Writing Scientific Papers

Below is some advice on writing scientific papers. It is written in bullet form with the main point at the beginning of each bullet, so that you can skip over things you are familiar with and read only paragraphs that you want an elaboration on.

Make it a Habit

When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates. – Thomas S. Monson

Writing Tips




LaTeX Logistics


Writing a proposal is different than writing a scientific paper. A proposal is intended to be a persuasive argument (rather than a presentation of results and an illumination of their implications). You will need to write a prospectus during your graduate work, which is essentially a short proposal. Make sure you answer the following questions in any proposal (these are criteria an evaluator will use to judge its merit):

  1. Is the problem important? (clearly define what the problem is and convince the reader that it is important)
  2. Is the proposed solution innovative and impactful? (clearly describe the outcomes and how they will be impactful)
  3. Is this person/team uniquely qualified to perform this work and is it likely to lead to a successful outcome? (you need a well-defined specific work plan, a reasonable scope, and ideally some preliminary results that lend confidence that this is feasible)

A strong beginning is critical. Read this excellent summary on how to put together a strong introduction.

Another good way to assess a proposal is to go through the Heilmeier questions (George H. Heilmeier was a former DARPA director):

Another great resource are these two short documents from George Hazelrigg, a longtime program director at the National Science Foundation. Not everything in that paper applies to you, but there are still several important points for your work: one, two