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How to Avoid Plagiarism

The use of works, words, and ideas without attribution of citation is plagiarism. Most everyone knows that passing off someone else's work as your own is plagiarism, but other more common types of plagiarism are less widely understood. Plagiarism, even inadvertent plagiarism, can damage a researcher's reputation, and may also affect the researcher's institution, funding, and future opportunities in science.

What is plagiarism?

A definition of plagiarism from

"1. An act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author's work as one's own, as by not crediting the original author."

"2. A piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation."


Stolen words and ideas can both be considered plagiarism. STE How to Avoid Plagiarism rev title



"But can words and ideas really be stolen?"

"According to U.S. law, the answer is yes. The expression of original ideas is considered intellectual property and is protected by copyright laws, just like original inventions. Almost all forms of expression fall under copyright protection as long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or computer file)."

So not only is plagiarism of words and ideas theft, it can also come with legal ramifications of copyright violations.

In this era of Google search, Copyscape, CrossCheck, iThenticate, and other online plagiarism detectors, it is extremely easy to check whether a paper has been plagiarized in whole or in part. 

With English as the language of science, scientists with English as a second language may be tempted to copy sentences or even whole paragraphs from other papers. Other countries may also have a different view of plagiarism, one that is looser and slacker than that of the journal publisher locations. However, many science journals will check your paper for plagiarism before publishing, and, if detected, demand corrections or reject the manuscript. 

Plagiarism is often inadvertent, but some plagiarism is by choice, and this is completely unethical, fraudulent, can be illegal, and detrimental to science as well as one's career as a scientist. Especially the theft of another's ideas - intellectual theft - passed off as one's own - this is the worst type of plagiarism. 


Types of Plagiarism:

Direct Plagiarism - The "borrowing" or "copying" of another's words, images, or ideas and representing them as one's own. This may be inadvertent or overt. Copying and pasting text or images from published work and doing so without quotes and/or citations is plagiarism. Small adjustments or paraphrasing while keeping the main content is still considered plagiarism. It is better to over-cite small sections of text you use than not. Keep in mind, however, that copying entire and large sections of text, even with quotations or citations, should be avoided. 

Intellectual Plagiarism - This is the theft of the ideas and works of another without giving credit, and presenting the work falsely as your own. This misrepresentation will yield an immediate rejection by science journals. This dishonesty by the plagiarist is the epitome of theft and fraud. Plagiarizing ideas is unacceptable and destroys the integrity of scientific research.

When writing a manuscript, it is common for authors to copy and paste ideas and sentences from other works with the intention of later rewriting and citing the text. During the process of writing (particularly if several authors are involved), this text can become incorporated into the manuscript unchanged and/or uncited. Whenever copying such text, use different fonts and text colors, and always take the time to note the source so that it is clear to you later and to other authors that this text needs to be rewritten and properly cited.

Replication of research methods from previously published work, without citation - While this is less severe than stealing ideas, it is not necessary as most methods can be rewritten. First, always check with the Instructions to Authors of the journal to which you plan to submit your manuscript. Some journals encourage using previously published text of methods verbatim (provided that you cite the original work).

If you find yourself having difficulty re-writing the methods, start with a new file (blank screen) and write down how the methods were performed as if you were telling them to a colleague or student. Refer to your lab notebook to make sure that the values and parameters are accurate for your experiment. Once done, compare your version with the published version to add any important details. For some well-established methods, you do not need to provide all of the details, just those that allow a reasonably trained scientist to replicate your findings (even if they have to refer to the paper you cited). It is best to cite where the method has been used before, and described in greater detail to allow the reader to check for additional details. 

Self-Plagiarism - Some may think that it is acceptable to re-use one's own work in a new paper as they are not actually stealing, but they may be wrong. Once published, many publishers, and not the authors, own the content of the paper. The copyright of open access articles is sometimes owned by the author, so be sure to check if you own the copyright to any text you choose to repurpose.

Inadvertent Plagiarism - Oftentimes an author will copy and paste language from another paper claiming that it was said better by the original paper. This too is plagiarism.  

We at SciTechEdit International are experts at working with non-native English-speaking scientists, and at providing suggestions for restructuring a common phrase without adding to the complexity or wordiness. 

Most instances of plagiarism of text and image can be avoided by citing the original work.


Consquences of Plagiarism:

In this global age of the internet and online plagiarism trackers, plagiarism in a scientific paper will not go unnoticed. 

If the plagiarized work is published, that is not the end of potential trouble for the author. The online site, Retraction Watch, is the watchdog of plagiarized papers, especially for those papers with ideas or methods that have been stolen, faked, or misrepresented. Intellectual dishonesty and faking data will most likely lead to retraction of the paper, the ruined reputation of the author, termination of employment, and the loss of future funding. 

Minor or inadvertent plagiarism will be brought to the attention of the author pre-publication by the journal to be corrected. 

Plagiarism of ideas - intellectual plagiarism - will be rejected outright by the journal with a demand for an explanation. 

Self-Plagiarism - You must check the journal rules on self-plagiarized work under their Author Guidelines or Author Instructions as each journal may have a different philosophy regarding self-plagiarism. Some journals are stricter than others, and if the rules are not followed, can put publication of the author's paper in jeopardy. As an example, here is what Nature journals say about self-plagiarism:

"Duplicate publication, sometimes called self-plagiarism, occurs when an author reuses substantial parts of his or her own published work without providing the appropriate references. This can range from getting an identical paper published in multiple journals, to 'salami-slicing', where authors add small amounts of new data to a previous paper."

"Plagiarism can be said to have clearly occurred when large chunks of text have been cut-and-pasted. Such manuscripts would not be considered for publication in a Nature journal."


How to avoid plagiarism:

There are many plagiarism-checking websites available to test your paper for plagiarism before submitting to a journal. Many journals will check your paper for plagiarism as well, whether or not you have had your manuscript checked beforehand, but it is better for the paper to be checked ahead of submission so that you can correct any potential problems, saving both time and embarrassment. Most plagiarism-checking sites provide these services for a fee, but some are free.  It is important to be aware that these free services often miss plagiarism from sources that are not easily accessed, or indicate plagiarism for commonly accepted phrases.

SciTechEdit International offers plagiarism checking for your scientific manuscripts and other documents, utilizing a number of applications and tools to highlight the plagiarized sections or passages, and will recommend corrections and rewording in the case of plagiarized text. In cases of the intellectual plagiarism of ideas, we will also note this for you. Contact us!

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Is Open Access Right for Publishing Your Research?

Scientific research publishing is a turbulent topic with the advent of Open Access (OA) journals. As with any dramatic shift, opponents and proponents are both quite vocal regarding the benefits of OA versus paywall journal publishing. As paywall subscription journals are attempting to adjust to the rise of OA, you may wonder which route is best.

STE Is OA right for your research. OA Icon


So, what is OA and how does it work?

Open Access, essentially allows scientists to publish their research and findings in scholarly online sites available to anyone "without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself."  Although, most OA journals will charge the scientist publishing the study a publication fee, anyone and everyone with access to the Internet can read these works for free. Other fees may still apply, but through OA, scientists can easily access publications and share them within their own digital repositories or others. 

Conversely, scientific and research journals that use a paywall may charge fees for both the author and reader to access articles. However, these journals generally enjoy greater visibility, reputation, and prestige within the scientific and academic communities. 

Publication in top-tier journals is important for scientists for many reasons, including the possibility of tenure, promotions, grants, and funding. Conventionally, top-tier journals have been paywall journals, although there are many notable exceptions. High-impact open access journals in the Biomedical and other related areas


To help you better understand the differences, we've outlined a basic overview and comparison of OA versus the traditional paywall journals. 


Paywall Journals:

Paywall journals are familiar to most scientists. Many of these journals are published by well-recognized publishers, and possess powerful reputations and strong legitimacy. Paywall journals require paid subscriptions to access the journal and are usually successful because of their status and the high demand to publish in highly respected journals. The high demand can create a bottleneck for editors in deciding which papers to accept. The editorial time delay is compounded by the next step in the process, peer review, which may take several months to complete, and the publication process itself may further delay the release of the paper.

Another downside to paywall journals is that the cost of subscribing to the journal may prevent widespread dissemination of the scientific findings. Scientists in developing countries often do not have access to these papers because of budgetary issues. Even in well-funded institutions, scientists in niche fields may find their libraries do not subscribe to the specific journals they require for access to relevant research in their fields. 

Paywall journals are usually published by for-profit companies. The profit generated by the journals' content is not shared with the authors of the content. In fact, the vast majority of that content is developed from publicly funded research, which reveals another issue with paywall journals: profiting from public funds. In addition, the number of of publishers of primary science articles has diminished in the last few decades as publishing companies consolidate, placing the editorial decision of what is publishable in the hands of fewer individuals. Further, the publishers usually take ownership of the copyright of the manuscript upon acceptance for publication, further restricting the author from using the data and text for other purposes. 

While scientists at most universities can currently access paid journal subscription articles, they often don't realize that universities have to pay unwieldy sums in order to make the research available. Most journals are not free, and are, in fact, expensive. The universities must carry the costs of a large load of subscription fees for numerous journals across the many disciplines researchers require for their work. Many scientists and institutions feel that paywall journal subscriptions are financially infeasible and, further, go against the principles of good science practices; that is, sharing information. 

"Harvard recently sent a memo to faculty saying, "'We write to communicate an untenable situation facing the Harvard Library. Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called "providers") to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals."' The memo goes on to describe the situation in more detail and suggests options to faculty and students for the future that includes submitting articles to open-access journals. If Harvard paves the way with this, how long until other academic bodies follow suit and cut off companies such as Elsevier?"   Harvard: Journals Too Expensive, Switch to Open Access   

Additionally, paywall journal site licenses can be limited and availability of content tightly contained. Access for non-subscribers to articles in a paywall journal requires the payment of a fee to read them, which can be cost-prohibitive to those seeking access to papers for use in their own research, particularly if their university or facility does not subscribe to the specific journal required. In other words, reader cost is the primary stumbling block with this avenue of publication. However, publication in one of these highly-regarded scientific journals can be instrumental in advancing a scientist's career and offers a myriad of benefits as described above. 

STE rev2 blue Is Open Access Right for Publishing Your ResearchOpen Access Journals: As an alternative to paywall science journals, OA journals have emerged as an attractive option. 

OA journal publishing claims to spread knowledge for the furthering of science research by digital means, thereby avoiding the often prohibitive cost of loss of copyright inherent in paywall publishing. That said, many of these journals simply do not possess the prominence or excellent reputation of many paywall journals. 

OA is, however, gaining in popularity as a submission-fee rather than paid subscription model. This can prove beneficial to publishers, scientists, and funders across a myriad of research platforms by providing greater public access. Submission fees to fee-based OA publishers are often paid by funders or universities, with only a small percentage being paid by the individual researcher according to the 2011 Study of Open Access Publishing (SOAP) Highlights from the SOAP project survey. What Scientists Think about Open Access  Most peer-reviewed OA journals, 67% in 2013, do not charge publication fees at all according to the Directory of Open Access Journals. 

To reduce the costs of publishing, some OA journals elect not to perform pre-publication processing of the manuscript. That is, it is the responsibility of the authors to ensure that the manuscript is publication-ready upon submission because the journal does not copy-edit the text, format the text, review or format the figures, or check the references for accuracy. These pre-publication functions fall upon the author.  

SciTechEdit International provides pre-publication editing and formatting services for scientist clients that wish to present a polished manuscript. 

A downside to publishing in some OA journals is a potential lack of credibility and academic reach, with the upside encompassing lower or complete lack of fees to access the published article and wider dissemination, as assessed by increased numbers of citations. 

Citation Advantage of Open Access Articles (2006) -

"We found strong evidence that, even in a journal that is widely available in research libraries, OA articles are more immediately recognized and cited by peers than non-OA articles published in the same journal. OA is likely to benefit science by accelerating dissemination and uptake of research findings."  

  More recently, in the journal Nature, Research on Open Access quotes research published in 2014 that:

"A statistical analysis of the articles published in Nature Communications, carried out by the Research Information Network (RIN) in 2014 found that open access articles are viewed three times more often than articles that are only available to subscribers. RIN also found that OA articles are cited more than subscription articles."  

In addition, this same article cites a 2015 survey:

"The survey, which contains views from 22,000 researchers, has found that authors' concerns about perceptions of the quality of open access publications have dropped significantly compared to last year." 

Scientists hesitant to publish in OA journals may want to consider the high citation factor of work published in OA journals. 

OACA - the open access citation advantage (2016)  "If you post your paper online somewhere outside a paywall, you join the majority of scholars and your paper will gain citation advantage over papers available only through a journal. This has been demonstrated in recent research."

"A study of OACA [was] performed in 2014 by by Science-Metrix for the European Commission. This study is definitive because its data is big. Science-Metrix (then) retrieved 245,571 OA papers published between 2009 and 2011 and conducted an OACA analysis on this set. Overall, the OA papers had a 26% citation advantage compared to the full set of 512,443 papers, and papers that were not OA had a 24% disadvantage (i.e., they had a lower citation rate than the full set). The advantage varied by type of OA: green (author posting) had a 53% advantage, while gold (journal OA) had a 39% disadvantage. The advantage also varied by field, being highest in some humanities fields and lowest in medical fields. According to Wagner this study provides "the strongest evidence to date of an OACA."

And, just to add another layer of complexity to this entire domain of OA, there are four types of Open Access journal publications: Green, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. 

Green Open Access typically allows scientists to upload drafts and/or pre-published works to a digital preprint repository. These articles may or may not have been peer-reviewed, but are immediately accessible to the general public. With the Green OA model, articles are universally archived, theoretically removing the need for journal subscriptions. This type of OA has long been used by scientists in the Physical Sciences. 

Gold Open Access denotes scholarly articles that have been peer-reviewed and are available for publication in their final form. Publication fees usually apply. These journals may or may not provide immediate access to the general public for these works. 

Diamond and Platinum Open Access is a relatively new phenomenon within the OA sphere. Diamond is similar to Gold, and will incorporate publication fees for authors, but not readers. Platinum, on the other hand, is fully open access and typically doesn't charge any fees at all. Platinum open access journals are usually published by nonprofit societies and associations. 

There are actually several other components involved within these tiers, including hybrids, and a profuse range of tangential fees. The vast amount of minutiae can be staggering. Additionally, access, as defined by the scientific community, can differ greatly, which only lends to the confusion. 

Many scientists are uncomfortable pre-publishing their works and allowing others to see those works without the benefit of peer review (e.g., Green OA). Others are distrustful of unknown journals, many of which simply don't have the proven validity of traditional, well-respected, scientific journals. On the other hand, those researchers and scholars reared in the digital domain are far more likely to experiment with OA models due to the potential of increased public access and opportunity to publish without the rigors required by paywall journals. 

There is no right or wrong answer here. Individuals must ascertain for themselves whether published articles should appear in paywall or OA journals. As with all emerging and developing trends, OA's track record in this regard may not prove substantive enough for some while others may find the lack of requisites and oftentimes onerous fees refreshing and worthwhile. 

The future of paywall journals may appear tenuous considering the popularity of OA, but don't count them out, yet. While many academics are enthused by the freedom and cost-effective factors of OA publishing, others are cautioning against premature celebration. 

Despite the many benefits of Open Access, the conversation continues. Which route will you choose? 


© SciTechEdit International 2017





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Social Media for Scientists - Why You Need to Be There

When it comes to social media use by scientists, some scientists are avid users, some dip their toe in occasionally, and some scientists areSTE BLOG rev 400x400 Social Media for Scientists simply on the sidelines with various reasons why they don't use social media. Many of those reasons are outdated or inadequate in today's digital age.

"The scientific discourse is moving online," says Paul Groth (@pgroth) - Assistant Professor, Dept. of Computer Science, VU University, Amsterdam 

Let's look at some of the reasons why many scientists are engaging in social media (especially Twitter), the benefits of participating, and the preferred platforms of avid users. 

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While ResearchGate has the largest number of users who primarily use it as an access point for contact, it is not functioning as a social network. 

Facebook has the largest number of users worldwide, and while many scientists have a profile there, they generally do not use it in a professional capacity, preferring to interact with family and friends rather than fellow scientists. 

LinkedIn is useful to scientists for having a profile visible to those who may contact them, and for jobs and peer connections. It is not actively used for sharing information or commenting.

Twitter is the preferred platform of scientists who use social media. Twitter is used by both early-career as well as tenure-level scientists. It offers a wide variety of benefits to scientists and has many active users from many disciplines.

For scientists, the benefits of using Twitter include:

  • Sharing your published research with scientists in your own and other disciplines
  • Getting your paper noticed above the competition of 2 million yearly published research articles
  • Sharing research published by others
  • Connecting with other scientists in your field, locally and globally
  • Gaining visibilty for your research papers, and possibly improving your citation numbers
  • Networking and engaging with peers
  • Sharing articles of interest with scientists in your field or for science at large
  • Connecting with potential collaborators for future research
  • Staying abreast of news in specific scientific disciplines and of general science interests
  • Staying informed of articles published by journals of interest
  • Connecting with conferences you are attending or cannot attend, as well as with other scientists interested in the conference by using the conference hashtag
  • Easy to find and follow anyone without needing permission
  • Easy to search for topics by keyword or hashtag
  • Can create lists of key accounts to see their tweets first or to catch up on missed tweets from those accounts
  • Easy to mute or block trolls, hiding them from your feed
  • Fast moving newsfeed allows sending important tweets at different times of day to reach more people without their seeing duplicates
  • Smart phone Twitter app makes using Twitter quick and easy
  • Joining regularly scheduled and hashtagged science chats to discuss specific topics with other scientists
  • Helps to establish your online presence in Google searches 
  • Teaches you to communicate clearly and succinctly within 140 characters
  • Allows communication of science with the lay public

Growth of Twitter users in the sciences is slow due to a few factors - fear, time, unsure of benefits, and unsure of how to use Twitter. Let's touch on a few of these:


FEAR OF EXPOSURE OR MAKING ERRORS, INTROVERSION - Scientists on Twitter for scientists are a fairly friendly group and happy to connect with other scientists. However, as in real life, you will find those who are not so friendly, but you have the choice to interact with them or not. You create your own Twitter feed of people you wish to follow, but others can follow you without you returning the follow. If anyone gets nasty you have the option to Mute or Block them. While Tweets can't be edited, if you make a terrible error, you can delete it and start over. 

If you are an introvert, don't worry! Introverts are welcome on Twitter and no one knows you are introverted! If you wish, you can begin by being an observer, known as a lurker in social media terminology, until you get the hang of Twitter. Most people begin as lurkers, so you will have plenty of company! You can set up your account to follow anyone and see their tweets in your feed to get the feel of how Twitter is used before you jump in and comment. Retweets are the easiest way to participate and show that your account is viable, and hashtags (a word or phrase following the # symbol, e.g. #SocialMediaForScientists) allow you to find others who share an interest.

FEAR OF NOT KNOWING HOW TO USE TWITTER - There are many articles available online for beginner "newbies" to learn how to use this platform and the terms used, but we will outline key points for you here. When you set up your account on Twitter you will need to choose a Twitter @ handle, or name. You will also have your own name on your account as well as your handle. By using your real name on your account and then a descriptive handle, you will be more easily found by your fellow scientists as well as show your interests. Here's an example:, which is the account for Dr. David Shiffman who goes by the handle @WhySharksMatter.

549x301 STE SM BLOG. Twitter acct Dr Shiffman WhySharksMatter

Twitter handles have a character limit of 15 characters so choose wisely, and the shorter the better. You can do a search directly on Twitter to see if your desired handle is taken or available. Twitter handles and images are no longer counted in the 140 character tweet limit, so that is a new help for users. More on tweets below.

You will also need a square profile picture of yourself to upload. Using a real photo or cartoon of yourself allows others to be sure they are connecting with the right person, especially is your name is a common one. The size of this image should be 400x400 pixels in JPG or PNG format. The large header image at the top of your account is also important to have as it shows you have an active account. You may choose something that represents your science or an image that you like. The Twitter recommended header image size should be 1500x500, again in JPG or PNG, but Twitter crops and compresses it automatically to fit all screens, and if you have important information at the edges, it can be cropped out. An image size of 1263x421 might be a better option to avoid Twitter resizing, and do upload the highest quality image you can. It is always better to reduce a larger image to the correct size than to expand a smaller image, because expanded smaller images are unclear. 

Quick way to find accounts to follow - For new users to find accounts to follow, try searching for a #hashtag of a word you are interested in and with that hashtag you will see the accounts that use it in their tweets or bio. Click on "Follow" and that account's tweets will appear in your Twitter feed. However, pay attention that the account is active and has recent tweets. Don't follow quiet accounts because it is a waste of your time. Once you have followed an account, you can click on their "Followers" and "Following" links at the top of their Twitter page on desktop (not available on phone) and you may see other accounts you wish to follow. 

Need ideas of accounts to follow? Try these:

The Top 50 Science Stars of Twitter (2014)   

The Best Science Twitter Accounts (Updated 2016)   

Here is an example of a Twitter hashtag search for #science, which includes that hashtag as it appears in biographies ("bios") and in tweets.


Speaking of Twitter bios, be sure you fill out your bio as completely and descriptively as possible (there is a 160 character limit for bios). Include your city and your personal website link if you have a site. 

Tweets - While tweets are limited to 140 characters (including spaces), you should compose your tweets using 120 characters to allow space for an addition @ handle in your tweet if needed. Also - and very important for Twitter's character limits - you should use a link shortener instead of the original long URL in your tweet. Twitter itself will shorten long links using its service. Shorteners will consume 23 characters (including of your allotment, but are better in the long run. If you use as a shortener, it offers analytics of who opened (and hopefully read!) your link. There are other shortener services available as well, including ones by Google, Hootsuite, and others.   

Retweets and Likes of your tweets by others will often gain you followers. Likewise, your retweets (RTs) and "Likes" of others' tweets can also gain you followers. The more followers you have, the more your tweets - and tweets of your own articles - are seen, so aim to have followers pertinent to your science and many of them. Yes, there will be questionable bot followers that you can easily block whether on phone or desktop. See image below for screenshots of blocking:

476x268 STE BLOG SM How to Block a Twitter Account phone or desktop 

Use images in your tweets whenever possible as they increase the visibility of your tweet in your followers' feed. Tweets with images are more eye-catching and usually get more Likes and Retweets. A little trick in the Twitterverse is that images can be used to share text beyond the 140 limit. Type your text in an image and attach it to your tweet. It's a great way to get around the 140 character limit. 

For a Twitter Glossary of Terms, see this link from the Twitter site, which has other helpful info too:

FEAR OF SELF-PROMOTION - Some say that their science should speak for itself. Well, no. If no one knows your research is there, your science cannot speak. You must speak for your science, sending it out into the world, making it visible using social media. This does not mean that you stand on a digital soapbox and shout. The science community on Twitter shares and discusses their research tastefully, earnestly, and without being cliche or spammy.  

Sharing a journal link to your published article on Twitter and including a descriptive hashtag is important for visibility and impact. Your tweet will oftentimes be retweeted, increasing the reach of your work to other scientists.

When you increase your reach and visibility, the likelihood of your research being cited is increased. 

IT TAKES TOO MUCH TIME! - In this digital age, we often acquire new things to do - sending and answering email, reading and learning online, even remembering to charge our devices and update software, among other duties. Participating on social media is another one of those new duties we've acquired, and we must make time for it.  

It isn't necessary to read all the tweets in the onslaught that is Twitter. Dip in and out during the day and evening. Use Twitter lists to follow key accounts that are most important to you. Use your smart phone Twitter app to participate from time to time when you have free moments. Use it when waiting in line, when awaiting results, when watching television during a commercial. You do not need to stay glued to Twitter. Nobody has time for that! Use Twitter when you can, but do make it a habit!  It is a great way to stay informed of new research, to stay connected to your community of scientists, to follow news, and to network with other scientists. Five or ten minutes here and there throughout the day is time that can be found by anyone to use Twitter. 

UNSURE OF THE PURPOSE OF TWITTER - With the thousands of articles published, journals themselves do not have the capacity to market your specific work. As McKinsey & Company stated back in 2011, "We're all marketers now". It is up to each scientist to gain visibility for their research, to discuss and explain their research to scientists both in and out of their fields, and to the media and general public. Participation in Twitter allows scientists to reach audiences not available before. Not everyone attends your presentation at conferences, your circle of colleagues may be small, and your research may be niche with an inherently small audience. Twitter enables you to broaden your reach and visibility, and your research can gain citations by other scientists just by the nature of your sharing it with the larger community. As the saying goes, "Don't hide your light under a basket". Let it shine for all to see! Tweet it!

Springer Nature now encourages sharing of content by researchers and makes it easy and legal to do so with their new initiative. This initiative is available for all of Springer Nature's owned journal portfolio and 1000 co-owned and partner-owned journals. They now provide authors and readers with shareable links to view-only PDFs of peer-reviewed research papers. The shareable links can be posted on social media platforms, authors' own websites, institutional repositories, and on scholarly collaborative networks. Open-access articles can be downloaded, printed, and saved by everyone. Subscribers can do the same for subscription articles.

As exciting as Twitter and other platforms are for sharing your published research to the scientific community, the media, and the public, be sure to be mindful of the embargo policies of the journal. These are important rules to follow as disobeying them may cause you trouble in publishing in the future. Embargo policies are found in the Instructions to Authors section of each journal. Here's a link to Nature's Embargo Policy as an example of special guidelines for authors relating to communication with other scientists:  

"Nature does not wish to hinder communication between scientists. For that reason, different embargo guidelines apply to work that has been discussed at a conference or displayed on a preprint server and picked up by the media as a result. (Neither conference presentations nor posting on recognized preprint servers constitute prior publication.)

Our guidelines for authors and potential authors in such circumstances are clear-cut in principle: communicate with other researchers as much as you wish, but do not encourage premature publication by discussion with the press (beyond a formal presentation, if at a conference)."

Elsevier has a Journal Embargo Finder for self-archiving embargo periods that you may find helpful: :

Other examples of embargo policies: 

Journal of American Chemical Society (JACS)

Journal of Gastroenterology


So now you are ready to participate and engage with the scientific community on Twitter! You've learned why it doesn't have to consume a lot of your time, and why it is important and essential to your research visibility to participate and speak for your work. Twitter can be a lot of fun too! Be sure to follow SciTechEdit International on Twitter! @SciTechEdit


This has been a guest post by Miller Finch of, Social Media for Scientists - and others! Follow @MillerFinchSM



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The Best Way to Help Your Research Get Published

STE The best way to help your research get published
  • A good, persuasive cover letter increases your chances of being published.
  • Your cover letter is your sales pitch to journal editors for why they should publish your work.
  • Your cover letter must follow the journal's requirements, and be concise and free of errors.

Your goal of publishing your research is at hand. You've carefully selected the journal for submitting your work (if you haven't selected your journal yet, see The Guide to Choosing the Best Science Journal for Publishing Your Research), you've prepared and formatted your manuscript for the journal, and you are excited at the idea of being published.

For most journals, you must now write the all-important cover letter that gets you in the door to be published. Yes, you must write a cover letter! A cover letter, or pre-submission letter, is the key that entices the editor to agree to review your research. You cannot take the easy way out and simply state "here is my research for you to publish". Why would they care? Why should they care? Sending a carelessly written cover letter shows you don't care and that maybe your research isn't at all worth publishing. Do you really want to give that impression after all your hard work, time, and effort spent performing your research and writing up your findings? Probably not.

With thousands of papers to choose from for publication, science journals have their pick of what to publish and your article may not be chosen. Journal editors are in the driver's seat. 


What can make the difference in being published or not? Your sales pitch (or persuasive argument) to the journal. Your cover letter is that sales pitch. 

Now before you are taken aback at the idea of having to present a sales pitch, think about it. You are asking them to publish your work. You are competing with dozens of scientists and you must stand out from the crowd. We are not talking about exaggerated or overstated claims, but a statement that tells the journal 'What's In It For Them' and 'The Benefit' they gain by publishing your work. 

The competition to publish is real and ongoing. There is no resting on your laurels in science publication. A body of work may be lauded, but each piece of work must make its way to the front of the line for publication, and your cover letter is how you gain access to the first step of publication. Without a great cover letter, your research could all be for naught - a wasted effort. 


Pay strong attention to your cover letter as it is the mechanism to getting your research read and published. 

Just as a job cover letter is the first impression future employers see of you, the pitch in that letter is what helps them decide to progress to reading your resume. The publication cover letter is your sales pitch to science journals that your manuscript will benefit them and their readers. 

Editors want to know that you understand the focus of their journal, the scope of work they publish, how your work will complement other research they publish, and that your work will relate to their readers, as well as the public and general media. Your cover letter will emphasize why your work is important, useful, and interesting. It is your pitch to get published.

STE rev The cover letter is your sales pitch to science journals

Be persuasive and coherent in your cover letter. Sell the merits of your work to them.  You don't need to exaggerate your findings, you just need to describe why they are important and relevant. 


Now that you understand the importance of the WHY of a cover letter, let's move on to the HOW of a cover letter to a science journal. 

First, carefully read the specific Author Requirements and Instructions published in the journal you are targeting. If you don't carefully follow their rules, your manuscript could be immediately rejected. 

Find the name of the editor so you can address your cover letter to this specific person. If you can't locate the name and email address, then use "Dear Editor" in your letter salutation. Under no circumstances should you use "Dear Sir or Madam"! It is archaic, antiquated, and outdated. Also, do not use "To Whom It May Concern" as that shows a lack of interest in the person you wish to have read your letter. If you don't care, they won't either. 

Cover letters, or pre-submission letters, must contain a brief, concise, and clear message. One page only! If you find yours running longer than one page, edit it. 

Know that SciTechEdit International is at your service for composing, editing, proofreading, and polishing your cover letter to achieve its best potential in pitching your research for publication. See more here Cover Letters. Contact us when we may be of assistance to you!

Be human in your letter! Write in plain English and avoid jargon and acronyms. Do not drone on about your paper and bore the reader. Remove passive voice phrases such as "in order to" and "may have potential to", and rewrite in active voice. Respect the editor's time!

Briefly summarize the highlights in a way that non-experts could understand. Tell why your paper will have an impact and on whom: fellow scientists, the public, future research. Editors are not experts in all fields, so make your explanations easily understood. 

Choose a readable typeface such as Arial, Helvetica, or Times New Roman, in a font size between 10 and 12.

Break up large blocks of text as needed to make it easier for the editor to read. 

Be sure that the name you use in your research is the same as what you use in your letter. If you are John L. Smith in your paper, sign your letter in that name, not J. L. Smith. Make it easy for the editor to connect the dots. 

If your target journal allows suggestions for reviewers ("referees"), or for reviewers you wish to avoid, follow the journal directions for how many of these they allow. *Studies show that you can significantly increase the chances of being published by suggesting and/or excluding reviewers in your cover letter. 

Be sure your letter is free of errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting. Don't trust "spell-check" - have a colleague or two (or a science editing company!) review your letter to catch any mistakes. Your cover letter/pre-submission letter is an important document that represents you and your research. If the cover letter is sloppy, the assumption is that your research is, too. Don't miss out on potential publication with a poorly crafted letter!

 In addition to the journal's requirements, include this important information in your pre-submission or cover letter:

  • Short introduction stating your manuscript title, the type of article if the journal has different types of articles, and the specific journal you are referencing for publication.
  • Tell why your research study was important, and what questions it answers. Include why your research was needed and whether it continues or builds on prior research in this field. 
  • Tell why your research would be of interest to the journal audience and/or to the specific field of science that the journal covers. Your goal is to convince the editor that your research fits the scope of the journal and would be of interest to their audience (THIS IS THE KEY PART OF THE PITCH). Without exaggeration, tell why your research is new, relevant, and of keen interest to scientists and readers of the journal. 
  • Tell the editor the highlights of your results and the conclusions you have drawn. Clearly and succinctly explain these results, findings, and conclusions in lay terms, not jargon. 
  • KEY: State that your manuscript has not been published, nor is under consideration by any other journal for publication. 
  • State that all authors have approved the manuscript and submission for publication to the journal.


Write short paragraphs for these sections, with special care and emphasis on selling/persuading the journal on why your research will benefit the journal and its readers. 


  • Date (spell out the name of the month to avoid confusion)
  • Addressee name, Email address, Journal name
  • Salutation (e.g. Dear Dr. Smith:; Dear Editor:)
  • Body of the letter, your message
  • Closing ("Thank you" gets the best results)
  • Email Signature (Name, email address, phone, facility, department, mailing address, personal website)
  • Enclosure (under signature, if including manuscript)

STE Proofread shorten correct review

Proofread, shorten, correct, review, and rewrite your letter as necessary. The cover letter can open the door to having your research published. Give it the extra care both it, and your research, deserve. 

If all this is mind-boggling or you feel stuck in writing your cover letter, contact the editors at SciTechEdit International (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and we will be happy to guide you through it. We are invested in your success!

If this article has been helpful to you, please share with your fellow scientists. Thank you so much!


Author: Michael H. Mesches, PhD

© 2017 SciTechEdit International  



 * Grimm, D. Suggesting or Excluding Reviewers Can Help Get Your Paper Published. Science 2005:309:1974 doi:10.1126/science.309.5743.1974

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The Guide to Choosing the Best Science Journal for Publishing Your Research

STE rev HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST SCIENCE JOURNAL FOR PUBLISHING YOUR RESEARCH 250x250From the idea to the proposal, the grant application, the lab bench work, field/clinical work, collaboration, and writing your notes, your scientific research has traveled a long road to get to your destination: getting published. Dissemination of your findings and ideas to your colleagues and the public is your crucial end goal.

Choose the journal BEFORE writing the manuscript. Your choice will help you to tailor the manuscript to the scope and audience of the journal, as well as journal requirements of formatting, space limitations, allowed abbreviations, etc. Knowing the rules ahead of time will save you time and work, and improve the likelihood that your work will be selected for peer review and publication.

How do you choose which journal is best to publish your research?

We have a few ideas and tips to help you in your publication path. Read on.

First, there are two easy-to-use online resources to help you decide which journal would be most pertinent to your research. The JANE (Journal/Author Name Estimator) and the Cofactor Science Journal selector.

JANE compares your document to Medline documents to find the best match. You can use your abstract or keywords to search JANE. More info on JANE can be found here: and FAQ here:

The journal selector at asks for five criteria and will search the journal possibilities for you that fit those criteria.

You may also want to look at Google Scholar Metrics, which indexes the top journals in the sciences, humanities, mathematics, and tech with citation h-indexes. Listings are for English publications as well as publications in other languages.

If you are still unsure of whether a journal is right for your findings, email the managing editor found on the “About” section of the journal’s website prior to your submission. Sending your abstract with an appropriate title will help the editor decide whether your paper is suitable for their journal (if they respond favorably, be sure to mention this in your cover letter).

There are other important factors to consider before deciding on your top three choices of journals, which should guide your selection:

1. Audience and Journal ScopeSTE rev. See which factors are importing in choosing a Science Journal
2. Journal Requirements
3. Language
4. Review Process
5. Time Frame for Acceptance
6. Acceptance-Rejection Rate
7. Online and Print Publication Time Frames
8. Journal Impact Factor
9. Open or Closed Access
10. Promotion & Sharing
11. Cost


The Audience:
Who is your target audience?
• Is your research for a general or specific audience? Who will be most interested in your results?
• Can your findings be clinically applied or are they theoretical?
• Are your findings specific to your field or are they broadly applicable?
• Are you introducing a new technique that may be useful to most scientists or to specific fields?

The Journal:
Is the journal general to a discipline or specific to a particular sub-discipline? Aside from multi-discipline journals such as Nature, Science, and PLOS ONE, generalist journals of a single discipline have a large audience and are highly prestigious. Niche journals are less widely read and not as prestigious because of the smaller audience.

How many copies of the journal are sold? Over 2500 top university libraries around the world generally subscribe to a multitude of journals; therefore, if your selected journal sells this many copies or more, the opportunity for your work to be seen and cited is much improved. Additionally, circulation that reaches a lay audience is important for publicizing your work.

How long has the journal been published and does it publish regularly? Beware of new journals that are similar in name to established journals as they may not be respectable, and may be predatory. It is unfortunate that Beall’s list of possible predatory journals is no longer published, but it can still be found in the web archives here.

Practical considerations are important in considering the best journal for your work. Article length, allowed numbers of figures, references, etc., vary by journal.

Be sure to read the journal’s Instructions to Authors/Guide for Authors to determine the limitations of the journal and whether your work will fit within those parameters. Some journals are stricter than others regarding their policies (particularly regarding article or section length). If in doubt, query the editor or check a recently published issue. Thoroughly review their policies before submission.

Examples of author guides and publication instructions can be found here:

Science journals
Journal of the American Chemical Society


Although the dominant language of science is English, there are journals in other languages that may be more pertinent to your findings and your intended audience.

SciTechEdit International is a leader in the field of translation of science documents to English from a wide variety of languages and offer our services to you should you need translations and/or editing of your manuscripts for publication in English-language science journals.

It is important to know if the journal uses a Single-, Double-, or Triple-Blind, or Open review process. In a Triple-Blind review, the editor and two or more reviewers are unaware of your identity and the reviews are anonymous. In a Double-Blind review, the editor knows your identity but the reviewers do not. In a Single-Blind review, the reviewers also know who you are. In an Open Review, you know who the reviewers are and they know who you are. Open Review offers a greater degree of transparency for the author and honesty by the reviewers.

The shorter the better for the time your paper reaches the journal and an editor replies with a decision. A long delay may mean that the journal is inefficiently run, has a weak reputation, or has difficulty securing expert reviewers. Conversely, a fast timeline may mean that the journal does not have enough quality submissions.

What is the percentage of submitted manuscripts that are published by the journal? While this should not be your deciding factor, it is an important consideration.

Medium acceptance/rejection rates are best for authors; journals with high rejection/low acceptance rates can increase the time and effort spent getting your article published, while high acceptance/low rejection rates can signify a new journal, or an unknown, risky, or desperate journal that will accept less than stellar submissions.

Note: If you want your findings published in top-tier journals, such as Science, Nature, NEJM, PNAS, and JACS, you must ensure that your manuscript strictly adheres to the journal scope and guidelines – SciTechEdit International can help to ensure that your manuscript conforms to the journal’s requirements.

What is the timeline from acceptance to online publication? Does the journal publish online continuously or wait to group papers into issues? What is the time frame for online publication to print? Will you receive a definite publishing date so that your promotional efforts do not run into embargo problems?

The theory of impact factor indicates how important that journal is to its scientific or academic field, but the value of the impact factor is controversial and should not be the sole deciding component for submitting your paper to a specific journal. Simply put, impact factor is citation count. There are multiple aspects to choosing a journal, impact factor being only one. Promotion and tenure decisions, however, especially in Japan and Europe, may give more weight to impact factor.

Other journal impact factor rankings are issued by PageRank and Eigenfactor.

High prestige journals are generally behind pay walls that restrict access without an expensive subscription. Open Access journals are open to all and have a much higher readership. However, most Open Access journals charge Author Processing Fees or place an embargo on publication.

Generally speaking, Open Access journals offer greater accessibility and dissemination to a broader audience, with a 47% increased probability of being referenced in Wikipedia vs. pay wall journals. See the article by Teplitskiy et al (J. Assoc. Information Sci Tech, 2016) for more details.

Publication of your manuscript is not the end of promoting your work. Promoting the published manuscript is important for increasing your presence and visibility in the scientific community, and to the media. With thousands of articles published daily, you must promote your research to the larger audience, thereby increasing your stature. Social media sharing, especially Twitter with its large science audience, is valuable to catch the eye of science journalists in major mainstream publications who may want to pursue an article featuring your research. Writing about your work on your personal blog is another way to gain visibility to the scientific community and the community at large.

Elsevier and other journal publishers have guidelines for sharing your research article, and encourage authors to do so. Click here to access their article on sharing and promoting your article

11. COST:
Publishing costs for journals vary and can be high. Costs can range from a few hundred dollars for Open Access digital publishing to approximately $4000 for print. These costs are borne by the researchers, though sometimes the author’s university or institution will cover the cost of publishing. Be sure to inquire about publishing fees if this is an issue for you.


We at SciTechEdit International hope this guide will be of help to you in determining which scientific journal is the best fit for you and your research findings.

We’d like to emphasize that whichever journal you choose for submission, be sure to first read the journal’s specific guidelines for submission as they can vary widely from journal to journal. Choose your journal BEFORE you write your findings, as this will save you enormous time and effort spent in re-writing, reformatting, and re-submitting your manuscripts to your second and third journal choices.

STE rev. Choose your Science Journal before writing

As always, SciTechEdit International is here to help you polish your scientific documents and help you to communicate your findings clearly. We are proud of our work in gaining a 94% publication rate for our clients, and we welcome you to contact us and learn more about how we can help you get published too.

Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your queries.

Thank you.

 © 2017 SciTechEdit International.  Author: Karin Mesches, PhD  



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How to Give a Captivating Science Presentation - Hint: No Bullet Points!

For some people, giving a presentation before a live audience is one of life’s greatest stressors. Public speaking is a top fear for almost everyone, including scientists who are often called upon to present their research findings to colleagues, at conferences, and to the public. Scientists who are non-native English speakers have the added difficulty of language to overcome. With proper preparation, practice, knowledge, and enthusiasm, however, both fear and language difficulties can be conquered and mastered.


Presentation tips for scientists to improve your public speaking.

Know Your Material:
Of key importance is to know your subject matter well. Be able to be concise and clear in conveying your message without reading a script or slides. Imagine if the power went out and you had to give your presentation without your slides or sound amplification. Yes – a nightmare! When you know your material well enough to teach it to your audience, you can do it in the dark… but this takes practice and rehearsal.

Practice and Rehearse Your Presentation:
Practice by breaking down your presentation into pieces or sections and going over each section until it is perfect and you are confident in being able to present that section. You know your material, you have worked through any language difficulties word by word, you know how to lead into a slide, and you know the length of time required for each section. Once each section of your presentation has been perfected, you can begin rehearsing.

blog jan 2017 microphone

“Practice” is fine-tuning the sections of your presentation, while “rehearsal” is fine-tuning the entire presentation.

Rehearsal of your presentation is similar to a stage play rehearsal. You no longer need notes, your timing is good, your speech projects clearly with no stumbling over words, and you are feeling more confident in presenting to an audience. You are getting into a flow. Once you have practiced all of your presentation sections, you are ready for rehearsals – complete run-throughs of your entire presentation without stopping. Only by rehearsing the entire presentation will you notice any problems and areas that need improvement. It is during rehearsals when you really start to own your presentation and your confidence builds.

The more you practice, the better your rehearsals (yes, plural!) will be. The more you rehearse your presentation, the better the presentation will be for your audience and the more confident you will feel.

Non-native language speakers will need to prepare, practice, and rehearse more than native speakers to be able to communicate clearly and to be understood by the audience. Not only is mastery of vocabulary and grammar necessary, but proper pronunciation and intonation are, too.

Non-native speakers must identify words that occur frequently in their field of research and practice the correct pronunciation with native-speaking colleagues. Mispronounced words are jarring to the ear of the audience, distracting them from your message.

Practicing and rehearsing using your smartphone video camera and voice recorder is also helpful to hear your pronunciation, hone your message, fine-tune your speaking speed, and gauge the timing of your presentation. Practicing before a mirror helps you to see your facial expressions, nervous tics, and posture, and to correct as needed.


Your oral presentation is more important than your slides. Why?

Audience comprehension of your message is vastly better from speech-only versus text-only or combined text and speech.

Research published in Applied Cognitive Psychology suggests that simultaneous aural and visual presentation overwhelms the language processor in the brain, resulting in lower information retention (Kalyuga et al., Appl Cogn Psychol 1999).

Audience understanding was 77% with speech, 58% with text, and 47% with combined text/speech on functional tests.

blog jan 2017 image1


This means that the usual presentation format of reading blocks of text on slides – by the audience or the speaker - results in inadequate audience comprehension as well as a terribly dull presentation. If the audience is reading, they are not listening to the presenter.


blog jan 2017 image2 812

For more information on the above screenshot and details on the Assertion-Evidence slide format, see video “The Assertion-Evidence Structure for PowerPoint Slide Design” by Robert Yale.

Slides that do not have blocks of text and instead rely on the speaker to inform the audience offer better presentations and better audience understanding of the message. This style of slide presentation is the Assertion-Evidence format, created by Michael Alley, presentation expert and engineering communication professor at Pennsylvania State University. More details on his work and examples can be found here

Using the Assertion-Evidence format for your slides will enable better audience comprehension of your message because the slides showcase key messages, not topics, backed by supporting visuals. No bulleted lists and no blocks of text are used in The Assertion-Evidence approach. In this approach, the load of conveying the message is on the oral presentation, not the slides – hence the strong requirement for practice and rehearsal.


Assertive-Evidence Presentation Slide Format:

The key elements of Assertion-Evidence slides are a concise, declarative, and complete sentence used as the key message headline of each slide, with fortification – Evidence – of that assertion by the image on the slide. Images may be charts, maps, graphs, pie charts, photos, etc.

The Assertion sentence should be no longer than two lines, and in a large enough font to be seen at the back of the room. Do not use a question as the headline as the audience will be searching the slide for the answer. Use succinct declarative sentences with visuals to reinforce the assertion. Try your assertion sentences as a Twitter tweet. If you can state your point in 140 characters, you are concise and clear.

blog jan 2017 image3


Speaking Tips:

No one likes a boring speaker –make it interesting for your audience as well as fun for yourself!

  • Keep your audience in mind and adapt your presentation to their comprehension levels. Speaking to colleagues or other scientists will be different from speaking to the general public or high school students.
  • Go early to the venue to view the layout of the room and stage, and to perform a lighting , sound, slide, and temperature check.
  • View your slides from the back of the room
  • Before going onstage, step up your energy and shake off stage fright by doing a few quick calisthenics or even simple jumping, and walk onstage with a smile.
  • Greet your audience, and let your audience know if you are non-native speaking and that you will be happy to clarify anything unclear in the Q&A at the end of your presentation. The audience wants to be on your side, so let them.
  • If a non-native speaker, start off slowly so the audience has time to become accustomed to your accent.
  • Start by telling your audience in a sentence or two what you will be telling them in your presentation so they will have context.
  • Speak with a loud, clear, full voice to be heard at the back of the room, especially if there is no microphone. Pause after key points.
  • Speak with enthusiasm and a varied cadence, speed, pitch, and tone and avoid sounding boring with a dull, quiet monotone, or you will put your audience to sleep!
  • Look at members of your audience in the eye across all areas of the room and smile; it helps them bond with you.
  • Notice if you are losing your audience! If they are busy on their phones, nodding off, yawning, or generally look uninterested, change the pace of your presentation – speed up or slow down – or skip particular slides that are less important.
  • At the end of your presentation, summarize your message for your audience and accept questions. Allow 5 minutes for questions if the format allows.
  • Repeat audience questions after they are asked so that all audience members will hear the question.

With a clear message, concise Assertion statements and useful Evidence images on your slides, enthusiastic energy, and many practices and rehearsals, your presentation will communicate your findings to a most appreciative audience.

SciTechEdit International can help you structure your presentation to fit your audience, provide audiotapes for pronunciation guidance, help with Assertion statements and images, and help you convey your message clearly and concisely. Please contact us by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or our Contact Us Form. We look forward to serving you!

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Tense About Verb Tense?

chalk past present future   • Using correct verb tense clarifies the timeline of your research and process.
  • Incorrect verb tense can confuse the reader about the sequence of your arguments.
  • In the English language, there are 12 verb tenses.


Clearly communicating the timeline of your research to the reader is extremely important, and depends on your using the proper verb tense in writing your manuscripts. Verb tense indicates whether the action of a sentence occurred in the past, present, or future, and helps to organize the flow of your writing and outline the sequence of events to emphasize your point.

In any scientific manuscript, sequence and timeline are important. For example, your experiments precede your summary of the results and outcomes. Your methodology precedes your experiments, as its concepts inspired the experiments. Further, the work of other scientists likely preceded your current work and discussion of these previous findings adds dimension to your manuscript. In addition, if you are attempting to show instances of cause and effect, it’s important to note what came first and what subsequently resulted.

The chart below summarizes the 12 English verb tenses and their relationships with one another:

     Simple    Progressive    Perfect    Perfect Progressive
Present   I investigate   I am investigating   I have investigated   I have been investigating
Past   I investigated   I was investigating   I had investigated   I had been investigating
Future   I will investigate   I will be investigating   I will have investigated   I will have been investigating

The present tense shows that an action is taking place in the present, but does not indicate when the action will end. You may also choose to use the present tense to describe a fact that is universally true and not limited to a particular time, as seen in the following quote:

 Infected hosts differ in their responses to pathogens; some hosts are resilient and recover their original health, whereas others follow a divergent path and die.1

The past tense shows that an action was completed in the past, while the future tense shows action that is yet to be completed--more of a prediction than a statement of finished reality. You can see in the example below that the researchers used past tense to discuss their proposed thesis, and then the future tense to highlight its predictions.

 We started (past tense) with the proposition that infected patients will trace (future tense) a path over a multidimensional manifold in disease space; resilient patients will travel (future tense) predictable paths as they sicken and recover, and patients who do poorly will also take (future tense) predictable paths when they sicken and die.1

In science manuscript writing, there are standard practices regarding which verb tense to use for each section of the manuscript.

The Abstract will usually contain a mixture of verb tenses, as the background is generally based on published findings, which are presented in the present tense; the methods, results, and conclusion are presented in past tense.

The Introduction is your explanation of the previous findings that led to your question. Because the Introduction mainly discusses previously published research that is currently accepted as fact, these findings are presented in the present tense. For example:

Rheumatoid arthritis is (present tense) a common autoimmune disease primarily manifesting as chronic synovitis, subsequently leading to a change in joint integrity. Progressive disability and systemic complications are (present tense) strongly associated with a decreased quality of life.2

In the Introduction, you may also use a mixture of past tense and present tense to indicate why you are performing your research. For example:

 Pain relief is (present tense) a major goal in the treatment of RA, but is only partly achieved (past tense) by NSAIDs or opioids.2

Methods and Results, on the other hand, are always written in past tense because you are describing what you have done and what resulted. Figures and Table legends are referred to in the present tense.

 Figure 1 shows….

The Discussion will include a mixture of tenses as you discuss previous findings (present tense), your findings (past tense), and present your plans for further studies (future tense). Using the correct verb tense will eliminate confusion regarding what was known before your study and what your study has added.

Verb tense errors can distract readers from the value of your manuscript’s content. Choose the right tense to clearly communicate your research. Change verb tenses only when there is a real change in time. When you are writing about actions that take place in the same timeframe, be sure to keep using the same tense for all of the verbs associated with those sentences. By aligning your writing with these simple guidelines, you can ensure that you are communicating clearly to your readers.



  1. Torres BY, Oliveira JHM, Thomas Tate A, Rath P, Cumnock K, Schneider DS. Tracking resilience to infections by mapping disease space. PLoS Biology 2016; 14(4): e1002436.
  2. Meier FM, Frerix M, Hermann W, Muller-Ladner U. Current immunotherapy in rheumatoid arthritis. Immunotherapy 2013; 5(9):955-974.
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3 Easy Steps to Constructing a Paragraph

paragraph construction       
  • Begin with a clear topic sentence.
  • Each subsequent sentence should support your topic statement.
  • End your paragraph with a conclusion/transition statement.

Letters make words, words make sentences, and sentences make paragraphs. Like one building block after another, words come together to convey ideas and support arguments –sometimes better than others. Proper paragraph construction sets good writing apart from bad.

First, start with your main idea. What is the main point you wish to convey? Give your readers an idea of where you are going with one sentence that says it all - your topic sentence. Without going into much detail, explain what your paragraph is about. Here is an example of how to write a paragraph about why studying brain physiology is important for understanding psychology. Let’s begin with the topic sentence.

Understanding the physiologic mechanisms that underlie our responses to the environment around us will help to elucidate how these responses can be modified.

Do you see how simple the topic sentence is? This topic sentence tells the reader why studying the brain is important for the field of psychology. The next step is to explain why. Adding details is the second step to constructing a strong paragraph. Every sentence added after the topic sentence should support the main topic. The more details you can add, the stronger the argument will be. Now, let’s see why studying the brain will help people understand psychology.

Understanding the physiologic mechanisms that underlie our responses to the environment around us will help to elucidate how these responses can be modified. The human experience can be explained by the physiologic underpinnings of the brain – the structures, the connectivity of the structures, and the modes of communication between structures (Ho et al, 2011). Proper functioning of these structures and their communication pathways allows for consistency of our responses to the world around us. Understanding variations in these responses allows us to modify our behaviors, or responses (Petersen et al, 2015). Every behavior, thought, or emotion is a direct result of brain activity (Sadaghiani & Kleinschmidt, 2013). In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that mental illness affects 1 in 4 people worldwide (WHO, 2014). Clarifying the normal physiology of the brain will allow us to identify abnormalities that lead to aberrant behaviors. As Francis Crick (1994) stated in his book The Astonishing Hypothesis, “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior or a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

Do you see why studying the physiologic mechanisms of the brain can help to understand our responses to the world around us? Each additional sentence supports the main topic. The more details included (within reason!), the more persuasive the paragraph. Typically, a good paragraph needs at least three to five supporting sentences, but you are not limited by that number as long as you keep the sentences on topic.

Finally, when you’ve added all the details needed to support your topic sentence, close your paragraph with a strong conclusion. The conclusion sentence of the paragraph should summarize the central idea of the paragraph and provide a transition to the following paragraph. For example:

Understanding the physiologic mechanisms that underlie our responses to the environment around us will help to elucidate how these responses can be modified. The human experience can be explained by the physiologic underpinnings of the brain – the structures, the connectivity of the structures, and the modes of communication between structures (Ho et al, 2011). Proper functioning of these structures and their communication pathways allows for consistency of our responses to the world around us. Understanding variations in these responses allows us to modify our behaviors, or responses (Petersen et al, 2015). Every behavior, thought, or emotion is a direct result of brain activity (Sadaghiani & Kleinschmidt, 2013). In 2014, the World Health Organization reported that mental illness affects 1 in 4 people worldwide (WHO, 2014). Clarifying the normal physiology of the brain will allow us to identify abnormalities that lead to aberrant behaviors. As Francis Crick (1994) stated in his book The Astonishing Hypothesis, “You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior or a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” The information we gain from studying the physiologic mechanisms of the brain can thus be applied to enhance our understanding of human behavior.

The conclusion sentence is not simply the topic sentence restated, but rather pulls everything in the paragraph together. The conclusion sentence of each paragraph should link with the topic sentence of the next paragraph, thus providing a word map that allows readers to follow the logic of your argument.



Ho VM et al. The cell biology of synaptic plasticity. Science. 2011; 334(6056):623-8.
Petersen RB et al. From neurodegeneration to brain health: an integrated approach. J Alzheimers Dis. 2015;46(1):271-83.
Sadaghiani S, Kleinschmidt A. 2013. Functional interactions between intrinsic brain activity and behavior. Neuroimage. 2013;15:80:379-86.
Crick, F. 1994. The astonishing hypothesis. The scientific search for the soul. NY. Scribner.
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Do you know how to use the Oxford Comma?

  • Punctuation is important for clarity.
  • Clarity is especially important for academic manuscripts.
  • Use the Oxford comma to increase the clarity of your science manuscript.

Proper punctuation is critical for clarity, as made very clear in the very popular book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. In English language editing of science manuscripts, punctuation is especially important for both clarity and conciseness. Proper punctuation can help you convey the take home message of your manuscript, while at the same time improper punctuation can lead to complete confusion. Use of the Oxford comma, also known as a serial comma, is generally considered optional, but science manuscripts are often characterized by long and complex sentences, and the Oxford comma is critical for clarity. The Oxford comma is placed right before the coordinating conjunction (and, or, or nor) in a list of items. Let’s look at the following sentence.

Duloxetine and citalopram may be prescribed for postpartum depression. We investigated the effects of these antidepressants, alcohol and barbiturates in an animal model of postpartum depression.

Now, a new mom who is fraught with anxiety and sleeplessness may be tempted to drink alcohol or take barbiturates, but these substances are certainly not known for their antidepressant effects. Without the Oxford Comma, it seems that the authors of this study are evaluating these substances for their antidepressant effects. The simple addition of the Oxford comma clarifies this sentence: Four different drugs are being investigated for their effects on postpartum depression: the antidepressants duloxetine and citalopram, alcohol, and barbiturates. The Oxford comma removes the ambiguity. The Oxford Comma allows you to be concise while keeping your meaning clear. On the other hand, knowing when not to use the Oxford comma is just as important as knowing when to use it. Consider the following example:

The effects of NMDA antagonists, MK-801 and DxM were evaluated in a model of chronic pain.

In this case, inserting a comma would be confusing because the NMDA antagonists being referred to are, in fact, MK-801 and DxM. In this case, only two drugs are being studied.

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