11. Biomedical Communication

 Steps in Writing and Publishing a Research Paper


              K. Satyanarayana  &   Dr. N.C. Jain     

  Writing A Scientific Paper 

                               Shripad B. Deshpande                



Writing of a scientific paper signifies the logical culmination of research endeavour- the first step towards communicating the new knowledge generated to the formal domain for eventual application for public good. Unless the research' carried out appears in the scholarly communication system, it does not serve its intended purpose of application of new information for the advancement of frontiers of science. Traditionally, publication in a learned journal is considered the most appropriate and acceptable means of informing the peer community of the new information generated. Scientific paper publication is thus an intrinsic and inevitable facet of doing science.

Publication in a scientific journal envisages writing or putting on paper new information/data generated in a formal and structured format. The purpose of a clear-cut style for presentation of papers is to help scientific community understand the underlying messages fast. In addition, a properly prepared paper gives an indication of a clear thinking in concept and execution of a research topic and therefore, raises the image of the author besides helping the reader. A well-prepared paper goes through the various stages prior to publication much faster than a badly prepared one. The referee(s) who scrutinize the paper for its scientific validity are also likely to help the editor expedite the peer review process. A badly written paper, on the other hand, often puts off the referee from immediate scrutiny, as the key messages of the paper are not clear. No one likes to read a poorly drafted paper. In addition, due to its easy comprehensibility, a well-prepared paper gets assimilated into the common pool of knowledge more rapidly and widely enhancing chances of its capability. In an extreme case, a poorly prepared paper may even get rejected just for this reason even though the intrinsic values of the data are good. It is not very uncommon for a reviewer to send a very badly written paper back to the editorial office requesting for resubmission after the message being conveyed is made clear. This is more, so for papers submitted to widely circulated prestigious international journals.

The quality of a scientific paper and its eventual publication often depends on the planning that goes before the actual paper is written. The following are some of the key elements that should be kept in mind, according to Edward Huth, who edited the successful journal Annals of Internal Medicine.  

First and foremost is the message itself. Decide on the crucial points being conveyed through the paper. What is the key message(s) that you are trying to communicate? Is the content important enough to warrant writing of a research paper? If so, what kind of paper would justify communication of new information? A full paper, short communication, a case report? If there is enough justification for the writing of a paper, the next issue that needs to be ascertained is the 'newness' or 'original' information being reported. Are you the first to report these findings? Or it is the first report from North India? If a similar work has been reported earlier, are your data more convincing, credible? Or at least is it 'new' to the journal being sent. A good literature search at this stage would be in order. It is possible that no literature search has been done and what is considered 'new' by the authors has just been reported. An a chance discovery, as it happens in case reports that needs to be checked for tile case being unique and uncommon. In addition, even a literature search has been done earlier, with the explosion in publication, a new search could save the embarrassment of the referee pointing out that similar findings have just been reported. Such a paper would obviously be considered a repetitive study would not certainly enhance the reputation of the authors. It would be difficult to justify non- inclusion of references, even if these were 'inadvertently' left out. One of the cardinal sins committed by Indian authors is sending papers for publication without the mandatory last minute updating literature search. Many papers gets turned down by journals abroad merely because the authors are not well informed about their own area. It is clear from our experience that current awareness is among the weakest links in Indian medical writing. What is more, the new paper(s) you fish out may well answer a critical question that has been a loose end in your arguments in the paper. With the current wide availability of MEDLARS searches and the internet - based literature searches, this should not be a problem.

The other crucial issue that should be thought over by the authors is the importance of the work being reported vis-a-vis the journal being considered. Editors advocate application of what is called the 'so what' principle. When confronted with too many papers - editors the world over always have more papers than they can possibly publish; the rejection rates of good journals average 75 per cent or more. Decisions about acceptance thus are taken by editors on the simple question of its adding value to the journal. What happens if this paper is not published? Will my journal and readers lose any critical information? A positive answer would enhance the confidence of the authors white writing the paper in approaching the editorial office.

Having decided that there is enough new information/data that warrants writing of a paper, the next issue to be resolved relates to the audience to which your paper is being addressed who would be looking forward reading this paper. Is it meant for a small group of super specialists     (say,   paediatric   gastroenterologists),    a   larger group  of specialists (gastroenterologists) or all practicing physicians? This would decide the journal to which this paper will be sent. Often, choice of a wrong journal would mean avoidable delay, as the referees/editor would return the paper with a polite note that your paper being of not of sufficient interest to their readership despite containing useful data. It would therefore help greatly if some thinking goes into choosing the appropriate journal. Merely because a journal is widely circulated and prestigious does not mean it would accept all 'good' papers sent. One useful way to do is to scan some recent issues of a short list of proposed journals especially the kind of articles the journal has been publishing recently. These can be further arranged according to their international coverage, impact factor and other indices. In addition, going through the journal's editorial policy would help understand the scope, kind of papers entertained and other similar details necessary for the preparation of a manuscript. One should try and find out the best match of the audience with that topic.

Another crucial issue that needs to be addressed at the time of writing a research paper relates to the authorship. It is strongly advised that names of all the possible authors, if not the order, be decided before the paper is written. As a general guideline, editors recommend that all the people who have contributed to the 'intellectual content' of the paper should be included as authors. In other words those should be people who have significantly participated in the study, helped writing parts of the paper, or in the revision of the intellectual content of the paper. In addition, all the authors should agree on who will be corresponding with the editor and would be responsible for settling disputes, if any, on authorship. Many journals insist on some form of ‘undertaking' on this issue before the paper is considered for publication. Now some international journals like Journal of American Medical Association, British Medical Journal, etc., have started asking the authors to spell out their relative contribution in the research work being reported.

Once these issues are sorted out, it is time to start the actual process of reporting the research and the odyssey from the laboratory bench to a learned journal starts in right earnest. It is always recommended that before starting writing a paper, all the relevant evidence is collected, analyzed and arranged in the form of tables and/or figures/charts, etc. Simultaneously, if any permissions have to be obtained relating to material used for research, any unpublished information being used, etc. It always helps to write the salient findings in the form of point-wise write-up in a logical sequence with all the important findings listed in the order of importance. This can be the results section of the paper.

Basically, all scientific papers try to report something new and attempt presenting arguments as to how these data are new and novel and what way they differ from the earlier  published reports. And if these data differ for published findings, the reasons for the difference, and attempt convincing readers of the credibility of their research. A scientific paper is thus a write-up with arrangement of a set of ideas and critical arguments arranged in a logical sequence.

What the authors try to do this exercise it in a set format as prescribed by the journal. First, the problem studied is described either posing a question or proposing a hypothesis. Evidence is then presented on the main points and then the subsidiary points, keeping the same sequence throughout. The credibility of data (evidence) gathered through the meticulously planned experiments is explained in the light of similar findings, if any, reported. The implications are discussed in the light of available knowledge, especially if there is any conflicting evidence. Arguments are presented defending and/or justifying the new points made in the paper. Finally a verdict is made in. terms of conclusions, implications are outlined and recommendations, if any, for further work.

Until the early part of this century, scientific papers were written mostly in the first person singular form describing the findings in an informal, loosely structured way. When there were not many papers to be read, as the scientific enterprise itself was small, it was easy for scientists to read nearly all the papers published, as long as they were of interest. When the publication of papers boomed especially during the 1950s and early 60s, it became increasingly difficult for researchers to cope with the literature explosion. Several innovations were attempted and serious steps to streamline and standardize the scholarly communication system were initiated. It was felt that if the scientific paper is written in a form that would help the reader help quickly assimilate its contents it would be great advantage. In addition, having a standard structure would help library and information science professionals to index and computerize the papers to help fast and easy retrieval.

A British statistician Sir A. Bradford Hill in 1965 Proposed a structure that addressed these issues. He proposed the following structure with clear-cut demarcations on the information to be presented in a research paper:

Why did you start the work?

Clear statement of the hypothesis stated or clearly implied. Where did the question come from would form the Introduction.

What did you do to get these data?

How was the hypothesis/research question tested /verified with subject and methods will form the Material and Methods section.

What are the answers obtained?

The salient findings and supporting evidence would form the Results section

What does it mean or the implications of your study?

The main answers to the question, supporting and counter-evidence and assessment of evidence would form the Discussions and conclusions section.

To sum up this narrative sequence would form the structure of the scientific paper, as we know now.

The IMRAD format.


Materials & Methods

Results and


The IMRAD format is now accepted in all scientific journals, especially the biomedical journals all over the world. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors also recommends it as the standard format of writing and publishing original research papers (see Annexure).


The title of a research paper is an important component of a paper as any one who scans primary journals or indexing sources like the Current Contents would read the title before deciding whether the paper is of interest. What is more, the emergence of computer-based information retrieval services, title of a scientific paper has assumed a special significance. Unless the title sufficiently describes the main content of the paper, it is likely that user-scientist would not be able to retrieve the paper. Thus the very purpose of writing the paper viz., reaching the intended audience, is lost. The title is expected to give a broad idea of the contents of the paper, even when read independently. For this purpose, the title must carry a sufficient number of keywords that include all key concepts studied. A title also must be specific and riot general. A nonspecific title does not convey the key content of the paper but may not attract reader's attention.

Title of a paper thus neither should be too long which would result in loosing message due to verbiage nor too short to miss the key content. There are no rules about the number of words to be used in a title but about 100 to 150 characters (about 15-20 words ) are ideal. Use of specific word, the familiar word and the short word would make the title more effective and meaningful. Inclusion of waste and /or empty words like "Studies on...”,  “Investigations on…” could be avoided. The use of uncommon abbreviations, special notations and reference numbers in the title should be avoided. It is however advisable to consult the journal's information to author before the title is finalized.

One of the common mistakes that occurs in the title relates to faulty syntax (arrangement of words). Titles like "Glutathione and its redox system in obese polymorphonuclear leucokytes" or "Changing profile of aspartate and alanine aminotransferases in normal and pregnant sera" are some titles that result when the authors try to condense the title without adequate attention to the syntax.


To sum up, the title should be specific and interesting to attract and retain the interest of the reader at the same time including all the crucial points addressed in the paper. Title in some ways is a condensed  version of the abstract. So while a tentative title can be given in the beginning itself, it is a good practice to write the final title only after the entire paper has been written and finalized.

Name(s) and Address(s) of the Author(s)

The names of all the authors' should be spelt out clearly and in the same way as done in all the earlier publications. If the names are given in different way each time it could result in chaos for readers and indexers at the time of citation and retrieval of papers, especially computerized retrieval systems. If different authors of the same paper are located in several different Institutes, the respective names and addresses should be given separately. In the case of multi-author papers, an asterisk and a footnote should indicate the author to whom correspondence is to be addressed. The corresponding author should be identified with complete  address.  


Abstract is a crucial part of the scientific paper as the essence of the paper is summarized for the benefit of a busy reader. A well-written abstract would induce the reader to seek more details. Abstract is a mini version of the paper and should provide a brief summary of all the sections of paper: Introduction, Material & Methods & Results and Discussion. An abstract is thus expected to give all this information in a maximum length of about 250 words, information about the purpose of the study, newly observed facts, conclusions of experiment or argument, and if possible, the essential parts of any new theory, treatment, apparatus, technique, etc. It should contain names of new compounds, species, etc., and new numerical data, such as physical or biological constants. If this is not possible, it should draw attention to them. It should state the main objectives and scope of the investigation, indicate the methodology employed giving, if needed, new methods employed, summarize the important results, discuss tile implications of the study and finally give main conclusion(s).

In the current context of the information age, where about a million papers appear every year, abstract has come to acquire a special significance, as it is an important means of presenting crucial contents in a brief form. Thus the main functions of an abstract are

(i) To meet the requirements of the journals.

(ii) To enable a busy research worker to decide whether to go through tile full paper

or riot, especially when retrieved from a database.

(iii) Induce even a reader with 'fringe' interest in the subject covered in the paper.

The following should be avoided in the abstract: i) repetition of the title; ii) references; iii) uncommon abbreviations; iv) structural formulae and figures; v) trivial results and experimental details; and vi) excessive speculation.

The abstract ideally should be written after, paper has been finalized. It should be ensured that the numerical data quoted in the text and tables match those given in the abstract and not contain any information and conclusions not stated in the paper.

Many journals now insist on the structured abstract, which would take care of some of common mistakes that occur. The structured abstract consists of headings as Background, Objectives, Design, Setting, Participants, Measurements, Results and Conclusions. Each heading can have one to two sentences. They should briefly describe the problem being addressed in the study, how the study was performed, the salient results, and what the authors conclude from the results. The overall length should not normally exceed 250 words.


Introduction is the first part of the paper that forms the main text. As mentioned earlier, Introduction essentially justifies why this study has been undertaken. Introduction also outlines the main objectives of the study. It is thus essential to put the research work into perspective by quoting earlier studies. While citing literature, only the most essential ones should be referred to in strict relevance to the study being reported. Historical survey of the earlier work should be avoided. Quite often it is possible to cite a recent review article instead of giving a long list of references; most of the important references would possibly be available there. Some suggested 'rules' for an effective Introduction are the following: One should tell the reader why the research was started in very clear terms. Was it because the gap in knowledge the primary reason for the study and this paper aims to bridge this gap? Or the issue(s) being addressed are yet unclear with contrasting views not settled by earlier studies and this one attempts to clear the air? Minimizing trivial and already known information should minimize the length and also help keep the readers interest. There is no point in explaining the study in too much detail with information that has already found its way into textbooks. The referee as also the reader are specialists in that area and would have enough, if not more knowledge than the authors, to grasp the content without such historical detail. Citing the most recent references would give a positive impression of the knowledge-base of the authors. It might help if a statement or two are given about the study sample/population included, study design, especially if there have been earlier studies with different methodologies and how you have addressed the question. To sum up, Introduction should be a clear statement of the question. Some journals expect that the introduction conclude with a brief statement of what has been achieved  

Material & Methods  

This section should describe how the study was carried out. Details about the study methodology, subject/materials used have to be defined. Any interventions (treatments, etc.) also need to be given along with rneasurements/parameters used with their units. If the methodology used is a standard and accepted procedure, necessary reference could be given, as details are not required. If any standard method has been modified details of the modifications may be given. If the method/design is (unusual or) new every step may have to be given. If unpublished, details should be provided with evidence that have been sufficiently validated. In case of clinical trials, inclusion/exclusion criteria, allocation of groups needs to be indicated. The primary purpose is to give sufficient details to enable anyone interested should be able to repeat the study. In addition, the statistical methodology adapted with supportive references need to be provided.

             A clear decision has to be made about how much material to be given in the body of the paper. In respect of methodology, details need be given only what is new, be it an experimental technique, equipment or a theoretical derivation. Description of whatever is easily available in literature should be dispensed with through the relevant literature citation.

For materials, relevant specifications must he given. Experiments performed, the ranges covered, the new equip-ment used must be given in sufficient detail to enable other workers to  repeat the work, if considered necessary. 

For material used, exact technical specifications and quantities with source (manifacturers) need to be mentioned. Trade names could be avoided and generic and chemical  names  would Suffice most of the times. Experimental animals, microorganisms and other live forms used should be clearly identified accurately usually be genus, species and strain designations. Equipment used for analysis, especially used for cell separation, isolation of sub- cellular components should be spelt out with manufacturers name model number etc.

              The handling of laboratory animals should be clearly stated in terms of the prevalent ethical practices in the care of laboratory animals (Committee, for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of experiments on Animals-CPSCEA,1998 Guidelines  revised from time to time). In case of trials involving human subjects, clear details should be provided about the ethical guidelines followed during the study (ICMR’S    Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research on Human Subjects, 2000). Details about the approval of the Institutional Ethical Committee, Informed consent etc. should be clearly stated.


Results section forms the core of the paper as the entire paper depends on the data obtained. There are three crucial elements in the presentation of Results: Evidence, Efficiency and Emphasis. Evidence should be presented with credible data that support conclusions. The presentation should be efficiently to convince the reader either as Tables or Figures depending upon the evidence being presented.. Finally emphasis should be on the core data and issues. Mere supportive material could well be excluded. The results section has two essential components. First the overall picture in terms of main results obtained in the study should be described sequentially. This should be followed by the data obtained under each of these main  components. It is not necessary to describe all the data obtained or the trends. Only some representative ones can be described and the rest can be seen by the reader in the Tables/Figures.

Data Presentation

There are three main ways of presenting data: (i) in text; (ii) in tabular form; and (iii) in illustration form. A particular set of data should be given only in one of these forms. Duplication should be avoided as far as possible; Text is normally used for simple descriptive data. When precise values are required for data value (needed by the readers with a high degree of precision), tabular presentation should be preferred as also when actual comparisons with other similar studies in the paper are based on the values given. Figures/charts can be given when trends are to be highlighted as the actual data sets are not important -It-is always advisable to look at the journal’s policy in respect of Tables/Figures Depending on the kind of article, many journals limit the number of Tables/Figures, in view of the high cost involved in printing. Some journals even charge the authors for pictures, especially    if they are colored  photographs. So one needs to exercise restraint in the choice of illustrative material.    For choosing data for inclusion in the paper, the ideal policy is to give only such data as are essential for understanding the conclusions drawn. The rest of the information (supporting data) should be allowed to stay in the laboratory notebook.  

Tabular Presentation of data

           Tables should be preferred when data on two variables, one dependent and one independent, are compared or when data on one or more variable that changes with time are compared or data that varies with related but unknown factors are compared. In short, Tables should be used when description in text cannot fulfill the requirement in view of tile large number of data presenting complex details. Tables should be self-sufficient capable of conveying the desired message independently. Each Table should have a clear self-explanatory title. Column headings should be brief and can be abbreviated, if needed. For units of measurement, standard abbreviations should be used and these should be placed below the column headings.

 While constructing Tables, dependent variables should be placed in the column headings, while the independent variables should be placed in the column of the extreme left hand side- (the stub). Tables should not be made complex by including too many details in too many columns. Rather than making a cumbersome Table, the material should be divided and presented in two or more tables. It is quite often possible to simplify Tables by taking out-common data and putting them as running matter below the title as head notes. Footnotes can also be made use of judiciously to simplify Tables. This is especially relevant when statistical data such as P values are given comparing the level of significance between various groups.

                 Another important point that should in mine is the Table-text sequence in the paper. The sequence of Table in the paper should form a logical order through out tile paper. Sometimes some Tables are included initially but at the final stage some are deleted / combined. In all cases it is better to delete / combine the Table including only the most relevant data as otherwise editor is going to just that. 

Graphical Presentation of Data 

Iiiustrations can be of various kinds such as continuous tone pictures like photomicrographs, electron micrographs, simple graphs, flow charts, family pedigrees, computer print outs, etc. Use of figures in a journal adds to the cost of production. Therefore, only such figures as are absolutely essential should be included.     Illustrative material should be used only where evidence bearing on the conclusions of a paper cannot be adequately presented in the text or a Table. Illustrations should not duplicate data already given in text. For example, a figure showing a linear relationship can be safely dispensed with by just making a statement to that effect in the text. 

          For presenting data, various types of illustrations can be made use of like i) graphs; ii) Histograms (bar diagrams); iii) pie charts etc. When there is continuity of- variation between two parameters (e.g., age vs. weight), graphs should be used. When data are taken over periodic intervals (e.g., census taken every 10 years), bar diagrams would be ideal. When the purpose in making an illustration is to show relative proportions of components of an entity (e.g., percentages of different genetic disorders occurring in a country), it is preferable to have a pie chart.   While preparing illustrations due attention should be paid to the reduction they are going to suffer at the printing stage. The size of letters, numbers, dots, etc. should be such that on reduction they neither become illegible nor are too big. It is good to have the lettering done in such  a size that on reduction it matches closely the text size (10 points in printer's language). Consulting a recent issue of the journal is essential to help plan size and number of illustrations.

Considerable economy in space and cost can-be achieved in a number of ways; (i) Combining several simple graphs or photographs    (continuous tone illustrations) in to a composite illustration when the parameters are common or related, and (ii) making judicious alterations in scales to reduce the size of the illustrations.

Along with the original drawings, one or two sets of good quality photocopies should be supplied to the editor for use at the peer review stage and other operations prior to final printing. Sufficient attention should be given to the figure legends. Tile legends should be stand-alone and explanation all the abbreviations used in the figures, all the statistical and other methods used in the analysis, magnifications in photographs etc. Illustrations should always be labeled on the back side with a soft pencil and minimal pressure.


Discussion section is perhaps the most important part of the paper and also the most difficult section. In fact this section is hardest to write and most papers get rejected or sent back for revision either because of the discussion section and not because the data are not original or the methodology not sound. Most authors have not been able to interpret their data properly and extract the true meaning. Also, the real impact of their re'search vis-a-vis the existing knowledge- base has not been brought out clearly and effectively. Most of the times Discussion section is long and rambling without clearly giving the answers for which the study has been planned and conducted and the message lost in the verbiage.

 What are key components of a good Discussion? The Discussion essentially presents the principles, relationships and generalizations that come out of the Results section. Thus , there is no need to recapitulate the descriptions given already in the Results section. The primary aim should be to show the relationships among observed facts already given in the Results section. The significance of the paper only should be discussed and the salient outcome of the study brought out clearly. While discussing the interrelationships between key variables if any unusual method(s) have been used, they should be spelt out. If any new statistical methodology has been used or sample size is quite different from the earlier studies it should be clearly stated with adequate explanations. While the significant features are being highlighted, it is equally essential to reasons for any exceptions to the data obtained. If there is disagreement with the results of earlier studies, it should be pointed out rather than hiding such studies and running the risk of referee pointing out the same. The main functions of this section are to interpret data and to highlight the significant features and the possible causes. Discussion should also mention the limitations, if any, of the data collected and analyzed and point out any possible sources of error.

While discussing the results of the study, one fight shy of  pointing out the  theoretical implications of the study and possible practical applications. The conclusions should be stated as clearly as possible at the end of discussion. Speculations could be made but they. should be convincing, and restricted strictly to the evidence gathered in the study. The most essential component  is to keep the Discussion short. The skills of writing are truly tested in Discussion section in trying to convey,tlie message with crisp writing. 



The section on References is crucial for all scientific papers as, through citing of earlier work acknowledge our intellectual debt to our peers, It is however essential to follow certain ground rules in the citation of literature consulted while writing the paper. First and foremost, only the most relevant references should be cited. Since most journals restrict the number of references also, the ones quoted should be chosen carefully. It is always preferable to cite the most recent ones and the most relevant ones. The choice of citing a paper should not just be based on the journal where the paper has appeared (most Indian  authors tend not to cite their  papers published in less 'prestigious’ journals  ) as long the journal is indexed. All references cited must have been consulted in original and it is presumed that all cited papers have  been read and understood. One should avoid citing abstracts presented at Conferences/Seminars, local textbooks/monographs, Ph.D. M.D. theses as these are not likely to be available to the referee or editor who may like to cheek with the original. And lot of serious referees and editors do that routinely. If unpublished data are cited, it should be kept to the bare minimum. If the data being cited are not from the same laboratory, necessary permission-should be obtained from the authors. Also, whether the unpublished data is from the same or different laboratory, the information should be provided to the editor on demand.

It is also essential to look at the Style sheet of the journal before finalizing the References section. Many biomedical journals want the references to be written in the so-called Vancouver Style or the Citation-order system. Some journals may still use other systems like the name-and- year or the Alphabet-number systems. It is also worthwhile to cheek the number of authors to be given before et al. The Vancouver system demands names of six authors before et al if the number of authors are seven or more.  


This is the last portion of the paper and has its own importance. In the current scenario, it is impossible to do research without collaboration and help from other scientists. Assistance sought includes material help in terms of strains, chemicals, reagents etc. to use of laboratory facilities equipment, help in running a few experiments, referring patients, providing clinical material, etc. All such support should be clearly acknowledged in the paper. Often, senior scientists are requested to go through the paper for comments. Such intellectual help should be acknowledged, of course after informing them. Financial support from all sources, Government, philanthropic and from  the industry must be mentioned. Many journals now insist on any relationship / affiliation of the authors with the industry, directly or indirectly. These should be clearly spelt out as conflict of interest is emerging as a very serious ethical issue in medical research.    It is also not necessary to acknowledge trivial help such as secretarial support, providing  routine facilities by the Head/Director of the Institute, etc  .  





·   Have you checked the Journal' s Instructions'?

·   Statement about duplicate publication

·   Permission of copyright material

·   Discrepancy between the place of work and place of submission

·   All the co-authors have seen the manuscript

· Sought permission before acknowledging senior colleagues/scientist's

·  Proper acknowledgment with accurate details of financial aid/samples/cultures/drugs/cell lines, etc. received.


·   3 Copies of manuscripts and Figures

·   pages numbered throughout

·   Separate pages for Tables, Legends and Footnotes (all double spaced)

·   Cover page with (a) Title; (b) full postal address; (c) Abbreviated title; and (d) the corresponding author

·   Keywords need to be provided?

·   Abstract on a separate page

·   Length of the abstract conforms to the journal's requirement

·   Running title provided

·   All abbreviations have been spelt out

·   Units of measurement in the SI system

·   Citation of references in the Journal's format

·   Journals abbreviated as per the format

·   References in the text and list correspond

·   Reference include:

The surnames and initials of all

The titles of the articles/chapters

The inclusive pagination

The Editor(s) where necessary

The publishers for books

The place of publication

The year of publication

·   Have you checked the references with the original articles?

·   Any unpublished material cited; if so copies to be sent


·   Figures numbered properly

·   Have the figures been cited in text at tile right place

·   Size of the figures conform to the journal's specification

·   Magnification indicated in the Figures (by scale bars) and in legends

·   Authors' names and title on the back of Figures

·   Labeling on Figures in full

·   Legends for Figures on separate pages

·   Labeling of the quality suitable for reproduction

·   Have the abbreviations spelled out  


·   Data in text correspond to Tables

·   Tables are self explanatory

·   Tables numbered properly

·   Tables cited in text  


·   All the referees' comments attended to

·   Explanatory note in duplicate provided

·   Revised paper checked with the original for

·   Errors of omission in text

·   Citation of references

·   Citation of Figures/Tables added/deleted

·   Co-authors aware of tile changes made


·   Proofs checked with the manuscript

·   Check for editorial changes made

·   Corrections according to the journal's requirement

·   Corrections marked clearly and without ambiguity

·   Address for reprint requests Additional reprints needed

·   Check for schedule/mode of payment.  


The Vancouver Style 

Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (www.icmje.org

A small group of editors of general medical journals met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the National Library of Medicine, were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually; gradually it has broadened its concerns.  

The committee has produced multiple editions of the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals. Over the years, issues have arisen that go beyond manuscript preparation. Some of these issues are now covered in the Uniform Requirements; others are addressed in separate statements.  

The entire Uniform Requirements document was revised in 1997. Sections were updated in May 1999 and May 2000. A major revision is scheduled for 2001. The total content of the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals may be reproduced for educational, not-for-profit purposes without regard for copyright; the committee encourages distribution of the material.  

Journals that agree to use the Uniform Requirements (over 500 do so) are asked to cite a version published in 1997 or later in their instructions to authors. 

It is important to emphasize what these requirements do and do not imply.  

First, the Uniform Requirements are instructions to authors on how to prepare manuscripts, not to editors on publication style. (But many journals have drawn on them for elements of their publication styles.)  

Second, if authors prepare their manuscripts in the style specified in these requirements, editors of the participating journals will not return the manuscripts for changes in style before considering them for publication. In the publishing process, however, the journals may alter accepted manuscripts to conform with details of their publication style.  

Third, authors sending manuscripts to a participating journal should not try to prepare them in accordance with the publication style of that journal but should follow the Uniform Requirements.  

Authors must also follow the instructions to authors in the journal as to what topics are suitable for that journal and the types of papers that may be submitted-for example, original articles, reviews, or case reports. In addition, the journal's instructions are likely to contain other requirements unique to that journal, such as the number of copies of a manuscript that are required, acceptable languages, length of articles, and approved abbreviations.  

Participating journals are expected to state in their instructions to authors that their requirements are in accordance with the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals and to cite a published version.  

The Uniform Requirements has been published in several journals. Please cite a version that appeared in the primary journal literature on or after 1 January 1997; for example:  

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts submitted to Biomedical Journals. Ann Intern Med. 1997;126:36-47. 


27 Indian / 3559Total Journals 

I.Hindustan hgjkllmjl ;iBulletin

2. Indian Heart Journal

3. Indian Journal of Biochemistry & Biophysics

4. Indian Journal of Cancer

5. The Indian Journal of Chest Diseases & Allied Sciences

6 Indian Journal of Environmental Health

7. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology

8. Indian Journal of Gastroenterology

9. Indian Journal of Leprosy

10. Indian Journal of Malariology

H. The Indian Journal of Medical Research

12. The Indian Journal ofMedical Sciences

13. Indian Journal of Ophthalmology

14.1ndian Journal of Pathology & Microbiology

15. Indian Journal of Pediatrics

16 Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology

17. Indian Journal of Public Health

18. Indian Pediatrics

19.Journal of Biosciences

20. The Journal of Communicable Diseases

21. Journal of Environmental Biology academy of Environmental Biology, India

22.Journal of Postgraduate Medicine

23. The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India

24.Journal of the Indian Medical Association

25. The National Medical Journal of India

26.Neurology India 

27. Tropical Gastroenterology  




WRITING A SCIENTIFIC PAPER                                               

 Shripad B. Deshpande  

Writing a paper is an art of projecting one's own findings to the unseen scientist at a distance. Research papers and reports are the means of scientific communication of the observations one has made to the entire scientific community. It is much easier to present a paper in the conference or symposium, but it is very difficult to put the same ideas or thoughts in the written form. The papers once published have a long lasting impact and remain there for ever for the future generations. Whereas, the verbal communications are short lived and may not have any impact. Hence, the written communication should be clear, complete, accurate, convincing and acceptable to the unknown critique. The papers in any standard journals are peer reviewed by the experts in the field and the editors for their suitability.

By doing the experiments or collecting the clinical data one may accumulate tons of data which will have no significance unless published otherwise. Thus, writing a paper is as important as doing the experiments. The real problem in writing is "how to begin". This is known as "Writers block" (Huth, 1990). Even the most experienced writers' find it difficult to begin but because of their experience they have overcome the difficulties. They begin jotting down the thoughts as they come to their mind without worrying about their accuracy, grammar, expressions, etc. They are aware that they will be revising it many times before it is being sent for the publication. The writers who want to write accurately and clearly revise again and again (Booth, 1971). The personal computers have revolutionized the paper writing because they make the editing easy and friendly. The text, the graphs and the figures can be easily altered and edited once they are in the computers. Further, searching of literature through internet using PCs is complete and accurate.


Maintenance of a good protocol book is a necessity. When you have finished the experiment or a study of a case, it may be useful to record the conclusions on the observations made about the particular experiment. Make tables and draw graphs and stick them to the book. Use appropriate spread sheet packages in your PC like EXCEL, Lotus 123, Dbase, etc, for storing the data. These softwares enable you to sort, index, and analyse the observations at your will. Keep a separate book in which the record summaries of results from many experiments and sort them by subject. The well ordered notebooks will be useful when you write a paper but the prompt recording of summaries compels you to give critical thought to each experiment at the best time and make you to repeat the experiments / observations when you still have the materials.

It will be beneficial to present your observations at the informal gathering such as tea table or within the group of like minded people. Speaking to others make you think out arguments listener's criticism. This helps you to address the confusing points. Nothing clarifies ideas so much as explaining them to others.

An another important activity is "making reservoirs" as suggested by Booth (1971). In this, take six large sheets of paper. Boldly label them as Title, Summary, introduction, Materials and Methods, Results and Discussion. Write your ideas for the paper, as notes, on the appropriate sheets. Whenever the ideas come to you write them down in any order. You will find that amazing facts accumulate as you proceed with this type of exercise. Some writers construct a skeleton, an outline scheme, before they start to write. A skeleton for the discussion may help you to avoid repetition and to muster your ideas in the best order.


The arrangement of a paper is in such a way as to answer the questions set by Bradford (1965). They are: Why did I start? (Introduction); What did I do? (Methods); What did I find? Results? What does it mean? (Discussion and conclusions). Thus, a scientific paper has a definite order as mentioned above having Title, Abstract, Introduction, Results, Discussion, References, Tables, Figures and their legends. Most journals print methods before results but some print the experimental part in small type (font) at the end (e.g., Neuron or Nature) or as reference (Nature) or as the figure legends (Science / Nature). Some investigations are suitable for results and discussion to be written together in narrative form. Many journals issue editorial directives that leave you no choice. Examine the chosen journal and arrange your paper accordingly: Do not give the Editor perhaps unpaid needless editing.

There are several categories of papers such as, Original Research Article, Short Communications, Clinical Reports, Rapid Communications, Review Articles, Letters to the Editors, Trends and Perspectives, Commentary, etc. The formats vary in each of them.


Decide about the authors in the beginning itself. This is an important issue. It is presumed that all the authors have contributed equally in the making of a paper. Usually, the person who has done the work will be the first author. The corresponding author is the person under whose guidelines and ideas the work has been carried out. There is no need to keep all persons in a group who might not be knowing the contents of the paper.


Even though you have the material, you may postponed writing a paper despite the pressure from within (self) and by your supervisor. Perhaps you find it difficult to start. I do. This is called as "Writers block" (Huth, 1990). To overcome it begin with the easiest section. This may be the methods, because it is just writing about the procedures used. Use the reservoirs, and cross out the notes as you consume them.

Next prepare to write Results section. Make Table/s and Figure/s. Start describing them in order. Write the first draft "in yourown words as though you were telling a friend about your work. Don't worry- yet- about grammar and style. The important objective is to get going". You can polish the style later.



Some searchers may read only the Title and the Summary. So both are supremely important. Compose them early; re-examine them later. The longer they rest greater your potential shock. On your reservoir sheet make a list of keywords for the title. If you can summarize your observations in one sentence, that precisely is the title. Let the Title's first word be the keyword if you can. The title should be short and should not be general. Many Journals require additionally a short "Running title" an ingenious paraphrase of the Title can supplement the latter. For example, I have seen the Latin name in the title, and common name in the running title.

The keywords should not be those present in the title. Therefore, select such words which are not present in the title and give coverage to your observations. The words such as "rats, cancer, human, clinical, etc" are not specific and may not project your observations.


            Abstracts should be short and brief. In some journals the Summary is in a numbered paragraphs and in many as a continuous text. Whatever may be the format, first sentence should define the objectives of the study. Next sentence should describe methods used. Subsequently, list the results highlighting the main points. Last sentence should provide the conclusions of the observations. Usually the Abstracts are restricted to 150-200 words depending upon the Journal and nature of the article (Rapid communications, articles in Nature or Science, etc., have to be within 100  words). It is advisable to restrict the abstract to 200 words or lesser as the abstracts at Pubmed search are truncated to 200 words.

Write the summary in the past tense except perhaps the last paragraph. Do not give indigestible lists of values. Use words if you can, supplemented by few key values. State your conclusions in the last paragraph. If you have no plain conclusion, try to find the significance in any form. Remember that if a summary is long then the readers may look only at the first and last paragraphs and may not appreciate your observations. 


Introduction should state the problem, referred to the published literature and perhaps ask a question "Why did I do?" The objective must be clear. If you have modified your objective after you began the experiments, give the current version. In the last sentence it is good practice to state the lacunae which has lead you to undertake this work

It is no longer good practice to quote many papers. Refer to the papers that, taken together, indicate that the problem exists. If another paper give many references, refer to that, however, beware of lifting references-from that paper-together with misquotations of information from the original papers.



If the description of the materials is brief it may included in the text of methods at appropriate locations. Avoid trade names if practicable not to avoid advertising, but because they may not be understood abroad.

Write what you did in operational order. "The spinal cord was removed after anaesthetizing the animals". You should so describe the methods such that others can repeat the experiments. You must be concise but must not omit the essential details. Be precise. If a tube was heated, say to what temperature. If you have controlled, or even measured, humidity and ventilation in an animal room, say so. They are nearly as important as temperature. If you performed chromatography or other process at a slower or faster rate than is usual, state the rate. If you used controls, permit no doubt about their nature. The reader may not be able to guess what you omitted for each control.

Follow the guidelines given by the Institutional ethical committee for conducting human an animal experiments.



Begin with the description of the control observations. Provide a brief account of salient features in normal or control conditions. Subsequently organize the results in such a way as to support your hypothesis or discussion. It is advisable to present the results as titled paragraphs. Each of these paragraphs should be able to provide the data of your observations. Arrange the tables and Figures in the same sequence so as to project your observations. Editors require tables and figures to be clear without reference to the text. The converse has also been expressed; the text should be clear without reference to the tables or figures.

In case of clinical data and also histological data it is not always possible to present them in a numerical form. Then, the qualitative description showing the Picture/plates is required to show the differences before and after the experimental design. The observations in numerical form can be presented as mean and a measure of the variability (SD or SEM). The range is not satisfactory. Give the number of observation or the degrees of freedom. It is even better if you can make a pooled estimate of the variance from the whole experiment.



Discussion is the vital part of the paper in which you have the greatest freedom. The discussion must not be long as to deter a potential reader, yet it must contain logical argument. Do not repeat descriptions of others people's findings if they are in the Introduction: refer to that. Usually, the discussion begins with a brief outline highlighting your results so as to facilitate the reader about the findings of the experiments. Extensive repetition of the results is unnecessary and unwanted. Enlarge upon the findings of your results and their significance.     Explain how your new results add to the existing knowledge. If in the Introduction you had formulated your problem as question, discussion is facilitated when you can give the answer.

Think critically. Not only about other people's work, but about your own. For example, ask your self, "Can my hypothesis be refuted? Can my results have another explanation? The literature contains abundant examples of inconclusive thinking. Writers should take care not add to them by publishing in haste.

If you are fortunate, your message or a part of it may survive in text or books: although you may not be given whole sentence! So the conclusion needs a meticulous wording. This may appear: legitimately: two to three times: in the Discussion, Summary and Introduction (some times). Don't repeat the wordings: paraphrase it. If the reader has not understood, another version may help him.  


Writing the Bibliography with a computer is much easier. Follow the format of the journal. An Endnote is software that handles the references and will be very useful. Because you can format the references in the format prescribed by a particular journal. Thus, there are no hardships as before. That is writing on a card, arranging the cards in a order, and typing them with many inconsistencies and errors. Check the typed list against the references in the text of a original paper. Also check the spellings of the authors and Journals. 



Written English at its best is virtually the same as spoken English at its best. Grandiloquent writing or the use of flowery language with too many adjectives in science is no longer required. What we have to do is to convey ideas effectively, to make it easy to the reader, to make him understand what we write, and not to impress him with our vocabulary. Indeed, writer's who use pompous language may even be under suspicion of having nothing important to say! Try to envisage your reader. Write especially for them, in a manner not too technical and not to elementary. Write in clear English. Use ordinary words and simple construction. Write short sentences but not all of them so short as to keep to “one idea per sentence,” with only occasional exceptions.

It will help you to develop a good written style if you train your self to speck well. In conversation speck slowly, chose word deliberately, finish each sentence. You should be able to offer more information per unit time than can he who talk fast but interjects “you know” or “Andrem” runs his phrases into almost interminable sentence padded with empty words.

Undisputed knowledge requires the present sentence. Author usually writes about his new work in the past tense. Other people’s work is reported using different tenses but the present tense is most suitable. Working directions for a method are sometimes written in the imperative mood. This is done, not in the sense of getting commands but because it is the most direct style. The passive voice, although much used to describe the result, sometimes makes clumsy construction. Turn a passive phrase to direct style whenever you can. For example    “pH 4 is needed for the enzyme” may be turned to the enzyme needs pH 4”. “distillation was involved in the method” should be the method included distillation”.

Present days most of the word processing packages have grammatical corrections. MS word always help to correct your spelling, language and usage. Try to incorporate them.


Write a simple covering letter to the Editor giving details of the enclosures. The file names, computer used and software are also to be mentioned. Most of the journals require no justification for the paper. However, journals such as Nature, Science, BMJ, Lancet, etc., require a covering a letter justification the suitability of the article for publication in their journal. In that case highlight the finding mentioned the observations are befitting to the Journal's regular coverage.

Many journals ask for the potential reviewers. Usually you can very well know the person working in your area and list them. Use Pubmed or Google search for details. If you feel that there is a conflict of interest, then clearly mention that it should not be sent  to Dr. YYYY as it contradicts his/her observations and has a bias.

Do not forget to acknowledge the persons who have helped you to get the materials, equipments and have read and improved your manuscript by critical reading. Acknowledge the funding agencies.

Look for the cheek list. Prepare the document in the standard word processing package save the text file and Figures in a separate floppy diskettes. If the figures are occupying large space save them as zipped or PDF files. It is some times very painful and laborious to send the MS through the internet. If one has an option to send the hard copy and a floppy diskette containing the MS then send them to the Editors by registered mail. File all the papers including the final hard copy version of the paper for your record along with the floppy or CD containing the files.