Improving research paper

20 Ways to Improve Your Research Paper

So, you want to improve your research paper? You’ve come to the right place.
Many authors are looking for guidance when publishing their work and we understand that writing up research is hard. We want to help where we can. At MDPI, we are committed to delivering ground-breaking scientific insights to the global scientific community. Here, we provide 20 useful tips to improve your research paper before submission.

1. Choose a specific and accurate title (and subtitles)

This is a very important part of your manuscript and can affect readership. People often choose what to read based on first impressions. Make sure your title doesn’t put people off. The title should give an overview of what your paper is about. This should be accurate and specific and reflect the content of the paper. Avoid jargon where possible. Don’t forget about section titles and table and figure captions. They should be accurate and specific. Readers tend to skip to the content they want to read. You can find even more useful advice in our article on choosing the best research paper title.

2. Writing an interesting abstract can improve your research paper

The abstract is the first part of the paper that’ll be read. You need to persuade the reader to continue reading. A clear abstract should outline the workings of your research. This will help you to carve out a very specific space in your field. You should also consider other published work in the field. Mention some notable achievements and explain how your research builds on them. This will help you place your research. Those who know the area well will be able to understand which direction you’re going in. A great way to make your abstract more dynamic is to add a graphical abstract or video. It should describe the methodology within your paper. This additional media quickly summarises your paper. It makes it more visually appealing to readers at first glance.

Example of graphical abstract for article about improving your research paper
Graphical abstract for the manuscript ‘Deep Learning for Land Cover Change Detection’, published in Remote Sensing.

See the journal’s Instructions for Authors page for more information about graphical abstracts.

3. Be selective with keywords

On our journals’ webpages, we use keywords for indexing. This makes work more searchable. Many researchers search the MDPI site using keywords related to their field. This gives you a chance to get more eyes on your paper. Make sure your choices are precise and are not in the title already. You want to cover as much ground as possible.

Depending on the journal, keywords that are also in the journal’s name are sometimes not allowed. For example, authors cannot use the keyword “soil” when publishing in Soil Biology & Biochemistry. You can check the journal’s webpage for more details. Get in touch with the Editorial Office if you have any questions.

4. Make sure that your research is novel

Have you conducted a thorough search of the latest findings? Knowing about these will improve the originality of your work. Reviewers are asked to rate your manuscript on novelty. Your research should advance the current knowledge in your field. Avoid repeating what may already be out there.

You can cite other works and add them to the content of your paper. This shows that you’re aware of the current knowledge in your research area. You should add your own work and findings that bring something new to the field. Editors like studies that push the boundaries and have new and unexpected outcomes.

5. Ensure that your results are exciting

Your results should not only be novel, but also significant. Attracting readers and citations will be easier if the results are exciting. Interesting and exciting work will encourage others to build on what you have discovered.

6. To improve your research paper, keep it simple

When it comes to research, it’s easy to get lost in your own paper. But, there is value in keeping it simple. This will make your work more accessible to others. It may even improve its success. Keeping your paper simple (English included) also means making it consistent. We have a handy guide that can help with this! Avoid including information that is unnecessary. Review what you have written so far – if you can delete something, then you should.

7. Don’t self-plagiarise!

Perhaps you want to repeat something that you have already mentioned in a previous research paper. Be careful, reusing your own words is self-plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism is a problem because you are just producing a copy of your work from before. This creates the illusion of new ideas when there aren’t any. This can happen without you realising it, so be careful. To avoid this, use short quotes from your past paper. You should place these in quotation marks and cite the original. Be succinct but comprehensive.

MDPI takes plagiarism very seriously and we (and other publishers) do our best to ensure that it is not present in our authors’ research by using a plagiarism detector that reviews online content for similarities. This helps to ensure that our it is ready to be published. As part of MDPI’s anti-plagiarism regulations, image manipulation is also not permitted. The peer review process involves an assessment of images and figures.

8. Use the journal template, even in the early stages

Peer review can be a nerve-wracking process. You are waiting for opinions on whether your paper should be in a journal or not. We understand that this is a stressful time for our authors so we do our best to encourage reviewers to provide their reviews as soon as possible.

You can increase your chances of good reviews by making sure your work is clearly organised and easy to understand. Templates are great for this and can definitely help you to improve your research paper throughout the writing process. This can give your paper a more professional look from the outset. It’s also important to maintain good formatting throughout.

Using the template from the start will save you a lot of time later. You can avoid spending precious time transferring your manuscript into the MDPI format. You won’t be at risk of possible errors caused by a late move-over.

9. Keep the topic relevant to the research field or journal

Some journals or Special Issues have broad scopes, while others are narrower. Research papers need to fit well within the range of the topic. This can sometimes be as simple as adding a paragraph of context to cement your paper’s relevance.

You can find information about the scope on journal webpages. You can also reach out to the Editorial Office if you have any questions.

If your work doesn’t fit into the specific scope, an editor may encourage you to submit to a different journal or Special Issue.

10. Keep in touch with co-authors

To improve the direction of your paper, check in with the other authors often. Obviously, this is only if you have co-authors.

Reviewing other sections of the paper can help to ensure that you don’t repeat yourself. It’s a good opportunity to make sure that the English is standardised as well.

11. Swap and share ideas to improve your research paper

Research can be solitary. It is easy to forget that there are other people – co-authors, colleagues, peers, associates – in the same boat as you. Their feedback can help you spot mistakes that you may have missed. Meeting with a colleague can also give you a break from your paper and allow you to come back to it with a new mindset.

12. Write methods and results first, then abstract, introduction and conclusion later

This is commonly given advice, but is worth noting. The content and tone of your paper may change as you write it. You’ll have a better overview of your findings, and be able to include key points from the paper. The introduction and conclusion will be more refined when left until the end.

13. Check your plots and graphs

Nothing in your paper is as important as your data. Your discoveries are the foundation of your work. They need to be clear and easy to understand. To improve your research paper, make sure graphs and images are in high resolutions and show the information clearly.

14. Customise your graphs using external packages in Python

You can use external packages like MatPlotLib or MATLAB to make the creation and editing of high-quality graphs and plots easy and efficient.

15. Improving the language can improve your research paper

It is important to make sure your English is as good as possible. This may mean proof-reading the paper several times (or having someone else look at it).

We can help you edit your project

Type writer showing rewrites and edits.

Improving your research paper can be challenging and time consuming. Academic editing can also be tricky sometimes, and it always pays off to have a professional look at your work. If you’re still not sure, don’t have time, or want a pro to look at your references, let our skilled English Editors help. Visit MDPI Author Services now for a free estimate for fast, accurate, and professional editing.

16. Follow the instructions to format your paper

Review the house rules for the journal and follow these with care. Each journal has an ‘Instructions for Authors’ webpage. It provides extensive information on how to present your work and improve your research paper. Take these into consideration when coming up with the final product.

17. Be thorough with author contributions and acknowledgments

Make sure to add the names of colleagues and supervisors who helped with your paper. This may seem obvious, but there are often people you forget. This may include thanking your funder or grant provider.

18. Declare any conflicts of interest

All authors need to state whether they have any relationships or interests that could influence the paper or its outcomes. This may include (financial or non-financial) connections to organisations or governments.

19. Don’t forget about the importance of references

It may surprise you that many papers are submitted without evidence for their claims. Editors return these papers, and time is then lost in the publication process. The author then needs to locate the sources and resubmit the work. Make sure to provide citations where necessary. If you want to know more about how to cite your work, we have a handy guide to review on this very subject.

Tools like EndNote and Mendeley can help you with the formatting of references in your paper. These manage your references based on what you enter and then organise them in the References section. You can also use free reference generators. For example, the online tool ‘Cite This for Me’ allows you to format individual references.

20. Read through it again

This is where you need to take a step back from what you have written. Looking over your work with a fresh set of eyes is a great way to improve it. Sleep on it and come back in a few days to check your work. A final scan may help you find minor errors and put your mind at ease. Once that’s all done, you can submit your manuscript. You’ll generally receive a response in 1-5 working days. For more details on our speedy submission process, take a look at our article on MDPI submission statuses.

Going through these tips can help you improve your research paper during the writing process. This can increase your chances of having your work published, read, cited, and shared.

During this time, you may be feeling worried or nervous. And that’s perfectly normal! You’re about to release your findings into the world. If you feel tense about this process, you’re not alone. It takes a lot of courage to put ideas out there, even ideas that you’re happy with.

Once you’ve published your manuscript, make sure to share it wherever you can. Talk about it on social media and put a link on your website.

Is there anything else that you do to improve your manuscripts? Make sure to share it in the comments below!

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