Finding original (or "scientific") research articles: Definition and description
- Definition and description
- Where do I find these articles?
- How do I understand them?
- What's the point?
Original research articles are primary sources:
An "original" research article is a detailed account of research activity written by the scientists who did the research--not by someone else who is reporting on the research; it is a primary resource . Some instructors may refer to these as "scientific research" articles or as "empirical" research.
Defining "empirical" research:
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines empirical as: "originating in or based on observation or experience research; capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment."
Image source: " Lab Laboratory Research Scientific Science " by felixioncool is licensed under the CC0 license (public domain)
Anatomy of a scholarly article
Take a look at this very helpful web page created by librarians at NCSU (North Carolina State University).
- Anatomy of a Scholarly Article Interactive display of a scholarly article. Created by NCSU Libraries, CC BY license
Common characteristics of most original research articles
- Written by multiple authors (usually three or more)
- Authors are always identified and their credentials displayed
- Long, technical article titles with specialized terminology
- Lengthy--a minimum of six pages, often twenty or more
- Introduction that includes the problem, question(s), and research objectives
- Literature review: a description of what other scholars have written about the problem
- Methods or Approach
- Methods, Study, Results
- Randomized, Double blind, Placebo-controlled
- Article text will describe and analyze the problem, experiment or study, with technical language or jargon understood by others in that field
- Chart, graphs, and/or tables often included
- Lengthy references list
- Published in professional or scholarly journals
Here's what a citation might look like
- A Pilot Study of Gene/Gene and Gene/Environment Interactions in Alzheimer Disease .By: Ghebranious, Nader; Mukesh, Bickol; Giampietro, Philip F.; Gluhch, Ingrid; Michel, Susan F.; Waring, Stephen C.; McCarty, Catherine A., Clinical Medicine & Research , Mar2011, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p17-25, 9p, 5 Charts;
- Developmental Trajectories of Marital Happiness in Continuously Married Individuals: A Group-Based Modeling Approach . By: Anderson, Jared R., Van Ryzin, Mark J., Doherty, William J., Journal of Family Psychology , 08933200, Oct2010, Vol. 24, Issue 5
- Occurrence of genetically modified oilseed rape seeds in the harvest of subsequent conventional oilseed rape over time . European Journal of Agronomy , Volume 27, Issue 1, July 2007, Pages 115-122. A. Messéan, C. Sausse, J. Gasquez, H. Darmency
(Also, please note that the citations above are NOT cited in either APA or MLA style.)
Image source: “ Scientific citations ” by Finn Årup Nielsen is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license
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What is an original research article?
An original research article is a report of research activity that is written by the researchers who conducted the research or experiment. Original research articles may also be referred to as: “primary research articles” or “primary scientific literature.” In science courses, instructors may also refer to these as “peer-reviewed articles” or “refereed articles.”
Original research articles in the sciences have a specific purpose, follow a scientific article format, are peer reviewed, and published in academic journals.
Identifying Original Research: What to Look For
An "original research article" is an article that is reporting original research about new data or theories that have not been previously published. That might be the results of new experiments, or newly derived models or simulations. The article will include a detailed description of the methods used to produce them, so that other researchers can verify them. This description is often found in a section called "methods" or "materials and methods" or similar. Similarly, the results will generally be described in great detail, often in a section called "results."
Since the original research article is reporting the results of new research, the authors should be the scientists who conducted that research. They will have expertise in the field, and will usually be employed by a university or research lab.
In comparison, a newspaper or magazine article (such as in The New York Times or National Geographic ) will usually be written by a journalist reporting on the actions of someone else.
An original research article will be written by and for scientists who study related topics. As such, the article should use precise, technical language to ensure that other researchers have an exact understanding of what was done, how to do it, and why it matters. There will be plentiful citations to previous work, helping place the research article in a broader context. The article will be published in an academic journal, follow a scientific format, and undergo peer-review.
Original research articles in the sciences follow the scientific format. ( This tutorial from North Carolina State University illustrates some of the key features of this format.)
Look for signs of this format in the subject headings or subsections of the article. You should see the following:
Scientific research that is published in academic journals undergoes a process called "peer review."
The peer review process goes like this:
- A researcher writes a paper and sends it in to an academic journal, where it is read by an editor
- The editor then sends the article to other scientists who study similar topics, who can best evaluate the article
- The scientists/reviewers examine the article's research methodology, reasoning, originality, and sginificance
- The scientists/reviewers then make suggestions and comments to impove the paper
- The original author is then given these suggestions and comments, and makes changes as needed
- This process repeats until everyone is satisfied and the article can be published within the academic journal
For more details about this process see the Peer Reviewed Publications guide.
This journal article is an example. It was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science in 2015. Clicking on the button that says "Review History" will show the comments by the editors, reviewers and the author as it went through the peer review process. The "About Us" menu provides details about this journal; "About the journal" under that tab includes the statement that the journal is peer reviewed.
There are a variety of article types published in academic, peer-reviewed journals, but the two most common are original research articles and review articles . They can look very similar, but have different purposes and structures.
Like original research articles, review articles are aimed at scientists and undergo peer-review. Review articles often even have “abstract,” “introduction,” and “reference” sections. However, they will not (generally) have a “methods” or “results” section because they are not reporting new data or theories. Instead, they review the current state of knowledge on a topic.
Press releases, newspaper or magazine articles
These won't be in a formal scientific format or be peer reviewed. The author will usually be a journalist, and the audience will be the general public. Since most readers are not interested in the precise details of the research, the language will usually be nontechnical and broad. Citations will be rare or nonexistent.
Tips for Finding Original research Articles
Search for articles in one of the library databases recommend for your subject area . If you are using Google, try searching in Google Scholar instead and you will get results that are more likely to be original research articles than what will come up in a regular Google search!
For tips on using library databases to find articles, see our Library DIY guides .
Tips for Finding the Source of a News Report about Science
If you've seen or heard a report about a new scientific finding or claim, these tips can help you find the original source:
- Often, the report will mention where the original research was published; look for sentences like "In an article published yesterday in the journal Nature ..." You can use this to find the issue of the journal where the research was published, and look at the table of contents to find the original article.
- The report will often name the researchers involved. You can search relevant databases for their name and the topic of the report to find the original research that way.
- Sometimes you may have to go through multiple articles to find the original source. For example, a video or blog post may be based on a newspaper article, which in turn is reporting on a scientific discovery published in another journal; be sure to find the original research article.
- Don't be afraid to ask a librarian for help!
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Home » Original Research – Definition, Examples, Guide
Original Research – Definition, Examples, Guide
Table of Contents
Original research refers to a type of research that involves the collection and analysis of new and original data to answer a specific research question or to test a hypothesis. This type of research is conducted by researchers who aim to generate new knowledge or add to the existing body of knowledge in a particular field or discipline.
Types of Original Research
There are several types of original research that researchers can conduct depending on their research question and the nature of the data they are collecting. Some of the most common types of original research include:
This type of research is conducted to expand scientific knowledge and to create new theories, models, or frameworks. Basic research often involves testing hypotheses and conducting experiments or observational studies.
This type of research is conducted to solve practical problems or to develop new products or technologies. Applied research often involves the application of basic research findings to real-world problems.
This type of research is conducted to gather preliminary data or to identify research questions that need further investigation. Exploratory research often involves collecting qualitative data through interviews, focus groups, or observations.
This type of research is conducted to describe the characteristics or behaviors of a population or a phenomenon. Descriptive research often involves collecting quantitative data through surveys, questionnaires, or other standardized instruments.
This type of research is conducted to determine the relationship between two or more variables. Correlational research often involves collecting quantitative data and using statistical analyses to identify correlations between variables.
This type of research is conducted to test cause-and-effect relationships between variables. Experimental research often involves manipulating one or more variables and observing the effect on an outcome variable.
This type of research is conducted over an extended period of time to study changes in behavior or outcomes over time. Longitudinal research often involves collecting data at multiple time points.
Original Research Methods
Original research can involve various methods depending on the research question, the nature of the data, and the discipline or field of study. However, some common methods used in original research include:
This involves the manipulation of one or more variables to test a hypothesis. Experimental research is commonly used in the natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and biology, but can also be used in social sciences, such as psychology.
This involves the collection of data by observing and recording behaviors or events without manipulation. Observational research can be conducted in the natural setting of the behavior or in a laboratory setting.
This involves the collection of data from a sample of participants using questionnaires or interviews. Survey research is commonly used in social sciences, such as sociology, political science, and economics.
Case Study Research
This involves the in-depth analysis of a single case, such as an individual, organization, or event. Case study research is commonly used in social sciences and business studies.
This involves the collection and analysis of non-numerical data, such as interviews, focus groups, and observation notes. Qualitative research is commonly used in social sciences, such as anthropology, sociology, and psychology.
This involves the collection and analysis of numerical data using statistical methods. Quantitative research is commonly used in natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and biology, as well as in social sciences, such as psychology and economics.
Researchers may also use a combination of these methods in their original research depending on their research question and the nature of their data.
Data Collection Methods
There are several data collection methods that researchers can use in original research, depending on the nature of the research question and the type of data that needs to be collected. Some of the most common data collection methods include:
- Surveys : Surveys involve asking participants to respond to a series of questions about their attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, or experiences. Surveys can be conducted in person, over the phone, through email, or online.
- Interviews : Interviews involve asking participants open-ended questions about their experiences, beliefs, or behaviors. Interviews can be conducted in person, over the phone, or through video conferencing.
- Observations : Observations involve observing and recording participants’ behaviors or interactions in a natural or laboratory setting. Observations can be conducted using structured or unstructured methods.
- Experiments : Experiments involve manipulating one or more variables and observing the effect on an outcome variable. Experiments can be conducted in a laboratory or in the natural environment.
- Case studies: Case studies involve conducting an in-depth analysis of a single case, such as an individual, organization, or event. Case studies can involve the collection of qualitative or quantitative data.
- Focus groups: Focus groups involve bringing together a small group of participants to discuss a specific topic or issue. Focus groups can be conducted in person or online.
- Document analysis: Document analysis involves collecting and analyzing written or visual materials, such as reports, memos, or videos, to answer research questions.
Data Analysis Methods
Once data has been collected in original research, it needs to be analyzed to answer research questions and draw conclusions. There are various data analysis methods that researchers can use, depending on the type of data collected and the research question. Some common data analysis methods used in original research include:
- Descriptive statistics: This involves using statistical measures such as mean, median, mode, and standard deviation to describe the characteristics of the data.
- Inferential statistics: This involves using statistical methods to infer conclusions about a population based on a sample of data.
- Regression analysis: This involves examining the relationship between two or more variables by using statistical models that predict the value of one variable based on the value of one or more other variables.
- Content analysis: This involves analyzing written or visual materials, such as documents, videos, or social media posts, to identify patterns, themes, or trends.
- Qualitative analysis: This involves analyzing non-numerical data, such as interview transcripts or observation notes, to identify themes, patterns, or categories.
- Grounded theory: This involves developing a theory or model based on the data collected in the study.
- Mixed methods analysis: This involves combining quantitative and qualitative data analysis methods to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the research question.
How to Conduct Original Research
Conducting original research involves several steps that researchers need to follow to ensure that their research is valid, reliable, and produces meaningful results. Here are some general steps that researchers can follow to conduct original research:
- Identify the research question: The first step in conducting original research is to identify a research question that is relevant, significant, and feasible. The research question should be specific and focused to guide the research process.
- Conduct a literature review: Once the research question is identified, researchers should conduct a thorough literature review to identify existing research on the topic. This will help them identify gaps in the existing knowledge and develop a research plan that builds on previous research.
- Develop a research plan: Researchers should develop a research plan that outlines the methods they will use to collect and analyze data. The research plan should be detailed and include information on the population and sample, data collection methods, data analysis methods, and ethical considerations.
- Collect data: Once the research plan is developed, researchers can begin collecting data using the methods identified in the plan. It is important to ensure that the data collection process is consistent and accurate to ensure the validity and reliability of the data.
- Analyze data: Once the data is collected, researchers should analyze it using appropriate data analysis methods. This will help them answer the research question and draw conclusions from the data.
- Interpret results: After analyzing the data, researchers should interpret the results and draw conclusions based on the findings. This will help them answer the research question and make recommendations for future research or practical applications.
- Communicate findings: Finally, researchers should communicate their findings to the appropriate audience using a format that is appropriate for the research question and audience. This may include writing a research paper, presenting at a conference, or creating a report for a client or stakeholder.
Purpose of Original Research
The purpose of original research is to generate new knowledge and understanding in a particular field of study. Original research is conducted to address a research question, hypothesis, or problem and to produce empirical evidence that can be used to inform theory, policy, and practice. By conducting original research, researchers can:
- Expand the existing knowledge base: Original research helps to expand the existing knowledge base by providing new information and insights into a particular phenomenon. This information can be used to develop new theories, models, or frameworks that explain the phenomenon in greater depth.
- Test existing theories and hypotheses: Original research can be used to test existing theories and hypotheses by collecting empirical evidence and analyzing the data. This can help to refine or modify existing theories, or to develop new ones that better explain the phenomenon.
- Identify gaps in the existing knowledge: Original research can help to identify gaps in the existing knowledge base by highlighting areas where further research is needed. This can help to guide future research and identify new research questions that need to be addressed.
- Inform policy and practice: Original research can be used to inform policy and practice by providing empirical evidence that can be used to make decisions and develop interventions. This can help to improve the quality of life for individuals and communities, and to address social, economic, and environmental challenges.
How to publish Original Research
Publishing original research involves several steps that researchers need to follow to ensure that their research is accepted and published in reputable academic journals. Here are some general steps that researchers can follow to publish their original research:
- Select a suitable journal: Researchers should identify a suitable academic journal that publishes research in their field of study. The journal should have a good reputation and a high impact factor, and should be a good fit for the research topic and methods used.
- Review the submission guidelines: Once a suitable journal is identified, researchers should review the submission guidelines to ensure that their manuscript meets the journal’s requirements. The guidelines may include requirements for formatting, length, and content.
- Write the manuscript : Researchers should write the manuscript in accordance with the submission guidelines and academic standards. The manuscript should include a clear research question or hypothesis, a description of the research methods used, an analysis of the data collected, and a discussion of the results and their implications.
- Submit the manuscript: Once the manuscript is written, researchers should submit it to the selected journal. The submission process may require the submission of a cover letter, abstract, and other supporting documents.
- Respond to reviewer feedback: After the manuscript is submitted, it will be reviewed by experts in the field who will provide feedback on the quality and suitability of the research. Researchers should carefully review the feedback and revise the manuscript accordingly.
- Respond to editorial feedback: Once the manuscript is revised, it will be reviewed by the journal’s editorial team who will provide feedback on the formatting, style, and content of the manuscript. Researchers should respond to this feedback and make any necessary revisions.
- Acceptance and publication: If the manuscript is accepted, the journal will inform the researchers and the manuscript will be published in the journal. If the manuscript is not accepted, researchers can submit it to another journal or revise it further based on the feedback received.
How to Identify Original Research
To identify original research, there are several factors to consider:
- The research question: Original research typically starts with a novel research question or hypothesis that has not been previously explored or answered in the existing literature.
- The research design: Original research should have a clear and well-designed research methodology that follows appropriate scientific standards. The methodology should be described in detail in the research article.
- The data: Original research should include new data that has not been previously published or analyzed. The data should be collected using appropriate research methods and analyzed using valid statistical methods.
- The results: Original research should present new findings or insights that have not been previously reported in the existing literature. The results should be presented clearly and objectively, and should be supported by the data collected.
- The discussion and conclusions: Original research should provide a clear and objective interpretation of the results, and should discuss the implications of the research findings. The discussion and conclusions should be based on the data collected and the research question or hypothesis.
- The references: Original research should be supported by references to existing literature, which should be cited appropriately in the research article.
Advantages of Original Research
Original research has several advantages, including:
- Generates new knowledge: Original research is conducted to answer novel research questions or hypotheses, which can generate new knowledge and insights into various fields of study.
- Supports evidence-based decision making: Original research provides empirical evidence that can inform decision-making in various fields, such as medicine, public policy, and business.
- Enhances academic and professional reputation: Conducting original research and publishing in reputable academic journals can enhance a researcher’s academic and professional reputation.
- Provides opportunities for collaboration: Original research can provide opportunities for collaboration between researchers, institutions, and organizations, which can lead to new partnerships and research projects.
- Advances scientific and technological progress: Original research can contribute to scientific and technological progress by providing new knowledge and insights into various fields of study, which can inform further research and development.
- Can lead to practical applications: Original research can have practical applications in various fields, such as medicine, engineering, and social sciences, which can lead to new products, services, and policies that benefit society.
Limitations of Original Research
Original research also has some limitations, which include:
- Time and resource constraints: Original research can be time-consuming and expensive, requiring significant resources to design, execute, and analyze the research data.
- Ethical considerations: Conducting original research may raise ethical considerations, such as ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of research participants, obtaining informed consent, and avoiding conflicts of interest.
- Risk of bias: Original research may be subject to biases, such as selection bias, measurement bias, and publication bias, which can affect the validity and reliability of the research findings.
- Generalizability: Original research findings may not be generalizable to larger populations or different contexts, which can limit the applicability of the research findings.
- Replicability: Original research may be difficult to replicate, which can limit the ability of other researchers to verify the research findings.
- Limited scope: Original research may have a limited scope, focusing on a specific research question or hypothesis, which can limit the breadth of the research findings.
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Types of journal articles
It is helpful to familiarise yourself with the different types of articles published by journals. Although it may appear there are a large number of types of articles published due to the wide variety of names they are published under, most articles published are one of the following types; Original Research, Review Articles, Short reports or Letters, Case Studies, Methodologies.
This is the most common type of journal manuscript used to publish full reports of data from research. It may be called an Original Article, Research Article, Research, or just Article, depending on the journal. The Original Research format is suitable for many different fields and different types of studies. It includes full Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections.
Short reports or Letters:
These papers communicate brief reports of data from original research that editors believe will be interesting to many researchers, and that will likely stimulate further research in the field. As they are relatively short the format is useful for scientists with results that are time sensitive (for example, those in highly competitive or quickly-changing disciplines). This format often has strict length limits, so some experimental details may not be published until the authors write a full Original Research manuscript. These papers are also sometimes called Brief communications .
Review Articles provide a comprehensive summary of research on a certain topic, and a perspective on the state of the field and where it is heading. They are often written by leaders in a particular discipline after invitation from the editors of a journal. Reviews are often widely read (for example, by researchers looking for a full introduction to a field) and highly cited. Reviews commonly cite approximately 100 primary research articles.
TIP: If you would like to write a Review but have not been invited by a journal, be sure to check the journal website as some journals to not consider unsolicited Reviews. If the website does not mention whether Reviews are commissioned it is wise to send a pre-submission enquiry letter to the journal editor to propose your Review manuscript before you spend time writing it.
These articles report specific instances of interesting phenomena. A goal of Case Studies is to make other researchers aware of the possibility that a specific phenomenon might occur. This type of study is often used in medicine to report the occurrence of previously unknown or emerging pathologies.
Methodologies or Methods
These articles present a new experimental method, test or procedure. The method described may either be completely new, or may offer a better version of an existing method. The article should describe a demonstrable advance on what is currently available.
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What is Original Research?
Original research is considered a primary source.
An article is considered original research if...
- it is the report of a study written by the researchers who actually did the study.
- the researchers describe their hypothesis or research question and the purpose of the study.
- the researchers detail their research methods.
- the results of the research are reported.
- the researchers interpret their results and discuss possible implications.
There is no one way to easily tell if an article is a research article like there is for peer-reviewed articles in the Ulrich's database. The only way to be sure is to read the article to verify that it is written by the researchers and that they have explained all of their findings, in addition to listing their methodologies, results, and any conclusions based on the evidence collected.
All that being said, there are a few key indicators that will help you to quickly decide whether or not your article is based on original research.
- Literature Review or Background
- Read through the abstract (summary) before you attempt to find the full-text PDF. The abstract of the article usually contains those subdivision headings where each of the key sections are summarized individually.
- Use the checkbox with CINAHL's advanced search to only see articles that have been tagged as research articles.
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- Last Updated: Feb 7, 2022 11:44 AM
- URL: https://libguides.unf.edu/originalresearch
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Original Research Articles
Definition : An original research article communicates the research question, methods, results, and conclusions of a research study or experiment conducted by the author(s). These articles present original research data or findings generated through the course of the authors' study and an analysis of that data or information.
Published in Journals : Origingal research articles are published in scientific journals, also called scholarly or academic journals. These can be published in print and/or online. Journals are serial publications, meaning they publish volumes and issues on a schedule continually over time, similar to a magazine but for a scholarly audience. You can access journals through many of the library's databases. A list of recommended databases to use to search for original articles on biology subjects can be found through this link , accessible from the database "subject" dropdown on the library homepage.
Peer Reviewed : Prior to being published, original research articles undergo a process called peer review in an effort to ensure that published articles are based on sound research that adheres to established standards in the discipline. This means that after an article is first submitted to a journal, it is reviewed by other scientists who are experts in the article's subject area. These individuals review the article and provide unbiased feedback about the soundness of the background information, research methods, analysis, conclusions, logic, and reasoning of any conclusions; the author needs to incorporate and/or respond to recommended edits before an article will be published. Though it isn't perfect, peer review is the best quality control mechanism that scholars currently have in place to validate the quality of published research.
Peer reviewed articles will often be published with "Received", "Accepted", and "Published" dates, which indicates the timeline of the peer review process.
Structure : Traditionally, an original research article follows a standardized structure known by the acronym IMRD, which stands for Introduction, Methods, Results, & Discussion. Further information about the IMRD structure is available on the Reading Original Research Articles tab of this guide.
Other types of journal articles
Review Articles (usually peer reviewed) : Summarize and synthesize the current published literature on a certain topic. They do not involve original experiments or report new findings. The scope of a review article may be broad or narrow, depending on the publication record. Original research articles do incorporate literature review components, but a review article covers only review content.
Non Peer Reviewed Articles in Journals : Many journals publish the types of articles where peer review is not required. These differ by publication but may include research notes (brief reports of new research findings); responses to other articles; letters, commentaries, or opinion pieces; book reviews; and news. These articles are often more concise and will typically have a shorter reference list or no reference list at all. Many journals will indicate what genre these articles fall into on the article itself by using a label.
Why is Published Original Research Important?
Current information : Typical publication turnaround varies, but can be as quick as ~3 months.
Replicable : The studies published in original research articles contain enough methodological detail to be replicated so research can be verified (though this is a topic of recent debate ).
Contains Raw Data : The raw original research data, along with information about experimental conditions, allows for reuse of results for your own research or analysis.
Shows Logic : Using the provided data and methods, you can evaluate the logic of the authors' conclusions.
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Scientific Paper: What is it & How to Write it? (Steps and Format)
A white page, and a blinking cursor: How can a blank document be so intimidating? You might hear the voice of your Ph.D. professor rumbling in your head: “Well done with the research, why don’t you put all that data together in a scientific paper so we can get it published?”
Well, it’s more challenging than it sounds!
For first-time authors, the chances of writing their own scientific research may both be overwhelming and exciting. Encountered with a mountain of notes, data, remnants of the research process, and days spent doing experiments, it may be daunting to figure out where and how to begin the process of writing a scientific paper!
The good news is, you don’t have to be a talented writer to pen-down a good scientific paper, but just have to be an organized and careful writer.
This is why we have put time and effort into creating an exceptional guide on how to write a scientific paper that will help you present your research successfully to your supervisors or publications without any clutter!
Before we begin, let’s learn about the touchstones or benchmarks of scientific writing for authors!
What is a Scientific Paper? (Definition)
A scientific paper is a manuscript that represents an original work of scientific research or study. It can be an addition to the ongoing study in a field, can be groundbreaking, or a comparative study between different approaches.
Most times, a scientific paper draws the research performed by an individual or a group of people. These papers showcase valuable analysis in fields like theoretical physics, mathematics, etc., and are routinely published in scientific journals.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide on Technical Documentation
3 Golden Rules of Scientific Writing
According to a study by lijunsun, scientists and writers have identified difficulties in communicating science to the public through typical scientific prose.
Simply put, it is important for researchers to maintain a balance between receiving respect and recognition for their research in a particular field and making sure that their work is understandable to a wider audience. The latter can be achieved through clarity, simplicity, and accuracy.
Clarity – Research is unambiguous and free of irrelevant conjecture or detail.
Simplicity – Language, sentence, and paragraph structure are easy to comprehend and follow without losing scientific credibility or authority.
Accuracy – Data, figures, tables, references, and citations are illustrated verifiably and honestly.
Why are Scientific Papers Important?
A scientific paper is both a testing device and a teaching device.
When handled correctly, it empowers you to
- Learn and read an assignment carefully,
- Research the nuances of your topic,
- Refine your focus to a strong,
- Offer arguable thesis,
- Select the best evidence to prove the analysis of your dissertation.
As a primary teaching device, the scientific paper in your field trains you to self-learn some rules and expectations in terms of:
- Writing format,
- Appropriateness of language and content,
- Submission requirements,
- Bibliographic styles, and much more.
As you move onward with your research, you’ll find that the scientific paper quickly becomes the educational “ coin of the realm .” Hence, it’s important to approach any scientific paper with zeal for higher learning.
Read more: Technical Report: What is it & How to Write it? (Steps & Structure Included)
How to Write a Scientific Paper? (Steps & Format)
When you begin with writing your scientific manuscript, the first thing to consider is the format and order of sections in relation to your research or the information you want to showcase.
A scientific paper follows the conventional format of research-based writing, which provides a deeper understanding of the purpose of each section. The structure starts with:
Step 1. Add Title in the Paper
A title should be of the fewest words possible, accurately describing the content of the paper. Try to eliminate unnecessary words such as “Investigations of …”, “A study of …”, “Observations on …”, etc.
An improperly titled scientific paper might never reach the readers for which it was intended. Hence, mention the name of the study, a particular region it was conducted in, or an element it contains in the title.
Step 2. Mention Keywords List
A keyword list offers the opportunity to add keywords, in addition to those already written in the title. Optimal use of keywords may increase the chances of interested parties to easily locate your scientific paper.
Step 3. Add Abstract
A well-defined abstract allows the reader to identify the basic content of your paper quickly and accurately, to determine its relevance, and decide whether to read it in its entirety. The abstract briefly states the principal, scope, and objectives of the research. The abstract typically should not exceed 250 words. If you can convey the important details of the paper in 100 words, do not try to use more.
Step 4. Start with Introduction
An introduction begins by introducing the authors and their relevant fields to the reader. A common mistake made is introducing their areas of study while not mentioning their major findings in descriptive scientific writing, enabling the reader to place the current work in context.
The ending of the introduction can be done through a statement of objectives or, with a brief statement of the principal findings. Either way, the reader must have an idea of where the paper is headed to process the development of the evidence.
Step 5. Mention Scientific Materials and Methods Used
The primary purpose of the ‘Materials and Methods’ section is to provide enough detail for a competent worker to replicate your research and reproduce the results.
The scientific method requires your results to be reproducible, and provide a basis for the reiteration of the study by others. However, if case your material and method have been previously published in a journal, only the name of the study and a literature reference is needed.
Step 6. Write down Results
Results display your findings, figures, and tables of your study. It represents the data, condensed, and digested with important trends that are extracted while researching. Since the results hold new knowledge that you are contributing to the world, it is important that your data is simply and clearly stated.
Step 7. Create a Discussion Section
A discussion involves talking and answering about different aspects of the scientific paper such as: what principles have been established or reinforced; how your findings compare to the findings of others, what generalizations can be drawn, and whether there are any practical/theoretical implications of your research.
Step 8. Mention References
A list of references presented alphabetically by author’s surname, or number, based on the publication, must be provided at the end of your scientific paper. The reference list must contain all references cited in the text. Include author details such as the title of the article, year of publication, name of journal or book or volume, and page numbers with each reference
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Over to You!
Scientific papers are the medium through which scientists report their work to the world. Their professional reputation is based on how these papers are acknowledged by the scientific community.
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The (mostly true) origins of the scientific journal
- By Bonnie Swoger on July 27, 2012
Thursday 26th July saw the launch of SciLogs.com , a new English language science blog network. SciLogs.com, the brand-new home for Nature Network bloggers, forms part of the SciLogs international collection of blogs which already exist in German , Spanish and Dutch . To celebrate this addition to the NPG science blogging family, some of the NPG blogs are publishing posts focusing on "Beginnings".
Participating in this cross-network blogging festival is nature.com ’s Soapbox Science blog , Scitable's Student Voices blog and bloggers from SciLogs.com , SciLogs.de , Scitable and Scientific American’s Blog Network . Join us as we explore the diverse interpretations of beginnings – from scientific examples such as stem cells to first time experiences such as publishing your first paper. You can also follow and contribute to the conversations on social media by using the #BeginScights hashtag.
Way back in the olden days, way before the internet or phones or even trains, the scientists of the 17th century (called natural philosophers at the time 1 ) had two primary ways of hearing about the latest scientific ideas:
- Wait for folks to have enough ideas to publish a whole book about them, or
- Write a lot of letters, hoping that folks will write you back and tell you what they've been up to.
If you really wanted to be on the cutting edge, option number 2 was your only choice. The group of folks sending letters across Europe at the time are often referred to as the Invisible College . 2 Judging from my skill at keeping up email correspondence with folks, I would have been very bad at this letter writing. Then again, I wouldn't have been distracted by things like this .
In the middle of the 17th century, small groups of scientists invented a third way of spreading scientific news: meeting together to share their results in person, and presumably consume alcohol. These meetings turned into the first scholarly societies, like the Royal Society (founded in 1660) or the French Academy of Sciences (founded in 1666), and scientists still gather in person to share results and drink alcohol .
At one of the first meetings of the Royal Society, someone said something like this: "Hey, maybe we should write this stuff down, get it printed up and share it with the folks who can't make it today. Damn plague." 3
Like many good suggestions , no one did anything about it for several years.
Finally, in 1665, the first secretary of the Royal Society, Henry Oldenburg, decided that it was time to put something together and possibly make himself a bit of money at the same time (Oldenburg was often looking for ways to make a bit more money).
With the blessing of the Royal Society, Oldenburg pulled together the content, had the first issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society printed and solicited subscriptions. Despite the title, Philosophical Transactions was not an official publication of the Royal Society, something that Oldenburg tried to make clear in the first issue and then again in an issue from 1666 . I can imagine him shaking his head and saying "Why don't people just read?"
Oldenburg published letters he received about scientific observations and experiments , and he composed reports about advances shared at Royal Society meetings. Recent books were also advertised and reviewed .
Now, another periodical, the french Journal des Sçavans , started publication a few months prior to the Philosophical Transactions . Despite the fact that the Journal included a large quantity of scientific content, most of the historians I've read don't consider it to be the first true scientific journal: while the Journal published a lot of book reviews and news of interest to the scientific community, they didn't publish a lot of original science. Of course, I don't speak French, and French historians might disagree. It wouldn't be the first time that scholars disagreed about the merits or details about a particular journal (or the last).
The Philosophical Transactions does have one other claim to fame - besides being the first scientific journal, they are also the longest continuously published journal (apart from a few small breaks in the 17th century due to plague , imprisonment 4 and eventually Oldenburg's death). You can read the most recent issues at the Royal Society website (not free), as well as the first volumes (free).
Other scientific journals soon followed, although it took some time for the journal article to become the primary method of communicating scientific results. Other aspects that we equate with scholarly journals took longer to develop: our current system of peer review didn't come about until after the second world war, around the same time as the for-profit publishers began to eclipse scholarly societies as publishers of scholarly content.
For more history and less snark, see: Andrade, E., 1965, The birth and Early days of the Philosophical Transactions : Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, v. 20, no. 1, p. 9-27.
The Trailblazing site by the Royal Society has a great timeline and links to some of the most important papers from Philosophical Transactions , including Newton's report on optics and van Leeuwenhoek's early microscopy work.
1. Sorry, nothing to do with the British version of the first Harry Potter book
2. Invisibility was metaphorical, not actual, unfortunately
3. I'm paraphrasing
4. Really. Oldenburg was imprisoned in the Tower of London for a few months in 1667 after he managed to offend the King of England by criticizing his conduct of the Dutch War in letters to Europe
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Bonnie J. M. Swoger is a Science and Technology Librarian at a small public undergraduate institution in upstate New York, SUNY Geneseo. She teaches students about the science literature, helps faculty and students with library research questions and leads library assessment efforts. She has a BS in Geology from St. Lawrence University, an MS in Geology from Kent State University and an MLS from the University at Buffalo. She would love to have some free time in which to indulge in hobbies. She blogs at the Undergraduate Science Librarian and can be found on twitter @bonnieswoger. Follow Bonnie Swoger on Twitter
Recent Articles by Bonnie Swoger
- So long, Scientific American, and thanks for all the fish
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What Is and how organize a Scientific Paper?
1. definition of a scientific paper.
A scientific paper is a written and published report describing original research results. That short definition must be qualified, however, by noting that a scientific paper must be written in a certain way, as defined by tradition, editorial practice, scientific ethics, and the interplay of printing and publishing procedures.
To properly define “scientific paper,” we must define the mechanism that creates a scientific paper, namely, valid (that is, primary) publication. Abstracts, theses, conference reports, and many other types of literature are published, but such publications do not normally meet the test of valid publication. Further, even if a scientific paper meets all the other tests, it is not validly published if it is published in the wrong place. That is, a relatively poor research report, but one that meets the tests, is validly published if accepted and published in the right place (a primary journal or other primary publication); a superbly prepared research report is not validly published if published in the wrong place. Most of the government literature and conference literature, as well as institutional bulletins and other ephemeral publications, do not qualify as primary literature.
Many people have struggled with the definition of primary publication (valid publication), from which is derived the definition of a scientific paper. The Council of Biology Editors (CBE), now the Council of Science Editors (CSE), arrived at the following definition (Council of Biology Editors 1968, p. 2):
An acceptable primary scientific publication must be the first disclosure containing sufficient information to enable peers (1) to assess observations, (2) to repeat experiments, and (3) to evaluate intellectual processes; moreover, it must be susceptible to sensory perception, essentially permanent, available to the scientific community without restriction, and available for regular screening by one or more of the major recognized secondary services (e.g., currently, Biological Abstracts, Chemical Abstracts, Index Medicus, Excerpta Medica, Bibliography of Agriculture, etc., in the United States and similar services in other countries).
At first reading, this definition may seem excessively complex, or at least verbose. But those who had a hand in drafting it weighed each word carefully and doubted that an acceptable definition could be provided in appreciably fewer words. Because it is important that students, authors, editors, and all others concerned understand what a scientific paper is and what it is not, it may be helpful to work through this definition to see what it really means.
“An acceptable primary scientific publication” must be “the first disclosure.” Certainly, first disclosure of new research data often takes place via oral presentation at a scientific meeting. But the thrust of the CBE statement is that disclosure is more than disgorgement by the author; effective first disclosure is accomplished only when the disclosure takes a form that allows the peers of the author (either now or in the future) to fully comprehend and use that which is disclosed.
Thus, sufficient information must be presented so that potential users of the data can (1) assess observations, (2) repeat experiments, and (3) evaluate intellectual processes. (Are the author’s conclusions justified by the data?) Then, the disclosure must be “susceptible to sensory perception.” This may seem an awkward phrase, because in normal practice it simply means published; however, this definition provides for disclosure not just in terms of printed visual materials (printed journals and the no longer widely used media called microfilm and microfiche) but also in nonprint, nonvisual forms. For example, “publication” in the form of audio recordings, if that publication met the other tests provided in the definition, would constitute effective publication. And, certainly, electronic journals meet the definition of valid publication. What about material posted on a website? Views have varied and can depend on the nature of the material posted. For the most current information, consult materials from professional organizations and journals in your field.
Regardless of the form of publication, that form must be essentially permanent (often not the case for websites), must be made available to the scientific community without restriction (for example, in a journal that is openly accessible online or to which subscriptions are available), and must be made available to information-retrieval services (Biological Abstracts, Chemical Abstracts, MEDLINE, etc.). Thus, publications such as newsletters, corporate publications, and controlled-circulation journals, many of which are of value for their news or other features, generally cannot serve as repositories for scientific knowledge.
To restate the CBE definition in simpler but not more accurate terms, primary publication is (1) the first publication of original research results, (2) in a form whereby peers of the author can repeat the experiments and test the conclusions, and (3) in a journal or other source document readily available within the scientific community. To understand this definition, however, we must add an important caveat. The part of the definition that refers to “peers of the author” is accepted as meaning prepublication peer review. Thus, by definition, scientific papers are published in peer-reviewed publications.
This question of definition has been belabored here for two reasons. First, the entire community of science has long labored with an inefficient, costly system of scientific communication precisely because it (authors, editors, and publishers) have been unable or unwilling to define primary publication. As a result, much of the literature has been buried in meeting abstracts, obscure conference reports, government documents, or books or journals of minuscule circulation. Other papers, in the same or slightly altered form, are published more than once; occasionally, this is due to the lack of definition as to which conference reports, books, and compilations are (or should be) primary publications and which are not. Redundancy and confusion result. Second, a scientific paper is, by definition, a particular kind of document containing specific kinds of information, typically in a prescribed (IMRAD) order. If the graduate student or the budding scientist (and even some of those scientists who have already published many papers) can fully grasp the significance of this definition, the writing task might be a great deal easier. Confusion results from an amorphous task. The easy task is the one in which you know exactly what must be done and in exactly what order it must be done.
2. ORGANIZATION OF A SCIENTIFIC PAPER
A scientific paper is organized to meet the needs of valid publication. It is, or should be, highly stylized, with distinctive and clearly evident component parts. The most common labeling of the component parts, in the basic sciences, is introduction, methods, results, and discussion (hence the acronym IMRAD). Actually, the heading “Materials and Methods” may be more common than the simpler “Methods,” but the latter form was used in the acronym.
Some of us have taught and recommended the IMRAD approach for many years. The tendency toward uniformity has increased since the IMRAD system was prescribed as a standard by the American National Standards Institute, first in 1972 and again in 1979 (American National Standards Institute, 1979a). Some journals use a variation of IMRAD in which methods appear last rather than second. Perhaps we should call this IRDAM. In some journals, details regarding methods commonly appear in figure captions.
The basic IMRAD order is so eminently logical that, increasingly, it is used for many other types of expository writing. Whether one is writing an article about chemistry, archaeology, economics, or crime in the street, the IMRAD format is often the best choice.
This point is generally true for papers reporting laboratory studies and other experiments. There are, of course, exceptions. As examples, reports of field studies in the earth sciences and many clinical case reports in the medical sciences do not readily lend themselves to this kind of organization. However, even in these descriptive papers, the same logical progression from problem to solution is often appropriate.
Occasionally, the organization of laboratory papers must differ. If a number of methods were used to achieve directly related results, it might be desirable to combine the materials and methods and the results into an integrated experimental section. In some fields and for some types of results, a combined results and discussion section is usual or desirable. In addition, many primary journals publish notes or short communications, in which the IMRAD organization is modified.
Various types of organization are used in descriptive areas of science. To determine how to organize such papers and which general headings to use, refer to the instructions to authors of your target journal and look at analogous papers the journal has published. Also, you can obtain general information from appropriate source books. For example, types of medical papers are described by Huth (1999), Peat and others (2002), Taylor (2011), and contributors to a multiauthor guide (Hall 2013); types of engineering papers and reports are outlined by Michaelson (1990) and by Beer and McMurrey (2014). Indeed, even if a paper will appear in the IMRAD format, books on writing in one’s own discipline can be worth consulting. Examples of such books include those in biomedical science by Zeiger (2000); the health sciences by Lang (2010); in chemistry by Ebel, Bliefert, and Russey (2004); and in psychology by Sternberg and Sternberg (2010).
In short, the preparation of a scientific paper has less to do with literary skill than with organization. A scientific paper is not literature. The preparer of a scientific paper is not an author in the literary sense. As an international colleague noted, this fact can comfort those writing scientific papers other than in their native language.
Some old-fashioned colleagues think that scientific papers should be literature, that the style and flair of an author should be clearly evident, and that variations in style encourage the interest of the reader. Scientists should indeed be interested in reading literature, and perhaps even in writing literature, but the communication of research results is a more prosaic procedure. As Booth (1981) put it, “Grandiloquence has no place in scientific writing.”
Today, the average scientist, to keep up with a field, must examine the data reported in a very large number of papers. Also, English, the international language of science, is a second language for many scientists. Therefore, scientists (and of course editors) must demand a system of reporting data that is uniform, concise, and readily understandable.
3. SHAPE OF A SCIENTIFIC PAPER
Imagine that a friend visits your laboratory or office. The friend is unfamiliar with your research and wants to know about it. To orient your friend, first you identify your general research area and say why it is important. Then you state the specific focus of your research, summarize how you gathered your data, and say what you found. Finally you discuss the broader significance of your findings. The friend now has a new understanding—and, if you are lucky, he or she might buy you lunch.
Although intended for readers who are more knowledgeable, a scientific paper should take much the same approach: first providing broad orientation, then focusing narrowly on the specific research, and then considering the findings in wider context. Some have likened this shape for a scientific paper to an hourglass: broad, then narrow, then broad. Keeping this overall structure in mind can aid when writing individual parts of a paper and integrating them into a coherent whole.
4. OTHER DEFINITIONS
If scientific paper is the term for an original research report, how should this be distinguished from research reports that are not original, are not scientific, or somehow fail to qualify as scientific papers? Some specific terms are commonly used: review paper, conference report, and meeting abstract.
A review paper may review almost anything, most typically the recent work in a defined subject area or the work of a particular individual or group. Thus, the review paper is designed to summarize, analyze, evaluate, or synthesize information that has already been published (research reports in primary journals). Although much or all of the material in a review paper has previously been published, the problem of dual publication (duplicate publication of original data) does not normally arise because the review nature of the work is usually obvious—often from the title of the periodical, such as Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews or Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Do not assume, however, that reviews contain nothing new. From the best review papers come new syntheses, new ideas and theories, and even new paradigms.
A conference report is a paper published in a book or journal as part of the proceedings of a symposium, national or international congress, workshop, roundtable, or the like. Such conferences commonly are not designed for the definitive presentation of original data, and the resultant proceedings (in a book or journal) do not qualify as primary publications. Conference presentations often are review papers, presenting reviews of the recent work of particular scientists or recent work in particular laboratories. Material at some conferences (especially the exciting ones) is in the form of preliminary reports, in which new, original data are presented, often accompanied by interesting speculation. But usually, these preliminary reports do not qualify, nor are they intended to qualify, as scientific papers. Later, often much later, such work may be validly published in a primary journal; by this time, the loose ends have been tied down, essential experimental details have been described (so that a competent worker could repeat the experiments), and previous speculation has matured into conclusions.
Therefore, the vast conference literature that appears normally is not primary. If original data are presented in such contributions, the data can and should be published (or republished) in an archival (primary) journal. Otherwise, the information may essentially be lost. If publication in a primary journal follows publication in a conference report, permission from the original publisher may be needed to reprint figures and other items (see Chapter 19, “Rights and Permissions”), but the more fundamental problem of dual publication normally does not and should not arise.
Meeting abstracts may be brief or relatively extensive. Although they can and generally do contain original information, they are not primary publications, and publication of an abstract should not preclude later publication of the full report.
Traditionally, there was little confusion regarding the typical one-paragraph abstracts published as part of the program or distributed along with the program at a national meeting or international congress. It was usually understood that many of the papers presented at these meetings would later be submitted for publication in primary journals. Sometimes conference organizers request extended abstracts (or synoptics). The extended abstract can supply almost as much information as a full paper; mainly it lacks the experimental detail. However, precisely because it lacks experimental detail, it cannot qualify as a scientific paper.
Those involved with publishing these materials should see the importance of careful definition of the different types of papers. More and more publishers, conference organizers, and individual scientists are agreeing on these basic definitions, and their general acceptance will greatly clarify both primary and secondary communication of scientific information.
Source: Gastel Barbara, Day Robert A. (2016), How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper , Greenwood; 8th edition.
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I’m a Neuroscientist. We’re Thinking About Biden’s Memory and Age in the Wrong Way.
By Charan Ranganath
Dr. Ranganath is a professor of psychology and neuroscience and the director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California, Davis, and the author of the forthcoming book “Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold On to What Matters.”
The special counsel Robert K. Hur’s report, in which he declined to prosecute President Biden for his handling of classified documents, also included a much-debated assessment of Mr. Biden’s cognitive abilities.
“Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview with him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
As an expert on memory, I can assure you that everyone forgets. In fact, most of the details of our lives — the people we meet, the things we do and the places we go — will inevitably be reduced to memories that capture only a small fraction of those experiences.
It is normal to be more forgetful as you get older. Generally, memory functions begin to decline in our 30s and continue to fade into old age. However, age in and of itself doesn’t indicate the presence of memory deficits that would affect an individual’s ability to perform in a demanding leadership role. And an apparent memory lapse may or may not be consequential, depending on the reasons it occurred.
There is forgetting, and there is Forgetting. If you’re over the age of 40, you’ve most likely experienced the frustration of trying to grasp that slippery word on the tip of your tongue. Colloquially, this might be described as forgetting, but most memory scientists would call this retrieval failure, meaning that the memory is there but we just can’t pull it up when we need it. On the other hand, Forgetting (with a capital F) is when a memory is seemingly lost or gone altogether. Inattentively conflating the names of the leaders of two countries would fall in the first category, whereas being unable to remember that you had ever met the president of Egypt would fall into the second.
Over the course of typical aging, we see changes in the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, a brain area that plays a starring role in many of our day-to-day memory successes and failures. These changes mean that as we get older, we tend to be more distractible and often struggle to pull up words or names we’re looking for. Remembering events takes longer, and it requires more effort, and we can’t catch errors as quickly as we used to. This translates to a lot more forgetting and a little more Forgetting.
Many of the special counsel’s observations about Mr. Biden’s memory seem to fall in the category of forgetting, meaning that they are more indicative of a problem with finding the right information from memory than Forgetting. Calling up the date that an event occurred, like the last year of Mr. Biden’s vice presidency or the year of his son’s death, is a complex measure of memory. Remembering that an event took place is different from being able to put a date on when it happened, which is more challenging with increased age. The president very likely has many memories, even though he could not immediately pull up dates in the stressful (and more immediately pressing) context of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
Other “memory” issues highlighted in the media are not so much cases of forgetting as they are of difficulties in the articulation of facts and knowledge. For instance, in July 2023, Mr. Biden mistakenly stated in a speech that “we have over 100 people dead,” when he should have said, “over one million.” He has struggled with a stutter since childhood, and research suggests that managing a stutter demands prefrontal resources that would normally enable people to find the right word or at least quickly correct errors after the fact.
Americans are understandably concerned about the advanced age of the two top contenders in the coming presidential election (Mr. Biden is 81, and Donald Trump is 77), although some of these concerns are rooted in cultural stereotypes and fears around aging. The fact is that there is a huge degree of variability in cognitive aging. Age is, on average, associated with decreased memory, but studies that follow up the same person over several years have shown that although some older adults show precipitous declines over time, other super-agers remain as sharp as ever.
Mr. Biden is the same age as Harrison Ford, Paul McCartney and Martin Scorsese. He’s also a bit younger than Jane Fonda (86) and a lot younger than the Berkshire Hathaway C.E.O., Warren Buffett (93). All these individuals are considered to be at the top of their professions, and yet I would not be surprised if they are more forgetful and absent-minded than when they were younger. In other words, an individual’s age does not say anything definitive about the person’s cognitive status or where it will head in the near future.
I can’t speak to the cognitive status of any of the presidential candidates, but I can say that, rather than focus on candidates’ ages per se, we should consider whether they have the capabilities to do the job. Public perception of a person’s cognitive state is often determined by superficial factors, such as physical presence, confidence and verbal fluency, but these aren’t necessarily relevant to one’s capacity to make consequential decisions about the fate of this country. Memory is surely relevant, but other characteristics, such as knowledge of the relevant facts and emotion regulation — both of which are relatively preserved and might even improve with age — are likely to be of equal or greater importance.
Ultimately, we are due for a national conversation about what we should expect in terms of the cognitive and emotional health of our leaders.
And that should be informed by science, not politics.
Charan Ranganath is a professor of psychology and neuroscience and the director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California, Davis, and the author of “ Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold On to What Matters .”
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OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora
The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.
- Will Douglas Heaven archive page
OpenAI has built a striking new generative video model called Sora that can take a short text description and turn it into a detailed, high-definition film clip up to a minute long.
Based on four sample videos that OpenAI shared with MIT Technology Review ahead of today’s announcement, the San Francisco–based firm has pushed the envelope of what’s possible with text-to-video generation (a hot new research direction that we flagged as a trend to watch in 2024 ).
“We think building models that can understand video, and understand all these very complex interactions of our world, is an important step for all future AI systems,” says Tim Brooks, a scientist at OpenAI.
But there’s a disclaimer. OpenAI gave us a preview of Sora (which means sky in Japanese) under conditions of strict secrecy. In an unusual move, the firm would only share information about Sora if we agreed to wait until after news of the model was made public to seek the opinions of outside experts. [Editor’s note: We’ve updated this story with outside comment below.] OpenAI has not yet released a technical report or demonstrated the model actually working. And it says it won’t be releasing Sora anytime soon. [ Update: OpenAI has now shared more technical details on its website.]
The first generative models that could produce video from snippets of text appeared in late 2022. But early examples from Meta , Google, and a startup called Runway were glitchy and grainy. Since then, the tech has been getting better fast. Runway’s gen-2 model, released last year, can produce short clips that come close to matching big-studio animation in their quality. But most of these examples are still only a few seconds long.
The sample videos from OpenAI’s Sora are high-definition and full of detail. OpenAI also says it can generate videos up to a minute long. One video of a Tokyo street scene shows that Sora has learned how objects fit together in 3D: the camera swoops into the scene to follow a couple as they walk past a row of shops.
OpenAI also claims that Sora handles occlusion well. One problem with existing models is that they can fail to keep track of objects when they drop out of view. For example, if a truck passes in front of a street sign, the sign might not reappear afterward.
In a video of a papercraft underwater scene, Sora has added what look like cuts between different pieces of footage, and the model has maintained a consistent style between them.
It’s not perfect. In the Tokyo video, cars to the left look smaller than the people walking beside them. They also pop in and out between the tree branches. “There’s definitely some work to be done in terms of long-term coherence,” says Brooks. “For example, if someone goes out of view for a long time, they won’t come back. The model kind of forgets that they were supposed to be there.”
Impressive as they are, the sample videos shown here were no doubt cherry-picked to show Sora at its best. Without more information, it is hard to know how representative they are of the model’s typical output.
It may be some time before we find out. OpenAI’s announcement of Sora today is a tech tease, and the company says it has no current plans to release it to the public. Instead, OpenAI will today begin sharing the model with third-party safety testers for the first time.
In particular, the firm is worried about the potential misuses of fake but photorealistic video . “We’re being careful about deployment here and making sure we have all our bases covered before we put this in the hands of the general public,” says Aditya Ramesh, a scientist at OpenAI, who created the firm’s text-to-image model DALL-E .
But OpenAI is eyeing a product launch sometime in the future. As well as safety testers, the company is also sharing the model with a select group of video makers and artists to get feedback on how to make Sora as useful as possible to creative professionals. “The other goal is to show everyone what is on the horizon, to give a preview of what these models will be capable of,” says Ramesh.
To build Sora, the team adapted the tech behind DALL-E 3, the latest version of OpenAI’s flagship text-to-image model. Like most text-to-image models, DALL-E 3 uses what’s known as a diffusion model. These are trained to turn a fuzz of random pixels into a picture.
Sora takes this approach and applies it to videos rather than still images. But the researchers also added another technique to the mix. Unlike DALL-E or most other generative video models, Sora combines its diffusion model with a type of neural network called a transformer.
Transformers are great at processing long sequences of data, like words. That has made them the special sauce inside large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Google DeepMind’s Gemini . But videos are not made of words. Instead, the researchers had to find a way to cut videos into chunks that could be treated as if they were. The approach they came up with was to dice videos up across both space and time. “It’s like if you were to have a stack of all the video frames and you cut little cubes from it,” says Brooks.
The transformer inside Sora can then process these chunks of video data in much the same way that the transformer inside a large language model processes words in a block of text. The researchers say that this let them train Sora on many more types of video than other text-to-video models, varied in terms of resolution, duration, aspect ratio, and orientation. “It really helps the model,” says Brooks. “That is something that we’re not aware of any existing work on.”
“From a technical perspective it seems like a very significant leap forward,” says Sam Gregory, executive director at Witness, a human rights organization that specializes in the use and misuse of video technology. “But there are two sides to the coin,” he says. “The expressive capabilities offer the potential for many more people to be storytellers using video. And there are also real potential avenues for misuse.”
OpenAI is well aware of the risks that come with a generative video model. We are already seeing the large-scale misuse of deepfake images . Photorealistic video takes this to another level.
Gregory notes that you could use technology like this to misinform people about conflict zones or protests. The range of styles is also interesting, he says. If you could generate shaky footage that looked like something shot with a phone, it would come across as more authentic.
The tech is not there yet, but generative video has gone from zero to Sora in just 18 months. “We’re going to be entering a universe where there will be fully synthetic content, human-generated content and a mix of the two,” says Gregory.
The OpenAI team plans to draw on the safety testing it did last year for DALL-E 3. Sora already includes a filter that runs on all prompts sent to the model that will block requests for violent, sexual, or hateful images, as well as images of known people. Another filter will look at frames of generated videos and block material that violates OpenAI’s safety policies.
OpenAI says it is also adapting a fake-image detector developed for DALL-E 3 to use with Sora. And the company will embed industry-standard C2PA tags , metadata that states how an image was generated, into all of Sora’s output. But these steps are far from foolproof. Fake-image detectors are hit-or-miss. Metadata is easy to remove, and most social media sites strip it from uploaded images by default.
“We’ll definitely need to get more feedback and learn more about the types of risks that need to be addressed with video before it would make sense for us to release this,” says Ramesh.
Brooks agrees. “Part of the reason that we’re talking about this research now is so that we can start getting the input that we need to do the work necessary to figure out how it could be safely deployed,” he says.
Update 2/15: Comments from Sam Gregory were added .
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- Melissa Heikkilä archive page
Google’s Gemini is now in everything. Here’s how you can try it out.
Gmail, Docs, and more will now come with Gemini baked in. But Europeans will have to wait before they can download the app.
Deploying high-performance, energy-efficient AI
Investments into downsized infrastructure can help enterprises reap the benefits of AI while mitigating energy consumption, says corporate VP and GM of data center platform engineering and architecture at Intel, Zane Ball.
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Einstein's predictions mean rare 'gravitational lasers' could exist throughout the universe, new paper claims
A new study combining two of Albert Einstein's famous predictions suggests that ripples in space-time can combine into 'gravitational lasers', firing out of black holes in random directions across the cosmos.
Among his many theoretical insights, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of two phenomena in our universe that have since been proved: gravitational waves and the stimulated emission of radiation. New research has found that these effects can sometimes combine into rare and exotic "gravitational lasers" — possibly leading to a new way to detect one of the most elusive substances in the universe.
You experience stimulated emission of radiation every day in the form of lasers, like the barcode scanner at your local supermarket or the fiber-optic cables beaming information around your city. Within the body of a laser, atoms give off radiation at just the right wavelength to excite nearby atoms, causing them to release radiation of the same wavelength. The radiation cascades until it becomes a coherent beam — the output of the laser. Astronomers have found natural sources of lasers as well, especially in giant cold molecular clouds (where the beams are called masers because they give off microwave radiation ).
In a paper posted in January to the preprint database arXiv , Jing Liu, a physicist at the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, suggests that gravity itself could be channeled into a cosmic laser beam — but only if a certain model of dark matter (the mysterious, invisible substance that makes up an estimated 85% of the matter in the universe) is true.
This model of dark matter is based on axions , which are hypothetical ultralight particles that flood the universe. These particles are so light that they have significant quantum properties, meaning their wavelengths are rather large. They don't act strictly as particles but rather a strange combination of waves and particles.
Related: Scientists may finally know where the biggest, oldest black holes in the universe came from
This wave-like nature allows axions to be captured by black holes . But because of their large wavelengths, they don't "fit" inside the black hole's event horizon; instead of falling into the black hole, axions exist around it, similar to the way electrons exist near the nucleus of an atom. These "black hole atoms" may dot the universe, physicists have theorized for decades.
Meanwhile, the black holes themselves tend to emit gravitational waves , which are ripples in the fabric of space-time. Astronomers have already detected gravitational waves emitted by merging black holes, but the complex interactions between solitary black holes and their environments can also lead to wave emission.
If the wavelengths of the gravitational waves are just right (and if the black hole emits enough gravitational waves, then some are bound to be just right), then they can excite the axions around them. The axions surrounding the black hole would then start to move in a coordinated way, triggering the release of even more gravitational waves.
These new gravitational waves would cause even more excitations, until the whole thing cascaded like a laser, beaming out tightly focused gravitational waves in one direction. Liu — who named the theoretical phenomenon a "gravitational laser" — pointed out that this would be a new kind of gravitational wave signal, completely unlike any we have ever seen or studied before.
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While powerful, these gravitational lasers would be very rare. First, the conditions would have to be just right to trigger the excitation cascade. Second, most lasers would point away from Earth, since they shoot out from the black holes in random directions, so we wouldn't be able to see them. But next-generation gravitational wave observatories might be able to detect gravitational lasers. If we see them, it would be solid evidence that dark matter exists in the form of axions — and that our universe is awesome enough to permit the existence of gravitational lasers.
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Paul M. Sutter is a research professor in astrophysics at SUNY Stony Brook University and the Flatiron Institute in New York City. He regularly appears on TV and podcasts, including "Ask a Spaceman." He is the author of two books, "Your Place in the Universe" and "How to Die in Space," and is a regular contributor to Space.com, Live Science, and more. Paul received his PhD in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011, and spent three years at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics, followed by a research fellowship in Trieste, Italy.
Star-killing 'black hole wind' spotted in a distant galaxy could explain a major mystery at the Milky Way's center
Event Horizon Telescope spies gargantuan energy jets erupting from nearby supermassive black hole
Eerie photograph captures whales hunted off Greenland lying in their watery grave
- Daemonnice What a load of pseudo scientific crap. Spacetime ether(Einstein called it an ether) is a undetactable hypothetical medium according to none other than Einstein. Somehow it has evolved into a mechanism for gravity, something Einstein did not intend, which to this day is still believed to be the fundamental force of the cosmos. This is because cosmologists do not follow the scientific process, in particular, that involving the failure to predict. If P then Q, if not Q then not P: basically says if your model does not predict what is observed, then your model is refuted. When Rubin observed not enough mass in galaxies, a shortfall of 65% according to the model of gravity as the fundamental force, this should have been accepted as a refutation, instead they did what all propnents of pseudo science do and invented a hypothetical dark matter which they have yet to fulfill the burden of proof on. Since Rubin's observation, to anyone that follows the scientific process, refutes gravity as the fundamental force of the cosmos, then Einstein's general theory of relativity is irrelevant, and there is no gravitational lensing, no black holes, no neutron stars and the claims made in this article a load of pseudo science. Reply
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February 14, 2024
The Legal Definition of Death Needs to Be Clearer
Debate about brain death has prevented needed revisions to the Uniform Determination of Death Act
By Ariane Lewis
As a neurologist who specializes in critical care, I believe we need a clearer, more consistent legal definition of death. The Uniform Determination of Death Act (UDDA), the legal standard for death throughout the U.S., has deficiencies, particularly with respect to the description of death by neurologic criteria, aka brain death. This causes confusion and moral distress for both families and health care teams and can lead to protracted lawsuits about whether a person is alive or dead.
Historically, doctors declared death when a person was not breathing and had no heartbeat or palpable pulse. This occasionally caused controversy because they declared death prematurely. Declaring death became even more complicated as the 20th century progressed. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and ventilators allowed vital functions to continue in people who previously would have died. Some of these people were comatose as a result of catastrophic brain injuries and would never be able to breathe on their own because of damage to the lowest part of the brain stem.
In 1968 a group chaired by anesthesiologist Henry Beecher and composed of experts in neurology, physiology, biochemistry, law and social ethics convened at Harvard University to examine the definition of “irreversible coma,” which subsequently became known as “brain death/death by neurologic criteria.” They noted that the characteristics of irreversible coma—a permanently nonfunctioning brain—included unreceptivity and unresponsiveness, no movements or spontaneous breathing (apnea) and no brain stem reflexes.
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The group believed that this definition of death would not require statutory changes because the law treated the question of death as a matter to be determined by clinicians, whom, they felt, would accept these standards. But legal disputes prompted President Jimmy Carter and Congress to ask a commission to develop legal guidance on the definition of death. The commission collaborated with members of the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, in addition to philosophers, religious officials and ethicists. They produced the UDDA, a recommended statute, in 1981 with the goal that all states would adopt it. The UDDA indicates that death can be declared, in accordance with accepted medical standards, on one of two grounds: irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions or irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem. Every state accepted the UDDA, in language or in spirit.
Over the past decade, however, highly publicized lawsuits and debates amongst clinicians, ethicists, philosophers and lawyers have shown weaknesses of the UDDA, which I believe we need to address. For example, the UDDA does not provide guidance about whether clinicians need to obtain consent from a person’s family prior to a brain death evaluation or how to handle objections. Families sometimes ask clinicians not to perform a brain death evaluation or to continue ventilator support after a brain death declaration. They may refuse to accept that brain death is death according to their social, cultural, philosophical or religious beliefs. This creates challenges for clinicians and hospitals because most states provide no legal guidance about whether to perform the evaluation and subsequently discontinue ventilator support after a declaration of brain death in spite of objections or to provide families the ability to opt out. California and New York State vaguely require reasonable accommodation of objections, and Illinois notes that religious beliefs should be taken into consideration when determining time of death. New Jersey law uniquely states that if a patient is known to have religious beliefs that oppose a declaration of brain death, ventilator support and all other medical interventions should be continued until their heart stops beating. All this variation adds confusion. We need a consistent national approach to the declaration of death.
Additionally, some experts—such as Michael Nair-Collins, an associate professor of behavioral sciences and social medicine at Florida State University College of Medicine—argue that the medical brain death guidelines do not fit the UDDA’s requirement for “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem.” Nair-Collins believes that to be in accordance with the UDDA, the brain death evaluation should require assessment for loss of hormonal secretion from the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. No country requires this, however.
In 2021 the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) convened a drafting committee to discuss revisions to the UDDA. The purpose of the ULC is to strengthen the federal system by generating consistent rules across states. The commissioners invited participation from more than 100 people with relevant expertise, including representatives from medical, organ procurement and advocacy organizations. Unfortunately, although there was widespread support for revising the UDDA, in the fall of 2023 the commission paused the drafting committee’s work indefinitely because of concerns that diverse views about death would prevent the revisions from being widely adopted.
Like most of my medical colleagues who sent comments to the ULC, I favor changing the UDDA to align the law with clinical practice. For example, instead of the controversial phrase “cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brainstem,” the law should state that brain death declaration requires coma, loss of brain stem reflexes and inability to breathe spontaneously in the setting of an adequate stimulus.
There will always be varying religious, philosophical, ethical and cultural perspectives on death, but society needs a clear legal standard that is consistent with medical practice throughout the country. Given that the ULC was not able to accomplish this, I believe this may need to be addressed on a national level.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any affiliated organization.
This is an opinion and analysis article, and the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American.