Finding Your Scientific Story: What Do Your Results Actually Say?

ACS Author University

A research paper is rarely easy to write. Scientists are required to assemble facts, figures, details, and data into a compelling paper. But how do we make how paper effective?

Professor George Schatz, Ph.D., Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor at the Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University and Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Physical Chemistry A/B/C Letters says before writing anything down, have a vision of what the story is to make the writing process the most efficient. You should write a paper in terms of telling a story, not a display of your results.

It’s important that people read and find papers that inspire them, adds Professor Shana Kelley, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, and Associate Editor of ACS Sensors. The best practice is to use these to map out your own story for your research.

Professor Chad Mirkin, Ph.D., Director of the International Institute for Nanotechology and the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University, and Associate Editor of Journal of the American Chemical Society says when you simply start trying to write a paper and later figure out the significance of the work, it ends up being poorly focused and a poorly told story. Instead, Mirkin adds, start with the conclusion. What have you taught the world with your findings?

Commonwealth Professor of Chemistry at the University of Virginia and Associate Editor of ACS Catalysis, T. Brent Gunnoe, Ph.D., asks what are your most compelling advances and results? These are the building blocks to your scientific story, and you shouldn’t let these get buried in data and interpretation. Build an introduction around conveying these results to build excitement.

Professor Stuart Rowan, Ph.D., Barry L MacLean Professor for Molecular Engineering Innovation and Enterprise at the University of Chicago and Editor-in-Chief of ACS Macro Letters advises that researchers spend time thinking about how to tell the story. More complex research makes it harder to get the story across.

Two things researchers need to focus on before writing are what is my reader getting from this? and what is the story I want to tell? These questions will aide in shaping the rest of the paper by placing the most important information in the spotlight.


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