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In Section I, The Building Blocks of Writing, we saw how to choose words and how to arrange words in sentences and paragraphs. In Section II, we move to the next larger unit of thought—the sections of a biomedical research paper.

Principles for writing each section of a research paper are based on principles of paragraph structure. In addition, some specific principles of word choice and sentence structure that are particularly relevant to various sections of the research paper are included in the appropriate chapters.

Before turning to the principles for writing individual sections of the research paper, we need to understand the story line that runs through the paper. The story line reflects the scientific method. Since most papers in biomedical fields test hypotheses, we will focus on hypothesis-testing papers. The basic story line in hypothesis-testing papers has four parts:


      Story Line in a Hypothesis-Testing Paper

  • Question asked (= hypothesis)

  • Experiments done to answer the question (to test the hypothesis)

  • Results found that answer the question

  • Answer to the question (= whether the hypothesis is true)

We will also look briefly at papers describing two other types of research: descriptive papers and methods papers.

A descriptive paper is a paper that describes a newly discovered object, such as a structure. The basic story line in a descriptive paper is as follows:


      Story Line in a Descriptive Paper

  • Message (example, description of a structure)

  • Experiments done to obtain the message

  • Results found that lead to the message

  • Implication based on the message (for example, the function of the structure)

A methods paper is a paper that describes a new or improved method, material, or apparatus. The basic story line in a methods paper is as follows:


      Story Line in a Methods Paper

  • Method, material, or apparatus being described

  • Key features of the material or apparatus, or how the method or apparatus works, or both

  • How the method, material, or apparatus was tested

  • How well the method, material, or apparatus works (= results of the tests)

  • Advantages and disadvantages of the method, material, or apparatus

  • Applications of the method, material, or apparatus

Each of the story lines is presented in a paper that has four main sections: Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, and Discussion. In addition, the story lines are supplemented by the other parts of a research paper: figures and tables, title, abstract, and references. Where in the paper each step in the story line is presented is shown in the table below:

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Type of Paper Step in the Story ...

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