How to Write a Scientific Paper: 8 Elements

How do you write a scientific paper? How is it different from writing in a literary sense? What are the important elements that characterize a scientific paper? This article provides answers to these common questions by students when faced with the task of writing their thesis or first scientific article. 

Writing a scientific paper is unlike the writing that people do when writing their diaries, casual blogs, or essays on whatever topics they so desire. Scientific paper writing is more focused and objective-oriented—each statement written has an intended purpose.

In writing a scientific paper, beating around the bush is considered a definite no-no. It’s a technical kind of writing that integrates logic in it. It intends to clarify the subject and present, analyze, discuss and highlight the relevant findings.

Elements of a Scientific Paper

What is the logic behind scientific paper writing? The following elements must be present in a scientific paper:

1. A scientific paper has a rationale

What is a rationale? A rationale is your justification of the topic you chose. It explains why you perform the research in the first place. It is the very reason why you conducted the investigation.

You may ask yourself the following questions to compose the rationale:

  • What is the issue all about? Why is it important?
  • Why is there a need to conduct the study?
  • How should the issue be resolved?

Think broadly, then bring the issue into focus. This approach will be your prelude to the next step, that is, writing the goal and objectives of the scientific paper.

2. A scientific paper has a general objective or goal plus a set of objectives to meet the goal

If you clearly understand the study’s purpose, you can write the paper’s main goal and objectives. The research goal provides an overview or general statement of what the research intends to achieve. The research objectives should specify the specific items to finish to meet the goal.

What is the ideal number of objectives for a research venture? Typically, a scientific paper answers two to three objectives. You must thoroughly meet and discuss these objectives in the discussion and conclusions section.

Be guided that the goal broadly defines the direction of the study and brings up the main issue. The objectives provide a clear path by which the study will have to follow. You will sense that you have already written the research objectives correctly if you can accomplish them as stated.

3. A scientific paper has a review of literature

A scientific paper always has a review of the literature. Why is this required?

The primary reason is for you to avoid duplicating the work of others. You get to have a good grasp of the subject you want to study while writing the literature review.

You should avoid being guilty of reinventing the wheel. The term “reinventing the wheel” denotes doing something that other researchers have already done.

According to archaeologists, the wheel came into existence way back in 3,500 B.C. For sure, you do not want to tell everyone that the wheel should be round for more efficient load transport, unless you find, against all odds, that a triangular wheel is better than a round wheel in doing that.

As a researcher, you should make sure that your work is original, or your composition builds upon, not duplicate, what has already been discovered or done. For this reason, you are encouraged to read a great deal of literature to broaden your knowledge of a particular subject of interest.

A scientific paper should be original.

Upon reading related literature and studies, you will find gaps in knowledge. Gaps in knowledge are those areas that nobody ventured to find out. This unknown area is where you come in if you believe you can perform what’s necessary to clarify an issue or solve a problem.

Of course, you have to assess your capacity in doing the task at hand. Hence, you need to have good background knowledge of your discipline. A biologist is not expected to do research fit for an engineer.

4. A scientific paper has a conceptual framework

A conceptual framework is the researcher’s guide or map in conducting the research. This framework is the culmination of the literature review. It draws out specific variables from a phenomenon, the behavior of which will be the focus of the study.

For details on how the conceptual framework is arrived at, see the Conceptual Framework: A Step by Step Guide on How to Make One.

5. A scientific paper has a methodology section

The methodology section in a scientific paper describes the procedure so that the researcher can adequately answer the statement of the problem or address the objectives. It explains why particular methods have to be used to answer the questions posed in the early part of the scientific paper.

The methodology is different from methods because the methodology section refers to the researcher’s justification or reason behind using a specific method. The methodology varies between disciplines, and it also provides information on whether the study will be qualitative or quantitative.

Methods, on the other hand, refers to the specific things the researcher will do to undertake the study. Examples of methods used by researchers include the interview or focus group discussion.

There are many methodologies used in research. The common ones encountered are descriptive and correlation methodologies.

Descriptive research, as the root word “describe” indicates, are those studies of existing phenomena, focusing mainly on the description of what is there. On the other hand, correlation studies involve relating variables to determine causality or effect.

6. A scientific paper has a results and discussion section

The results and discussion section is that part of the scientific paper where you present your findings, the researcher’s analysis—both subjective and objective analysis, and interpretation of the findings in the light of other findings in other literature.

The subjective analysis deals more with the researcher’s judgment or expert opinion on the matter studied. On the other hand, objective analysis is data-driven, that is, statistical analysis reveals trends. Many researchers combine both approaches to see the issue from different perspectives.

7. A scientific paper has a conclusion and recommendations section

At the end of the results and discussion section, the researcher must form the conclusion or conclusions based on the hypothesis. The researcher confirms or refutes the hypothesis.

The conclusion is just a brief restatement of the whole paper, that is, those things discussed in the methods and the findings.

8. A scientific paper validates its arguments using a set of reference materials

As standard practice, of course, the scientific paper should cite the references or literature review examined in the conduct of the study. Ensure that whatever you mentioned in your research paper is backed up by your reference material. Be meticulous enough to do so, as those who would like to cross-reference your research paper will be looking for this.

There is no hard rule on the number of references to include, but some scientific journals prescribe a limit, say a maximum of 30. You must refer to the requirements in the specific journal where you intend to publish your scientific paper.

© 2012 November 14 P. A. Regoniel | Updated 2021 December 29