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Manuscript Preparation Guidelines

To effectively communicate research results, the manuscript should be carefully structured to tell a compelling story. As a rule, the introduction should bring the reader from a broad understanding of the topic to the specific question being addressed. In contrast, the discussion should transition the reader from the specific results to their broader implications.
Within each section, paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence, with all subsequent sentences related to that topic. Sentences within a paragraph should be logically related to one another, and individual paragraphs should be linked through the judicious use of transitions. This will help to ensure a smooth flow for your "story."

The abstract should include statements summarizing the background and purpose of the study, the principle methods employed, the important results, and the conclusions that may be drawn from those results.

The introduction should provide the reader with a clear understanding of the relevant background, and put the significance of the research within that context. While the background should be sufficiently detailed to allow the reader to understand key subject areas, too much detail may be confusing. To generate energy and interest on the part of the reader, state the research approach in a clear and emphatic manner. The specific aims of the current study should be clearly defined.

Materials and Methods:
The materials and methods should be described in a clear, succinct way. While it is important to provide sufficient detail to permit replication of results, inundating the reader with superfluous information may be counterproductive. In general, the methods section should be written in the past tense.

The results section may be organized according to any logical structure (e.g. chronological or by ascending order of importance), provided that the presentation of results is conducive to the reader's understanding.

Figures and Tables:
Figures and tables should be numbered consecutively according to the order in which they have first been cited within the text, and each should be discussed within the Results section. Text and labels must be legible and consistently formatted. Captions and legends must provide sufficient explanation to permit interpretation. Titles should summarize or highlight the relevant findings of each graphic. Symbols and statistical indicators must be properly described in the figure legend. Photomicrographs should include internal scale markers, where appropriate, and units of measurement should be used consistently within the text, figure and legend. Graphic formats should facilitate interpretation, and portray data in a meaningful way. A figure or table should support all critical data. Where multiple panels are used within a single figure, they should be logically related to one another.

In addition to summarizing the key findings of the research, the Discussion section affords the author greater leeway to speculate about the broader implications of the work. The relationship of the current research should be described in terms of the published literature, and a description of how the results contribute to the field provided. Important questions raised by, and implications of, these results should be presented. Limitations and constraints in the research should be addressed, and surprising results, or those that contradict previously published data, should be highlighted.

Written by the NIH Fellows Editorial Board
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