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Writing and formatting

Any paper published in a leading research journal should clearly and concisely demonstrate a substantial, novel and interesting scientific result. There are three stages to preparing a paper for submission to a journal: planning, writing and editing.

Planning

Consider the best way to structure your paper before you begin to write it. Some journals have templates available which can assist you with structuring. Different sections that typically appear in scientific papers are described below.

The title attracts the attention of your desired readership at a glance and should distinguish your paper from other published work. You might choose an eye-catching title to appeal to as many readers as possible, or a more descriptive title to engage readers with a specific interest in the subject of your paper.

The abstract very concisely describes the contents of your paper. It states simply what work you undertook, your results and your conclusions. Importantly, like the title, the abstract will help potential readers to decide whether your full paper will be of interest to them. Abstracts are usually less than 200 words in length and should not contain undefined abbreviations or jargon.

The introduction clearly states the object of your work, its scope and the main advances you are reporting. It gives reference to relevant results of previously published work.

A theoretical and experimental methods section gives sufficient information to allow another researcher to duplicate your method.

The results and discussion section states your results and their potential implications. In the discussion you should state the impact of your results compared with recent work.

Conclusions summarise key results and may include any plans for relevant future work.

Acknowledgments recognise the contribution of funding bodies and anyone who has assisted in the work.

References list relevant papers referred to in the other sections, citing original works both historical and recent.

Carefully chosen and well prepared figures, such as diagrams and photos, can greatly enhance your article. We encourage you to prepare figures that are clear, easy to read, and of the best possible quality.

2D simulation of primary recrystallization with an initial uniform stored energy

2D simulation of primary recrystallization with an initial uniform stored energy M Bernacki, H Resk, T Coupez and R E Logé 2009 Modelling Simul. Mater. Sci. Eng. 17 064006.

Writing

Once you have established a plan, you can begin writing your paper. You may wish to consider the following tips for good writing practice.

Clarity is crucial. Your paper must be easy to understand. Consider the readership of your chosen journal, bearing in mind the knowledge expected of that audience. You should introduce any ideas that may be unfamiliar to your readers early in the paper so that your results can be easily understood. Your paper must be written in correct English. If you lack experience of writing in English you may wish to consult a native speaker for assistance. Some journal publishers offer assistance in language editing.

Conciseness is effective in holding the attention of readers. All content of your paper should be relevant to your main scientific result. Convey your ideas concisely by avoiding overlong sentences and paragraphs. However, avoid making it so concise that it loses clarity.

Editing

On completion of the first draft, carefully re-read your paper and make any amendments that will improve the content. When editing your paper, reconsider your original plan. It might be necessary to alter the structure of your paper to better fit your original outline. You may decide to rewrite portions of your paper to improve clarity and conciseness. You should repeat these processes over several successive drafts if necessary. When complete, send the paper to colleagues and co-authors for feedback. When all co-authors are satisfied that the draft is ready to be submitted to a journal, carry out one final spelling and grammar check before submission.

An artistic interpretation of potential energy surface for LiNC (ICON NEEDED) LiCN accommodating superscarred wavefunctions

2D distributions of plasma properties in the ICP reactor chamber during CF4 plasma etching of SiO2: (left) electron density, (centre) F density, (right) F density H Fukumoto et al 2009 Plasma Sources Sci. Technol. 18 045027.