Scientific literature

Scientific literature

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Scientific literature comprises scientific publication
Publication
To publish is to make content available to the public. While specific use of the term may vary among countries, it is usually applied to text, images, or other audio-visual content on any medium, including paper or electronic publishing forms such as websites, e-books, Compact Discs and MP3s...

s that report original empirical and theoretical work in the natural
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

 and social sciences, and within a scientific field is often abbreviated as the literature. Academic publishing
Academic publishing
Academic publishing describes the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in journal article, book or thesis form. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted is often called...

 is the process of placing the results of one's research
Research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

 into the literature. Scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 research
Research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

 on original work initially published in scientific journal
Scientific journal
In academic publishing, a scientific journal is a periodical publication intended to further the progress of science, usually by reporting new research. There are thousands of scientific journals in publication, and many more have been published at various points in the past...

s is called primary literature. Patents and technical report
Technical report
A technical report is a document that describes the process, progress, or results of technical or scientific research or the state of a technical or scientific research problem. It might also include recommendations and conclusions of the research...

s, for minor research results and engineering and design work (including computer software) can also be considered primary literature. Secondary source
Secondary source
In scholarship, a secondary source is a document or recording that relates or discusses information originally presented elsewhere. A secondary source contrasts with a primary source, which is an original source of the information being discussed; a primary source can be a person with direct...

s include articles in review journals (which provide a synthesis of research articles on a topic to highlight advances and new lines of research), and book
Book
A book is a set or collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of hot lava, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a leaf or leaflet, and each side of a leaf is called a page...

s for large projects, broad arguments, or compilations of articles. Tertiary source
Tertiary source
In scholarship, a tertiary source is a term used to describe a work which is chiefly a selection or compilation of other primary and secondary sources. The distinction between a secondary and tertiary source is relative, whereas the difference between primary and secondary sources is more absolute...

s might include encyclopedia
Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia is a type of reference work, a compendium holding a summary of information from either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge....

s and similar works intended for broad public consumption.

Types of scientific publications


Scientific literature can include the following kinds of publications:
  • scientific articles published in scientific journal
    Scientific journal
    In academic publishing, a scientific journal is a periodical publication intended to further the progress of science, usually by reporting new research. There are thousands of scientific journals in publication, and many more have been published at various points in the past...

    s
  • patent
    Patent
    A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

    s specialized for science and technology (for example, biological patent
    Biological patent
    A biological patent is a patent relating to an invention or discovery in biology. It can be a composition of matter, a method for obtaining or using one or more thereof, or a product combining such things...

    s and chemical patent
    Chemical patent
    A chemical patent or pharmaceutical patent is a patent for an invention in the chemical or pharmaceuticals industry. Strictly speaking, in most jurisdictions, there are essentially no differences between the legal requirements to obtain a patent for an invention in the chemical or pharmaceutical...

    s)
  • book
    Book
    A book is a set or collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of hot lava, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a leaf or leaflet, and each side of a leaf is called a page...

    s wholly written by one or a small number of co-author
    Author
    An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

    s
  • books, where each chapter
    Chapter (books)
    A chapter is one of the main divisions of a piece of writing of relative length, such as a book. Chapters can be numbered in the case of such writings as law code or they can be titled. For example, the first chapters of some well-known novels are titled:*"The Boy Who Lived" – Harry Potter...

     is the responsibility of a different author or set of authors, though the editor
    Editing
    Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete...

     may take some responsibility for ensuring consistency of style and content
  • presentations at academic conference
    Academic conference
    An academic conference or symposium is a conference for researchers to present and discuss their work. Together with academic or scientific journals, conferences provide an important channel for exchange of information between researchers.-Overview:Conferences are usually composed of various...

    s, especially those organized by learned societies
    Learned society
    A learned society is an organization that exists to promote an academic discipline/profession, as well a group of disciplines. Membership may be open to all, may require possession of some qualification, or may be an honor conferred by election, as is the case with the oldest learned societies,...

  • government
    Government
    Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

     reports such as a forensic investigation conducted by a government agency such as the NTSB
  • scientific publications on the World Wide Web
    World Wide Web
    The World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet...

  • books, technical report
    Technical report
    A technical report is a document that describes the process, progress, or results of technical or scientific research or the state of a technical or scientific research problem. It might also include recommendations and conclusions of the research...

    s, pamphlet
    Pamphlet
    A pamphlet is an unbound booklet . It may consist of a single sheet of paper that is printed on both sides and folded in half, in thirds, or in fourths , or it may consist of a few pages that are folded in half and saddle stapled at the crease to make a simple book...

    s, and working paper
    Working paper
    A working paper or work paper or workpaper may refer to:*A preliminary scientific or technical paper. Often, authors will release working papers to share ideas about a topic or to elicit feedback before submitting to a peer reviewed conference or academic journal.* Sometimes the term working paper...

    s issued by individual researchers or research organizations on their own initiative; these are sometimes organised into a series
  • blogs and science forums


The significance of these different components of the literature varies between disciplines and has changed over time. , peer-reviewed journal articles remain the predominant publication type, and have the highest prestige. However, journals vary enormously in their prestige and importance, and the value of a published article depends on the journal. The significance of books, also called research monographs depends on the subject. Generally books published by university presses are usually considered more prestigious than those published by commercial presses. The status of working papers and conference proceedings depends on the discipline; they are typically more important in the applied sciences. The value of publication as a preprint
Preprint
A preprint is a draft of a scientific paper that has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.-Role:Publication of manuscripts in a peer-reviewed journal often takes weeks, months or even years from the time of initial submission, because manuscripts must undergo extensive...

 or scientific report on the web has in the past been low, but in some subjects, such as mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 or high energy physics, it is now an accepted alternative.
For further information about these formats, see the corresponding article.

Preparation of an article


The actual day-to-day records of scientific information are kept in research notebooks or logbooks. These are usually kept indefinitely as the basic evidence of the work, and are often kept in duplicate, signed, notarized, and archived. The purpose is to preserve the evidence for scientific priority, and in particular for priority for obtaining patents. They have also been used in scientific disputes. Since the availability of computers, the notebooks in some data-intensive fields have been kept as database records, and appropriate software is commercially available.

The work on a project is typically published as one or more technical reports, or articles. In some fields both are used, with preliminary reports, working papers, or preprint
Preprint
A preprint is a draft of a scientific paper that has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.-Role:Publication of manuscripts in a peer-reviewed journal often takes weeks, months or even years from the time of initial submission, because manuscripts must undergo extensive...

s followed by a formal article. Articles are usually prepared at the end of a project, or at the end of components of a particularly large one. In preparing such an article vigorous rules for scientific writing
Scientific writing
-History:Scientific writing in English started in the 14th century.The Royal Society established good practice for scientific writing. Founder member Thomas Sprat wrote on the importance of plain and accurate description rather than rhetorical flourishes in his History of the Royal Society of London...

 have to be followed.

Clear communication and impact factor


Often, scientific advancement depends upon publishing in high-impact journals, which especially in hard and applied sciences are usually published in English. Consequently, scientists with poor English writing skills are at a disadvantage when trying to publish in these journals, regardless of the quality of the scientific study itself. Yet many international universities require publication in these high-impact journals by both their students and faculty. One way that some international authors are beginning to overcome this problem is by contracting with freelance medical copy editors who are native speakers of English and specialize in ESL (English as a second language) editing to polish their manuscripts' English to a level that high-impact journals will accept.

The nature of the content


A scientific article has a standardized structure, which varies only slightly in different subjects.
Ultimately, it is not the format that is important, but what lies behind it - the content. However, several key formatting requirements need to be met:
  1. The title should be concise and indicate the contents of the article.
  2. The names and affiliation of all authors are given. In the wake of some scientific misconduct
    Scientific misconduct
    Scientific misconduct is the violation of the standard codes of scholarly conduct and ethical behavior in professional scientific research. A Lancet review on Handling of Scientific Misconduct in Scandinavian countries provides the following sample definitions: *Danish definition: "Intention or...

     cases, publishers often require that all co-authors know and agree on the content of the article.
  3. The first part is normally an abstract
    Abstract (summary)
    An abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject or discipline, and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the paper's purpose. When used, an abstract always appears at the beginning of a...

    ; this is a one-paragraph summary of the work, and is intended to serve as a guide for determining if the articles is pertinent, and to furnish subject metadata for indexing services.
  4. The format should be archival, in the sense that libraries
    Library
    In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

     should be able to store and catalogue the documents and scientists years later should be able to recover any document in order to study and assess it, and there should be an established way of citing
    Citation
    Broadly, a citation is a reference to a published or unpublished source . More precisely, a citation is an abbreviated alphanumeric expression Broadly, a citation is a reference to a published or unpublished source (not always the original source). More precisely, a citation is an abbreviated...

     the document so that formal reference can be made to them in future scientific publication. The lack of an established archival system is one of the hurdles that World Wide Web based scientific publication has had to overcome. Reliable repositories such as arXiv
    ArXiv
    The arXiv |Chi]], χ) is an archive for electronic preprints of scientific papers in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology, statistics, and quantitative finance which can be accessed online. In many fields of mathematics and physics, almost all...

     or PubMed Central
    PubMed Central
    PubMed Central is a free digital database of full-text scientific literature in biomedical and life sciences. It grew from the online Entrez PubMed biomedical literature search system. PubMed Central was developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine as an online archive of biomedical journal...

     have been instituted, and progress is now being made on their interoperability and permanence.
  5. The content should be presented in the context of previous scientific investigations, by citation of relevant documents in the existing literature, usually in a section called an "Introduction".
  6. Empirical techniques, laid out in a section usually called "Materials and Methods", should be described in such a way that a subsequent scientist, with appropriate knowledge of and experience in the relevant field, should be able to repeat the observations and know whether he or she has obtained the same result. This naturally varies between subjects, and obviously does not apply to mathematics and related subjects.
  7. Similarly, the results of the investigation, in a section usually called "Results", data should be presented in tabular or graphic form (image
    Image
    An image is an artifact, for example a two-dimensional picture, that has a similar appearance to some subject—usually a physical object or a person.-Characteristics:...

    , chart
    Chart
    A chart is a graphical representation of data, in which "the data is represented by symbols, such as bars in a bar chart, lines in a line chart, or slices in a pie chart"...

    , schematic
    Schematic
    A schematic diagram represents the elements of a system using abstract, graphic symbols rather than realistic pictures. A schematic usually omits all details that are not relevant to the information the schematic is intended to convey, and may add unrealistic elements that aid comprehension...

    , diagram
    Diagram
    A diagram is a two-dimensional geometric symbolic representation of information according to some visualization technique. Sometimes, the technique uses a three-dimensional visualization which is then projected onto the two-dimensional surface...

     or drawing
    Drawing
    Drawing is a form of visual art that makes use of any number of drawing instruments to mark a two-dimensional medium. Common instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, markers, styluses, and various metals .An artist who...

    ). These figures should be accompanied by a caption and referenced in the text of the article.
  8. Interpretation of the meaning of the results is usually addressed in a "Discussion" or "Conclusion" section. The conclusions drawn should be based on previous literature and/or new empirical results, in such a way that any reader with knowledge of the field can follow the argument and confirm that the conclusions are sound. That is, acceptance of the conclusions must not depend on personal authority, rhetorical skill
    Rhetoric
    Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

    , or faith
    Faith
    Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

    .
  9. Finally, a "References" or "Literature Cited" section lists the sources cited by the authors in the format required by the journal.

Peer review


Though Peer review
Peer review
Peer review is a process of self-regulation by a profession or a process of evaluation involving qualified individuals within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance and provide credibility...

 and the learned journal format are not themselves an essential part of scientific literature, they're both convenient ways of ensuring that the above fundamental criteria are met. They are essentially a means of quality control
Quality control
Quality control, or QC for short, is a process by which entities review the quality of all factors involved in production. This approach places an emphasis on three aspects:...

, a term which also encompasses other means towards the same goal.

The "quality" being referred to here is the scientific one, which consists of transparency and repeatability of the research for independent verification, the validity of the conclusions and interpretations drawn from the reported data, overall importance for advance within a given field of knowledge, novelty, and in certain fields applicability as well. The lack of peer review is what makes most technical report
Technical report
A technical report is a document that describes the process, progress, or results of technical or scientific research or the state of a technical or scientific research problem. It might also include recommendations and conclusions of the research...

s and World Wide Web publications unacceptable as contributions to the literature. The relatively weak peer review often applied to books and chapters in edited books means that their status is also second-tier, unless an author's personal standing is so high that prior achievement and a continued stake in one's reputation within the scientific community signals a clear expectation of quality.

The emergence of institutional digital repositories where scholars can post their work as it is submitted to a print-based journal has taken formal peer review into a state of flux. Though publicizing a preprint online does not prevent it from being peer reviewed, it does allow an unreviewed copy to be widely circulated. On the positive side this change has led to faster dissemination of novel work within the scientific community; on the negative it has made it more difficult to discern a valid scientific contribution from the unmeritorious.

Increasing reliance on abstracting services, especially on those available electronically, means that the effective criterion for whether a publication format forms part of the established, trusted literature is whether it is covered by these services; in particular, by the specialised service for the discipline concerned such as Chemical Abstracts Service
Chemical Abstracts Service
Chemical Abstracts is a periodical index that provides summaries and indexes of disclosures in recently published scientific documents. Approximately 8,000 journals, technical reports, dissertations, conference proceedings, and new books, in any of 50 languages, are monitored yearly, as are patent...

, and by the major interdisciplinary services such as those marketed by the Institute for Scientific Information
Institute for Scientific Information
The Institute for Scientific Information was founded by Eugene Garfield in 1960. It was acquired by Thomson Scientific & Healthcare in 1992, became known as Thomson ISI and now is part of the Healthcare & Science business of the multi-billion dollar Thomson Reuters Corporation.ISI offered...

.

Controversies


The concept of published articles is itself giving rise to controversy, especially as many journals refuse to publish colour plates for example, and if they do, they insist that authors pay the publisher. The problem arises because of the antiquated printing
Printing
Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

 equipment still widely used by many publishers, and by the need for higher quality paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

. In popular magazines, colour is the norm rather than the exception, as it is in computer text and articles. This is a great hindrance in many areas of research because colour photographs for example, usually provide much more information than black and white photographs. Often colour pictures are the only form which can be used to illustrate a point, such as blood smears in a forensic science article.

Other areas of controversy include the transfer of copyright
Copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

 from author to publisher, because many authors want to propagate their ideas more widely and re-use their material elsewhere without the need for permission. Usually an author or authors circumvent that problem by rewriting an article and using other pictures. Some publishers may also want publicity for their journal so will approve facsimile
Facsimile
A facsimile is a copy or reproduction of an old book, manuscript, map, art print, or other item of historical value that is as true to the original source as possible. It differs from other forms of reproduction by attempting to replicate the source as accurately as possible in terms of scale,...

 reproduction unconditionally; other publishers are more resistant.

See also



  • Academic publishing
    Academic publishing
    Academic publishing describes the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in journal article, book or thesis form. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted is often called...

  • Acknowledgment index
    Acknowledgment index
    An acknowledgment index is a method for indexing and analyzing acknowledgements in the scientific literature and, thus, quantifies the impact of acknowledgments. Typically, a scholarly article has a section where the authors acknowledge entities such as funding, technical staff, colleagues, etc....

  • Citation index
    Citation index
    A citation index is a kind of bibliographic database, an index of citations between publications, allowing the user to easily establish which later documents cite which earlier documents. The first citation indices were legal citators such as Shepard's Citations...

  • IMRAD
    IMRAD
    - The basic structure of a scientific paper :The IMRAD structure is currently the most prominent norm for the structure of a scientific paper. IMRAD is an acronym for Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion...

     (structure of scientific paper)
  • Open access (publishing)
  • De re metallica
    De re metallica
    De re metallica is a book cataloguing the state of the art of mining, refining, and smelting metals, published in 1556. The author was Georg Bauer, whose pen name was the Latinized Georgius Agricola...

    – book cataloging the state of the art of mining, refining, and smelting metals, published in 1556
  • Dream Pool Essays
    Dream Pool Essays
    The Dream Pool Essays was an extensive book written by the polymath Chinese scientist and statesman Shen Kuo by 1088 AD, during the Song Dynasty of China...

    – extensive book written by the polymath Chinese scientist and statesman Shen Kuo by 1088 AD
  • Grey literature
  • UKSG E-Resources Management Handbook
    UKSG E-Resources Management Handbook
    The E-Resource Management Handbook is a free e-book from UKSG, intended as an introduction to the learned and scientific publishing industry for all those with an interest - including librarians and publishers ....