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      Finding your scientific story by writing backwards


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          To succeed, a scientist must write well. Substantial guidance exists on writing papers that follow the classic Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion (IMRaD) structure. Here, we fill a critical gap in this pedagogical canon. We offer guidance on developing a good scientific story . This valuable—yet often poorly achieved—skill can increase the impact of a study and its likelihood of acceptance. A scientific story goes beyond presenting information. It is a cohesive narrative that engages the reader by presenting and solving a problem, with a beginning, middle, and end. To create this narrative structure, we urge writers to consider starting at the end of their study, starting with writing their main conclusions, which provide the basis of the Discussion, and then work backwards: Results → Methods → refine the Discussion → Introduction → Abstract → Title. In this brief and informal editorial, we offer guidance to a wide audience, ranging from upper-level undergraduates (who have just conducted their first research project) to senior scientists (who may benefit from re-thinking their approach to writing). To do so, we provide specific instruction, examples, and a guide to the literature on how to “write backwards”, linking scientific storytelling to the IMRaD structure.

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          Most cited references22

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          Is Open Access

          Use and mis-use of supplementary material in science publications

          Supplementary material is a ubiquitous feature of scientific articles, particularly in journals that limit the length of the articles. While the judicious use of supplementary material can improve the readability of scientific articles, its excessive use threatens the scientific review process and by extension the integrity of the scientific literature. In many cases supplementary material today is so extensive that it is reviewed superficially or not at all. Furthermore, citations buried within supplementary files rob other scientists of recognition of their contribution to the scientific record. These issues are exacerbated by the lack of guidance on the use of supplementary information from the journals to authors and reviewers. We propose that the removal of artificial length restrictions plus the use of interactive features made possible by modern electronic media can help to alleviate these problems. Many journals, in fact, have already removed article length limitations (as is the case for BMC Bioinformatics and other BioMed Central journals). We hope that the issues raised in our article will encourage publishers and scientists to work together towards a better use of supplementary information in scientific publishing. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12859-015-0668-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
            • Record: found
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            • Article: found
            Is Open Access

            Creating clear and informative image-based figures for scientific publications

            Scientists routinely use images to display data. Readers often examine figures first; therefore, it is important that figures are accessible to a broad audience. Many resources discuss fraudulent image manipulation and technical specifications for image acquisition; however, data on the legibility and interpretability of images are scarce. We systematically examined these factors in non-blot images published in the top 15 journals in 3 fields; plant sciences, cell biology, and physiology ( n = 580 papers). Common problems included missing scale bars, misplaced or poorly marked insets, images or labels that were not accessible to colorblind readers, and insufficient explanations of colors, labels, annotations, or the species and tissue or object depicted in the image. Papers that met all good practice criteria examined for all image-based figures were uncommon (physiology 16%, cell biology 12%, plant sciences 2%). We present detailed descriptions and visual examples to help scientists avoid common pitfalls when publishing images. Our recommendations address image magnification, scale information, insets, annotation, and color and may encourage discussion about quality standards for bioimage publishing.
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              Is Open Access

              Perspective: Dimensions of the scientific method

              The scientific method has been guiding biological research for a long time. It not only prescribes the order and types of activities that give a scientific study validity and a stamp of approval but also has substantially shaped how we collectively think about the endeavor of investigating nature. The advent of high-throughput data generation, data mining, and advanced computational modeling has thrown the formerly undisputed, monolithic status of the scientific method into turmoil. On the one hand, the new approaches are clearly successful and expect the same acceptance as the traditional methods, but on the other hand, they replace much of the hypothesis-driven reasoning with inductive argumentation, which philosophers of science consider problematic. Intrigued by the enormous wealth of data and the power of machine learning, some scientists have even argued that significant correlations within datasets could make the entire quest for causation obsolete. Many of these issues have been passionately debated during the past two decades, often with scant agreement. It is proffered here that hypothesis-driven, data-mining–inspired, and “allochthonous” knowledge acquisition, based on mathematical and computational models, are vectors spanning a 3D space of an expanded scientific method. The combination of methods within this space will most certainly shape our thinking about nature, with implications for experimental design, peer review and funding, sharing of result, education, medical diagnostics, and even questions of litigation.

                Author and article information

                Mar Life Sci Technol
                Mar Life Sci Technol
                Marine Life Science & Technology
                Springer Singapore (Singapore )
                13 October 2021
                13 October 2021
                February 2022
                : 4
                : 1
                : 1-9
                [1 ]GRID grid.10025.36, ISNI 0000 0004 1936 8470, Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Behaviour, , University of Liverpool, ; BioSciences Building, Liverpool, L69 7ZB UK
                [2 ]Private Office, 31 Baldwin Street, Port Hope, ON L1A 1S3 Canada
                [3 ]GRID grid.260474.3, ISNI 0000 0001 0089 5711, School of Biological Sciences, , Nanjing Normal University, ; Nanjing, 210023 China
                © The Author(s) 2021

                Open AccessThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                : 16 July 2021
                : 30 August 2021
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                © Ocean University of China 2022

                scientific narrative,scientific pedagogy,scientific writing,story-telling,writing structure


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