Best Practices for Writing Papers

A project log for Hackaday Journal of What You Don't Know

[ an open-access peer-reviewed journal ]

aleksandar-bradicAleksandar Bradic 12/16/2017 at 19:361 Comment

Initial list as proposed by Peter Walsh:

  1. Citations should reference prior work that the reader needs in order to understand the current work, and nothing more. Cite when you are building on the data or conclusions of a previous paper, and cite when your methods are not obvious and the cited paper explains them in detail.
  2. Cite when the wording or presentation of an idea might lead the reader to conclude that you had the original idea, but it's preferable to get around this by using different wording.
  3. Do not include a comprehensive literature review as part of your paper. (Unless, of course, you are writing a literature review, in which case the cites are considered data.)
  4. Don't cite anything that can be found in a textbook, being common knowledge.
  5. The introduction (or background) can have a cite or two that gives an overview of the problem statement, but generally speaking these should refer to textbooks and not other papers.
  6. There's a real problem in some fields with "citation inflation", where authors include a literature review and pad it with cites to make word count. Reviewers sometimes require cites of their own papers to raise their own impact level. (Generally, a reviewer will be someone in that field,  so is likely to have closely associated papers.)
  7. You can break any of the rules if you feel there is a good reason to do so, and citations are no exception. If you feel that something is particularly significant and should be referenced in your paper, or that a cite is needed for some specific reason, then feel free to do so.
  8. In general, if you have more than a dozen cites you should review them carefully to see if all are truly needed. It is perfectly acceptable to have a paper with as few as four cites, and if you are doing something particularly creative you might have no cites at all.

Feel free to add your suggested changes either to the comments section on this page, or, if you're a project member, update this page directly.


Johan Carlsson wrote 02/04/2018 at 15:46 point

In my experience, peer-reviewed papers typically have the following structure:

1) Abstract, a single paragraph with the main findings

2) List of key words, up to half a dozen descriptive terms to facilitate search

3) Introduction, giving background, state of the art of the field and how your new research fits in

4) Several sections describing the work done, should have enough detail to allow colleagues to reproduce the results

5) Conclusions, the scientifically and statistically valid conclusions that can be drawn from your results

6) Acknowledgment, kudos to funding agencies, colleagues who gave valuable advice or comments

7) References, relevant previously published work that your new research improves or extends (or contradicts)

I'm not suggesting that HJWYDK should slavishly enforce this structure, but it's a reasonable starting point

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