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Unformatted text preview: 1 Physics Writing Guide How to write a Physics Journal Article Dr. James G. McLean Dept. of Physics & Astronomy State University of New York at Geneseo December, 2001 Introduction This is a guide to the format, structure, and style of modern journal articles. You will note that there are significant differences between journal articles and the class lab reports that you have written in the past. There are a few matters of structure which are more rigid (e.g., how to present figures), but overall the structure is less rigid. This means that there is more freedom to put together the information in an effective way, but also more responsibility for choosing what that best way is. Another thing to keep in mind about journal articles is that they exist in a different environment than lab reports. Most importantly, journal articles are peer-reviewed . When an article is submitted to a journal, it is sent out to a few other scientists (called referees in this context) who decide whether the article is up to the standards of the journal. This is somewhat like the process of grading lab reports. The biggest difference is that the grading is essentially pass/fail. Luckily, unless the referees find a fundamental flaw in the article, it can be revised and resubmitted. Overview There are five major parts to a typical journal article, each of which are handled according to their own rules. Four of these are required: the Title Block, the Abstract, the Body (the written text), and a Reference List. The fifth piece consists of figures or tables, which are almost always needed to convey the message clearly and effectively. Figures and tables do not necessarily go together in a single block, but they are definitely separate from the text, and follow their own rules of presentation. The following sections will describe the structure and the content of each of these parts in more detail. Issues of structure are separated from those of content because they are conceptually very different. You will usually start your writing by worrying about content. What are you going to say, how will you order the subjects, what words or figures will best get your point across? This is the more creative step. Then, as you write, you will need to follow the rules of structure. Two other optional parts are Acknowledgements (placed after the Body and before the Reference List) and Appendices (placed after the Reference List). These have the same structure as sections of the Body, even though the Appendices are separated from it by the Reference List. Title Block Content The Title Block contains three items. Title: This should convey not just what physical system or effect was studied, but also what tools or techniques were used, and at least a vague idea of what kind of conclusions are reached....
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