Writing Research Manuscripts: Common Errors
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Wrong Use of and Mixing Verb Tenses
Editors, referees and readers can be easily confused by a wrong verb tense and/or tenses mixed. Do not follow the media in their tendency to abbreviate sentences, manipulate and mix tenses. The past tense should be used to describe events that have happened, such as procedures that were executed, data obtained, results reported, findings discussed, etc. The present tense should be used in conjunction with generally known and/or accepted methods, facts, approaches, theories, concepts, data, etc.
Poor English or scientific research language, misspellings and typos, grammatical errors, fragmented sentences, irrelevant phrases, wrong literature citations and similar omissions are embarrassing and often lead to incorrect statements or misrepresentation of research findings described in research papers, research proposals, scholarships and grants proposals, research reports, master’s or PhD theses, graduate term papers, books, or any other research manuscript. Such errors would manifest to editors and referees a lack of professionalism of the author(s), thus causing unfavorable decisions concerning significance of the reported study, publication of the research manuscripts or awarding scholarships and grants. Therefore, it is very important to carefully proofread a manuscript. A good advice is to read a hardcopy of a complete draft of the manuscript two or three times spaced by a few days or a week.
Make sure that figure captions are grouped with their corresponding figures, unless the figures and captions have to be submitted separately from each other and not included in the text. The first reference to a figure in a text has to happen either slightly before or on the same page where the figure appears. Tables (if included in the text) should not be split over pages, and their headings should not be separated from them. Pay attention to requirements of the editors regarding a choice of style, font, table format, etc. that may be specific to particular types of publications, such as research papers, research proposals, graduate scholarships and grants proposals, master’s or PhD theses.
Inappropriate or Irrelevant information
A professionally written research manuscript is a summary of a completed study (research report, research paper, book, master’s or PhD thesis, etc.) or prospective research developments (research proposals, graduate scholarships and grants proposals, white papers, etc.). It must contain only information necessary to report, discuss and interpret research methods, results and findings of the research study or research proposal in a professional manner. The author(s) should omit all superfluous details, excessive reasoning and seemingly important sidetracks. Descriptions of methods, results, findings or prospective research accomplishments have to be logical, specific, and serve to make a point, interpret results or draw conclusions. Avoid unnecessary background information, subjectivity and exaggerations. Include only facts and materials necessary to understand the reported or planned study in the context of the existing scientific knowledge in the field(s) of the study.
The authors have to use terms and definitions specific to the field(s) of research addressed by their study. They must recognize that facts, results, findings and conclusions reported in their manuscript usually are not mathematically rigorous and must be confirmed by independent studies before their universal acceptance. Inaccurate claims, descriptions, words and phrases should not be used.
Incorrect Data Presentation and Interpretation of Results
Raw data are obtained in individual experiments, trials, observations, computations or records. If a set of raw data is reported, the number of decimal places must reflect the degree of the precision of the corresponding measurements. This applies to research papers, research reports, books, master’s or PhD theses, in particular. Typically, sets of raw data have to be converted, that is, analyzed, summarized and presented in a way that only the information relevant to the reported study is present.
Presentation of both converted data and raw data must include experimental and/or computational error evaluation. Figure captions and table headings should include all relevant information to make the corresponding figures and tables self-explanatory. Different modes (such as figures or tables) of reporting the same converted data sets should be avoided. Tables must be numbered consecutively, and so must figures. Any research manuscript (research report, research paper, book, master’s or PhD thesis, etc.) has to include interpretation(s) of the research findings and evaluation(s) of their significance in the framework of relevant concepts, theories, models, hypothesis and data available in the addressed field(s) of study. However, experimental data must not be “adjusted” to confirm to expectations of a particular model, concept, theory or computations.
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• Writing a research manuscript
• 30 simple writing rules
• The structure of a research manuscript
• The PhD thesis: content and structure