High School Biology/Communicating Ideas

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Scientist to Scientist Communication[edit | edit source]

Scientific Articles[edit | edit source]

Scientists often share their work by publishing an article about it in a scientific journal. Other researchers in the field read these journals to inform their own work and think of new ways to advance the field. Scientific articles have a certain format that includes the following parts (not always in the exact same order):

  • Title: a 'headline' that gives the reader an idea of what the article is about.
  • Authors: a list of all authors and contributors involved in the research, including the schools or organizations they work or study in.
  • Abstract: a short overview of the article, usually one paragraph long. These summaries are helpful for quickly introducing the subject of the work, what experiments were conducted, and any major findings.
  • Introduction: gives historical context for the study, describing previous published findings in the field that lead up to the current question the authors are trying to answer. This is often done in an 'upside-down triangle' format, going from broad ideas and narrowing it down to the specific topic of the study.
  • Materials and Methods: describes how the researchers carried out their experiments, how they measured and analyzed their data, and what equipment and lab materials they used to do this. These descriptions should be very detailed and specific, so that other researchers can do the same experiments and see if they get similar results (this is known as reproducibility). This section functions like a recipe that shows other what steps to take to (ideally) achieve the same outcomes.
  • Results: describes the results of the experiments. Collected data should be shown as graphs, diagrams, tables, charts, or images. Often, several of these are grouped together in one figure to show a major point or finding. All important elements should be labeled to make the graphics easy to understand. Figures often have short descriptions below them, called legends, that describe what is being shown. In the actual results paragraphs, the authors interpret the figures and describe any patterns they found from the data, and often discuss statistical analyses and their results.
  • Discussion and/or Conclusion: expands on the results and convinces the reader of their significance, and describes implications for the field. This can follow a 'pyramid' format, where the researchers discuss their specific results and expand on them to connect them to other related studies. For example, researchers can talk about whether their findings agree with or contradict similar studies, support a hypothesis, or if they found something new that hasn't been seen before. Based on their results, authors will often give suggestions for further studies that can be conducted or ways to their research can be applied. These are known as future directions.
  • References: often the last part of a paper, this section lists the sources cited (usually the other studies they mentioned in the article). The way these citations are formatted may differ based on the specific journal's requirements.

Peer review[edit | edit source]

When scientists do research and share their findings, their conclusions must be well-thought out and logical. To ensure this, their work is reviewed by fellow scientists before being published. This process is known as peer review.

Authors typically ask experts in the same area of study to assess their work. The reviewers help the authors identify flaws or mistakes and make suggestions to improve the study before it is shared with the rest of the scientific community. This makes sure that the research is reliable, accurate according the field, and useful for other researchers who may want to build off their work.

However, reviewers do not have full access the authors' data, so it is assumed that the work submitted for peer review is legitimate and honest. The peer review process is not designed to detect fraud.

This material was adapted from the original CK-12 book. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.