Medical & Scientific Writing

Introduction To Journal-Style Scientific Writing

The format and style of a scientific paper is quite different from that of humanities paper. A rigid format is required to effectively communicate scientific findings to the journals. Most journal-style scientific papers comprises of the following sections in the order prescribed here: a title that briefs the contents of the paper, names of authors and institutional affiliation, abstract that sums up the content of paper, introduction that defines the research problem, materials and methods used to solve the problem, results or key findings of the study, discussion that interprets the results, and references of in-text citations. Acknowledgements and appendices are optional sections.

Each of these main sections of the paper has its own formatting style. To begin with, the main sections heading should be capitalized and given at the center with a double space from the preceding and succeeding lines. Whereas subheadings should be capitalized either in bold italics or underlined.

Title should be in the center at the top of first page in bold and with each word capitalized. Title should preferably contain all the keywords of the paper as it facilitates most of the online searches. This is followed by authors’ names and institutional affiliation distanced from the title by double spacing and center aligned. In case of more than one author, the list of names should start with the primary investigator/ primary author first followed by other names separated by commas.

An abstract summarizes the key information of the research limiting its length to a maximum of 200-300 words. Ideally, it should contain the definition of research problem, experimental design or methods used to solve the problem, key finding of the research and interpretation of those findings. It should contain information only in the form of text but not graphs, tables or figures. Though this section appears first in the paper, it is often written last by taking key phrases from each of the sections and reorganizing them.

An introduction broadly answers questions like why a particular research is being carried out? What literature is already available on the problem being investigated?  What contribution does this study make to the subject? This section should contain an overview of all the keywords used in the title.

Next section gives a clear explanation of materials and methods used to carry out the study. It consists of details like the sample(s) under study, description of the study site, experimental design, experiments conducted for collecting data and procedures used to analyze the data. It is to be noted that only past tense should be used throughout this section.

The objective of the results section is to present the key findings of the study in a sequence in the form of text as well as illustrations such as tables and figures. To start with, this section initially contains results in the form of text mentioning the numbers followed by illustrations. Results do not necessarily mean positive ones. It is important to report negative results as well since they significantly help to arrive at an answer to the question being investigated.

Interpretation of the results should be made in the discussion with respect to the previous reports published to show whether they are in agreement with the already existing data or not. Interpretation should always justify the introduction where the problem was initially defined and methods to solve it were mentioned.

Any significant help in terms of service and materials received to carry out the research should be mentioned and thanked for in acknowledgement. This section should always be brief and placed between discussion and references.

A list of in-text cited references in a chronological order follows all these sections.

Appendix is often an optional section that contains information which further clarifies a point mentioned in the body of the paper. To name a few, raw data, explanation of formulas, list of abbreviations, diagrams of specialized apparatus are examples of material that can be included under this section.


At the James Lind Institute we offer various medical / scientific writing online programs. If you are
interested in improving your writing skills and to add a scientific writing related professional qualification to your profile you can consider our program. Please see this link to find our more:  Online Scientific Writing Coursesjli-click-here-to-know-more

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