Writing resources - E&ERC member advice on scientific writing

Our Centre members offer advice on specific sections of a scientific article.

On Introductions

Prof Angela Moles suggests approaching your introduction backwards. Start with Step 1, which wraps up your introduction and is located at the end of the section. Then, work your way up to the beginning of the section.

Step 3: Your general introduction.
- A catchy opening to grab your reader's attention
- A brief explanation of why your area is important
- The overall aim of the study
Angela stresses that although this part of an introduction is most fluid, it is no time to waffle. This is the one and only chance to hook readers.

Step 2: Introduce the background for each of the hypotheses you are testing.

Each hypothesis gets its own section that is 1-3 paragraphs long. In those paragraphs, answer:
- Where is the field at the moment?
- What is the knowledge gap your work will fill?
- Why is it important that this gap is filled (theoretical and practical implications)?
- What do you predict, and why? (Your answer should introduce theory and previous data).

Step 1: Write your hypotheses clearly in a numbered list.

A good hypothesis is clear and optimally directional.

"The hypotheses I address are:
1) ...
2) ..."

On Discussions

Prof Angela Moles shares her tips on how to write a coherent and punchy discussion section.

Step 1. Start with an outline of what you want to say.

Start with most important or interesting finding. This may or may not be in the same order that you started with in the introduction.

The order of subsequent points is up to you- you may consider the logic of your points (related things might belong near each other), or you may consider how exciting the finding is. As a rule, exciting things come first- that way your reader won't miss it if they are skimming along.

Step 2. Fill in the sections of your outline in an organised fashion.
In filling in your outline, there's a few points to bear in mind:

  • Don't repeat yourself.
  • Be upbeat! Someone, somewhere, will be negative about your work for you, so don't bother wasting your efforts to be negative about your own work.
  • If you have methodological issues, call those out in the methods, not in your discussion.
  • Keep a nice flow going- don’t jerk the readers around within or between paragraphs. Writing an outline first will keep your points clustered.
  • Concluding remarks should NEVER write off the work you did. They should point out what you contributed and where to go from here.

Do you have something to add? Contact the current curator of this page, Floret Meredith.


For other kinds of writing resources, go back to the writing resources page.