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INTRODUCTION

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In Chapters 10 and 11 we saw that the abstract and the title of a biomedical research paper should provide a clear overview of the message and the story of the paper. The challenge in the paper (both in the text and in the figures and tables) is to make the overview clear while simultaneously presenting all the necessary details.

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The techniques for making the message and the story clear have all been presented in the previous chapters. Here they are gathered together in a single checklist. This checklist focuses on hypothesis-testing papers.

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CHECKLIST FOR THE BIG PICTURE

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Goal

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To state the message and tell the story of the paper while simultaneously presenting all the necessary details; that is, to avoid losing the forest for the trees.

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The Message

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State the message of the paper (the answer to the question) in a single sentence.

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Make all statements of the answer the same.

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Make all statements of the question the same.

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Make the answer answer the question asked: use the same key terms, the same verb, and the same point of view.

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The Story

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Incorporate the story into the paper. The story consists of four main parts:

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  • the question,

  • the experiments done to answer the question,

  • the results found that answer the question,

  • the answer.

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In addition, the story includes

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  • how the question and answer fit in with previous work,

  • why the question and answer are important.

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In the Introduction, the story = the funnel to the question (known, unknown), the question, and the experimental approach. The "known" includes how the question relates to previous work and why the question is important.

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In Materials and Methods, the story = the experiments done to answer the question.

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  • For studies in which all experiments are designed in advance, the study design subsection gives the overview of the experiments; the study design includes

    • the independent variable(s),

    • the dependent variable(s),

    • all controls.

  • For studies in which the results of one experiment determine what the next experiment will be, the Materials and Methods section is pure cookbook. The story of the experiments is given in the Results section.

  • In Materials and Methods sections for both types of study, stating the purpose of each procedure indicates how that procedure helps answer the question.

  • Subheadings signal topics of subsections visually. Topic sentences and transition phrases or clauses at the beginning of subsections and paragraphs signal topics verbally.

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In Results, the story = the results found that answer the question.

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  • For studies in which all the experiments are designed in advance, results stated prominently (at the beginning of the section ...

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