4 Keys to Writing a Highly-Read Chemistry Research Paper

You spent a lot of time on your research, and now it is time to describe those findings to the scientific community. You know your work is important, but how do you make it stand out? To help answer this question, we asked ACS Editors, staff, and 2016’s most-read author to share their thoughts on the essential elements of a highly-read chemistry research paper. Here are a few tips to make sure your next chemistry research paper attracts the maximum amount of attention.

A Highly-Read Chemistry Research Paper Tells a Story

Your paper should be about more than data points and methods if you want to attract more readers. Your research needs to tell a story that will grab and hold readers’ attention.

“A paper should have a gripping narrative about why you undertook this piece of research. (What were you trying to prove? How is this an advancement over the state of the art?), the setbacks or learning moments you had along the way, and where the data took you in the end,” says Dr. Stefano Tonzani, Executive Editor, ACS Omega.

Telling a good story invests the reader into your research. Once they find themselves interested in how it begins, they will want to learn how it ends.

A Highly-Read Chemistry Research Paper Has a Hook

A timely research topic will go a long way to ensuring your paper is highly read. If your work covers an emerging research topic, such as the Zika virus, or a subject that affects large amounts of people, such as climate change, it’s more likely to attract attention. Other elements that can increase the number of people reading your research can include a  human interest angle or a novel method.

Dr. Prashant Kamat, Editor-in-Chief, ACS Energy Letters, suggests a simple fix to help your paper stand out: Having an engaging title. With so many research papers out there, an appealing title is important. “The shorter the title, the better,” he says. He goes on to say, “An important step in writing the paper is to come up with an attractive title that will appeal to a broad readership. The title should be simple, effective, and accurately reflect the content of the paper. If you are submitting a paper to a physical chemistry journal, avoid using phrases such as SynthesisDevice Fabrication, or Application in the title as they imply the focus of the paper is highly specialized in nature. You should also avoid descriptive words such as study, investigation, or demonstration because they can undermine the uniqueness of the study. Similarly, avoid adjectives such as Significant EnhancementHighly EfficientNovelFacile, or Green unless you have a major finding that conclusively supports the claim.”

Visual elements are also key to holding a reader’s attention. Dr. Kamat suggests that you have attractive images and figures in your paper to break up the text and make the overall experience visually appealing.

A Highly-Read Chemistry Research Paper is Accessible

If you want to reach a lot of readers, you need to make your work accessible to them. One way to do this is to make your work open access, or free for anyone to read.

“At ACS Energy Letters, 13 out of the 20 most read articles are open access,” says Dr. Kamat, suggesting that accessibility is key to broader dissemination and readership.

Dr. Tonzani agrees that open access is important for a research paper. “In regards to my open access journal, ACS Omega, roughly half of the readers are working in industry or ingesting our research at places other than universities and companies that subscribe to ACS journals. Thus you can have an immediate doubling of the possible audience for your paper.”

At ACS Publications, we offer flexible open access options on all ACS Journals under an ACS AuthorChoice license. With multiple discounts available, including a 50% ACS Membership discount, it’s more affordable than ever to open up your research to the world. Through the end of the year, researchers may also use their ACS Author Rewards to cover the cost of open access fees.

A Highly-Read Chemistry Research Paper Gets Promoted

Don’t be afraid to seek out readers. Once you’ve gotten published, it’s time to reach out to potential audiences and tell them about your work. There is a world of people out there who find your research interesting. They just need to hear about it.

“It’s important to take the time to help a general audience understand the bigger picture of whatever you do, and reaching out through social and local media sources is imperative,” says Dr. Jacqueline Fries, Formulation Scientist at CoreRx, Inc. and 2016’s Most-Read Author in an ACS Publications journal.

She and fellow researchers used an extract from a sponge found in Antarctica to create a new chemical that killed 98% of MRSA cells in laboratory tests. They call the chemical “darwinolide.” Dr. Fries says it is important that the public is made aware of this research, which is why they made every effort to use key communication channels to spread the word.

“We did this by doing an AMA on Reddit, posting on Facebook, doing interviews with local media, and eventually being contacted by national media such as Wired Magazine and National Geographic,” she says.

The public outreach helped attract attention to the work, and allowed her to communicate “that darwinolide is just a small step in the right direction for antibiotics research.” That effort paid off, as it certainly contributed to making her research paper the most-read of 2016.

Are you looking for more helpful tips on publishing highly-read chemistry research paper? Check out our Top 10 Poster Presentation Tips. Or, click through to read tips from ACS Editors on how to master the art of scientific publication.

If you have comments or questions for the author of this post, please e-mail: Axial@acs.org.