Expert Tips for Editing a Scientific Paper

Achieve academic success by preparing your journal manuscript for publication

After completing your scientific study and writing your research paper, it is time to submit your manuscript for publication in journals. But how do you know that your research is ready for publication?

According to a 2016 study of 5,633 journals indexed in the MEDLINE medical database, the rate of rejection for many top journals approaches 90%. While there are many reasons for journal rejection, two of the main issues leading to rejection of submitted manuscripts are poor writing quality and incorrect formatting. It is therefore crucial to consider receiving scientific manuscript editing services after finishing your research paper if you want journal editors to seriously consider your work for publication.

However, for many research authors, understanding how to correctly prepare a research paper is a painstaking effort that can take years. Learning to apply the most appropriate scientific writing style and formatting rules often means drafting several research manuscripts. But time spent revising language, proofreading the work, and applying correct formatting can take away from the more central work of researchers: conducting and presenting critical research.

An expert scientific paper editor can alleviate this time constraint and help researchers efficiently publish their academic papers in a reputable journal. But before sending a paper to a professional English editing and proofreading service, read these tips that all scientific research authors can apply to both prepare their work for publication and enhance their academic writing and editing skills in future work.

Proofreading and Editing Tips from Scientific Editors

Research authors likely already understand that editing a research paper is quite different than editing an email or a blog post. Issues with grammar, punctuation, formatting, terminology, style, and expression all have an impact on publication success and need to be revised accordingly. But not all scientific manuscripts follow the same rules, so reading many journal manuscripts published in your target journal will help you understand which formatting and style rules to follow.

What are the differences between editing and proofreading?

Before we discuss revision tips, we should understand the distinction between “editing” and “proofreading”—this will be important when it comes time to choose a freelance editor or editing service.

Scientific paper editing and proofreading are two parts of the same process. For a more detailed breakdown of these two steps in the revision process and to decide which is best for you, see our article on editing versus proofreading.

In short, during the editing process editors revise the content, language, and organization of your research work. This can take the form of content editing or substantive editing (which are done during or immediately after the drafting process), or language editing, which focuses on using consistent vocabulary terms and revising terms, phrases, and sentences so they read more naturally and follow the high academic standards of a journal.

While proofreading, editors find and correct mistakes in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting. Proofreading is the final step in the revision process and should be performed by a English-speaking editor with extensive knowledge of both the English language and academic writing rules and conventions.

Review the organization of your manuscript

Applying the correct manuscript structure is essential to getting published in your target journal. This means ensuring that all your content is placed in the correct section and order.

First, check that your manuscript contains all the necessary sections in the right order. Most journals follow the standard IMRD (Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion/Conclusion) format, but there are often deviations from this section order depending on the journal.

Some common organization issues in scientific papers include:

  • Insufficient background information included in the Introduction section
  • Methods/Materials section not ordered properly (chronological or another logical ordering)
  • Results sections that do not follow the order of the Methods section
  • Discussion sections that do not include study implications or limitations
  • Conclusions that simply repeat information without providing new insights

Again, the best way to ensure that your manuscript has all the right content in the correct order is to carefully read articles published in your target journal. See our article and video on the parts of a research paper understand what information to include in each section of your research paper.

Review the vocabulary and language of your paper

For many research authors (especially ESL authors), the most difficult about academic writing is choosing the correct academic terms and phrases. This includes choosing correct key technical terms, academic verbs, and natural English expressions. While it is not possible to write a “perfect” research paper without having considerable knowledge of English-language conventions, there are some writing resources that can help:

Use a proofreader, not an automatic spelling or grammar check program

There are many useful free spelling and grammar tools available to writers. And while it is perfectly fine to use these programs to catch errors during the drafting process, human proofreading and editing is the best way to ensure a flawless manuscript.

Expert proofreaders and editors with extensive knowledge of the English language can understand the nuances in mechanics and usage that lead to many of the writing errors found in rejected manuscripts.

Scientific Editing and Proofreading Checklist

As you can probably tell by now, there are far too many potential writing issues to cover in a single article. But asking yourself the following questions BEFORE receiving editing and proofreading for your scientific paper will help ensure that your manuscript is well written and ready to send to journal editors after receiving final language editing.

  • Is the manuscript title concise and relevant? The title is the first element of your manuscript that journal editors and readers will see. Crafting the perfect title for your manuscript can be difficult. Use as few words as possible to relay the topic of your research—this makes it easier for researchers to find your study in journal databases. For more information, read our comprehensive article on how to write a research paper title.
  • Are the objectives of your study relevant to your intended audience? Consider the nature and goals of your research. Do they align with the readership of your target journal? Is your work intended for a very specific subset of researchers or a more general readership? While these are questions best asked before or during the drafting process, it is best to identify any potential incongruencies before submitting to your journal.
  • Does your Discussion section address your research question(s)? The Discussion section is perhaps the most difficult research paper section to compose. It must address the research question(s) you asked in your Introduction section while also interpreting the Results and discussing the implications of your research. Be sure to remind your readers which gaps in scientific knowledge your study sought to fill and whether your research achieved or failed to achieve this goal.
  • Are the materials and methods explained concisely and accurately? The items in the Methods/Materials section should be arranged in a logical order—either chronologically or in order of importance. Readers should be able to clearly distinguish each individual part of this section and understand how they fit together. Use headings (if allowed by your journal’s guidelines) and paragraphs to separate different methods, materials, and participants involved.
  • Are the figures and tables relevant and clear? All figures, tables, charts, and graphs should clearly express data and results to readers without the use of explanatory text. However, each figure in the Results section should also be mentioned in the text.
  • Are the proper voices and verb tenses used in each section? Using appropriate voice (passive or active) and verb tenses (present, simple past, and perfect) is crucial when writing a manuscript that journals will seriously consider publishing. Different situations call for different voices and tenses. Read more about how to apply passive and active voice and verb tense correctly in research papers.

Using Scientific Paper Editing Services

Because of all the potential language, formatting, organization, and punctuation issues that tend to arise in submitted manuscripts, receiving editing and proofreading is key to preparing your manuscript. Scientific paper editing thus involves both language editing for style and flow, and research paper proofreading to catch remaining grammatical and typographical errors in the text.

Wordvice’s professional scientific paper editing services are an excellent solution to satisfy your manuscript proofreading and editing needs. Our editors provide authors with an unbiased, expert review to identify any awkward or nonstandard English terms and phrases while ensuring 100% accuracy in language and punctuation. Our 500+ editors have expertise in hundreds of academic subject areas and thousands of subdisciplines, so your work is guaranteed to be revised by an expert in your paper’s specific academic field. Our editors also provide extensive feedback, explaining their in-text revisions and providing suggestions to improve your writing.

So before submitting your work to a journal, be sure to read through this scientific paper editing checklist and then entrust your important research to a professional academic editing service like Wordvice to improve your chances of publication success.