section. Chemical data can be found in Supplementary Data  1 , correlations between all chemical compounds are depicted in Supplementary Fig.  S2 and correlation values can be found in Supplementary Data  2 . See Supplementary Data  4 for sensory panel assessments and Supplementary Data  5 for correlation values between all sensory descriptors.

Interestingly, different beer styles show distinct patterns for some flavor compounds (Supplementary Fig.  S3 ). These observations agree with expectations for key beer styles, and serve as a control for our measurements. For instance, Stouts generally show high values for color (darker), while hoppy beers contain elevated levels of iso-alpha acids, compounds associated with bitter hop taste. Acetic and lactic acid are not prevalent in most beers, with notable exceptions such as Kriek, Lambic, Faro, West Flanders ales and Flanders Old Brown, which use acid-producing bacteria ( Lactobacillus and Pediococcus ) or unconventional yeast ( Brettanomyces ) 54 , 55 . Glycerol, ethanol and esters show similar distributions across all beer styles, reflecting their common origin as products of yeast metabolism during fermentation 45 , 53 . Finally, low/no-alcohol beers contain low concentrations of glycerol and esters. This is in line with the production process for most of the low/no-alcohol beers in our dataset, which are produced through limiting fermentation or by stripping away alcohol via evaporation or dialysis, with both methods having the unintended side-effect of reducing the amount of flavor compounds in the final beer 56 , 57 .

Besides expected associations, our data also reveals less trivial associations between beer styles and specific parameters. For example, geraniol and citronellol, two monoterpenoids responsible for citrus, floral and rose flavors and characteristic of Citra hops, are found in relatively high amounts in Christmas, Saison, and Brett/co-fermented beers, where they may originate from terpenoid-rich spices such as coriander seeds instead of hops 58 .

Tasting panel assessments reveal sensorial relationships in beer

To assess the sensory profile of each beer, a trained tasting panel evaluated each of the 250 beers for 50 sensory attributes, including different hop, malt and yeast flavors, off-flavors and spices. Panelists used a tasting sheet (Supplementary Data  3 ) to score the different attributes. Panel consistency was evaluated by repeating 12 samples across different sessions and performing ANOVA. In 95% of cases no significant difference was found across sessions ( p  > 0.05), indicating good panel consistency (Supplementary Table  S2 ).

Aroma and taste perception reported by the trained panel are often linked (Fig.  1 , bottom left panel and Supplementary Data  4 and 5 ), with high correlations between hops aroma and taste (Spearman’s rho=0.83). Bitter taste was found to correlate with hop aroma and taste in general (Spearman’s rho=0.80 and 0.69), and particularly with “grassy” noble hops (Spearman’s rho=0.75). Barnyard flavor, most often associated with sour beers, is identified together with stale hops (Spearman’s rho=0.97) that are used in these beers. Lactic and acetic acid, which often co-occur, are correlated (Spearman’s rho=0.66). Interestingly, sweetness and bitterness are anti-correlated (Spearman’s rho = −0.48), confirming the hypothesis that they mask each other 59 , 60 . Beer body is highly correlated with alcohol (Spearman’s rho = 0.79), and overall appreciation is found to correlate with multiple aspects that describe beer mouthfeel (alcohol, carbonation; Spearman’s rho= 0.32, 0.39), as well as with hop and ester aroma intensity (Spearman’s rho=0.39 and 0.35).

Similar to the chemical analyses, sensorial analyses confirmed typical features of specific beer styles (Supplementary Fig.  S4 ). For example, sour beers (Faro, Flanders Old Brown, Fruit beer, Kriek, Lambic, West Flanders ale) were rated acidic, with flavors of both acetic and lactic acid. Hoppy beers were found to be bitter and showed hop-associated aromas like citrus and tropical fruit. Malt taste is most detected among scotch, stout/porters, and strong ales, while low/no-alcohol beers, which often have a reputation for being ‘worty’ (reminiscent of unfermented, sweet malt extract) appear in the middle. Unsurprisingly, hop aromas are most strongly detected among hoppy beers. Like its chemical counterpart (Supplementary Fig.  S3 ), acidity shows a right-skewed distribution, with the most acidic beers being Krieks, Lambics, and West Flanders ales.

Tasting panel assessments of specific flavors correlate with chemical composition

We find that the concentrations of several chemical compounds strongly correlate with specific aroma or taste, as evaluated by the tasting panel (Fig.  2 , Supplementary Fig.  S5 , Supplementary Data  6 ). In some cases, these correlations confirm expectations and serve as a useful control for data quality. For example, iso-alpha acids, the bittering compounds in hops, strongly correlate with bitterness (Spearman’s rho=0.68), while ethanol and glycerol correlate with tasters’ perceptions of alcohol and body, the mouthfeel sensation of fullness (Spearman’s rho=0.82/0.62 and 0.72/0.57 respectively) and darker color from roasted malts is a good indication of malt perception (Spearman’s rho=0.54).

figure 2

Heatmap colors indicate Spearman’s Rho. Axes are organized according to sensory categories (aroma, taste, mouthfeel, overall), chemical categories and chemical sources in beer (malt (blue), hops (green), yeast (red), wild flora (yellow), Others (black)). See Supplementary Data  6 for all correlation values.

Interestingly, for some relationships between chemical compounds and perceived flavor, correlations are weaker than expected. For example, the rose-smelling phenethyl acetate only weakly correlates with floral aroma. This hints at more complex relationships and interactions between compounds and suggests a need for a more complex model than simple correlations. Lastly, we uncovered unexpected correlations. For instance, the esters ethyl decanoate and ethyl octanoate appear to correlate slightly with hop perception and bitterness, possibly due to their fruity flavor. Iron is anti-correlated with hop aromas and bitterness, most likely because it is also anti-correlated with iso-alpha acids. This could be a sign of metal chelation of hop acids 61 , given that our analyses measure unbound hop acids and total iron content, or could result from the higher iron content in dark and Fruit beers, which typically have less hoppy and bitter flavors 62 .

Public consumer reviews complement expert panel data

To complement and expand the sensory data of our trained tasting panel, we collected 180,000 reviews of our 250 beers from the online consumer review platform RateBeer. This provided numerical scores for beer appearance, aroma, taste, palate, overall quality as well as the average overall score.

Public datasets are known to suffer from biases, such as price, cult status and psychological conformity towards previous ratings of a product. For example, prices correlate with appreciation scores for these online consumer reviews (rho=0.49, Supplementary Fig.  S6 ), but not for our trained tasting panel (rho=0.19). This suggests that prices affect consumer appreciation, which has been reported in wine 63 , while blind tastings are unaffected. Moreover, we observe that some beer styles, like lagers and non-alcoholic beers, generally receive lower scores, reflecting that online reviewers are mostly beer aficionados with a preference for specialty beers over lager beers. In general, we find a modest correlation between our trained panel’s overall appreciation score and the online consumer appreciation scores (Fig.  3 , rho=0.29). Apart from the aforementioned biases in the online datasets, serving temperature, sample freshness and surroundings, which are all tightly controlled during the tasting panel sessions, can vary tremendously across online consumers and can further contribute to (among others, appreciation) differences between the two categories of tasters. Importantly, in contrast to the overall appreciation scores, for many sensory aspects the results from the professional panel correlated well with results obtained from RateBeer reviews. Correlations were highest for features that are relatively easy to recognize even for untrained tasters, like bitterness, sweetness, alcohol and malt aroma (Fig.  3 and below).

figure 3

RateBeer text mining results can be found in Supplementary Data  7 . Rho values shown are Spearman correlation values, with asterisks indicating significant correlations ( p  < 0.05, two-sided). All p values were smaller than 0.001, except for Esters aroma (0.0553), Esters taste (0.3275), Esters aroma—banana (0.0019), Coriander (0.0508) and Diacetyl (0.0134).

Besides collecting consumer appreciation from these online reviews, we developed automated text analysis tools to gather additional data from review texts (Supplementary Data  7 ). Processing review texts on the RateBeer database yielded comparable results to the scores given by the trained panel for many common sensory aspects, including acidity, bitterness, sweetness, alcohol, malt, and hop tastes (Fig.  3 ). This is in line with what would be expected, since these attributes require less training for accurate assessment and are less influenced by environmental factors such as temperature, serving glass and odors in the environment. Consumer reviews also correlate well with our trained panel for 4-vinyl guaiacol, a compound associated with a very characteristic aroma. By contrast, correlations for more specific aromas like ester, coriander or diacetyl are underrepresented in the online reviews, underscoring the importance of using a trained tasting panel and standardized tasting sheets with explicit factors to be scored for evaluating specific aspects of a beer. Taken together, our results suggest that public reviews are trustworthy for some, but not all, flavor features and can complement or substitute taste panel data for these sensory aspects.

Models can predict beer sensory profiles from chemical data

The rich datasets of chemical analyses, tasting panel assessments and public reviews gathered in the first part of this study provided us with a unique opportunity to develop predictive models that link chemical data to sensorial features. Given the complexity of beer flavor, basic statistical tools such as correlations or linear regression may not always be the most suitable for making accurate predictions. Instead, we applied different machine learning models that can model both simple linear and complex interactive relationships. Specifically, we constructed a set of regression models to predict (a) trained panel scores for beer flavor and quality and (b) public reviews’ appreciation scores from beer chemical profiles. We trained and tested 10 different models (Methods), 3 linear regression-based models (simple linear regression with first-order interactions (LR), lasso regression with first-order interactions (Lasso), partial least squares regressor (PLSR)), 5 decision tree models (AdaBoost regressor (ABR), extra trees (ET), gradient boosting regressor (GBR), random forest (RF) and XGBoost regressor (XGBR)), 1 support vector regression (SVR), and 1 artificial neural network (ANN) model.

To compare the performance of our machine learning models, the dataset was randomly split into a training and test set, stratified by beer style. After a model was trained on data in the training set, its performance was evaluated on its ability to predict the test dataset obtained from multi-output models (based on the coefficient of determination, see Methods). Additionally, individual-attribute models were ranked per descriptor and the average rank was calculated, as proposed by Korneva et al. 64 . Importantly, both ways of evaluating the models’ performance agreed in general. Performance of the different models varied (Table  1 ). It should be noted that all models perform better at predicting RateBeer results than results from our trained tasting panel. One reason could be that sensory data is inherently variable, and this variability is averaged out with the large number of public reviews from RateBeer. Additionally, all tree-based models perform better at predicting taste than aroma. Linear models (LR) performed particularly poorly, with negative R 2 values, due to severe overfitting (training set R 2  = 1). Overfitting is a common issue in linear models with many parameters and limited samples, especially with interaction terms further amplifying the number of parameters. L1 regularization (Lasso) successfully overcomes this overfitting, out-competing multiple tree-based models on the RateBeer dataset. Similarly, the dimensionality reduction of PLSR avoids overfitting and improves performance, to some extent. Still, tree-based models (ABR, ET, GBR, RF and XGBR) show the best performance, out-competing the linear models (LR, Lasso, PLSR) commonly used in sensory science 65 .

GBR models showed the best overall performance in predicting sensory responses from chemical information, with R 2 values up to 0.75 depending on the predicted sensory feature (Supplementary Table  S4 ). The GBR models predict consumer appreciation (RateBeer) better than our trained panel’s appreciation (R 2 value of 0.67 compared to R 2 value of 0.09) (Supplementary Table  S3 and Supplementary Table  S4 ). ANN models showed intermediate performance, likely because neural networks typically perform best with larger datasets 66 . The SVR shows intermediate performance, mostly due to the weak predictions of specific attributes that lower the overall performance (Supplementary Table  S4 ).

Model dissection identifies specific, unexpected compounds as drivers of consumer appreciation

Next, we leveraged our models to infer important contributors to sensory perception and consumer appreciation. Consumer preference is a crucial sensory aspects, because a product that shows low consumer appreciation scores often does not succeed commercially 25 . Additionally, the requirement for a large number of representative evaluators makes consumer trials one of the more costly and time-consuming aspects of product development. Hence, a model for predicting chemical drivers of overall appreciation would be a welcome addition to the available toolbox for food development and optimization.

Since GBR models on our RateBeer dataset showed the best overall performance, we focused on these models. Specifically, we used two approaches to identify important contributors. First, rankings of the most important predictors for each sensorial trait in the GBR models were obtained based on impurity-based feature importance (mean decrease in impurity). High-ranked parameters were hypothesized to be either the true causal chemical properties underlying the trait, to correlate with the actual causal properties, or to take part in sensory interactions affecting the trait 67 (Fig.  4A ). In a second approach, we used SHAP 68 to determine which parameters contributed most to the model for making predictions of consumer appreciation (Fig.  4B ). SHAP calculates parameter contributions to model predictions on a per-sample basis, which can be aggregated into an importance score.

figure 4

A The impurity-based feature importance (mean deviance in impurity, MDI) calculated from the Gradient Boosting Regression (GBR) model predicting RateBeer appreciation scores. The top 15 highest ranked chemical properties are shown. B SHAP summary plot for the top 15 parameters contributing to our GBR model. Each point on the graph represents a sample from our dataset. The color represents the concentration of that parameter, with bluer colors representing low values and redder colors representing higher values. Greater absolute values on the horizontal axis indicate a higher impact of the parameter on the prediction of the model. C Spearman correlations between the 15 most important chemical properties and consumer overall appreciation. Numbers indicate the Spearman Rho correlation coefficient, and the rank of this correlation compared to all other correlations. The top 15 important compounds were determined using SHAP (panel B).

Both approaches identified ethyl acetate as the most predictive parameter for beer appreciation (Fig.  4 ). Ethyl acetate is the most abundant ester in beer with a typical ‘fruity’, ‘solvent’ and ‘alcoholic’ flavor, but is often considered less important than other esters like isoamyl acetate. The second most important parameter identified by SHAP is ethanol, the most abundant beer compound after water. Apart from directly contributing to beer flavor and mouthfeel, ethanol drastically influences the physical properties of beer, dictating how easily volatile compounds escape the beer matrix to contribute to beer aroma 69 . Importantly, it should also be noted that the importance of ethanol for appreciation is likely inflated by the very low appreciation scores of non-alcoholic beers (Supplementary Fig.  S4 ). Despite not often being considered a driver of beer appreciation, protein level also ranks highly in both approaches, possibly due to its effect on mouthfeel and body 70 . Lactic acid, which contributes to the tart taste of sour beers, is the fourth most important parameter identified by SHAP, possibly due to the generally high appreciation of sour beers in our dataset.

Interestingly, some of the most important predictive parameters for our model are not well-established as beer flavors or are even commonly regarded as being negative for beer quality. For example, our models identify methanethiol and ethyl phenyl acetate, an ester commonly linked to beer staling 71 , as a key factor contributing to beer appreciation. Although there is no doubt that high concentrations of these compounds are considered unpleasant, the positive effects of modest concentrations are not yet known 72 , 73 .

To compare our approach to conventional statistics, we evaluated how well the 15 most important SHAP-derived parameters correlate with consumer appreciation (Fig.  4C ). Interestingly, only 6 of the properties derived by SHAP rank amongst the top 15 most correlated parameters. For some chemical compounds, the correlations are so low that they would have likely been considered unimportant. For example, lactic acid, the fourth most important parameter, shows a bimodal distribution for appreciation, with sour beers forming a separate cluster, that is missed entirely by the Spearman correlation. Additionally, the correlation plots reveal outliers, emphasizing the need for robust analysis tools. Together, this highlights the need for alternative models, like the Gradient Boosting model, that better grasp the complexity of (beer) flavor.

Finally, to observe the relationships between these chemical properties and their predicted targets, partial dependence plots were constructed for the six most important predictors of consumer appreciation 74 , 75 , 76 (Supplementary Fig.  S7 ). One-way partial dependence plots show how a change in concentration affects the predicted appreciation. These plots reveal an important limitation of our models: appreciation predictions remain constant at ever-increasing concentrations. This implies that once a threshold concentration is reached, further increasing the concentration does not affect appreciation. This is false, as it is well-documented that certain compounds become unpleasant at high concentrations, including ethyl acetate (‘nail polish’) 77 and methanethiol (‘sulfury’ and ‘rotten cabbage’) 78 . The inability of our models to grasp that flavor compounds have optimal levels, above which they become negative, is a consequence of working with commercial beer brands where (off-)flavors are rarely too high to negatively impact the product. The two-way partial dependence plots show how changing the concentration of two compounds influences predicted appreciation, visualizing their interactions (Supplementary Fig.  S7 ). In our case, the top 5 parameters are dominated by additive or synergistic interactions, with high concentrations for both compounds resulting in the highest predicted appreciation.

To assess the robustness of our best-performing models and model predictions, we performed 100 iterations of the GBR, RF and ET models. In general, all iterations of the models yielded similar performance (Supplementary Fig.  S8 ). Moreover, the main predictors (including the top predictors ethanol and ethyl acetate) remained virtually the same, especially for GBR and RF. For the iterations of the ET model, we did observe more variation in the top predictors, which is likely a consequence of the model’s inherent random architecture in combination with co-correlations between certain predictors. However, even in this case, several of the top predictors (ethanol and ethyl acetate) remain unchanged, although their rank in importance changes (Supplementary Fig.  S8 ).

Next, we investigated if a combination of RateBeer and trained panel data into one consolidated dataset would lead to stronger models, under the hypothesis that such a model would suffer less from bias in the datasets. A GBR model was trained to predict appreciation on the combined dataset. This model underperformed compared to the RateBeer model, both in the native case and when including a dataset identifier (R 2  = 0.67, 0.26 and 0.42 respectively). For the latter, the dataset identifier is the most important feature (Supplementary Fig.  S9 ), while most of the feature importance remains unchanged, with ethyl acetate and ethanol ranking highest, like in the original model trained only on RateBeer data. It seems that the large variation in the panel dataset introduces noise, weakening the models’ performances and reliability. In addition, it seems reasonable to assume that both datasets are fundamentally different, with the panel dataset obtained by blind tastings by a trained professional panel.

Lastly, we evaluated whether beer style identifiers would further enhance the model’s performance. A GBR model was trained with parameters that explicitly encoded the styles of the samples. This did not improve model performance (R2 = 0.66 with style information vs R2 = 0.67). The most important chemical features are consistent with the model trained without style information (eg. ethanol and ethyl acetate), and with the exception of the most preferred (strong ale) and least preferred (low/no-alcohol) styles, none of the styles were among the most important features (Supplementary Fig.  S9 , Supplementary Table  S5 and S6 ). This is likely due to a combination of style-specific chemical signatures, such as iso-alpha acids and lactic acid, that implicitly convey style information to the original models, as well as the low number of samples belonging to some styles, making it difficult for the model to learn style-specific patterns. Moreover, beer styles are not rigorously defined, with some styles overlapping in features and some beers being misattributed to a specific style, all of which leads to more noise in models that use style parameters.

Model validation

To test if our predictive models give insight into beer appreciation, we set up experiments aimed at improving existing commercial beers. We specifically selected overall appreciation as the trait to be examined because of its complexity and commercial relevance. Beer flavor comprises a complex bouquet rather than single aromas and tastes 53 . Hence, adding a single compound to the extent that a difference is noticeable may lead to an unbalanced, artificial flavor. Therefore, we evaluated the effect of combinations of compounds. Because Blond beers represent the most extensive style in our dataset, we selected a beer from this style as the starting material for these experiments (Beer 64 in Supplementary Data  1 ).

In the first set of experiments, we adjusted the concentrations of compounds that made up the most important predictors of overall appreciation (ethyl acetate, ethanol, lactic acid, ethyl phenyl acetate) together with correlated compounds (ethyl hexanoate, isoamyl acetate, glycerol), bringing them up to 95 th percentile ethanol-normalized concentrations (Methods) within the Blond group (‘Spiked’ concentration in Fig.  5A ). Compared to controls, the spiked beers were found to have significantly improved overall appreciation among trained panelists, with panelist noting increased intensity of ester flavors, sweetness, alcohol, and body fullness (Fig.  5B ). To disentangle the contribution of ethanol to these results, a second experiment was performed without the addition of ethanol. This resulted in a similar outcome, including increased perception of alcohol and overall appreciation.

figure 5

Adding the top chemical compounds, identified as best predictors of appreciation by our model, into poorly appreciated beers results in increased appreciation from our trained panel. Results of sensory tests between base beers and those spiked with compounds identified as the best predictors by the model. A Blond and Non/Low-alcohol (0.0% ABV) base beers were brought up to 95th-percentile ethanol-normalized concentrations within each style. B For each sensory attribute, tasters indicated the more intense sample and selected the sample they preferred. The numbers above the bars correspond to the p values that indicate significant changes in perceived flavor (two-sided binomial test: alpha 0.05, n  = 20 or 13).

In a last experiment, we tested whether using the model’s predictions can boost the appreciation of a non-alcoholic beer (beer 223 in Supplementary Data  1 ). Again, the addition of a mixture of predicted compounds (omitting ethanol, in this case) resulted in a significant increase in appreciation, body, ester flavor and sweetness.

Predicting flavor and consumer appreciation from chemical composition is one of the ultimate goals of sensory science. A reliable, systematic and unbiased way to link chemical profiles to flavor and food appreciation would be a significant asset to the food and beverage industry. Such tools would substantially aid in quality control and recipe development, offer an efficient and cost-effective alternative to pilot studies and consumer trials and would ultimately allow food manufacturers to produce superior, tailor-made products that better meet the demands of specific consumer groups more efficiently.

A limited set of studies have previously tried, to varying degrees of success, to predict beer flavor and beer popularity based on (a limited set of) chemical compounds and flavors 79 , 80 . Current sensitive, high-throughput technologies allow measuring an unprecedented number of chemical compounds and properties in a large set of samples, yielding a dataset that can train models that help close the gaps between chemistry and flavor, even for a complex natural product like beer. To our knowledge, no previous research gathered data at this scale (250 samples, 226 chemical parameters, 50 sensory attributes and 5 consumer scores) to disentangle and validate the chemical aspects driving beer preference using various machine-learning techniques. We find that modern machine learning models outperform conventional statistical tools, such as correlations and linear models, and can successfully predict flavor appreciation from chemical composition. This could be attributed to the natural incorporation of interactions and non-linear or discontinuous effects in machine learning models, which are not easily grasped by the linear model architecture. While linear models and partial least squares regression represent the most widespread statistical approaches in sensory science, in part because they allow interpretation 65 , 81 , 82 , modern machine learning methods allow for building better predictive models while preserving the possibility to dissect and exploit the underlying patterns. Of the 10 different models we trained, tree-based models, such as our best performing GBR, showed the best overall performance in predicting sensory responses from chemical information, outcompeting artificial neural networks. This agrees with previous reports for models trained on tabular data 83 . Our results are in line with the findings of Colantonio et al. who also identified the gradient boosting architecture as performing best at predicting appreciation and flavor (of tomatoes and blueberries, in their specific study) 26 . Importantly, besides our larger experimental scale, we were able to directly confirm our models’ predictions in vivo.

Our study confirms that flavor compound concentration does not always correlate with perception, suggesting complex interactions that are often missed by more conventional statistics and simple models. Specifically, we find that tree-based algorithms may perform best in developing models that link complex food chemistry with aroma. Furthermore, we show that massive datasets of untrained consumer reviews provide a valuable source of data, that can complement or even replace trained tasting panels, especially for appreciation and basic flavors, such as sweetness and bitterness. This holds despite biases that are known to occur in such datasets, such as price or conformity bias. Moreover, GBR models predict taste better than aroma. This is likely because taste (e.g. bitterness) often directly relates to the corresponding chemical measurements (e.g., iso-alpha acids), whereas such a link is less clear for aromas, which often result from the interplay between multiple volatile compounds. We also find that our models are best at predicting acidity and alcohol, likely because there is a direct relation between the measured chemical compounds (acids and ethanol) and the corresponding perceived sensorial attribute (acidity and alcohol), and because even untrained consumers are generally able to recognize these flavors and aromas.

The predictions of our final models, trained on review data, hold even for blind tastings with small groups of trained tasters, as demonstrated by our ability to validate specific compounds as drivers of beer flavor and appreciation. Since adding a single compound to the extent of a noticeable difference may result in an unbalanced flavor profile, we specifically tested our identified key drivers as a combination of compounds. While this approach does not allow us to validate if a particular single compound would affect flavor and/or appreciation, our experiments do show that this combination of compounds increases consumer appreciation.

It is important to stress that, while it represents an important step forward, our approach still has several major limitations. A key weakness of the GBR model architecture is that amongst co-correlating variables, the largest main effect is consistently preferred for model building. As a result, co-correlating variables often have artificially low importance scores, both for impurity and SHAP-based methods, like we observed in the comparison to the more randomized Extra Trees models. This implies that chemicals identified as key drivers of a specific sensory feature by GBR might not be the true causative compounds, but rather co-correlate with the actual causative chemical. For example, the high importance of ethyl acetate could be (partially) attributed to the total ester content, ethanol or ethyl hexanoate (rho=0.77, rho=0.72 and rho=0.68), while ethyl phenylacetate could hide the importance of prenyl isobutyrate and ethyl benzoate (rho=0.77 and rho=0.76). Expanding our GBR model to include beer style as a parameter did not yield additional power or insight. This is likely due to style-specific chemical signatures, such as iso-alpha acids and lactic acid, that implicitly convey style information to the original model, as well as the smaller sample size per style, limiting the power to uncover style-specific patterns. This can be partly attributed to the curse of dimensionality, where the high number of parameters results in the models mainly incorporating single parameter effects, rather than complex interactions such as style-dependent effects 67 . A larger number of samples may overcome some of these limitations and offer more insight into style-specific effects. On the other hand, beer style is not a rigid scientific classification, and beers within one style often differ a lot, which further complicates the analysis of style as a model factor.

Our study is limited to beers from Belgian breweries. Although these beers cover a large portion of the beer styles available globally, some beer styles and consumer patterns may be missing, while other features might be overrepresented. For example, many Belgian ales exhibit yeast-driven flavor profiles, which is reflected in the chemical drivers of appreciation discovered by this study. In future work, expanding the scope to include diverse markets and beer styles could lead to the identification of even more drivers of appreciation and better models for special niche products that were not present in our beer set.

In addition to inherent limitations of GBR models, there are also some limitations associated with studying food aroma. Even if our chemical analyses measured most of the known aroma compounds, the total number of flavor compounds in complex foods like beer is still larger than the subset we were able to measure in this study. For example, hop-derived thiols, that influence flavor at very low concentrations, are notoriously difficult to measure in a high-throughput experiment. Moreover, consumer perception remains subjective and prone to biases that are difficult to avoid. It is also important to stress that the models are still immature and that more extensive datasets will be crucial for developing more complete models in the future. Besides more samples and parameters, our dataset does not include any demographic information about the tasters. Including such data could lead to better models that grasp external factors like age and culture. Another limitation is that our set of beers consists of high-quality end-products and lacks beers that are unfit for sale, which limits the current model in accurately predicting products that are appreciated very badly. Finally, while models could be readily applied in quality control, their use in sensory science and product development is restrained by their inability to discern causal relationships. Given that the models cannot distinguish compounds that genuinely drive consumer perception from those that merely correlate, validation experiments are essential to identify true causative compounds.

Despite the inherent limitations, dissection of our models enabled us to pinpoint specific molecules as potential drivers of beer aroma and consumer appreciation, including compounds that were unexpected and would not have been identified using standard approaches. Important drivers of beer appreciation uncovered by our models include protein levels, ethyl acetate, ethyl phenyl acetate and lactic acid. Currently, many brewers already use lactic acid to acidify their brewing water and ensure optimal pH for enzymatic activity during the mashing process. Our results suggest that adding lactic acid can also improve beer appreciation, although its individual effect remains to be tested. Interestingly, ethanol appears to be unnecessary to improve beer appreciation, both for blond beer and alcohol-free beer. Given the growing consumer interest in alcohol-free beer, with a predicted annual market growth of >7% 84 , it is relevant for brewers to know what compounds can further increase consumer appreciation of these beers. Hence, our model may readily provide avenues to further improve the flavor and consumer appreciation of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers, which is generally considered one of the key challenges for future beer production.

Whereas we see a direct implementation of our results for the development of superior alcohol-free beverages and other food products, our study can also serve as a stepping stone for the development of novel alcohol-containing beverages. We want to echo the growing body of scientific evidence for the negative effects of alcohol consumption, both on the individual level by the mutagenic, teratogenic and carcinogenic effects of ethanol 85 , 86 , as well as the burden on society caused by alcohol abuse and addiction. We encourage the use of our results for the production of healthier, tastier products, including novel and improved beverages with lower alcohol contents. Furthermore, we strongly discourage the use of these technologies to improve the appreciation or addictive properties of harmful substances.

The present work demonstrates that despite some important remaining hurdles, combining the latest developments in chemical analyses, sensory analysis and modern machine learning methods offers exciting avenues for food chemistry and engineering. Soon, these tools may provide solutions in quality control and recipe development, as well as new approaches to sensory science and flavor research.

Beer selection

250 commercial Belgian beers were selected to cover the broad diversity of beer styles and corresponding diversity in chemical composition and aroma. See Supplementary Fig.  S1 .

Chemical dataset

Sample preparation.

Beers within their expiration date were purchased from commercial retailers. Samples were prepared in biological duplicates at room temperature, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Bottle pressure was measured with a manual pressure device (Steinfurth Mess-Systeme GmbH) and used to calculate CO 2 concentration. The beer was poured through two filter papers (Macherey-Nagel, 500713032 MN 713 ¼) to remove carbon dioxide and prevent spontaneous foaming. Samples were then prepared for measurements by targeted Headspace-Gas Chromatography-Flame Ionization Detector/Flame Photometric Detector (HS-GC-FID/FPD), Headspace-Solid Phase Microextraction-Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (HS-SPME-GC-MS), colorimetric analysis, enzymatic analysis, Near-Infrared (NIR) analysis, as described in the sections below. The mean values of biological duplicates are reported for each compound.

HS-GC-FID/FPD

HS-GC-FID/FPD (Shimadzu GC 2010 Plus) was used to measure higher alcohols, acetaldehyde, esters, 4-vinyl guaicol, and sulfur compounds. Each measurement comprised 5 ml of sample pipetted into a 20 ml glass vial containing 1.75 g NaCl (VWR, 27810.295). 100 µl of 2-heptanol (Sigma-Aldrich, H3003) (internal standard) solution in ethanol (Fisher Chemical, E/0650DF/C17) was added for a final concentration of 2.44 mg/L. Samples were flushed with nitrogen for 10 s, sealed with a silicone septum, stored at −80 °C and analyzed in batches of 20.

The GC was equipped with a DB-WAXetr column (length, 30 m; internal diameter, 0.32 mm; layer thickness, 0.50 µm; Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA) to the FID and an HP-5 column (length, 30 m; internal diameter, 0.25 mm; layer thickness, 0.25 µm; Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA) to the FPD. N 2 was used as the carrier gas. Samples were incubated for 20 min at 70 °C in the headspace autosampler (Flow rate, 35 cm/s; Injection volume, 1000 µL; Injection mode, split; Combi PAL autosampler, CTC analytics, Switzerland). The injector, FID and FPD temperatures were kept at 250 °C. The GC oven temperature was first held at 50 °C for 5 min and then allowed to rise to 80 °C at a rate of 5 °C/min, followed by a second ramp of 4 °C/min until 200 °C kept for 3 min and a final ramp of (4 °C/min) until 230 °C for 1 min. Results were analyzed with the GCSolution software version 2.4 (Shimadzu, Kyoto, Japan). The GC was calibrated with a 5% EtOH solution (VWR International) containing the volatiles under study (Supplementary Table  S7 ).

HS-SPME-GC-MS

HS-SPME-GC-MS (Shimadzu GCMS-QP-2010 Ultra) was used to measure additional volatile compounds, mainly comprising terpenoids and esters. Samples were analyzed by HS-SPME using a triphase DVB/Carboxen/PDMS 50/30 μm SPME fiber (Supelco Co., Bellefonte, PA, USA) followed by gas chromatography (Thermo Fisher Scientific Trace 1300 series, USA) coupled to a mass spectrometer (Thermo Fisher Scientific ISQ series MS) equipped with a TriPlus RSH autosampler. 5 ml of degassed beer sample was placed in 20 ml vials containing 1.75 g NaCl (VWR, 27810.295). 5 µl internal standard mix was added, containing 2-heptanol (1 g/L) (Sigma-Aldrich, H3003), 4-fluorobenzaldehyde (1 g/L) (Sigma-Aldrich, 128376), 2,3-hexanedione (1 g/L) (Sigma-Aldrich, 144169) and guaiacol (1 g/L) (Sigma-Aldrich, W253200) in ethanol (Fisher Chemical, E/0650DF/C17). Each sample was incubated at 60 °C in the autosampler oven with constant agitation. After 5 min equilibration, the SPME fiber was exposed to the sample headspace for 30 min. The compounds trapped on the fiber were thermally desorbed in the injection port of the chromatograph by heating the fiber for 15 min at 270 °C.

The GC-MS was equipped with a low polarity RXi-5Sil MS column (length, 20 m; internal diameter, 0.18 mm; layer thickness, 0.18 µm; Restek, Bellefonte, PA, USA). Injection was performed in splitless mode at 320 °C, a split flow of 9 ml/min, a purge flow of 5 ml/min and an open valve time of 3 min. To obtain a pulsed injection, a programmed gas flow was used whereby the helium gas flow was set at 2.7 mL/min for 0.1 min, followed by a decrease in flow of 20 ml/min to the normal 0.9 mL/min. The temperature was first held at 30 °C for 3 min and then allowed to rise to 80 °C at a rate of 7 °C/min, followed by a second ramp of 2 °C/min till 125 °C and a final ramp of 8 °C/min with a final temperature of 270 °C.

Mass acquisition range was 33 to 550 amu at a scan rate of 5 scans/s. Electron impact ionization energy was 70 eV. The interface and ion source were kept at 275 °C and 250 °C, respectively. A mix of linear n-alkanes (from C7 to C40, Supelco Co.) was injected into the GC-MS under identical conditions to serve as external retention index markers. Identification and quantification of the compounds were performed using an in-house developed R script as described in Goelen et al. and Reher et al. 87 , 88 (for package information, see Supplementary Table  S8 ). Briefly, chromatograms were analyzed using AMDIS (v2.71) 89 to separate overlapping peaks and obtain pure compound spectra. The NIST MS Search software (v2.0 g) in combination with the NIST2017, FFNSC3 and Adams4 libraries were used to manually identify the empirical spectra, taking into account the expected retention time. After background subtraction and correcting for retention time shifts between samples run on different days based on alkane ladders, compound elution profiles were extracted and integrated using a file with 284 target compounds of interest, which were either recovered in our identified AMDIS list of spectra or were known to occur in beer. Compound elution profiles were estimated for every peak in every chromatogram over a time-restricted window using weighted non-negative least square analysis after which peak areas were integrated 87 , 88 . Batch effect correction was performed by normalizing against the most stable internal standard compound, 4-fluorobenzaldehyde. Out of all 284 target compounds that were analyzed, 167 were visually judged to have reliable elution profiles and were used for final analysis.

Discrete photometric and enzymatic analysis

Discrete photometric and enzymatic analysis (Thermo Scientific TM Gallery TM Plus Beermaster Discrete Analyzer) was used to measure acetic acid, ammonia, beta-glucan, iso-alpha acids, color, sugars, glycerol, iron, pH, protein, and sulfite. 2 ml of sample volume was used for the analyses. Information regarding the reagents and standard solutions used for analyses and calibrations is included in Supplementary Table  S7 and Supplementary Table  S9 .

NIR analyses

NIR analysis (Anton Paar Alcolyzer Beer ME System) was used to measure ethanol. Measurements comprised 50 ml of sample, and a 10% EtOH solution was used for calibration.

Correlation calculations

Pairwise Spearman Rank correlations were calculated between all chemical properties.

Sensory dataset

Trained panel.

Our trained tasting panel consisted of volunteers who gave prior verbal informed consent. All compounds used for the validation experiment were of food-grade quality. The tasting sessions were approved by the Social and Societal Ethics Committee of the KU Leuven (G-2022-5677-R2(MAR)). All online reviewers agreed to the Terms and Conditions of the RateBeer website.

Sensory analysis was performed according to the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) Sensory Analysis Methods 90 . 30 volunteers were screened through a series of triangle tests. The sixteen most sensitive and consistent tasters were retained as taste panel members. The resulting panel was diverse in age [22–42, mean: 29], sex [56% male] and nationality [7 different countries]. The panel developed a consensus vocabulary to describe beer aroma, taste and mouthfeel. Panelists were trained to identify and score 50 different attributes, using a 7-point scale to rate attributes’ intensity. The scoring sheet is included as Supplementary Data  3 . Sensory assessments took place between 10–12 a.m. The beers were served in black-colored glasses. Per session, between 5 and 12 beers of the same style were tasted at 12 °C to 16 °C. Two reference beers were added to each set and indicated as ‘Reference 1 & 2’, allowing panel members to calibrate their ratings. Not all panelists were present at every tasting. Scores were scaled by standard deviation and mean-centered per taster. Values are represented as z-scores and clustered by Euclidean distance. Pairwise Spearman correlations were calculated between taste and aroma sensory attributes. Panel consistency was evaluated by repeating samples on different sessions and performing ANOVA to identify differences, using the ‘stats’ package (v4.2.2) in R (for package information, see Supplementary Table  S8 ).

Online reviews from a public database

The ‘scrapy’ package in Python (v3.6) (for package information, see Supplementary Table  S8 ). was used to collect 232,288 online reviews (mean=922, min=6, max=5343) from RateBeer, an online beer review database. Each review entry comprised 5 numerical scores (appearance, aroma, taste, palate and overall quality) and an optional review text. The total number of reviews per reviewer was collected separately. Numerical scores were scaled and centered per rater, and mean scores were calculated per beer.

For the review texts, the language was estimated using the packages ‘langdetect’ and ‘langid’ in Python. Reviews that were classified as English by both packages were kept. Reviewers with fewer than 100 entries overall were discarded. 181,025 reviews from >6000 reviewers from >40 countries remained. Text processing was done using the ‘nltk’ package in Python. Texts were corrected for slang and misspellings; proper nouns and rare words that are relevant to the beer context were specified and kept as-is (‘Chimay’,’Lambic’, etc.). A dictionary of semantically similar sensorial terms, for example ‘floral’ and ‘flower’, was created and collapsed together into one term. Words were stemmed and lemmatized to avoid identifying words such as ‘acid’ and ‘acidity’ as separate terms. Numbers and punctuation were removed.

Sentences from up to 50 randomly chosen reviews per beer were manually categorized according to the aspect of beer they describe (appearance, aroma, taste, palate, overall quality—not to be confused with the 5 numerical scores described above) or flagged as irrelevant if they contained no useful information. If a beer contained fewer than 50 reviews, all reviews were manually classified. This labeled data set was used to train a model that classified the rest of the sentences for all beers 91 . Sentences describing taste and aroma were extracted, and term frequency–inverse document frequency (TFIDF) was implemented to calculate enrichment scores for sensorial words per beer.

The sex of the tasting subject was not considered when building our sensory database. Instead, results from different panelists were averaged, both for our trained panel (56% male, 44% female) and the RateBeer reviews (70% male, 30% female for RateBeer as a whole).

Beer price collection and processing

Beer prices were collected from the following stores: Colruyt, Delhaize, Total Wine, BeerHawk, The Belgian Beer Shop, The Belgian Shop, and Beer of Belgium. Where applicable, prices were converted to Euros and normalized per liter. Spearman correlations were calculated between these prices and mean overall appreciation scores from RateBeer and the taste panel, respectively.

Pairwise Spearman Rank correlations were calculated between all sensory properties.

Machine learning models

Predictive modeling of sensory profiles from chemical data.

Regression models were constructed to predict (a) trained panel scores for beer flavors and quality from beer chemical profiles and (b) public reviews’ appreciation scores from beer chemical profiles. Z-scores were used to represent sensory attributes in both data sets. Chemical properties with log-normal distributions (Shapiro-Wilk test, p  <  0.05 ) were log-transformed. Missing chemical measurements (0.1% of all data) were replaced with mean values per attribute. Observations from 250 beers were randomly separated into a training set (70%, 175 beers) and a test set (30%, 75 beers), stratified per beer style. Chemical measurements (p = 231) were normalized based on the training set average and standard deviation. In total, three linear regression-based models: linear regression with first-order interaction terms (LR), lasso regression with first-order interaction terms (Lasso) and partial least squares regression (PLSR); five decision tree models, Adaboost regressor (ABR), Extra Trees (ET), Gradient Boosting regressor (GBR), Random Forest (RF) and XGBoost regressor (XGBR); one support vector machine model (SVR) and one artificial neural network model (ANN) were trained. The models were implemented using the ‘scikit-learn’ package (v1.2.2) and ‘xgboost’ package (v1.7.3) in Python (v3.9.16). Models were trained, and hyperparameters optimized, using five-fold cross-validated grid search with the coefficient of determination (R 2 ) as the evaluation metric. The ANN (scikit-learn’s MLPRegressor) was optimized using Bayesian Tree-Structured Parzen Estimator optimization with the ‘Optuna’ Python package (v3.2.0). Individual models were trained per attribute, and a multi-output model was trained on all attributes simultaneously.

Model dissection

GBR was found to outperform other methods, resulting in models with the highest average R 2 values in both trained panel and public review data sets. Impurity-based rankings of the most important predictors for each predicted sensorial trait were obtained using the ‘scikit-learn’ package. To observe the relationships between these chemical properties and their predicted targets, partial dependence plots (PDP) were constructed for the six most important predictors of consumer appreciation 74 , 75 .

The ‘SHAP’ package in Python (v0.41.0) was implemented to provide an alternative ranking of predictor importance and to visualize the predictors’ effects as a function of their concentration 68 .

Validation of causal chemical properties

To validate the effects of the most important model features on predicted sensory attributes, beers were spiked with the chemical compounds identified by the models and descriptive sensory analyses were carried out according to the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC) protocol 90 .

Compound spiking was done 30 min before tasting. Compounds were spiked into fresh beer bottles, that were immediately resealed and inverted three times. Fresh bottles of beer were opened for the same duration, resealed, and inverted thrice, to serve as controls. Pairs of spiked samples and controls were served simultaneously, chilled and in dark glasses as outlined in the Trained panel section above. Tasters were instructed to select the glass with the higher flavor intensity for each attribute (directional difference test 92 ) and to select the glass they prefer.

The final concentration after spiking was equal to the within-style average, after normalizing by ethanol concentration. This was done to ensure balanced flavor profiles in the final spiked beer. The same methods were applied to improve a non-alcoholic beer. Compounds were the following: ethyl acetate (Merck KGaA, W241415), ethyl hexanoate (Merck KGaA, W243906), isoamyl acetate (Merck KGaA, W205508), phenethyl acetate (Merck KGaA, W285706), ethanol (96%, Colruyt), glycerol (Merck KGaA, W252506), lactic acid (Merck KGaA, 261106).

Significant differences in preference or perceived intensity were determined by performing the two-sided binomial test on each attribute.

Reporting summary

Further information on research design is available in the  Nature Portfolio Reporting Summary linked to this article.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this work are available in the Supplementary Data files and have been deposited to Zenodo under accession code 10653704 93 . The RateBeer scores data are under restricted access, they are not publicly available as they are property of RateBeer (ZX Ventures, USA). Access can be obtained from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of RateBeer (ZX Ventures, USA).  Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The code for training the machine learning models, analyzing the models, and generating the figures has been deposited to Zenodo under accession code 10653704 93 .

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Acknowledgements

We thank all lab members for their discussions and thank all tasting panel members for their contributions. Special thanks go out to Dr. Karin Voordeckers for her tremendous help in proofreading and improving the manuscript. M.S. was supported by a Baillet-Latour fellowship, L.C. acknowledges financial support from KU Leuven (C16/17/006), F.A.T. was supported by a PhD fellowship from FWO (1S08821N). Research in the lab of K.J.V. is supported by KU Leuven, FWO, VIB, VLAIO and the Brewing Science Serves Health Fund. Research in the lab of T.W. is supported by FWO (G.0A51.15) and KU Leuven (C16/17/006).

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These authors contributed equally: Michiel Schreurs, Supinya Piampongsant, Miguel Roncoroni.

Authors and Affiliations

VIB—KU Leuven Center for Microbiology, Gaston Geenslaan 1, B-3001, Leuven, Belgium

Michiel Schreurs, Supinya Piampongsant, Miguel Roncoroni, Lloyd Cool, Beatriz Herrera-Malaver, Florian A. Theßeling & Kevin J. Verstrepen

CMPG Laboratory of Genetics and Genomics, KU Leuven, Gaston Geenslaan 1, B-3001, Leuven, Belgium

Leuven Institute for Beer Research (LIBR), Gaston Geenslaan 1, B-3001, Leuven, Belgium

Laboratory of Socioecology and Social Evolution, KU Leuven, Naamsestraat 59, B-3000, Leuven, Belgium

Lloyd Cool, Christophe Vanderaa & Tom Wenseleers

VIB Bioinformatics Core, VIB, Rijvisschestraat 120, B-9052, Ghent, Belgium

Łukasz Kreft & Alexander Botzki

AB InBev SA/NV, Brouwerijplein 1, B-3000, Leuven, Belgium

Philippe Malcorps & Luk Daenen

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Contributions

S.P., M.S. and K.J.V. conceived the experiments. S.P., M.S. and K.J.V. designed the experiments. S.P., M.S., M.R., B.H. and F.A.T. performed the experiments. S.P., M.S., L.C., C.V., L.K., A.B., P.M., L.D., T.W. and K.J.V. contributed analysis ideas. S.P., M.S., L.C., C.V., T.W. and K.J.V. analyzed the data. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kevin J. Verstrepen .

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K.J.V. is affiliated with bar.on. The other authors declare no competing interests.

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Nature Communications thanks Florian Bauer, Andrew John Macintosh and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. A peer review file is available.

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Schreurs, M., Piampongsant, S., Roncoroni, M. et al. Predicting and improving complex beer flavor through machine learning. Nat Commun 15 , 2368 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-024-46346-0

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Going Solo – How To Manage Freelance Life That No One Talks About

46.6% of the global workforce are freelancers and it is growing but nobody talks about how to manage that self employed life style. Find out from one experienced freelancer.

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Freelancing is an attractive proposition. Many SEOs get their start freelancing because the material barrier to entry is quite low, and there’s a high demand for the services.

If you’re good at what you do, you can earn high rates as an SEO consultant . Freelancing is also an excellent path into a career by virtue of the direct hands-on experience with client websites.

According to the World Bank, there are 1.57 billion self-employed people in the world, which is 46.6% of the global workforce.

Freelance is growing in popularity. According to Remote’s 2022 survey, 28% of employees in the US and UK plan to do freelance in the next five years. 40% of young people (25 – 34) want to go freelance, and 52% will do it part-time.

Some projections estimate that by 2027, 86.5 million people, or 50.9% of the US workforce, will be freelance. The Upwork survey, Freelance Forward 2022, found that Gen Z and Millennials are the most likely to freelance .

In 2022, 43% of Gen Z professionals and 46% of Millennial professionals worked freelance. 51% freelancers, (31 million professionals), provided knowledge services such as marketing, IT, business consulting and computer programming in 2022.

There are many advantages to going freelance, such as control over job security, flexibility – including the ability to remote work 100% of the time and choose the clients one wants to work for – and more control over one’s career.

However, there are also some areas that people do not always talk about, or those preparing to go freelance may not be aware of.

Going freelance can be lonely, especially if you are living alone or not in a relationship. Depending on the city, it can be difficult to meet others.

According to a Meta and Gallup survey of people aged 15 years and older across 142 countries, 24% of people report feeling very or fairly lonely.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared loneliness to be a pressing global health threat, with the US surgeon general citing that its mortality effects are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

How To Manage Loneliness

Join a co-working place. If you put the membership in the company’s name that should mean it is deductible from profits, but check that with your accountant.

Join other communities that support freelancers. The Digital Marketing Union (DMU) was set up in 2019 as the founder was lonely working on his own.

In the DMU’s Slack channel, there is always a lot of interaction, where freelancers ask/respond to questions. There is also a weekly video chat, offering members the chance to catch up virtually.

Women in Tech SEO is a great community that supports others, and there are regular virtual meetups.

Costs Of Working For Yourself

Many freelancers may not realize the cost of working for themselves.

For example, in some European countries, social security contributions are very high. This is something normally covered by the employer, but as a freelancer, that person has to pay for it.

The employer (depending on the country) may also contribute to the employee’s pension – but as a freelancer, this is another cost to consider.

Those working for themselves may also have to pay private insurance as well as the cost of tools and licenses outside of repairing or buying a computer/laptop.

It sounds obvious, but working for oneself means managing one’s own taxes. In some countries, tax is immediately charged at 19%, and it is important to keep this money aside.

There may also be start-up costs, such as registering a business name. Some countries require a minimum amount of start-up capital in the bank; the company cannot go below that level; otherwise, it risks closure.

Tip To Manage Costs

Make sure to save at least 40% of all gross income.

This will help ensure there is enough money to pay taxes and social security costs, as well as account for the SEO tools and laptop or computer fixes that freelancers need to pay.

Periods Of Highs And Lows

Freelance workers can have very busy periods where they are working nights and weekends, as well as during the week.

However, there are also quiet periods when they have more time on their hands than they would like. This is the opportunity for freelancers to take that course or attend that conference they always wanted to attend.

How To Manage These Periods Of Highs And Lows

It can be difficult to scale and manage these periods of highs and lows, so time management is key.

Make sure you’re spending periods of low activity investing in the future of your success. During the quiet periods, freelancers should take the opportunity to work on sales. It is important to have a warm lead pipeline.

When it gets busy, use a calendar or time management app to keep you focused on critical tasks.

Time Management

Managing one’s time is extremely important as a freelancer. Over-servicing one client may mean the other is under-serviced and could end in them leaving.

Therefore, it is necessary to write in the terms and conditions of agreements that the contract is for a set period and work must be undertaken during that time.

Be strict with your time for the project. If a project drags on, tell the client, and make sure to be paid for the extra hours worked.

Some freelancers charge hourly, while others may charge on a project-by-project basis. Charging by project may sometimes mean the freelancer over-services if the project takes longer than anticipated.

How To Manage Your Own Time

Block out your calendar for different client tasks and try to keep meetings to a minimum.

Make sure you also block out days and weeks for vacation to spend that time to unwind and  not  think about work.

Invest The Time Writing Up Contracts

Following on from the last point, if a freelancer finds the time they allocated for a project has not been used within the set period, they may find themselves working well after the contract has finished – but may not be getting paid any extra.

Therefore, it is crucial to spend time writing up water-tight contracts.

Finding Clients

Some freelancers find clients from referrals or their own network.

Therefore, it is important to ensure that one has a good network and at least a couple of confirmed clients (with contracts signed) before going freelance.

However, there may be times when a freelancer has no warm leads and needs to do cold outreach.

This can feel uncomfortable, but it is necessary, especially in times like now when marketing budgets have dropped.

Running one’s own business can be very stressful, which one may not think about before entering the freelance world.

According to the Freelancers Union and Upwork 2022 Study, 72% of freelancers have work-related stress, compared to 58% of traditional employees.

Freelancers also tend to work more than the 40-hour week – 51% of freelancers versus 36% of traditional employees –which means they have less time to relax and unwind.

How To Manage Stress

The first step is to recognize it and then seek support. The IPSE provides guides on managing this.

Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs of being stressed and overwhelmed before it becomes too consuming.

It can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance as a freelancer. One important step is to stick to firm “office hours” and avoid working outside of them — even answering emails.

Find A Good Accountant

Working freelance means looking after one’s own taxes and filing them correctly.

It is therefore very important to find a good accountant who can help with expenses and make your company as tax efficient as possible.

Depending on the country of business (for example, in Europe, taxes are very high), more or fewer expenses can be offset against a freelancer’s income from their company.

Before starting the freelance journey, find a responsive accountant who can help you become tax-efficient.

Then, ensure everything is in order before generating revenue; otherwise, sometimes, tax fines are unavoidable, and if someone has paid too much in tax, it can take months to get it back.

Sometimes, becoming a freelancer isn’t necessarily a choice.

Between 2022 and 2023, 40,000 people lost their jobs at Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce.

Those in the US do not tend to be given much, if any, notice; if someone is one of the lucky ones who escaped the cull, now is their time to plan their objectives if they intend to go freelance.

To make the most of all the opportunities freelance work has to offer, write out SMART objectives for going freelance and prepare a business plan. Where do you see yourself in 12 months, 36 months, or longer?

To avoid feeling overwhelmed or stressed, write out a to-do list but also a completed list of things you have done so far.

Many of us focus too much on what we need to do, but how often do we sit back and look at what we have achieved?

To manage that freelance life no one talks about, be a great project manager and time tracker. Do not over-service without being paid for it, and make sure you take your vacation days as if you cannot refill your own tank, it will be hard to deliver the best service to your clients.

One last point, to freelancers: well done, and congratulations for all you have worked on and your projects completed to date.

If you ever feel like going back to working for an organization, you will bring with you many new skills and qualifications; any company will be lucky to have you as you have the drive and determination to succeed.

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Biden says he’s working to secure release of Wall Street Journal reporter held for a year in Russia

NEW YORK (AP) — On the one-year anniversary of the Russian detention of Wall Street Journal reporter  Evan Gershkovich , President Joe Biden said the U.S. is working every day to secure his release.

“Journalism is not a crime, and Evan went to Russia to do his job as a reporter — risking his safety to shine the light of truth on Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement Friday.

Gershkovich was arrested  while on a reporting trip to the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, alleges he was acting on U.S. orders to collect state secrets but provided no evidence to support the accusation, which he, the Journal and the U.S. government deny. Washington designated him as  wrongfully detained .

On Friday, there was a giant blank space on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, with an image at the top of the page of Gershkovich in the newspaper’s signature pencil drawing and a headline that read: “His Story Should be Here.”

A recent court hearing offered little new information on Gershkovich’s case. He was ordered to remain behind bars pending trial at least until June 30, the fifth extension of his detention.

But the periodic court hearings at least give Gershkovich’s family and friends and U.S. officials a glimpse of him. And for  the 32-year-old journalist , it’s a break from his otherwise largely monotonous prison routine.

Biden said in the statement that he would never give up hope.

“We will continue working every day to secure his release,” the Democratic president said. “We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia’s appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips. And we will continue to stand strong against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists — the pillars of free society.”

Biden said that the U.S. was working to free all Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.

Another American accused of espionage is  Paul Whelan , a corporate executive from Michigan. He was arrested in 2018 in Russia and sentenced two years later to 16 years in prison. Whelan, who said he traveled to Moscow to attend a friend’s wedding, has maintained his innocence and said the charges against him were fabricated.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that both Gershkovich and Whelan have “remained resilient despite the circumstances of living in Russian detention.”

“People are not bargaining chips,” Blinken said. “Russia should end its practice of arbitrarily detaining individuals for political leverage and should immediately release Evan and Paul.”

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Shayquan Bullocks being led to his arraignment.

Court papers: argument over littering led to machete attack outside Little Caesars

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    Sun and Linton (2014), Hierons (2016) and Craig (2010) offer useful discussions on the subject of "desk rejections.". 4. Make a good first impression with your title and abstract. The title and abstract are incredibly important components of a manuscript as they are the first elements a journal editor sees.

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    3. Submit your article according to the journal's submission guidelines. Go to the "author's guide" (or similar) on the journal's website to review its submission requirements. Once you are satisfied that your paper meets all of the guidelines, submit the paper through the appropriate channels.

  21. PDF The Structure of an Academic Paper

    Writing the introduction As we've discussed, all introductions begin broadly. The audience, format, and purpose of your paper influence how broad it should be. You can expect more background knowledge from readers of a technical journal than you can from readers of a popular magazine. Use a 'hook' to capture readers' interest.

  22. How to Create a Structured Research Paper Outline

    A research paper outline is a useful tool to aid in the writing process, providing a structure to follow with all information to be included in the paper clearly organized. A quality outline can make writing your research paper more efficient by helping to: Organize your thoughts; Understand the flow of information and how ideas are related

  23. How to Write a Research Paper

    STEP 8: How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper. STEP 9: How to Write the Discussion Section of a Research Paper. STEP 10: How to Write the Conclusion of a Research Paper. STEP 11: Effectively Citing and Referencing Your Sources. STEP 12: Preparing Figures.

  24. How to Find Sources For a Research Paper

    How to Write a Research Paper Step by Step ... Use advanced search features to narrow down your results based on publication date, author, and keywords. Example: Use JSTOR to search for scholarly articles on the relationship between social media usage and mental health outcomes among teenagers. Search keywords such as "social media," "teenagers ...

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