Writing a scientific paper is undoubtedly challenging.
In this blog post, we highlight the most common problems people face, and how Writefull can help overcome them.
1. A style of its own
Academic writing has a style of its own, different from spoken language and also from other types of written language like emails, blogs, newspapers and fiction. It has a formal register, meaning conversational language should be avoided. It is neutral and objective, meaning adjectives or adverbs implying judgment (e.g. 'great', 'terrible') have no place. Finally, it often includes technical words and phrases, or technical meanings assigned to generic words.
How Writefull helps: AI-trained models make the language feedback tailored to scientific writing. Informal words and casual turns of phrase are replaced by formal or neutral alternatives. Our contextual spell checker corrects misspellings of highly scientific terminology. Beyond the proofreading, our five writing widgets offer language that is academic-like.
2. Following conventions
If you’ve read lots of published articles, you will have noticed patterns in the way authors phrase certain things. This is because papers are structured in similar ways: featuring an abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results and discussion, and conclusion. What each of these sections achieves is also similar across different papers: introducing the aim of your study, highlighting gaps in current knowledge, reporting significant results, etc. Those structuring and wording conventions need to be followed to make your text easy to parse and understand.
How Writefull helps: Take your pick from Sentence Palette, a collection of +600 ready-made sentences covering everything from your abstract to your conclusion. Find generic phrasings that work across all disciplines, which you can copy-paste directly into your text with no risk of plagiarism.
3. Structure and signposting
A journal article is a substantial piece of work of a few thousand words. A Master’s dissertation or a PhD thesis are considerably longer. To make them easy to parse, efficient signposting is essential. It can take various forms, from headings to transitions between sections, to summarizing at the end of a section before moving to the next, etc. Ideally, your scientific paper should read like a story where each part derives from the previous. But the hard work of crafting good sentences can make you forget the importance of the overall narrative.
How Writefull helps: The Sentence Palette will help you find phrases to summarize your results (e.g. ‘Taken together, these results suggest that…’), which can be used before concluding your paper. It also has a list of connectors, or words used at the beginning of a sentence to connect it to the previous (e.g. ‘as a result’, ‘however’, ‘furthermore’, etc).
Yes, a manuscript can be 8,000 words long. But that doesn’t mean conciseness isn’t needed. In fact, many researchers find it hard to cram an entire research study into the word limit allowed by their journal of choice. So more often than not, you will need to cut down words before submitting. You will need to decide what to leave out and what to shorten. This is a hard, unavoidable part of writing which will actually benefit your paper, as shorter sentences are often clearer.
How Writefull helps: Our Full Edit mode provides feedback on conciseness. It will correct wordy phrases and redundancies and replace them with shorter alternatives (e.g. 'due to the fact that' > 'because'; 'comparatively larger than' > 'larger than'; 'draw a conclusion' > 'conclude').
5. Synthesizing information
Some sections of an academic text are easier to write than others. The hardest tend to be those placed at both ends of the paper (introduction and conclusion). Those are meant to set the scene and wrap the whole, respectively, and are crucial in shaping readers’ impressions on your work. In addition, a good abstract can be very hard to write. It should synthesize your entire paper in just a few hundred words in a compelling way. Not to mention your title, which should do so in 15 words or so.
How Writefull helps: Our Abstract Generator uses AI to auto-generate abstracts based on an entire text. Use it as a starting point and refine it from there; you’ll be surprised how far it gets you. If you’re stuck for a title, use our Title Generator to auto-generate one from your abstract.
6. Avoiding plagiarism
With the best intentions, accidental plagiarism can still occur in a paper. If you accidentally forget to acknowledge the source of an idea, or use someone’s words too closely, you are plagiarizing. These things are very easy to do, if you are caught in a writing flow or failed to keep track of where your information came from. And if you don’t even know what actually constitutes plagiarism, it’s all the hardest to avoid it. But the consequences are severe.
How Writefull helps: Our tool Writefull Cite (for institutions only) screens papers for citation completeness. It highlights sentences that may be missing a citation, thus reducing the odds of accidental plagiarism. Our Paraphraser helps authors rephrase sentences, so that they don’t use the same wording as other authors.
Academic writing has many more challenges, some of them common to all types of writing. And Writefull helps with those too. Writefull’s Proofreading mode of language feedback fixes grammatical errors. Language Search shows you words and synonyms that work for the context of your sentence.
Watch out for more widgets to come!