After crafting a compelling challenge, the next step in structuring your scientific article is detailing the ‘Action’. The action phase typically involves describing the Materials and Methods you used in your study and presenting the Results and Discussion. This article aims to guide you through effectively presenting these crucial components in your scientific paper.
Materials and Methods: Keeping it Clear
When detailing your Materials and Methods, it’s crucial to give readers enough information to reproduce your study, while also maintaining clarity and conciseness. This is best achieved using the LD structure (e.g. point-first paragraphs). Provide a brief overview of the methods used at the start (the lead) and then delve into specific details. This allows impatient readers to decide whether they need to read this section in-depth.
Here’s an example: “To characterize the extent of enzyme inactivation associated with 3-HPAA metabolism, PGHS-1 or PGHS-2 was incubated with 25 μM 3-HPAA…”
In this case, the first part of the sentence gives an overview of what was done (“characterizing…”) and the details (e.g. incubation) follow.
Results and Discussion: Balancing Data, Inferences, and Interpretations
In the Results and Discussion section, you’ll typically need to present your data, make inferences from these data, and offer your own interpretations. The challenge lies in distinguishing between these elements and presenting them in a way that builds a compelling narrative.
Your data constitute the factual results of your experiments, while inferences are clear interpretations that anyone in the field would likely draw from your data. Your interpretations, on the other hand, are your unique thoughts, hypotheses, or speculations.
The key is to provide context for your results within the framework of your paper’s challenge and to use your data to build a compelling narrative rather than simply presenting all the data you collected.
Discussion: Engaging Your Readers
Your discussion can be structured in either the OCAR (Opening-Challenge-Action-Resolution) or LDR (Lead-Detail-Resolution) format.
In the OCAR structure, you’ll begin by reminding your readers of the question and challenge. Don’t just copy and paste from the introduction; rephrase it. From here, you then discuss how the results you presented in the previous section match up with current knowledge about the field. Are there any inconsistencies? If so, why might that be? What does this tell us? What can we deduce/induce?
In contrast, the LDR structure starts with an initial statement of the conclusion, which receives support from the rest of the section. Since the LDR structure is much shorter than the OCAR structure, your readers will (most likely) still remember the challenge, so you don’t have to remind them. From here, you support the conclusion you drew in the first sentence(s) with information from your experiments as well as previous knowledge from your field.
Let’s have a look at the following methods. Which one do you think is best? Why?
1. Enzyme inactivation associated with 3-HPAA metabolism was measured by the method of Turman et al. (2008).
2. PGHS-1 or PGHS-2 was incubated with 25 μM 3-HPAA. When oxygen uptake was complete, arachidonic acid (25 μM) was added, and the maximal rate was determined as described above and normalized to the DMSO control. The concentration dependence of PGHS-2 inactivation was analyzed in a similar manner with varying concentrations of 3-HPAA (from 10 nM to 25 μM).
3. To characterize the extent of enzyme inactivation associated with 3-HPAA metabolism, PGHS-1 or PGHS-2 was incubated with 25 μM 3-HPAA. When oxygen uptake was complete, arachidonic acid (25 μM) was added, and the maximal rate was determined as described above and normalized to the DMSO control. The concentration dependence of PGHS-2 inactivation was analyzed in a similar manner with varying concentrations of 3-HPAA (from 10 nM to 25 μM).
Let’s start with number 1. The only good thing it does is save you from writing. However, at the same time, it makes it much more difficult for your reader. Have they read Turman et al. (2008)? Can they even find/access the paper? Articles are supposed to be able to stand on their own. This one cannot.
Number 2 is better but it goes into detail without any kind of context. If you are writing a short communication or using the LDR style, this style can be good. However, for most papers, we need a bit of context. As a result, number 3 is the best method. It gives us context while still being clear and concise. As a result, it is much easier for the reader to understand.
In the Action section of your scientific article, the key is to maintain clarity and ensure your methodology and findings build towards resolving your paper’s central challenge. The second you lose your audience, everything is over. They put your paper away, don’t come back and end up not citing it.
Interested in learning more about Scientific English? You can read a brief post on the History and Use of Scientific English here. More posts on Scientific English are available on the Scientific English page.