Mechanics of writing the text
There are many sources of information on how to write a scientific paper -- see the links under For more information below. I'll keep this section short, and provide my own personal preferences.
Astronomical papers describing observatios tend to be organized like this:
As for style, there are many opinions. Different disciplines have their own conventions, so read papers by others in the field. Some general comments, with my own opinions:
What will it cost?
Most scientific journals do not carry any advertising, and have a very small base of subscribers. In order to cover their costs, they levy page charges on their contributors. In astronomy, the page charges are steep: the Astrophysical Journal charges $120 per page for papers in its main section, and $165 per page for its letter section. Even short papers can easily run over $1000, so the advice to "keep it brief" makes good economic (as well as scientific) sense.
There are several outlets which don't charge for submissions:
Not all scientific publications appear in the big refereed journals. There are a number of ways to distribute your results to the world at large. You should think carefully about your mode of distribution before you start writing, because the scope, style, and level of presentation can vary quite a bit.
Channel Pro Con ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Refereed journal is refereed is refereed prestigious expensive solid archive long delay to press in search engines good on resume Bottom line: the only way to go for important work Conference proceeding no peer review moderate delay to press okay on resume not archived free w/ registration not in search engines read by few Bottom line: if you're going to the conference, why not? good for progress reports Poster paper no peer review not archived (abstract?) okay on resume not in search engines free w/ registration read by attendees only immediate response encourages creativity Bottom line: if you're at the conference anyway, why not? good for progress reports more fun than regular papers Popular science press you may get paid! low prestige (generally) archived can provoke jealousy in some search engines only occasionally relevant audience isn't stuffy audience isn't trained Bottom line: good idea for the right story Press release no cost to you not in search engines _may_ reach TV news doesn't go on resume will impress some will annoy others very rarely appropriate will be misinterpreted Bottom line: be very, very careful. Organization bulletin free rarely refereed archived low prestige not in search engines often not available not widely distributed Bottom line: if you have the chance, use it for minor papers -- support your local organizations WWW page free not refereed in some search engines low prestige available to all lost in obscurity you have control doesn't go on resume Bottom line: use it for small projects that don't fit elsewhere (e.g. some student projects)
Last modified 5/3/2002 by MWR
Copyright © Michael Richmond. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.