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How to plan your astronomy research paper in ten steps


Scientific writing is an important skill for a career as a professional astrophysicist. However, very few researchers receive any formal training in how to write scientific research papers of high quality in an efficient manner. This Perspective is the first of a two-part self-help guide to scientific writing to address this skills gap. This part focusses on planning your academic research paper in astronomy. We discuss how to crystallize the ideas that underlie a research project, analyse how the paper can be constructed considering the audience and the chosen journal, and give an overview of the publishing process. Whether you are a student writing your first paper or an experienced author, you may find the ideas presented here useful.

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We thank S. Comerón, S. Díaz-García, E. Knapen Almeida and L. Knapen Almeida, C. Martínez-Lombilla, R. Schödel and A. Watkins for comments on an earlier version of these notes. N.C. thanks T. Emil Rivera-Thorsen, M. Pompermaier and C. Usher for interesting discussions. Part of this Perspective is based on a scientific writing course delivered by J.H.K to mostly MSc and PhD students in Ethiopia and Rwanda. He thanks M. Pović and P. Nkundabakura for organizing those courses, and the students for participating. J.H.K. acknowledges financial support from the State Research Agency (AEI-MCINN) of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation under the grant ‘The structure and evolution of galaxies and their central regions’ with reference PID2019-105602GB-I00/10.13039/501100011033, from the ACIISI, Consejería de Economía, Conocimiento y Empleo del Gobierno de Canarias and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under grant number PROID2021010044 and from IAC project P/300724, financed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation through the State Budget and by the Canary Islands Department of Economy, Knowledge and Employment through the Regional Budget of the Autonomous Community. N.C. acknowledges support from the research project grant ‘Understanding the Dynamic Universe’ funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation under grant number Dnr KAW 2018.0067.

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The idea for this series stemmed from a workshop by the name ‘Scientific Writing for Astronomers’, organized by N.C. and D.B. at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Tenerife, Spain, in October 2019. All authors further developed the ideas presented in this manuscript. N.C. and J.H.K. are the primary authors of all sections. D.B. wrote the first draft of the ‘Use your thinking style’ and ‘Avoiding plagiarism’ sections, and was involved in editing the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Nushkia Chamba.

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Chamba, N., Knapen, J.H. & Black, D. How to plan your astronomy research paper in ten steps. Nat Astron 6, 1015–1020 (2022).

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