A verbal "road map" or verbal "table of contents" guiding the reader to what lies ahead. Is it obvious where introductory material "old stuff" ends and your contribution "new stuff" begins?
Remember that this is not a review paper. Break up the introduction section into logical segments by using subheads. Methods What belongs in the "methods" section of a scientific paper? Information to allow the reader to assess the believability of your results. Information needed by another researcher to replicate your experiment. Description of your materials, procedure, theory. Calculations, technique, procedure, equipment, and calibration plots. Limitations, assumptions, and range of validity.
Desciption of your analystical methods, including reference to any specialized statistical software. The methods section should answering the following questions and caveats: Could one accurately replicate the study for example, all of the optional and adjustable parameters on any sensors or instruments that were used to acquire the data? Could another researcher accurately find and reoccupy the sampling stations or track lines?
Is there enough information provided about any instruments used so that a functionally equivalent instrument could be used to repeat the experiment? If the data are in the public domain, could another researcher lay his or her hands on the identical data set?
Could one replicate any laboratory analyses that were used? Could one replicate any statistical analyses? Could another researcher approximately replicate the key algorithms of any computer software? Citations in this section should be limited to data sources and references of where to find more complete descriptions of procedures.
Do not include descriptions of results. Results The results are actual statements of observations, including statistics, tables and graphs. Indicate information on range of variation. Mention negative results as well as positive.
Do not interpret results - save that for the discussion. Lay out the case as for a jury. Present sufficient details so that others can draw their own inferences and construct their own explanations.
Break up your results into logical segments by using subheadings Key results should be stated in clear sentences at the beginning of paragraphs. Describe the nature of the findings; do not just tell the reader whether or not they are significant. Writing for an Audience Who is your audience?
Researchers working in analogous field areas elsewhere in the world i. Researchers working in your field area, but with different techniques. Researchers working on the same interval of geologic time elsewhere in the world. All other researchers using the same technique you have used. If your study encompasses an active process, researchers working on the same process in the ancient record. Conversely, if your study is based on the rock record, people studying modem analogs.
People writing a synthesis paper on important new developments in your field. People applying earth science to societal problems i. Potential reviewers of your manuscript or your thesis committee. Planning Ahead for Your Thesis. Writing for an Audience. Writing for an International Audience. Abstract A good abstract explains in one line why the paper is important. It then goes on to give a summary of your major results, preferably couched in numbers with error limits.
The final sentences explain the major implications of your work. A good abstract is concise, readable, and quantitative. Absrtracts generally do not have citations. Information in title should not be repeated. Use numbers where appropriate. Answers to these questions should be found in the abstract: What did you do? Why did you do it?
What question were you trying to answer? How did you do it? What did you learn? Why does it matter? Point out at least one significant implication. Table of Contents list all headings and subheadings with page numbers indent subheadings it will look something like this: How do you do this? Physical separation into different sections or paragraphs. Don't overlay interpretation on top of data in figures.
Careful use of phrases such as "We infer that ". Don't worry if "results" seem short. Easier for your reader to absorb, frequent shifts of mental mode not required. Ensures that your work will endure in spite of shifting paradigms. Discussion Start with a few sentences that summarize the most important results. The discussion section should be a brief essay in itself, answering the following questions and caveats: What are the major patterns in the observations?
Refer to spatial and temporal variations. What are the relationships, trends and generalizations among the results? What are the exceptions to these patterns or generalizations? What are the likely causes mechanisms underlying these patterns resulting predictions? Is there agreement or disagreement with previous work? Interpret results in terms of background laid out in the introduction - what is the relationship of the present results to the original question? What is the implication of the present results for other unanswered questions in earth sciences, ecology, environmental policy, etc?
There are usually several possible explanations for results. Be careful to consider all of these rather than simply pushing your favorite one. If you can eliminate all but one, that is great, but often that is not possible with the data in hand. In that case you should give even treatment to the remaining possibilities, and try to indicate ways in which future work may lead to their discrimination.
A special case of the above. Avoid jumping a currently fashionable point of view unless your results really do strongly support them. What are the things we now know or understand that we didn't know or understand before the present work? Include the evidence or line of reasoning supporting each interpretation.
What is the significance of the present results: This section should be rich in references to similar work and background needed to interpret results. Is there material that does not contribute to one of the elements listed above?
If so, this may be material that you will want to consider deleting or moving. Break up the section into logical segments by using subheads.
Conclusions What is the strongest and most important statement that you can make from your observations? If you met the reader at a meeting six months from now, what do you want them to remember about your paper? Refer back to problem posed, and describe the conclusions that you reached from carrying out this investigation, summarize new observations, new interpretations, and new insights that have resulted from the present work.
Include the broader implications of your results. Do not repeat word for word the abstract, introduction or discussion. Recommendations Include when appropriate most of the time Remedial action to solve the problem. Further research to fill in gaps in our understanding. Directions for future investigations on this or related topics. Simpson and Hays cite more than double-author references by the surname of the first author followed by et al.
Pfirman, Simpson and Hays would be: Nature , , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commonly asked questions about ozone. Harper Collins Publishers, New York, pp. Child Review of ciliary structure and function. Biochemistry and Physiology of Protozoa , Vol. Hutner, editor , Academic Press, New York, Bonani A high altitude continental paleotemperature record derived from noble gases dissolved in groundwater from the San Juan Basin, New Mexico.
Tables where more than pages. Calculations where more than pages. You may include a key article as appendix. If you consulted a large number of references but did not cite all of them, you might want to include a list of additional resource material, etc. List of equipment used for an experiment or details of complicated procedures.
Figures and tables, including captions, should be embedded in the text and not in an appendix, unless they are more than pages and are not critical to your argument. Order of Writing Your thesis is not written in the same order as it is presented in. The following gives you one idea how to proceed. Here is another approach. Write up a preliminary version of the background section first. This will serve as the basis for the introduction in your final paper.
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