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How to write and develop your astronomy research paper


Writing is a vital component of a modern career in scientific research. But how to write correctly and effectively is often not included in the training that young astronomers receive from their supervisors and departments. We offer a step-by-step guide to tackle this deficiency, published as a set of two Perspectives. In the first, we addressed how to plan and outline your paper and decide where to publish. In this second Perspective, we describe the various sections that constitute a typical research paper in astronomy, sharing best practice for the most efficient use of each of them. We also discuss a selection of issues that often cause trouble for writers from sentence to paragraph structure—the ‘writing mechanics’ used to develop a manuscript. Our two-part guide is aimed primarily at MSc- and PhD-level students who face the daunting task of writing their first scientific paper, but more senior researchers or writing instructors may well 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. also thanks T. E. 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 Dnr KAW 2018.0067.

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All authors developed the ideas in this manuscript together. J.H.K. is the primary author, D.B. wrote most of the ‘Writing mechanics for manuscript development’ section, and all authors contributed to editing the manuscript. The development of this guide was inspired by the scientific writing courses that D.B. has been giving for years at the University of Groningen and in 2019, as part of an initiative by N.C., at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Tenerife, Spain.

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Correspondence to Johan H. Knapen.

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Knapen, J.H., Chamba, N. & Black, D. How to write and develop your astronomy research paper. Nat Astron 6, 1021–1026 (2022).

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