Framing manuscript structure: Do’s and Don’ts
Framing an outline is the most vital process in constructing a solid manuscript structure for journal publication. The relationship of the outline with the manuscript is similar to that of an architectural blueprint with a house. Its basic function is to split the writing of a paper into several smaller exercises. Gaps in the essential elements constituting an article, if any, are identified in the process.
Points to be kept in mind while framing manuscript structure
- Construct the theme of the article, which summarizes the paper in one sentence of maybe 25-30 words. All other parts of the manuscript would be in support of this central theme.
- Delineate the materials and methods to be utilized for data collection.
- State the population in which the study would be carried out and the method of sampling employed.
- Prepare a list of questions such as: What was already known before the study? What answers are required to address the problem(s)?
- Mention the principal findings.
- Enunciate the limitations and implications of the results.
- Cite references, which pertain to key points in the manuscript.
At this point in time, one would need to develop the outline into a narrative. It is recommended to begin with the Abstract and continue in accordance with the conventional order of Introduction, Review of Literature, Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion and References so as to ensure flow. The next task is to target a particular journal. This involves framing the article according to the scope of the journal. When coming up with the first draft, the objective is to write and not consider minor niggles such as incomplete sentences and incorrect grammar, provided that the main ideas have been noted. A pertinent point that needs to be raised at this juncture is that one should take care to express oneself in his/her own words. This not only helps in the clear articulation of ideas but also saves the reader from being barraged with jargon. Also, do not attempt to write the manuscript at one go; rather, approach each section as a small essay. Every section has an aim that needs to be accomplished. Revision is the best way to remain faithful to that aim. While framing a long sentence, it is of paramount importance to verify that it is not convoluted. If so, it needs to be broken into smaller sentences. Being clear and concise is extremely critical. Many a time, a manuscript has more than one author and in that case the writing style may be inconsistent. This needs to be accounted for as well. It is the responsibility of the corresponding author to scan the manuscript and make requisite changes if such discrepancies arise.