How to Write Academic Papers in English
I. INTRODUCTION——Why we need to learn how to write academic papers?
An academic paper is a formal printed document in which professionals present their views and research findings on any deliberated chosen topic.
Why we need to public academic paper? There are four reasons:
? Scientific research starts from information made public by other scientists.
? Results which are not made public have no contribution to the progress of science. ? Only the scientist who is competent in the art of written communication can play an active, independent and effective role in contributing to the progress of science.
According to its structure and content, there are five types of academic papers which are: report paper, research paper, course paper, review paper and thesis paper (dissertation). Each type of paper has its own characteristics, and therefore has its own writing style.
The report paper summarizes and reports the findings of the author(s) on a particular subject. The author(s) may not give his/their own opinion on the issue, nor evaluates the findings, but merely catalogs them in a sensible sequence.
A research paper draws its material from many sources. Its aim is to assemble facts and ideas and by studying them to draw new conclusions as to facts or interpretations.
A complete research paper is usually composed of the following elements: title, author(s), affiliation(s), abstract, keywords, introduction, theoretical analysis and/or experimental description, results and discussion, conclusion, acknowledgements, references, appendix, biography, etc.
A course paper mainly refers to the paper written after a specific course is learned or at the end of the term.
A review paper is a summarization and review of the state-of-the-art or recent development in methods and findings concerning a specific topic.
A thesis paper is usually written and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MA or MS or Doctor or Ph. D in a specific discipline.
In this text, we focus our attention in the research paper and thesis.
Before writing a paper, someone should better to know some basic rules about the collection of materials, arrangement of content, structure of paper, etc.
The general principle for academic papers writing: ACCURACY, BREVITY and CLARITY.
As for the ACCURACY, that is to say,
a) The subjective words should avoid being used, such as perhaps, maybe, likely, suggest, it seems,
possibly, and probably and so on.
b) The words describing degrees should not be used randomly, such as substantial, adequate,
considerable, actually, really, quite, rather, fairly, extremely, mostly, relatively, comparatively,
unduly, and so on.
c) You’d better to master the exact meanings of the words.
As for the BREVITY, that is to say, any tautology description should be avoided in the process of paper writing.
CLARITY means that an academic paper can never be written in a random format, rather it should be written in a specific one. The format will make the paper an integrated whole from placing the title to the width of the margins, and to the notation used in acknowledging the material drawn from other sources or the help given by others.
For the sake of clarity, figures and tables are often used instead of description. Firstly, We need to determine what kind of materials is useful for the paper. For this problem, a format named IMRD is helpful for us to prepare our academic paper.
The IMRD means that:
; Introduction: What problem was studied?——I
; Method and Material: Now was the problem studied?——M
; Results: What were the findings?——R
; Discussion: What do the findings mean?——D
Generally speaking, the answer to the question “what to be written in a academic paper” lies on the following:
; Reliable Results
; Significant Results
; New Results
II. Elements of An Academic paper——Title and Author
As mentioned above, an academic paper is usually composed of the following elements:
Content Body (Theoretical analysis, Experimental description, Model, etc.)
Results and discussion or conclusion Acknowledgments
The general function of the Title is: a) Generalizing the Text
b) Attracting the Reader
c) Facilitating the Retrieval
Linguistic features of the Title: a) Using More Nouns, Noun Phrases and Gerunds;
b) Using an Incomplete Sentence Writing requirements of the Title: a) Be brief and Concise;
b) Be Specific
c) Avoid Question Titles
d) Being Unified
e) Being Standard
Whether all the first letter of the principal words in a title should be capitalized or not, may depend upon the specific requirements set forth by the journal to which your manuscript is to be submitted.
The general function of the author/affiliation is:
a) Bearing Author’s Responsibility
Definitely, the author(s) must perform the entire work of paper and be responsible for the content of the paper. That means if any consequence should arise from the publication of the paper, the author(s) should take it, without affecting the other members of the research team or people other than the author(s). b) Facilitating Retrieval and Correspondence
The name of author(s) and institutional affiliations are usually used as author indexing. Readers can
correspond with the author, according to the affiliation.
c) Heightening Celebrity
The publication of a research paper is regarded as a norm for valuing the professional level of the researcher and /or the academic institution concerned. Therefore this section should be written clearly so as to publish the paper in a given international journal.
The Linguistic Features (Rules of Spelling) of the author/affiliation is,
a) The name of a Chinese author is preferably spelt in accordance with the Chinese pinyin.
b) All the letters of the family name are preferably capitalized so as to distinguish the family name from
the given or personal name.
c) Use no abbreviations in the section of affiliation. Give adequate postal address, including ZIP or other
postal codes and the name of the country.
The writing requirements:
a) Printing Format Unified
If a writer intends to send his paper to an international, he should prepare his name and affiliation
according to the specific requirements of the journal.
b) Number of Authors
In general, it is advised that the number of authors should not be over four. In case of real need, it is
advisable to use “et al.” after the principal authors. Too many authors listed may lead to inconvenience
in author indexing.
c) Professional Title Omitted
The professional title, administrative rank or academic degree such as “Professor”, “President”,
“Chief Manager”, “Doctor”, etc. are preferably omitted before the name of an author.
The institutional affiliation should be written from the smaller unit to the larger ones.
For multiple authors or multiple affiliations, follow the instructions given by the editor of the journal to which your paper is submitted.
III. Elements of An Academic paper——Abstract and Key words
The abstracts are short summaries of the original documents. They provide for the reader entry to the original literature, but they do not replace that literature. They are expected to be accurate, clear, concise and complete in essentials. They report the basic informational content of the original document. They are neither critical nor evaluative reviews. They are not meant to serve as laboratory manuals or chemistry handbooks. Their primary purpose is to provide accurately and quickly, sufficient information on the chemical content of the document abstracted to allow the searcher to determine whether it is necessary to consult the original publication for complete details.
Linguistic Features of Abstract
An abstract is a miniature of the paper with a strictly limited number of words. Normally, 200 words
should be a sensible maximum for a relatively long paper or report; 50-100 words may suffice for a
short article. The length of an abstract greatly varies depending on the length of the paper. As a general
rule, an abstract will be approximately 3-5% of the length of the paper.
Categories of Abstracts
Descriptive (Indicative) Abstracts
e.g. The effect of UV light, electron beam, γ-ray irradiation as well as ultrasonic irradiation, on
structure and change in properties of commodity polymers were studied in hopes of gaining an innovative route to enhance their properties and bringing them possessing the properties possessed by some engineering plastics.
Informational (Informative) Abstract
e.g. The miscibility between chlorinated polyethylene (CPE) with ethylene propylene diene monomer/nylon resin (EPDM/PA) was studied. A compatibility mechanism is proposed based on TEM and SEM results, and is confirmed by DSC and DMA studies of the blends. The solubility characteristics of the blends in formic acid solution give an approximate idea about the amount of CPE reacted with PA. TEM shows that almost each dispersed particle is composed of two kinds of polymers inserted or anchored each other and between them there is a certain extent transitional interface, vulcanization makes matrix and dispersed particle crosslink each other, some particles whose shape is of micro-fiber are observed. SEM reveals that adhesion between the matrix and the dispersed particle is improved significantly through crosslinking. DSC shows that, while CPE is added to the blend, glass transition temperature (Tg) of PA decreases significantly, but Tg of EPDM remains stable. DMA shows that CPE is mainly blended into dispersed particle. It makes dispersed particle smaller and well distributed and thus significantly increase interaction between two phases. These investigations show that EPDM/PA/CPE blend system is a heterogeneous blending system. Extent of Tg (PA) decrease may be considered as a measure of compatibility. The permeation of CPE segments towards nylon substrate may be considered as a determinant for improvement of miscibility of this blending system.
; A Statement of the Problem
; A Statement of the Approach to Solving the Problem
; The Principal Result
It can usually be divided into three parts as follows: Topic sentence, supporting sentence, concluding sentence.
The following text is an example:
Title COMPOSING LETTERS WITH A
SIMULATED LISTENING TYPEWRITER
background Abstract. With a listening typewriter, what an author says would be automatically
recognized and displayed in front of him or her. However, speech recognition is not purpose yet advanced enough to provide people with a reliable listening typewriter. An aim
of our experiments was to determine if an imperfect listening typewriter would be method useful for composing letters. Participants dictated letters, either in isolated words or
in consecutive word speech. They did this with simulations of listening typewriters results that recognized either a limited vocabulary or an unlimited vocabulary. Results
indicated that some versions, even upon first using them, were at least as conclusion good as traditional methods of handwriting and dictating. Isolated word speech with
large vocabularies may provide the basis for a useful listening typewriter.
The function of the keywords:
a) As the name implies, keywords are the most important words and phases representative of the theme of
the paper, and frequently used in a paper. Reader can find out the theme of the paper by looking at the
b) Easiness of Highlighting
The function of keywords is to facilitate the information retrieval and emphasize the gist of the paper.
Keywords are usually used in the form of nouns, not verbs. For examples, “investigation” is used
instead of “investigate”; “fabricate” should be replaced by “fabrication”; and “educate” ought to be
replaced by “education.”
b) Limited Number
The number of keywords for a paper should be limited. Four to six keywords are the average. In
general, there should be at least 2 and at most 8.
c) Designated Choice
The keywords of a paper usually come from the title and/or the abstract, where the key terms of
words and phrases are usually contained.
a) Placing in Right Location
Though keywords can be either above or below the abstract of a paper, they are yet, in most cases,
placed below the abstract.
b) Spacing the Keywords
Keywords are not necessarily all capitalized, except the first letter of keywords as a heading. Use
comma (,) or semicolon (;) to separate the words. Larger space can also be used instead of punctuation.
Do not use full stop (.) after the last keyword.
c) Adopting Standard Abbreviations, etc.
Standard abbreviations are preferred in the section of keywords. All abbreviated words should be in
conformity with the ISO norms. Since the keywords are often used as indexing to retrieve the paper,
they must be understood, at least, by professionals in the field.
; Should introduce the reader to the problem
; Should give the context of the problem
; Should review previous work
; Should justify the work
; Should give scope and objective
; Should make the reader interest
; Should provide a smooth transition to the rest of the paper
; Should answer the question “What problem was studied?”
General Functions of Introduction
a) Introducing the Subject
When retrieving information, a reader always first skims the title, the abstract and the introduction of a
paper to determine whether or not the document is worth reading. The author is here to supply sufficient background information to relieve the readers who are not well-informed in this field of troubles in understanding and evaluating the results of the given study without referring to previous publications on
b) Limiting the Research Scope
Only when an introduction clearly defines the limits of the research scope can readers retrieve the information efficiently provided that the subject is introduced correctly. ? The problem is within the scope of …
? The problem under discussion is within the scope of …
? Studies of these effects covered various aspects of …
? Our studies with this technique are confined to only one particular aspect …
? The problem described previously was directed to the example of …, which differs from …
? This subject is concerned chiefly with the study of …
? The author has limited his studies to the related aspects of …
? The approach under study is only applied to …
? The problem I have referred to falls within the field of …
? The problem we have just outlined seems to be inside of the province of …
? The theory can not apply to other cases of …
? The emphasis of this paper is to survey …
c) Stating the General Purpose
Structural Features of Introduction and Some Idiomatic Expressions
a) Starting with the Research Background
? Over the past several decades….
? Somebody reported …
? The previous work on … has indicated that …
? Recent experiments by … have suggested …
? Several researchers have theoretically investigated …
? In most studies of …, …has been emphasized with attention being given to … ? Industrial use of … is becoming increasingly common.
? There have been a few studies highlighting …
? It is well know that …
b) Transiting to the Existing Problem ? Great progress has been made in this field, but (however, nevertheless, etc.)… ? Also, the consideration of … alone cannot explain the observed fact that … ? A part of the explanation could lie in … However,…
? The study of … gives rise to two main difficulties: one is …; the other is … ? Despite the recent progress reviewed in …, there is no generally accepted theory concerning … ? From the above discussion, it appears that at present neither … nor …are known. ? A major problem … is the harmful effect exerted by …
? An experiment of the kind has not been made.
? The kind of experiment we have in mind has not been carried out until now.
? Until now no field experiments of … have been reported.
? Not any experiment in this area has suggested that …
? More than one experiment must be initiated to substantiate …
? The method we used differs greatly from the one reported ten years ago.
? The method of making … was not invested till the existence of …
? No clear advancement has so far been seen in …
? No direct outcome was then reported in …
? No such finding could be available in …
? So far there is not enough convincing evidence showing …
? The data available in literature failed to prove that …
? The theory of … did not explain how much modifications arose. c) Focusing on the Present Research
? In this paper,… is investigated (studied, discussed, presented, etc.)
? The present work deals mainly with …
? We report here … in the presence of …