Editing a Scientific Research Paper: 3 Tips for Writers

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If you’re in the process of researching, writing, or editing a scientific paper, you already know that having it published is no easy feat. That’s mainly because the final product needs to be impeccable, which requires endless hours of work (sometimes from multiple writers) and several rounds of editing. Complex subject matter can further complicate things as a scientific research paper should clearly, concisely, and accurately communicate the details of the study—something that can be tricky when working in niche fields. 

What also makes it so challenging are the high academic standards that serious journals apply to the papers they publish, which results in many manuscripts being rejected due to basic errors in writing that could have been fixed with a round of professional editing. Indeed, many papers are rejected not because of their content but because the writing isn’t up to standard. So, if you want your research to grace the pages of a reputable journal, the writing has to do it justice.

When it comes to academia and scientific papers, peer reviews don’t exist just to ensure that the research is innovative and relevant but also that the writing is clear, compelling, and error-free. So, while you’ve likely been busy working on the bedrock of your research—your thesis and results—it’s imperative that you also give the writing proper attention before you send your paper to a journal for publication; otherwise, you risk having it rejected over avoidable mistakes. Besides, you’ve worked hard to derive your insights and results, so it’s worth the effort to make sure your submission ticks all the boxes in terms of its writing.

Writing is a skill that can be learned, but that doesn’t mean everyone is (or has to be) a good writer. If you’re a master researcher but grammar isn’t your strong suit, we don’t think you should miss out on opportunities such as having your work published in an academic journal. You just need to find an expert to help improve your writing and make your research shine. 

In fact, professional editing is a wise investment even if you are a grammar whiz. For one thing, it’s almost impossible to effectively edit your own writing because you’re too close to it. For another, a second opinion can also give you insight into how clear your writing is and whether those with a little less knowledge in your field can understand it. 

If you would like some help with your writing so you can feel confident that you’re submitting a spotless manuscript, contact us to learn more about our combined proofreading and editing services.

So, what are some of the things you should keep in mind when editing your scientific paper? 

1. Check the science

Reading through your entire paper with an analytical and critical eye should be the first step in the editing process since it’s your chance to identify and close any gaps in logic or the research itself that may affect the credibility of your work. Is the background clear? Is the methodology adequately explained? Do the results make sense, or do they require additional explanation to be properly understood? Are the conclusions you draw logical, or are there problems with your argumentation? Since you’re an expert in your own research, it may be easy to overlook some of these details, so it can be a good idea to have someone less familiar with the subject take a look at your draft, too.

It can be hard to coordinate this stage of the editing process if there are multiple authors working on the same paper. However, it’s vital that they all check the manuscript to ensure there are no major issues with the content because the science itself obviously carries the most weight in a scientific paper. The more eyes you can get on the manuscript at this stage, the more likely you’ll be to spot any content-related issues, which you need to eliminate before you can move on to editing the finer details.

The data needs to be accurate and clearly presented, and your results and findings should be laid out in a way that allows even readers who aren’t experts in the field to understand what the problem is, how you tackled it, and what you discovered. Also, keep in mind that another scientist should be able to easily replicate the methods used in your research, which is why it’s important to explain your workflow in a detailed and clear manner. Add any information necessary to help readers understand your work, and if anything is unclear, rewrite it. The key to good academic writing isn’t fancy vocabulary—it’s clarity.

2. Check the structure

Once you’re happy with the integrity of your research and findings, it’s time for a big-picture check of your paper. Does the structure guide readers smoothly through the process? Does the writing flow naturally and logically? Is there anything missing or in the wrong place? Good structure is invisible—in other words, your readers shouldn’t even think about it because they’re gliding through the paper. Make sure you provide all the necessary context in the right places so the reading experience is as effortless as possible.

This is your chance to make sure your narrative matches your thesis and the core message of the paper, check that your logic is consistent, and ensure that every bit of information you need to include is already on the page. If there’s anything that may confuse readers—whether it’s missing context, a misplaced explanation, or a confusing structure—now’s the time to deal with it. Also, verify that any tables and figures complement the writing and that there are no loose ends—any visuals you include should be clearly labeled and add value to the writing.

3. Check the details

Line editing and proofreading constitute the last stage of editing—there’s no point in fixing all the minor linguistic errors before you’ve finalized the content and structure. Leaving the sentence-level linguistic issues for last helps ensure there are no spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors in your research paper before you submit it for publishing. 

Line editing is a bit different from proofreading, which should be the very final step. While line editors consider flow, structure, and clarity at the sentence and paragraph levels, proofreaders are more concerned with technical errors, such as typos and missing punctuation. Proofreaders can also check sentence structure, but they don’t aim to fix any structural issues, which should already be eliminated by this stage. 

Linguistic editing can seem like the simplest part of the process, which is why many people fail to give spelling and grammar the time and attention they require. Although a couple of mistakes can slip through the first round or two of peer review, a paper plagued with basic errors will tell a journal’s publishing board that the author is inattentive to detail, which can easily get their work rejected. 

Even if your research is stellar, if your paper is full of grammatical or spelling errors, its presentation certainly isn’t. Given that there’s no shortage of great research for a good academic journal to publish, it’s crucial to present your groundbreaking work through clear, concise, and professional academic writing. 

Whether you’re the sole author of the paper or collaborating with others, a professional editor and proofreader can make a world of difference to the quality of your academic piece. In fact, professional editing can make the difference between getting published and getting rejected. If you want extra services—such as a detailed editorial letter with recommendations for improving your writing, a requirements review to ensure your paper follows submission guidelines, and a full plagiarism report to guarantee it is 100% original—check out our deluxe academic package and increase your chances of getting your research published in an academic journal.

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