How to Submit A Scientific Paper to Bard Science Journal
(Fall 2012 Edition)
What is BSJ and how does its submission process work?
Bard Science Journal is Bard’s only science-centric student publication. We publish all types of science writing, but this how-to is all about our formal peer-reviewed section that mirrors what you would see in professional science journals like Science or Nature.
If you’ve done an independent research project and would like to share it with the Bard community, basically what you do is write it up in scientific paper format (complete with captions and literature cited) and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We acknowledge receipt of the submission by sending you a candy bar through the campus mail (A note telling you when the revision deadlines are will be attached to said candy bar.)
Then we assign each of the submissions to three or four peer review editors. They’ll make comments, which we’ll send back to you. Then you’ll get about a week and a half to finalize your paper.
What type of paper should I submit?
This semester we’ve decided to broaden the number of scientific paper types we’ll accept, which will allow more people to contribute to the formal scientific section of BSJ. This year we’re adding formal research reviews. You can choose what type of article best suits your project and your schedule. All these types of articles go through the peer-review process.
Length: 2250-2500 words (not as bad as it sounds. 250 for abstract, main body is 1500-2000 words long, and then 250-500 for citations. OK if it runs a little bit short)
Number of figures & tables allowed: 4-6
Number of works cited allowed: 25
Takes up: 4-5 pages of space in BSJ
Ideal for: senior projects, summer research projects, and independent projects for 300-levels
What is it?: At 2500 words, BSJ Articles are almost exactly the length of a short professional research paper. Writing Articles for BSJ will help you learn to pace your writing and how to decide which details are actually worth including. These papers are most similar to what you’ll be doing if you become an actual research scientist.
Candy bar awarded: something snazzy, usually Ghiradelli
Length: 1000-1500 words (250 word abstract, main body is 750-1000 words, and up to 200 for citations)
Number of figures & tables allowed: 2-3
Number of works cited allowed: 15
Takes up: 2 pages of space in BSJ
Ideal for: summer research projects and independent projects for 300-levels
What is it?: Like an Article, only shorter (meaning that they’re more condensed, NOT that they’re less thoroughly researched). Letters format is best for experiments that are smaller or more straightforward. Still includes all the sections of a research paper.
Length: 450 words (100 word abstract, 200-300 word body, 50-100 words for works cited)
Number of figures & tables allowed: 1-2
Number of works cited allowed: 5
Takes up: 1 page of BSJ space (will be strictly enforced)
Ideal for: people who want to learn how to write concisely
What is it?: Paradoxically, minis are the hardest to write. Word count is roughly what you would find on one of the posters hanging in the RKC. The key thing is that minis absolutely have to fit on 1 page of the BSJ. Goal is to get all the basic parts of a scientific paper on a page
1. Do a Research Project. Bard Science Journal is looking for write-ups of original independent research. This can include Senior Project, BSRI, individual projects from upper-level classes, or independent research.
2. Write it Up in Scientific Journal Format. For examples, check out professional scientific papers in magazines like Science or Nature. Be sure to include the following sections.
Title: Concisely summing up the experiment in 90 characters or less
Authors & Affiliated Departments/Institutions
Abstract: 250 words or less. Should sum up the need-to-know background, procedure, and the major findings of the experiment. If should make sense to someone who hasn’t read the full paper. Ideas should occur in the same order that they do in the body of the paper.
Hint: Fill out this mad lib:
To determine ____________________ (intro/central question of experiment), we _______________ (materials/methods).
We found that __________________ (results). These findings suggest ________________ (conclusion).
Main Text: Main text should be 1500-2000 words long (that word count doesn’t
include references or abstract. With abstract, captions, references, it should be
close to 2500 words). The following sections should be included in the main text:
Introduction: Provides all the information needed to understand the article and should give an idea of why this type of research is important. Start with the big important problem that this research is addressing, narrow it down to a more specific focus, and then introduce the research question. Readers should get the sense that this experiment is long overdue and/or is approaching the question in an interesting/innovative way. End of intro should segue smoothly into methods.
Hint: Cite the research that made you interested in pursuing this question in the first place.
Methods: Thorough & specific descriptions of the experimental procedure. Do NOT write as a step-by-step procedure. The writing in this section should be as fluid and concise as the rest of the paper.
Hint: Seriously, keep sentences simple & straightforward. Give people the info they would need to duplicate the experiment and eliminate extraneous phrases & info.
Results: Summarizes the data (again NOT a list) and refers to figures and tables as necessary. Don’t interpret the data (yet).
Hint: The body of text in this section will typically be pretty short. Try to use graphs & figures to make most of your points.
Discussion: This is the interpretative section of the paper. It’s the science writing equivalent of “All-these-strange-things-have-been-happening-because- a-comet’s-about-to-hit-the-Earth!” scene. It’s a big moment for you, so have fun with it, but stay professional and scientific. Explain how these results relate to your hypothesis and to the existing body of scientific knowledge.
Conclusion: This section is the equivalent of the “So-a-comet’s-about-to-hit-the-Earth?-So-What-Do-We-Do-Next?” scene. Reiterate the importance of the results and suggest directions for future research. You can also think of this section as elaboration on the initial research question.
When you submit your paper, clearly label the sections, so that editors will be able to find them and jump to them quickly. Acknowledgements: Acknowledge the people who helped you/funded your project. But keep it short. 75 words or less.
Literature Cited: Lists alphabetically all the papers you used as sources for your paper. Only list papers you directly cite in your paper. For BSJ purposes, use no more than 25 sources.
Referring to Literature within the text: Each citation should include the name of the lead author and the year of publication. If it’s a two author paper, include both names. Papers with three or more authors are cited as (Lead author et al. Year). The period ending the sentence comes after the parentheses. Citations belong the end of sentences or independent clauses. If you need to cite two or more papers for one sentence, separate them with a comma.
Example: However, only a low proportion of removed pollen reaches conspecific stigmas (on average 12% in the study population), and pollen removal is sometimes a poor proxy for male fitness also in orchids (Johnson et al. 2005, Ellis and Johnson 2010).
Citation format: For citations, we’re following the ecology format. Use initials rather than first names. Year comes before title. Title is plain text and not in any sort of quotation marks or brackets. Name of Journal is italicized, followed by the volume number, then a colon, then the page numbers of the journal.
Citations should be alphabetized by lead author’s last name.
Brose, U. 2010. Body-mass constraints on foraging behaviour determine population and food-web dynamics. Functional Ecology 24:28–34.
Ellis, A. G., and S. D. Johnson. 2010. Gender differences in the effects of floral spur length manipulation on fitness in a hermaphrodite orchid. International Journal of Plant Sciences 171:1010–1019.
Jennings, S., J. K. Pinnegar, N. V. C. Polunin, and T. W. Boon. 2001. Weak cross-species relationships between body size and trophic level belie powerful size-based trophic structuring in fish communities. Journal of Animal Ecology 70:934–944.
Figures & Tables: Figures and Tables are the heart of most scientific research papers. You’re allowed 4-5 for BSJ articles and 1-2 for BSJ shorts, so pick wisely and be sure that your figures will print well in black and white.
Figures: Figures include graphs, diagrams, and photos that make the paper more understandable. Graphs should have clearly labeled X & Y axes. The goal is convey the data in as succinct a visual form as possible.
Hint: BSJ publishes in black & white, so use colors that are easy to tell apart. You’re better off with a simple figure that makes it’s point clearly than a figure that’s scientifically unclear even if looks like it was made by a Photoshop Ninja-Wizard. Tables: Tables are charts that display numerical data. They’re typically used when researchers are looking at a lot of variables, and there isn’t enough space to graph each variable. They’re also frequently used in conjunction with mathematical models. Captions: The first sentence of a caption isn’t a sentence at all, but simply a verbless description of the figure. The following sentences elaborate on what the figure is showing. Don’t repeat what the graph already shows or list the data.
File Format: For submission drafts, it’s fine to embed the figures in a word document, but for final submission, the figures need to be sent as jpegs labeled as “your name-FigureX”. Converting graphs from Excel to jpegs is easy. Just right-click & select “Save Picture As”. You’ll be able to choose jpeg as a format option.
3. Proofread. The Submission Draft is not a rough draft, and it shouldn’t be written as one. It should be a fully finished paper, which will need only minor tweaks after peer review. So read over your work, make sure everything makes sense, and that all the references to figures reference the correct figure numbers. (You’d be surprised how easily that gets mixed up.)
4. Submit to email@example.com. The Bard Science Journal staff will forward it to 3 or 4 people signed up on our peer review list. They will have a week to turn in their comments on the paper. Comments will include suggestions for how the paper could be improved. If the paper is overwhelmingly full of logic holes, sloppy writing, or bad science, it may be rejected for publication.
5. Read the comments, edit, and resubmit. After you get the peer review and BSJ editors’ comments back, you’ll have a week to polish your paper before the final deadline. Send in the final document (with figures as separate jpegs) to firstname.lastname@example.org
And you’ll have successfully published in the Bard Science Journal. BSJ will hit the news stands about a week and a half after final submission deadline. All contributors will receive a copy through the campus mail, and copies will also be available on various tables and windowsills around campus.
Writing Guidelines: Be specific but not opaque. The goal of science writing is to let people know what you found in your experiment with as much clarity and precision as possible. Use scientific terminology, but explain abbreviations and other obscure terms. Be consistent with your terminology, and don’t oversimplify. Make sure the order in which you’re saying things makes sense. Try not to repeat yourself. It’s better for a paper to be under length and good than to be a full 2500 words of unnecessary phrases and repetition. The writing should be vivid, accurate, and interesting (but above all, clear.)
Colby. edu “A Guide to Writing Scientific Papers”: http://www.colby.edu/biology/BI17x/ writing_papers.html
Rice.edu: “Common Errors in Student Research Papers”: http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~bioslabs/tools/ report/reporterror.html
Columbia.edu “Writing a Scientific Research Article”: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/biology/ug/ research/paper.html
Science Submission Guidelines: http://www.sciencemag.org/site/feature/contribinfo/prep/ prep_init.xhtml