Mapping the way to write a research paper

In the world of academia, you often are judged on the basis of the number of research paper you have published, h-indices; cite score, impact factor and the scale of the journal. It is all in the number game but how do you come up with a great research paper is a question that has many answers, yet the answer is unknown. One may debate that writing is an art which also applies for the research papers as well. But I will agree to disagree (To know about the disagreement you need to read it till the end).

As per the definition of a research paper, it says that it’s a “form of academic writing based on the original research carried out by in a particular area by an author(s); wherein the research finding is interpreted and analyzed for new insights.” However, I feel the process of developing research paper is more like a treasure hunt. Where, the author(s)/scientist(s) get clue (idea/concept) which is developed into a puzzle (hypothesis) then series efforts are put in to solve the puzzles (experimentation to solve the hypothesis) eventually, find the treasure (in form of results and proving the hypothesis correct). Thus, the research paper attributes to the map of the treasure hunt. However, sometimes one may succeeds in solving the puzzle and make their way to the treasure with their research findings. But also at times some of these puzzles remain unsolved which leave a clue for the other researcher to carry on with the treasure hunt with the clue available from their torchbearers.

Ideally, a research paper would have an attractive title followed by an abstract, decorated with keywords and then in progression there are the introduction, experimental methods/methodology, result, discussion and conclusion which are added-on with acknowledgment, conflict interest, etc., depending on the journal requirement. So from where do, we start writing the research paper?

I would suggest always start from the methodology, it’s your research work, and you know it the best. You are the owner of the methodology; you have designed your experiments followed by the results. So when you put up your results you look for references while justifying and discussing your results. This is the time you are exploring literature and other research paper in your topic and allied areas of work. This gives you a grip on the structure, thought process and follow of ideas. This is the best time to start with your introduction.

The introduction gives an overview of the theme that is addressed in the manuscript. It starts with a broader aspect and narrows down the specific idea given in terms of the “thesis statement”. The thesis statement is the core of the manuscript as it encapsulates the idea of the theme in one or two sentences. This helps the reader to understand what they can find in the research paper. Thus, the introduction acts as a funnel that would help to filter out a diamond from a heap of stone in the form of a thesis statement. Now that structure of the manuscript is in place in the form of introduction, methodology, results, and discussion. Read and re-read the complete manuscript to see if the idea flows well. Once you are happy with the flow conclude the manuscript, by restating the thesis statement and highlighting the key findings. Now you have a structured manuscript, but you are missing an important point here… yes “the title”.

The title will always be the unit selling point of your paper. Now one may think what would be the ideal time to think about the title or work on it. I would say there is no ideal time; it can be either at the end when you have finished structuring the manuscript or while structuring the manuscript or while the inception of the manuscript. But always remember to keep the title catchy and as simple as possible. Simplicity and crispness of the title could gain you more views along with the keywords; therefore choose them wisely. These are also the factor that would fetch you greater cite score and keep you in the number game. Last but not the least an abstract is a prerequisite for any manuscript. Abstract summarizes the whole gist of the manuscript it should not be lengthy maximum word limit would be around 300 words, provides a snapshot of your work. However, it may differ from journal to journal. Hence, to be sure read the guidelines put forth by the publisher. Also make note of the reference and referencing style (This bit would be discussed some other time). Further, to make your manuscript more attractive supplement it with a graphical abstract. A graphical abstract is a visual, pictorial, graphical or schematic summary of your manuscript highlighting the key finding in a single image.

Thus, we have now created a manuscript that is ready to be a research paper. Now once again going back to the argument whether writing a research paper is an art or not. In my view to some extent it is an art because of the language flow, usage of words, etc., but it is more of a skill; if you are a scientist/researcher who is passionate about his/her research and wants their contemporaries to know about it then trust me he/she will be good at it. All you guys who are still thinking to write a research paper stop thinking and start typing.

We thank Anomitra Dey for writing this article. You can follow Anomitra on LinkedIn.

Doodle courtesy: PhDturtledoodleF

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