Writing a Research Article in 40 Steps!

It was assumed, by some authors, that the ‘thicker’ articles with wider range of vocabulary is preferable in the editors hands. However, the editors (and probably the readers) prefer simple, clear and coherent writing, rather than a fancy or complex, pseudo-scientific style. recent studies showed that the information gain is especially enhanced by the “use of examples”, i.e. it helps a lot to use some non-science material, such as everyday life parallels, historical points, etc. On the other hand, some sections, such as Introduction and Discussion, have to intrigue readers and attract interest and should therefore not be over-simplified. For example, a mysterious title can catch readers’ attention and will be easily remembered (e.g.: T.Y. Li and J. Yorke named their famous paper on chaos: “The period three means chaos”). Some sections require more skill and are more important. It is approximated that from all published journal articles in the world, only less than 5% are read in detail. However, more than 50% of abstracts are read and so the quality of an abstracts is much more important. Therefore, the abstract should present the ‘story’ of the RA in miniature and should be readable standalone.

The sub-structure of an Introduction was first described by [tooltip tip=”Swales, J., 1981. Aspects of Article Introductions. ESP Research Report No.1, University of Aston, Aston, UK.”] Swales (81) [/tooltip] with so called “four moves”. These latter on become three, the so-called CaRS model (Create-A- Research-Space) that are: establish a research “territory”, establish a research “niche” and occupy the niche [tooltip tip=”Swales, J.M. and Feak, C., 1994. Academic Writing for Graduate Students. Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan Press.”] (Swales and Feak, 1994) [/tooltip]. In this case, participants concluded that especially the meso-structure of the Introduction and Discussion RAS should follow some logical flow of ‘moves’ . The more structured and more exact is the paper, the easier it will get published. Each of RA elements has to fulfil its function in order to achieve this goal.

However, this is not the whole story. A RA has to aim at specific audience/Journal, has to be novel and of high interest. Finally, one thing should be uppermost in researchers’ minds: a good article is not only an article that has been published in a top journal – it is the reaction it causes that makes the difference. Therefore, a good article is the one that is read and cited (Publish or Perish!). In some cases, even a good paper will get rejected by the editors, i.e. journal. Unfortunately, sometimes the reasons can be subjective (maybe 1/3rd of all cases). Editors are often biased, they prefer one or other approach, academic level, gender… nation. These problems and issues such as fraud, plagiarism and ethics [tooltip tip=”Rossiter, D.G., 2001. Preparation for MSc Thesis Research. ITC, Enschede, http://www.itc.nl/~rossiter/,28.”] (Rossiter, 2001) [/tooltip] were not discussed in this article but they certainly need attention.

The searching, input and formatting of references, has been lately largely improved by the help of so called “information management tools” (Endnote, ProCite etc.). In addition, the role of companies involved in ‘sorting’ and ‘filtering’, such as Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), will increase. In future, we can expect more structured guidelines for writing a RA (templates?). The RA will also probably support multimedia (animations, sound recordings), which will improve communication between the readers/users and authors. These innovations will inevitably require require some new rules of thumb.

Put it all together: 

Writing a Research Article in 40 Steps!


Hengl, T. and Gould, M., 2002. Rules of thumb for writing research articles.

Click downlaod30 to download PDF version.

You might also like

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.