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Any research that you undertake that yields results should be reported to a scientific journal in the form of a research paper. This allows you to genuinely contribute towards conservation research, as once your results have been published they become accessible to those who need information such as that required for conservation related work in the area the study was carried out.

This is especially true of inventories and all types of base line data (i.e data that acts as a base for comparison with other areas or the same area in different periods of time). Since a number of species are going extinct everyday and the suitability of land for existing species starts diminishing with increased human disturbances it's very important to have a record of what species were found in any given area especially if that area is undergoing drastic land use changes. Your biodiversity inventory of an area once published may be useful in the future to a conservationist who is interested in carrying out a restoration plan and wants to know what species originally existed in the area.

This article is part of a series which deals with planning, carrying out, and writing up research papers for practical studies relating to biodiversity. It is recommended that you read the pages preceding this to better understand this article.

This article will guide you to write up your results in the form of a research paper.


1. Familiarize yourself with Research Papers in Scientific Journals - 


This is something that should actually have been done when planning the study and not after the study is complete (see  literature review).But if it wasn't done then its important to do so before going any further. Search for research papers in scientific journals online which deal with the subject of your study, read them. This will help you to get an understanding of how research papers are written, the prose and writing style, the manner in which data is analyzed and presented, the intentions and objectives of the researchers who conducted the study.



2. Structure of the Research Paper - 

Different journals have their own rules and lay out which needs to be adhered to for research papers submitted to them but there is a general lay out which is used very commonly in most professional scientific journals. The lay out of the research paper is very important and is crucial for effectively communicating your study and it's results to others in a quick, concise, precise and simple manner. The structure of the research paper is given below in brief, with the various sections presented in the order they would appear in a research paper -

Abstract -

This is the first section of the paper and contains a brief summary of the research paper (usually in only one paragraph). The abstract briefly describes the aim/objectives of the study, the methods used to carry out the objectives, the results obtained by the study and the interpretation and conclusions of the researchers based on those results.

Introduction -

The introduction is the section where the researchers describe the question they attempt to answer with the study or objectives of the study. The reason why this question/objective was chosen along with some brief background information of work done by others in the past that was similar to this study or being carried forward by this study (all other studies which are mentioned need to be cited when they are mentioned and the citation needs to be added in the references section at the end of the paper.). This is done to put the present study in the context of past work carried out by others and to show how the current study will help carry understanding of the subject further, and will emphasize the importance of the study.

Study Area -

This section includes a brief description of the study site or the location where the study was carried out. It's GPS coordinates (can be obtained from google earth even if you don't have a GPS). The conditions at the site in terms of the temperature, rainfall etc the habitats at the site, such as they type of forest or grassland etc. Information on why the site was chosen and the importance of the site should also be added.

Materials and Methods -

This section gives details regarding the equipment used to carry out the study and the methodology which was used to carry out the study, i.e. The sampling process and data collection as well as the data analysis if any has been used. The methodology can be described in detail or if the methodology you followed has already been attempted and described in research papers elsewhere (as is often the case with popular methods) you can cite the paper which details the methodology you followed. For example - “methodology was as described by Williams et al 2001.” Any modifications to the method should also be mentioned. This section also details the data analysis methods if any (though in some journals the analysis might be in a separate section depending upon the rules and lay out the journal follows) which were used to obtain the results. The methodology should be clear so that there is no confusion as to what was done, and anyone who wants to should be able to follow the methodology you used.

Results -

This section describes the results of the study. The results of the study should be presented in a precise and objective manner. Opinions and thoughts (and anything else that is more or less subjective) regarding the results should be added to the discussions and conclusions section. Tables and figures can be added separately to complement the results and help summarize the results in a convenient manner. Tables and figures should also be numbered and should have a clear title, so that they can be referred to in the text in the results section as well as the discussion and conclusion section. Depending on the rules of different journals, tables and figures may be separated from the results section. Tables and figures should be presented clearly and summarize important data, so that a reader can understand them even without reading or referring to the text.

Discussion and Conclusion -

This is the section where you discuss the implications of your results and conclusions. How did the results compare with the expected results? What further predictions can be made based on your results. How do your results compare with those of others who have done similar studies or other studies in the area.

References -

This is the section where the references of all the other studies mentioned and cited are given. Read below for more details on the format of this section is presented.


3. Citing other studies -

Any other study that is referred to or mentioned in any section of the body of the research paper needs to be cited. This is done by mentioning the year and author in brackets where it is being mentioned. The full citation is added to the references section of the research paper so others can look it up if they want to. Let's illustrate this with a fictional example – In the discussion and conclusion section I want to note that a number of other people have undertaken studies similar to mine. I write -

“ A number of studies have led to similar findings regarding the correlation between the loss of canopy cover and subsequent loss of biodiversity in these areas ( Mcdonald et al 2001, Johnson and Davies 2003, Williams 2005)”

I now add these to the reference section-

References -

Johnson, J. And Davies, R. 2003. Rodent biodiversity more in forests with greater canopy cover. Journal of Tropical Rodent Ecology. 52: 23-27
McDonald, T., Woinarski, J.C, Robinson, D. 2001
. A study on the effect of the loss of canopy cover on arboreal ants. The Journal of Tropical Ant Ecology 101: 602-614

Williams, R. 2005. A comparison of lizard biodiversity between dense and open forests. Journal of Tropical Herpetology 29:21-27

Notice that -

a) The references are always written with the last name of the author first (at least in the case of the first author who is called the lead author) and the authors are referred to in the text by their last names and the year the study was published.

b)When the paper has more than two authors it is cited in the text by writing the last name of the first author followed by et al which is italicized followed by the year of publication. Et al is a Latin abbreviation meaning “and others”.

c) The reference in the reference section is written by placing the names of the authors first, followed by the year of publication of the study, followed by the title of the study which is followed by the publisher of the study (which is the journal if it's a paper or the publisher if it's a book) followed by the volume (in bold) and page numbers.

d) The references are placed in alphabetical order based on the surname of the lead author.

e) There may be minor variations in the format of the reference section depending on the rules of different journals.


4. Writing Style -

When writing about your own study, always use the past tense as the study was done in the past. Results that are mentioned from other published research papers can be written in the present tense as well, as they will be references to information that is assumed to be factual since it has been published.

Research papers can be written in the first person but usually they are written in the third person.  


5. A Note on Plagiarism -


Plagiarism is the use of words, ideas and images which belong to others without citing them, as this makes it seem that you are passing off the work of others as your own. Never mention or use the work of others without citing their work and then too, it must be rewritten in your own language with your own words, copying exact sentences and phrases can also be taken as plagiarism. Plagiarism will always lead to the rejection of your research paper, and with some online journals if plagiarism is noticed after publication, they will advertise it on the published paper.


After you are done writing your paper you can proceed to publish it. Go here for more information on how you can publish your paper.


About the Author of this Article


Day and Gastel . How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper