Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


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

  2. Bertout, C. & Schneider, P. Introducing structured abstracts for A&A articles. Astron. Astrophys. 441, E3–E3 (2005).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Sterken, C. Writing a Scientific Paper II. Communication by Graphics. In Scientific Writing for Young Astronomers Vol. 50, 65–170 (EAS, 2011).

  4. Chen, T. X. et al. Best practices for data publication in the astronomical literature. Astrophys. J. Supp. Ser. 260, 5 (2022).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Peterken, T. et al. Time-slicing spiral galaxies with SDSS-IV MaNGA. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 489, 1338–1343 (2019).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Akhlaghi, M., Infante-Sainz, R., Roukema, B. F., Valls-Gabaud, D. & Gallé, R. B. Towards long-term and archivable reproducibility. Comput. Sci. Eng. 23, 82–91 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Kuttel, M. M. No expiration date. Nat. Astron. (2021).

  8. Dryer, M. S. in The World Atlas of Language Structures Online (eds Dryer, M. S. & Haspelmath, M.) Ch. 37 (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, 2013);

Download references


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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



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.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Johan H. Knapen.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary information

Supplementary Discussion.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing