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Chapter 2:
Structure and Organization

Writing is inherently a creative process. That would seem a good fit for the science researcher, where creativity coupled with critical thinking is the key to success. Alas, many scientists do not think of themselves as qualified writers, finding the task of writing both intimidating and arduous. For those readers who are not already experienced at writing articles for scientific journals, I have a secret to share: you do not have to be a good writer to write a good scientific paper. The reason is this: there is a formula for how to structure and organize a scientific paper, so that the scientist/writer can focus on what they know best - the science - and worry less about the writing.

A formula for writing may sound like a recipe for mediocrity, and in some contexts this would surely be true. But for the scientific paper, the emphasis must always stay on the science, with the words mere tools for effectively conveying information. Over the last 350 years, scientific journals have evolved a distinctive style, structure, and organization that make it easy for both the writer and the reader to get what they need from the paper: effective communication of scientific ideas.

A major difference between journal-based science writing and the diverse forms of writing found elsewhere is the very limited scope of our medium. A scientific paper does not have to be all things to all people. It is a narrow genre with a narrow (though very important) purpose. A specific scientific community is not a random sampling of humanity but a group that shares an established and understood basic scientific background, a broadly agreed-upon set of common goals, and an already established set of mechanisms for the communication of information. By following the standard structure and organization of a science research article, the author is constrained in many respects. But these constraints free the author and the reader to focus on the content, which often results in a better paper.

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