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Scientific Writing: The Basics

Resources to help you get through the scientific writing process.

Journal Expectations for Articles

Journals will all have their own rules and expectations for articles and formatting. Its important to check these before submitting your article for review and publication. 

Visit the journal's website and find their tab for Authors. Look for things labeled "For Authors", "Author Resources", or even just "Authors". 

If you find yourself struggling to locate the correct section, stop by the library and one of our staff can help. 

Parts of a Scientific Paper

Over the years, scientific writing has been an effective tool for researchers and scientists to communicate their research findings. The format of these types of papers helps authors fulfill the main goals of scientific papers: to present the information that is easy to retrieve, and to offer enough information that the study can be duplicated. 

Parts of a Scientific Paper:

  1. Title
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Methods and Materials
  5. Results
  6. Discussion
  7. Conclusion*
  8. References


Abstracts usually contain 4 sections, one corresponding to each section of the paper overall. 

  • Background/Objectives: reason for the study and hypothesis
  • Methods: brief description of the study type, design, sample size, data collection methods, ect.
  • Results: primary results, including any statistically significant results
  • Conclusions: summary of main results and whether the hypothesis was supported

The abstract of a paper is meant to be a quick summary of the study. While it's found at the beginning of a scientific paper, the abstract is the last part of a paper written. It should summarize the important information within the full paper in a concise way. The goal is to get the reader's attention, so this section should be able to stand alone. 

The introduction describes the reason why the study is being done. This usually includes:

  • Literature review
  • Discussing the problem/question
  • Hypothesis

A literature review is a body of evidence that explains the reasoning behind your article and research. It's the background information describing the problem and support for your proposed solution. Sometimes this involves offering contradictory articles; sometimes there is a gap in literature that your article aims to address. The key part of a literature review is to offer background and context to your research. 

Discussing the problem ties into this, but comes after the literature review. Here you'll discuss the actual problem your research is looking at and how your research ties into previous literature. 

The last part of your introduction is always stating your hypothesis. 

The Materials and Methods sections of a scientific paper explain how a study was completed. This section should include enough details that other researchers can duplicate the experiment. It should always be written in the past tense, be direct, and be precise. When writting out the statistics, consult with a statistician if possible. 

The key parts to your Materials and Methods sections are:

  • An outline of the experiment
  • A description of the materials and/or subjects
  • A description of data collection methods and the data collected
  • The statistical analysis

The results section presents the facts, or what was found during the investigation. You should present your data (measurements, percentages, patterns, etc.) in an easy to read format, like tables, graphs, and figures, along with a text section that shows discusses the key data findings and any relationships among data.

When writing your results section:

  • present results clearly and logically
  • try to avoid excess verbiage (just the facts, please!)
  • try adding a one sentence summary before each paragraph to help your reader understand the data
  • use tables and figures effectively, but remember that they do not work on their own

The discussion section is where you'll explore the whys behind the results and data. This section is more variable and depends greatly on the type of article and research you are doing. You will need to discuss the implications of your results and speculate (to a degree) on what the results could or do mean. The discussion section needs to be very organized so that readers can follow along and clearly see the connections between your hypothesis and your results. 

Some things to remember for your discussion section are: 

  • address questions like: how well did it work?, what are the benefits and drawbacks?, what conditions are different from earlier research?, how much difference is due to study design?, etc.
  • use subheadings to organize your thoughts and create a clear flow through your discussion
  • focus on what is most important for your readers to take away from the article

You will sometimes see articles close out with a conclusion section. This is where researchers will restate their hypothesis, state whether or not it was supported by their research, and offer ideas for further research in the area. A conclusion is not always a required section of a scientific paper, but it is often still included. Be sure to check journal requirements for publications to see if you need to include a conclusion section, or if it is optional. 

References, Works Cited, Bibliography, Resources: these all refer to the same thing. What you call this section of your paper generally depends on what citation style you are using. Check with the journal you want to publish in for citation and style standards.

References are listed at the end of the paper and include only articles that you used to write you paper. How you cite them within the paper will depend on the citation style, as will the format of the Reference section itself. For help with that, please refer to our Tips on Citing Library Guide. You can also check out our Citation Management Tools Library Guide for some options to help save you time and energy with creating your Reference section. 



Emily Wortman-Wunder and Kate Kiefer. (1994 - 2012). Writing the Scientific Paper. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University. Available at