Scientific Writing and Editing

A Glossary of Selected Terms

abstract: a synopsis of a scientific paper that often summarizes each of the paper's sections

: that part of grammar that deals with inflection

alphabet-number system: a system of literature citation in which references are arranged alphabetically in the “Literature Cited” section but by number in the text.

article: any written document

author: the composer of a document, as distinguished from a translator or editor

bibliography: in a document, a list of works referred to by the author

caption: the explanatory comment accompanying an illustration; the heading of an article or document;

CBE: see Council of Biology Editors

citation: a formal entry directing the reader  to previous work that serves as proof or support (see reference)

composition: a short essay that results from combining elements to form a whole

copy: typewritten text

copy editor: a person who edits copy; the terms editor, manuscript editor can be synonymous;

copy edit: prepare a document for presentation in a printed form; typically the term copy edit is used to describe the kind of light editing in which errors of style, grammar, word usage, and punctuation are corrected;

copyedit: copy edit; the spelling “copyedit” is often used in magazine and book publishing

copyeditor: copyeditor; the spelling “copyeditor” often is used in magazine and book publishing

copy-edit: copy edit

copy-editor: copy editor

Council of Biology Editors: an organization involved with the writing, editing, and publishing of books and journals in biology and related fields

developmental editing: an intensive form of editing in which a document is evaluated as a whole and problems of structure, organization, coherence, and logical consistency are corrected. Sentences may be removed or added. Paragraphs may be rewritten, condensed, or expanded. Blocks of text may be moved from one section to another (cf. copyediting).

Discussion section: the final section of an IMRAD paper in which the results of the research are tied in with the relevant literature.

dissertation: a thesis written by a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy; a dissertation may be defined more broadly as any formal, written essay, treatise on a specific subject

document: a writing that conveys information

edit: prepare a manuscript for publication often by making it conform to a standard or to suit a particular purpose; to review, modify, revise, refine, correct, reorganize a document;

editor: a person who edits, especially as an occupation; a copy editor; a person who selects material for publication or broadcast.

electronic journal: an online version of a print publication that can be accessed via computer over the internet;

essay: a short, prose composition on a specific theme that is analytic, speculative, or interpretive

format: shape, size, and general makeup; e.g., “the IMRAD format”

glossary: a collection of specialized terms and their meanings

grammar: the rules that govern the structure of a particular language; the system of inflections and syntax of a language; the branch of linguistics that involves the study of the rules of language;

graph: a pictorial representation of quantitative data that is useful for showing trends

inflection: the change of form that words undergo to mark certain kinds of distinctions, such as those of case, gender, number, tense, person, mood, or voice,

IMRAD: an acronym of the words Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion that arises from the order of the major sections of text (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion) in a common format for scientific papers;

impact factor: a measure of the quality of a scientific journal;

journal: a periodical that deals with subjects of current interest

language: a system of arbitrary symbols; the rules used to manipulate those symbols; a natural (or ordinary) language is one that is spoken, written, or signed by humans for general-purpose communication (in contrast, a formal language is one defined by precise formulae).

Literature Cited: a section of a scientific paper in which the citations (references) are listed; typically, this section follows the text; see Reference section.

managing editor: the person who manages the business affairs of a scientific journal; typically, the managing editor is involved with copy editing but not with the decision on whether a submission is acceptable;

manuscript: the original text of an author’s work that is submitted for publication; unprinted text; a handwritten document;

Materials and Methods section: see Methods section

Methods section: the section of a scientific paper in which the manner of collecting information is described in sufficient detail to permit a competent colleague to repeat the study; typically, the Methods section is placed between the Introduction and Results sections;

monograph: a document, often of book length, that is written by specialists for other specialist;

morphology: the way in which parts of words combine to form words

paper: a written or printed document; an essay, article or dissertation on a specific topic

primary journal: a journal comprised of original research.

primary publication: a scientific paper that reports original research, as distinct from a monograph, review article, etc.

proofread: to read and mark corrections; a light form of editing in which errors or punctuation and spelling are corrected.

punctuation: standardized marks that clarify meaning by separating structural units of writing

referee: a person who reviews a scientific paper to determine whether it should be published;

refereed: pertaining to a document that has been examined (by a referee) to determine whether it should be published;

reference: a document (article, book, etc.) containing pertinent information about previous research that serves as support or proof; a formal entry directing the reader  to previous research that serves as proof or support

Reference section: a section of a scientific paper in which the references (citations) in the text are listed; see Literature Cited

Results section: the section of an IMRAD paper that presents the new and significant information that has been produced by the study; typically, the Results section follows the Methods section and precedes the Discussion section (see IMRAD)

review: a critical evaluation of a scientific paper noting areas for improvement and determining whether the paper should be published;

review article: (= review paper) a survey of the literature that provides an overview of primary research on a specific subject; also referred to simply as a review; sometimes referred to by the term "review";

reviewer: a person who conducts a critical evaluation of a scientific paper with the primary purpose of determining whether it is suitable for publication;

revise: to study again; to improve, correct, amend;

revision: a version of a document that has been improved, corrected, or amended; the result of revising; the act of revising;

rhetoric: the study of effective or persuasive speaking or writing; the art of speaking or writing effectively;

science writing: the kind of writing that communicates the results of research to either scientist or non- scientists (cf scientific writing)

scientific paper: a published report of the results of original research

scientific writing: the kind of writing that communicates the results of research to other scientists (cf science writing)

scribe: writer; author

semantics: the relationship between (a) signs and (b) the things that signs refer to; the study of the meaning of the signs and symbols of a language

semiotics: the study of signs and symbols; comprises syntatics, semantics, and pragmatics

spelling: orthography; the way in which characters (letters of the alphabet) are combined to form words;

style: conventions with respect to spelling, punctuation, capitalization, typographic arrangement, and display;

syntatics: the branch of semiotics that deals with the formal properties of signs and symbols; the study of the formal relations between (a) signs and symbols and (b) their interpreters

syntax: the part of grammar that deals with the way in which words are combined to form sentences (clauses, phrases, etc.); the set of expressions that are valid in the language (cf. semantics);

table: a presentation of data in which alphabetic or numeric values are arranged in rows and columns;

text: any of the various forms in which a writing exists; the main body of a manuscript, as distinguished from the title, appendix, footnotes, etc.; type, as distinguished from illustrations, margins, etc.

thesis: an original dissertation on a specific subject, especially one written by a candidate for a diploma or degree; the purpose of a thesis is to demonstrate that the candidate is capable of original research;

usage: the way in which words and phrases are actually used within a community; writing practice that is accepted generally;


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