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How to Publish a Research Paper – Step by Step Guide

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How to Publish a Research Paper

Publishing a research paper is an important step for researchers to disseminate their findings to a wider audience and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their field. Whether you are a graduate student, a postdoctoral fellow, or an established researcher, publishing a paper requires careful planning, rigorous research, and clear writing. In this process, you will need to identify a research question , conduct a thorough literature review , design a methodology, analyze data, and draw conclusions. Additionally, you will need to consider the appropriate journals or conferences to submit your work to and adhere to their guidelines for formatting and submission. In this article, we will discuss some ways to publish your Research Paper.

How to Publish a Research Paper

To Publish a Research Paper follow the guide below:

  • Conduct original research : Conduct thorough research on a specific topic or problem. Collect data, analyze it, and draw conclusions based on your findings.
  • Write the paper : Write a detailed paper describing your research. It should include an abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion.
  • Choose a suitable journal or conference : Look for a journal or conference that specializes in your research area. You can check their submission guidelines to ensure your paper meets their requirements.
  • Prepare your submission: Follow the guidelines and prepare your submission, including the paper, abstract, cover letter, and any other required documents.
  • Submit the paper: Submit your paper online through the journal or conference website. Make sure you meet the submission deadline.
  • Peer-review process : Your paper will be reviewed by experts in the field who will provide feedback on the quality of your research, methodology, and conclusions.
  • Revisions : Based on the feedback you receive, revise your paper and resubmit it.
  • Acceptance : Once your paper is accepted, you will receive a notification from the journal or conference. You may need to make final revisions before the paper is published.
  • Publication : Your paper will be published online or in print. You can also promote your work through social media or other channels to increase its visibility.

How to Choose Journal for Research Paper Publication

Here are some steps to follow to help you select an appropriate journal:

  • Identify your research topic and audience : Your research topic and intended audience should guide your choice of journal. Identify the key journals in your field of research and read the scope and aim of the journal to determine if your paper is a good fit.
  • Analyze the journal’s impact and reputation : Check the impact factor and ranking of the journal, as well as its acceptance rate and citation frequency. A high-impact journal can give your paper more visibility and credibility.
  • Consider the journal’s publication policies : Look for the journal’s publication policies such as the word count limit, formatting requirements, open access options, and submission fees. Make sure that you can comply with the requirements and that the journal is in line with your publication goals.
  • Look at recent publications : Review recent issues of the journal to evaluate whether your paper would fit in with the journal’s current content and style.
  • Seek advice from colleagues and mentors: Ask for recommendations and suggestions from your colleagues and mentors in your field, especially those who have experience publishing in the same or similar journals.
  • Be prepared to make changes : Be prepared to revise your paper according to the requirements and guidelines of the chosen journal. It is also important to be open to feedback from the editor and reviewers.

List of Journals for Research Paper Publications

There are thousands of academic journals covering various fields of research. Here are some of the most popular ones, categorized by field:

General/Multidisciplinary

  • Nature: https://www.nature.com/
  • Science: https://www.sciencemag.org/
  • PLOS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): https://www.pnas.org/
  • The Lancet: https://www.thelancet.com/
  • JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association): https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama

Social Sciences/Humanities

  • Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/psp
  • Journal of Consumer Research: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/journals/jcr
  • Journal of Educational Psychology: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/edu
  • Journal of Applied Psychology: https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/apl
  • Journal of Communication: https://academic.oup.com/joc
  • American Journal of Political Science: https://ajps.org/
  • Journal of International Business Studies: https://www.jibs.net/
  • Journal of Marketing Research: https://www.ama.org/journal-of-marketing-research/

Natural Sciences

  • Journal of Biological Chemistry: https://www.jbc.org/
  • Cell: https://www.cell.com/
  • Science Advances: https://advances.sciencemag.org/
  • Chemical Reviews: https://pubs.acs.org/journal/chreay
  • Angewandte Chemie: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/15213765
  • Physical Review Letters: https://journals.aps.org/prl/
  • Journal of Geophysical Research: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/2156531X
  • Journal of High Energy Physics: https://link.springer.com/journal/13130

Engineering/Technology

  • IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=5962385
  • IEEE Transactions on Power Systems: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=59
  • IEEE Transactions on Medical Imaging: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=42
  • IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/RecentIssue.jsp?punumber=87
  • Journal of Engineering Mechanics: https://ascelibrary.org/journal/jenmdt
  • Journal of Materials Science: https://www.springer.com/journal/10853
  • Journal of Chemical Engineering of Japan: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/browse/jcej
  • Journal of Mechanical Design: https://asmedigitalcollection.asme.org/mechanicaldesign

Medical/Health Sciences

  • New England Journal of Medicine: https://www.nejm.org/
  • The BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal): https://www.bmj.com/
  • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama
  • Annals of Internal Medicine: https://www.acpjournals.org/journal/aim
  • American Journal of Epidemiology: https://academic.oup.com/aje
  • Journal of Clinical Oncology: https://ascopubs.org/journal/jco
  • Journal of Infectious Diseases: https://academic.oup.com/jid

List of Conferences for Research Paper Publications

There are many conferences that accept research papers for publication. The specific conferences you should consider will depend on your field of research. Here are some suggestions for conferences in a few different fields:

Computer Science and Information Technology:

  • IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications (INFOCOM): https://www.ieee-infocom.org/
  • ACM SIGCOMM Conference on Data Communication: https://conferences.sigcomm.org/sigcomm/
  • IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (SP): https://www.ieee-security.org/TC/SP/
  • ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS): https://www.sigsac.org/ccs/
  • ACM Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (CHI): https://chi2022.acm.org/

Engineering:

  • IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA): https://www.ieee-icra.org/
  • International Conference on Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (ICMAE): http://www.icmae.org/
  • International Conference on Civil and Environmental Engineering (ICCEE): http://www.iccee.org/
  • International Conference on Materials Science and Engineering (ICMSE): http://www.icmse.org/
  • International Conference on Energy and Power Engineering (ICEPE): http://www.icepe.org/

Natural Sciences:

  • American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition: https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/meetings/national-meeting.html
  • American Physical Society March Meeting: https://www.aps.org/meetings/march/
  • International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology (ICEST): http://www.icest.org/
  • International Conference on Natural Science and Environment (ICNSE): http://www.icnse.org/
  • International Conference on Life Science and Biological Engineering (LSBE): http://www.lsbe.org/

Social Sciences:

  • Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA): https://www.asanet.org/annual-meeting-2022
  • International Conference on Social Science and Humanities (ICSSH): http://www.icssh.org/
  • International Conference on Psychology and Behavioral Sciences (ICPBS): http://www.icpbs.org/
  • International Conference on Education and Social Science (ICESS): http://www.icess.org/
  • International Conference on Management and Information Science (ICMIS): http://www.icmis.org/

How to Publish a Research Paper in Journal

Publishing a research paper in a journal is a crucial step in disseminating scientific knowledge and contributing to the field. Here are the general steps to follow:

  • Choose a research topic : Select a topic of your interest and identify a research question or problem that you want to investigate. Conduct a literature review to identify the gaps in the existing knowledge that your research will address.
  • Conduct research : Develop a research plan and methodology to collect data and conduct experiments. Collect and analyze data to draw conclusions that address the research question.
  • Write a paper: Organize your findings into a well-structured paper with clear and concise language. Your paper should include an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. Use academic language and provide references for your sources.
  • Choose a journal: Choose a journal that is relevant to your research topic and audience. Consider factors such as impact factor, acceptance rate, and the reputation of the journal.
  • Follow journal guidelines : Review the submission guidelines and formatting requirements of the journal. Follow the guidelines carefully to ensure that your paper meets the journal’s requirements.
  • Submit your paper : Submit your paper to the journal through the online submission system or by email. Include a cover letter that briefly explains the significance of your research and why it is suitable for the journal.
  • Wait for reviews: Your paper will be reviewed by experts in the field. Be prepared to address their comments and make revisions to your paper.
  • Revise and resubmit: Make revisions to your paper based on the reviewers’ comments and resubmit it to the journal. If your paper is accepted, congratulations! If not, consider revising and submitting it to another journal.
  • Address reviewer comments : Reviewers may provide comments and suggestions for revisions to your paper. Address these comments carefully and thoughtfully to improve the quality of your paper.
  • Submit the final version: Once your revisions are complete, submit the final version of your paper to the journal. Be sure to follow any additional formatting guidelines and requirements provided by the journal.
  • Publication : If your paper is accepted, it will be published in the journal. Some journals provide online publication while others may publish a print version. Be sure to cite your published paper in future research and communicate your findings to the scientific community.

How to Publish a Research Paper for Students

Here are some steps you can follow to publish a research paper as an Under Graduate or a High School Student:

  • Select a topic: Choose a topic that is relevant and interesting to you, and that you have a good understanding of.
  • Conduct research : Gather information and data on your chosen topic through research, experiments, surveys, or other means.
  • Write the paper : Start with an outline, then write the introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion sections of the paper. Be sure to follow any guidelines provided by your instructor or the journal you plan to submit to.
  • Edit and revise: Review your paper for errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Ask a peer or mentor to review your paper and provide feedback for improvement.
  • Choose a journal : Look for journals that publish papers in your field of study and that are appropriate for your level of research. Some popular journals for students include PLOS ONE, Nature, and Science.
  • Submit the paper: Follow the submission guidelines for the journal you choose, which typically include a cover letter, abstract, and formatting requirements. Be prepared to wait several weeks to months for a response.
  • Address feedback : If your paper is accepted with revisions, address the feedback from the reviewers and resubmit your paper. If your paper is rejected, review the feedback and consider revising and resubmitting to a different journal.

How to Publish a Research Paper for Free

Publishing a research paper for free can be challenging, but it is possible. Here are some steps you can take to publish your research paper for free:

  • Choose a suitable open-access journal: Look for open-access journals that are relevant to your research area. Open-access journals allow readers to access your paper without charge, so your work will be more widely available.
  • Check the journal’s reputation : Before submitting your paper, ensure that the journal is reputable by checking its impact factor, publication history, and editorial board.
  • Follow the submission guidelines : Every journal has specific guidelines for submitting papers. Make sure to follow these guidelines carefully to increase the chances of acceptance.
  • Submit your paper : Once you have completed your research paper, submit it to the journal following their submission guidelines.
  • Wait for the review process: Your paper will undergo a peer-review process, where experts in your field will evaluate your work. Be patient during this process, as it can take several weeks or even months.
  • Revise your paper : If your paper is rejected, don’t be discouraged. Revise your paper based on the feedback you receive from the reviewers and submit it to another open-access journal.
  • Promote your research: Once your paper is published, promote it on social media and other online platforms. This will increase the visibility of your work and help it reach a wider audience.

Journals and Conferences for Free Research Paper publications

Here are the websites of the open-access journals and conferences mentioned:

Open-Access Journals:

  • PLOS ONE – https://journals.plos.org/plosone/
  • BMC Research Notes – https://bmcresnotes.biomedcentral.com/
  • Frontiers in… – https://www.frontiersin.org/
  • Journal of Open Research Software – https://openresearchsoftware.metajnl.com/
  • PeerJ – https://peerj.com/

Conferences:

  • IEEE Global Communications Conference (GLOBECOM) – https://globecom2022.ieee-globecom.org/
  • IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications (INFOCOM) – https://infocom2022.ieee-infocom.org/
  • IEEE International Conference on Data Mining (ICDM) – https://www.ieee-icdm.org/
  • ACM SIGCOMM Conference on Data Communication (SIGCOMM) – https://conferences.sigcomm.org/sigcomm/
  • ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS) – https://www.sigsac.org/ccs/CCS2022/

Importance of Research Paper Publication

Research paper publication is important for several reasons, both for individual researchers and for the scientific community as a whole. Here are some reasons why:

  • Advancing scientific knowledge : Research papers provide a platform for researchers to present their findings and contribute to the body of knowledge in their field. These papers often contain novel ideas, experimental data, and analyses that can help to advance scientific understanding.
  • Building a research career : Publishing research papers is an essential component of building a successful research career. Researchers are often evaluated based on the number and quality of their publications, and having a strong publication record can increase one’s chances of securing funding, tenure, or a promotion.
  • Peer review and quality control: Publication in a peer-reviewed journal means that the research has been scrutinized by other experts in the field. This peer review process helps to ensure the quality and validity of the research findings.
  • Recognition and visibility : Publishing a research paper can bring recognition and visibility to the researchers and their work. It can lead to invitations to speak at conferences, collaborations with other researchers, and media coverage.
  • Impact on society : Research papers can have a significant impact on society by informing policy decisions, guiding clinical practice, and advancing technological innovation.

Advantages of Research Paper Publication

There are several advantages to publishing a research paper, including:

  • Recognition: Publishing a research paper allows researchers to gain recognition for their work, both within their field and in the academic community as a whole. This can lead to new collaborations, invitations to conferences, and other opportunities to share their research with a wider audience.
  • Career advancement : A strong publication record can be an important factor in career advancement, particularly in academia. Publishing research papers can help researchers secure funding, grants, and promotions.
  • Dissemination of knowledge : Research papers are an important way to share new findings and ideas with the broader scientific community. By publishing their research, scientists can contribute to the collective body of knowledge in their field and help advance scientific understanding.
  • Feedback and peer review : Publishing a research paper allows other experts in the field to provide feedback on the research, which can help improve the quality of the work and identify potential flaws or limitations. Peer review also helps ensure that research is accurate and reliable.
  • Citation and impact : Published research papers can be cited by other researchers, which can help increase the impact and visibility of the research. High citation rates can also help establish a researcher’s reputation and credibility within their field.

About the author

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Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer

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How to Write and Publish Your Research in a Journal

Last Updated: February 26, 2024 Fact Checked

Choosing a Journal

Writing the research paper, editing & revising your paper, submitting your paper, navigating the peer review process, research paper help.

This article was co-authored by Matthew Snipp, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Cheyenne Main . C. Matthew Snipp is the Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. He is also the Director for the Institute for Research in the Social Science’s Secure Data Center. He has been a Research Fellow at the U.S. Bureau of the Census and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has published 3 books and over 70 articles and book chapters on demography, economic development, poverty and unemployment. He is also currently serving on the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Population Science Subcommittee. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 694,611 times.

Publishing a research paper in a peer-reviewed journal allows you to network with other scholars, get your name and work into circulation, and further refine your ideas and research. Before submitting your paper, make sure it reflects all the work you’ve done and have several people read over it and make comments. Keep reading to learn how you can choose a journal, prepare your work for publication, submit it, and revise it after you get a response back.

Things You Should Know

  • Create a list of journals you’d like to publish your work in and choose one that best aligns with your topic and your desired audience.
  • Prepare your manuscript using the journal’s requirements and ask at least 2 professors or supervisors to review your paper.
  • Write a cover letter that “sells” your manuscript, says how your research adds to your field and explains why you chose the specific journal you’re submitting to.

Step 1 Create a list of journals you’d like to publish your work in.

  • Ask your professors or supervisors for well-respected journals that they’ve had good experiences publishing with and that they read regularly.
  • Many journals also only accept specific formats, so by choosing a journal before you start, you can write your article to their specifications and increase your chances of being accepted.
  • If you’ve already written a paper you’d like to publish, consider whether your research directly relates to a hot topic or area of research in the journals you’re looking into.

Step 2 Look at each journal’s audience, exposure, policies, and procedures.

  • Review the journal’s peer review policies and submission process to see if you’re comfortable creating or adjusting your work according to their standards.
  • Open-access journals can increase your readership because anyone can access them.

Step 1 Craft an effective introduction with a thesis statement.

  • Scientific research papers: Instead of a “thesis,” you might write a “research objective” instead. This is where you state the purpose of your research.
  • “This paper explores how George Washington’s experiences as a young officer may have shaped his views during difficult circumstances as a commanding officer.”
  • “This paper contends that George Washington’s experiences as a young officer on the 1750s Pennsylvania frontier directly impacted his relationship with his Continental Army troops during the harsh winter at Valley Forge.”

Step 2 Write the literature review and the body of your paper.

  • Scientific research papers: Include a “materials and methods” section with the step-by-step process you followed and the materials you used. [5] X Research source
  • Read other research papers in your field to see how they’re written. Their format, writing style, subject matter, and vocabulary can help guide your own paper. [6] X Research source

Step 3 Write your conclusion that ties back to your thesis or research objective.

  • If you’re writing about George Washington’s experiences as a young officer, you might emphasize how this research changes our perspective of the first president of the U.S.
  • Link this section to your thesis or research objective.
  • If you’re writing a paper about ADHD, you might discuss other applications for your research.

Step 4 Write an abstract that describes what your paper is about.

  • Scientific research papers: You might include your research and/or analytical methods, your main findings or results, and the significance or implications of your research.
  • Try to get as many people as you can to read over your abstract and provide feedback before you submit your paper to a journal.

Step 1 Prepare your manuscript according to the journal’s requirements.

  • They might also provide templates to help you structure your manuscript according to their specific guidelines. [11] X Research source

Step 2 Ask 2 colleagues to review your paper and revise it with their notes.

  • Not all journal reviewers will be experts on your specific topic, so a non-expert “outsider’s perspective” can be valuable.

Step 1 Check your sources for plagiarism and identify 5 to 6 keywords.

  • If you have a paper on the purification of wastewater with fungi, you might use both the words “fungi” and “mushrooms.”
  • Use software like iThenticate, Turnitin, or PlagScan to check for similarities between the submitted article and published material available online. [15] X Research source

Step 2 Write a cover letter explaining why you chose their journal.

  • Header: Address the editor who will be reviewing your manuscript by their name, include the date of submission, and the journal you are submitting to.
  • First paragraph: Include the title of your manuscript, the type of paper it is (like review, research, or case study), and the research question you wanted to answer and why.
  • Second paragraph: Explain what was done in your research, your main findings, and why they are significant to your field.
  • Third paragraph: Explain why the journal’s readers would be interested in your work and why your results are important to your field.
  • Conclusion: State the author(s) and any journal requirements that your work complies with (like ethical standards”).
  • “We confirm that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration by another journal.”
  • “All authors have approved the manuscript and agree with its submission to [insert the name of the target journal].”

Step 3 Submit your article according to the journal’s submission guidelines.

  • Submit your article to only one journal at a time.
  • When submitting online, use your university email account. This connects you with a scholarly institution, which can add credibility to your work.

Step 1 Try not to panic when you get the journal’s initial response.

  • Accept: Only minor adjustments are needed, based on the provided feedback by the reviewers. A first submission will rarely be accepted without any changes needed.
  • Revise and Resubmit: Changes are needed before publication can be considered, but the journal is still very interested in your work.
  • Reject and Resubmit: Extensive revisions are needed. Your work may not be acceptable for this journal, but they might also accept it if significant changes are made.
  • Reject: The paper isn’t and won’t be suitable for this publication, but that doesn’t mean it might not work for another journal.

Step 2 Revise your paper based on the reviewers’ feedback.

  • Try organizing the reviewer comments by how easy it is to address them. That way, you can break your revisions down into more manageable parts.
  • If you disagree with a comment made by a reviewer, try to provide an evidence-based explanation when you resubmit your paper.

Step 3 Resubmit to the same journal or choose another from your list.

  • If you’re resubmitting your paper to the same journal, include a point-by-point response paper that talks about how you addressed all of the reviewers’ comments in your revision. [22] X Research source
  • If you’re not sure which journal to submit to next, you might be able to ask the journal editor which publications they recommend.

how to write research paper and publish it

Expert Q&A

You might also like.

Develop a Questionnaire for Research

  • If reviewers suspect that your submitted manuscript plagiarizes another work, they may refer to a Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) flowchart to see how to move forward. [23] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to write research paper and publish it

  • ↑ https://www.wiley.com/en-us/network/publishing/research-publishing/choosing-a-journal/6-steps-to-choosing-the-right-journal-for-your-research-infographic
  • ↑ https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13187-020-01751-z
  • ↑ https://libguides.unomaha.edu/c.php?g=100510&p=651627
  • ↑ http://www.canberra.edu.au/library/start-your-research/research_help/publishing-research
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/conclusions
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/writing-an-abstract-for-your-research-paper/
  • ↑ https://www.springer.com/gp/authors-editors/book-authors-editors/your-publication-journey/manuscript-preparation
  • ↑ https://apus.libanswers.com/writing/faq/2391
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/library/keyword/search-strategy
  • ↑ https://ifis.libguides.com/journal-publishing-guide/submitting-your-paper
  • ↑ https://www.springer.com/kr/authors-editors/authorandreviewertutorials/submitting-to-a-journal-and-peer-review/cover-letters/10285574
  • ↑ http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep02/publish.aspx
  • ↑ Matthew Snipp, PhD. Research Fellow, U.S. Bureau of the Census. Expert Interview. 26 March 2020.

About This Article

Matthew Snipp, PhD

To publish a research paper, ask a colleague or professor to review your paper and give you feedback. Once you've revised your work, familiarize yourself with different academic journals so that you can choose the publication that best suits your paper. Make sure to look at the "Author's Guide" so you can format your paper according to the guidelines for that publication. Then, submit your paper and don't get discouraged if it is not accepted right away. You may need to revise your paper and try again. To learn about the different responses you might get from journals, see our reviewer's explanation below. Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Write and Publish a Research Paper in 7 Steps

What comes next after you're done with your research? Publishing the results in a journal of course! We tell you how to present your work in the best way possible.

This post is part of a series, which serves to provide hands-on information and resources for authors and editors.

Things have gotten busy in scholarly publishing: These days, a new article gets published in the 50,000 most important peer-reviewed journals every few seconds, while each one takes on average 40 minutes to read. Hundreds of thousands of papers reach the desks of editors and reviewers worldwide each year and 50% of all submissions end up rejected at some stage.

In a nutshell: there is a lot of competition, and the people who decide upon the fate of your manuscript are short on time and overworked. But there are ways to make their lives a little easier and improve your own chances of getting your work published!

Well, it may seem obvious, but before submitting an academic paper, always make sure that it is an excellent reflection of the research you have done and that you present it in the most professional way possible. Incomplete or poorly presented manuscripts can create a great deal of frustration and annoyance for editors who probably won’t even bother wasting the time of the reviewers!

This post will discuss 7 steps to the successful publication of your research paper:

  • Check whether your research is publication-ready
  • Choose an article type
  • Choose a journal
  • Construct your paper
  • Decide the order of authors
  • Check and double-check
  • Submit your paper

1. Check Whether Your Research Is Publication-Ready

Should you publish your research at all?

If your work holds academic value – of course – a well-written scholarly article could open doors to your research community. However, if you are not yet sure, whether your research is ready for publication, here are some key questions to ask yourself depending on your field of expertise:

  • Have you done or found something new and interesting? Something unique?
  • Is the work directly related to a current hot topic?
  • Have you checked the latest results or research in the field?
  • Have you provided solutions to any difficult problems?
  • Have the findings been verified?
  • Have the appropriate controls been performed if required?
  • Are your findings comprehensive?

If the answers to all relevant questions are “yes”, you need to prepare a good, strong manuscript. Remember, a research paper is only useful if it is clearly understood, reproducible and if it is read and used .

2. Choose An Article Type

The first step is to determine which type of paper is most appropriate for your work and what you want to achieve. The following list contains the most important, usually peer-reviewed article types in the natural sciences:

Full original research papers disseminate completed research findings. On average this type of paper is 8-10 pages long, contains five figures, and 25-30 references. Full original research papers are an important part of the process when developing your career.

Review papers present a critical synthesis of a specific research topic. These papers are usually much longer than original papers and will contain numerous references. More often than not, they will be commissioned by journal editors. Reviews present an excellent way to solidify your research career.

Letters, Rapid or Short Communications are often published for the quick and early communication of significant and original advances. They are much shorter than full articles and usually limited in length by the journal. Journals specifically dedicated to short communications or letters are also published in some fields. In these the authors can present short preliminary findings before developing a full-length paper.

3. Choose a Journal

Are you looking for the right place to publish your paper? Find out here whether a De Gruyter journal might be the right fit.

Submit to journals that you already read, that you have a good feel for. If you do so, you will have a better appreciation of both its culture and the requirements of the editors and reviewers.

Other factors to consider are:

  • The specific subject area
  • The aims and scope of the journal
  • The type of manuscript you have written
  • The significance of your work
  • The reputation of the journal
  • The reputation of the editors within the community
  • The editorial/review and production speeds of the journal
  • The community served by the journal
  • The coverage and distribution
  • The accessibility ( open access vs. closed access)

4. Construct Your Paper

Each element of a paper has its purpose, so you should make these sections easy to index and search.

Don’t forget that requirements can differ highly per publication, so always make sure to apply a journal’s specific instructions – or guide – for authors to your manuscript, even to the first draft (text layout, paper citation, nomenclature, figures and table, etc.) It will save you time, and the editor’s.

Also, even in these days of Internet-based publishing, space is still at a premium, so be as concise as possible. As a good journalist would say: “Never use three words when one will do!”

Let’s look at the typical structure of a full research paper, but bear in mind certain subject disciplines may have their own specific requirements so check the instructions for authors on the journal’s home page.

4.1 The Title

It’s important to use the title to tell the reader what your paper is all about! You want to attract their attention, a bit like a newspaper headline does. Be specific and to the point. Keep it informative and concise, and avoid jargon and abbreviations (unless they are universally recognized like DNA, for example).

4.2 The Abstract

This could be termed as the “advertisement” for your article. Make it interesting and easily understood without the reader having to read the whole article. Be accurate and specific, and keep it as brief and concise as possible. Some journals (particularly in the medical fields) will ask you to structure the abstract in distinct, labeled sections, which makes it even more accessible.

A clear abstract will influence whether or not your work is considered and whether an editor should invest more time on it or send it for review.

4.3 Keywords

Keywords are used by abstracting and indexing services, such as PubMed and Web of Science. They are the labels of your manuscript, which make it “searchable” online by other researchers.

Include words or phrases (usually 4-8) that are closely related to your topic but not “too niche” for anyone to find them. Make sure to only use established abbreviations. Think about what scientific terms and its variations your potential readers are likely to use and search for. You can also do a test run of your selected keywords in one of the common academic search engines. Do similar articles to your own appear? Yes? Then that’s a good sign.

4.4 Introduction

This first part of the main text should introduce the problem, as well as any existing solutions you are aware of and the main limitations. Also, state what you hope to achieve with your research.

Do not confuse the introduction with the results, discussion or conclusion.

4.5 Methods

Every research article should include a detailed Methods section (also referred to as “Materials and Methods”) to provide the reader with enough information to be able to judge whether the study is valid and reproducible.

Include detailed information so that a knowledgeable reader can reproduce the experiment. However, use references and supplementary materials to indicate previously published procedures.

4.6 Results

In this section, you will present the essential or primary results of your study. To display them in a comprehensible way, you should use subheadings as well as illustrations such as figures, graphs, tables and photos, as appropriate.

4.7 Discussion

Here you should tell your readers what the results mean .

Do state how the results relate to the study’s aims and hypotheses and how the findings relate to those of other studies. Explain all possible interpretations of your findings and the study’s limitations.

Do not make “grand statements” that are not supported by the data. Also, do not introduce any new results or terms. Moreover, do not ignore work that conflicts or disagrees with your findings. Instead …

Be brave! Address conflicting study results and convince the reader you are the one who is correct.

4.8 Conclusion

Your conclusion isn’t just a summary of what you’ve already written. It should take your paper one step further and answer any unresolved questions.

Sum up what you have shown in your study and indicate possible applications and extensions. The main question your conclusion should answer is: What do my results mean for the research field and my community?

4.9 Acknowledgments and Ethical Statements

It is extremely important to acknowledge anyone who has helped you with your paper, including researchers who supplied materials or reagents (e.g. vectors or antibodies); and anyone who helped with the writing or English, or offered critical comments about the content.

Learn more about academic integrity in our blog post “Scholarly Publication Ethics: 4 Common Mistakes You Want To Avoid” .

Remember to state why people have been acknowledged and ask their permission . Ensure that you acknowledge sources of funding, including any grant or reference numbers.

Furthermore, if you have worked with animals or humans, you need to include information about the ethical approval of your study and, if applicable, whether informed consent was given. Also, state whether you have any competing interests regarding the study (e.g. because of financial or personal relationships.)

4.10 References

The end is in sight, but don’t relax just yet!

De facto, there are often more mistakes in the references than in any other part of the manuscript. It is also one of the most annoying and time-consuming problems for editors.

Remember to cite the main scientific publications on which your work is based. But do not inflate the manuscript with too many references. Avoid excessive – and especially unnecessary – self-citations. Also, avoid excessive citations of publications from the same institute or region.

5. Decide the Order of Authors

In the sciences, the most common way to order the names of the authors is by relative contribution.

Generally, the first author conducts and/or supervises the data analysis and the proper presentation and interpretation of the results. They put the paper together and usually submit the paper to the journal.

Co-authors make intellectual contributions to the data analysis and contribute to data interpretation. They review each paper draft. All of them must be able to present the paper and its results, as well as to defend the implications and discuss study limitations.

Do not leave out authors who should be included or add “gift authors”, i.e. authors who did not contribute significantly.

6. Check and Double-Check

As a final step before submission, ask colleagues to read your work and be constructively critical .

Make sure that the paper is appropriate for the journal – take a last look at their aims and scope. Check if all of the requirements in the instructions for authors are met.

Ensure that the cited literature is balanced. Are the aims, purpose and significance of the results clear?

Conduct a final check for language, either by a native English speaker or an editing service.

7. Submit Your Paper

When you and your co-authors have double-, triple-, quadruple-checked the manuscript: submit it via e-mail or online submission system. Along with your manuscript, submit a cover letter, which highlights the reasons why your paper would appeal to the journal and which ensures that you have received approval of all authors for submission.

It is up to the editors and the peer-reviewers now to provide you with their (ideally constructive and helpful) comments and feedback. Time to take a breather!

If the paper gets rejected, do not despair – it happens to literally everybody. If the journal suggests major or minor revisions, take the chance to provide a thorough response and make improvements as you see fit. If the paper gets accepted, congrats!

It’s now time to get writing and share your hard work – good luck!

If you are interested, check out this related blog post

how to write research paper and publish it

[Title Image by Nick Morrison via Unsplash]

David Sleeman

David Sleeman worked as Senior Journals Manager in the field of Physical Sciences at De Gruyter.

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How to Write & Publish a Research Paper: Step-by-Step Guide

This guide is far more than a list of instructions on what to include in each section of your research paper. In fact, we will:

  • Use a research paper I wrote specifically as an example to illustrate the key ideas in this guide ( link to the full-text PDF of the research paper ).
  • Use real-world data (on 100,000 PubMed research papers) to show you how professional scientists write in practice, instead of presenting my own opinion on the subject.
  • Provide practical tips on how to: improve your writing , find the right journal , and submit your article .

Let’s get started!

  • Structure of a research paper
  • Writing the Introduction section
  • Writing the Methods section
  • Writing the Results section
  • Writing the Discussion section
  • Writing the Abstract
  • Writing the Title
  • Writing optional sections
  • Refining and improving your article
  • Managing and formatting your References
  • Submitting your article

1. Structure of a research paper

Most research papers follow the IMRaD structure that consists of 4 main sections:

  • I ntroduction
  • D iscussion

The paper also has some essential elements–Title, Abstract, and References–and may contain other optional sections–Conclusion, Acknowledgements, Funding, Conflicts of interest, and Appendix.

These sections often appear in the following order:

Structure of a research paper

The advantages of following the IMRaD structure are:

  • To make the paper easily scannable by readers (since most won’t read the entire manuscript.
  • To avoid repeating the same information in different places.

To follow the IMRaD structure, you must learn what information goes where.

So, here’s an overview of what each of the main sections represents:

Together, these 4 sections start with the main topic of the paper and end up with a conclusion regarding that topic:

Role of each of the main sections of a research paper

1.1. Where to start?

When writing a research paper, some people prefer to start with the Results section—since it comes out right from the data they just analyzed. Others start with the Methods section—since information about how they designed the study and analyzed the data is still fresh in their mind. Personally, I prefer to start with the Introduction section for 2 reasons:

  • While doing a literature review for the introduction, sometimes I discover a problem in my approach or an interesting secondary objective that I did not think about, which as you can imagine, changes a lot of things in other sections of the article.
  • I want to formulate the hypothesis before analyzing the data in order to avoid HARKing (Hypothesizing after the results are known) which is a major problem in statistics (see: 7 Tricks to Get Statistically Significant p-Values ).

2. Writing the Introduction section

The Introduction targets a non-specialized audience, so when writing it, make sure to use simple and beginner-friendly terms.

2.1. Length of the Introduction section

The introduction section should be:

  • 400 to 760 words long (3 to 5 paragraphs).
  • The shortest section of the article (half the length of the other sections: Methods, Results, and Discussion).

(These data are based on an analysis I made on 61,518 articles from PubMed )

2.2. Structure of the Introduction section

Here’s what you should include in the Introduction:

  • Step #1: Describe the general context of your work (your aim should be to convince the reader that the topic of your research is interesting).
  • Step #2: Summarize the results of previous studies on the topic (report what others have found and provide references. But don’t do an in-depth literature review, a short summary of these findings is enough).
  • Step #3: Identify the gap , problem, or limitations of previous studies (find the missing pieces of the puzzle).
  • Step #4: State your objective , hypothesis, question that you want to answer, or problem that you want to solve (make sure that the purpose of your study is clear and understandable, otherwise people won’t care about your results).
  • Step #5: Present your solution : explain the approach you used to achieve the objective, explain what is different about it and what makes it special. Here you have to sell your approach. But keep it short (leave the details to the methods section).

2.3. Verb tense and voice in the Introduction section

Use the past tense for things that were already done and the present tense for things that continue to be true today.

For instance:

“Previous studies found that the rate of heart disease is increasing “.

“The goal of this study is to explore why the rate of heart disease increased in the past 10 years”.

You should write the Introduction using mainly the active voice.

“ A recent study found conflicting results”.

Should be favored over:

“ Conflicting results were recently found “.

2.4. Example: writing an Introduction section

In this section, we are going to verify that the Introduction section of our example article ( link to the full-text PDF ) follows the step-by-step structure discussed above. (The article studies the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Introduction of that article with the main steps highlighted:

INTRODUCTION

The role of a research title is to draw the reader’s attention while providing an overview of the article’s content. Finding a way to engage readers is important since only 18% of those who read the title proceed to read the abstract (Mabe and Amin, 2002).

Title attractiveness may be affected by its length; but studies on this subject have been inconsistent and sometimes contradictory (Subotic and Mukherjee, 2014; Letchford et al., 2015; Guo et al., 2018; Jacques and Sebire, 2010; Habibzadeh and Yadollahie, 2010; Stremersch et al., 2007; Falahati Qadimi Fumani et al., 2015). This may be due to bias and confounding since these studies did not follow a causal model to eliminate alternative explanations and indirect effects.

The confusion over the effect of title length led to a gap between what professional writers recommend and what researchers do in practice: while professionals recommend keeping titles as short as possible (Zeiger, 1999; Neill, 2007), in practice, titles are getting longer (Milojevi¢, 2017; Whissell, 2012) and more descriptive (mentioning the study objective, the variables involved, the main result, and the study design).

To help resolve this issue, the present study aims to quantify the direct influence of title length on its attractiveness by analyzing data on 9,830 biomedical research papers from PubMed and adjusting for confounding and indirect effects through the use of a causal diagram.

Writing is not just about following a series of rules: you should keep an eye on the flow of your story that ties your paragraphs together.

Here’s an overview of the story of our Introduction section:

Mains ideas in our example introduction section

3. Writing the Methods section

The Methods section is the recipe for the study: it should provide enough information to replicate the study without looking elsewhere (although most of those who read the Methods section will not be interested in replicating your study, instead they just want to make sure that your study is credible).

The Methods is the most technical section of the article. So, unlike the Introduction, don’t shy away from technical terms, since those who are not interested in such details will most likely skip this section.

3.1. Length of the Methods section

The Methods section should be:

  • 760 to 1,620 words long (6 to 14 paragraphs).
  • The same length as the Results or the Discussion, and about double the length of the Introduction.

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 61,514 articles from PubMed )

3.2. Structure of the Methods section

Here’s what you should include in the Methods section:

  • The date and duration of the study.
  • The sampling procedure.
  • The assignment to different study groups.
  • The source of the data.
  • Any approval needed to conduct the study.
  • Step#3: List the inclusion and exclusion criteria (i.e., the characteristics that participants must have to be included in the study).
  • The reason behind choosing such procedure.
  • The order in which things were done (a flow diagram can simplify the description of complex procedures).
  • The calculation of the minimum sample size needed.
  • The role of each variable (dependent, independent, or control variable).
  • The methods used to address bias in the study.
  • The methods used to handle missing data.
  • The measures used to summarize the data.
  • The type of statistical test or model you used to test your hypothesis and the threshold for statistical significance (don’t go into detail about obvious statistical tests or models, but advanced methods should be either described or referenced).
  • The statistical software used [optional].

3.3. Verb tense and voice in the Methods section

Use the past tense (because the things you did took place in the past).

“The data were downloaded “.

“A linear regression model was used “.

Use the passive voice (to avoid repeating the pronouns: “I” or “We”).

“Variables were summarized using the mean and standard deviation”.

Instead of:

“I summarized the variables using the mean and standard deviation”.

3.4. Example: writing a Methods section

In this section, we are going to verify that the Methods section of our example article ( link to the full-text P D F ) follows the structure discussed above. (Remember that this article is about studying the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Methods section of this article with the main steps highlighted:

For this cross-sectional study, data were downloaded from PubMed Central in March 2021 using a web API created by Comeau et al. (2019). From a collection of about 3 million biomedical research articles from various journals, 105,984 were chosen at random from those uploaded between the years 2016 and 2021.

From these 105,984 articles, a total of 96,154 were discarded for incomplete data, leaving 9,830 articles ready for analysis (Figure 4). Reasons for discarding articles included: unavailable full text, unmentioned study design, missing impact factor of the journal in which the article was published, missing article DOI, and unavailable citation count.

Example flow diagram

To study the influence of title length on its attractiveness, and in order to avoid defining and measuring Title attractiveness , I substituted this variable with another closely related one: the Citation count for a given article; this can work provided that we block all alternative paths other than the direct effect of Title attractiveness on Citation count . Looking at the causal diagram in Figure 5, we notice that there is only one alternative path, and it can be blocked by adjusting for the Journal in which the article was published. Since the data contained articles from 1,040 different journals (and to avoid complicating the analysis by creating 1,039 dummy variables), I ended up adjusting for the Journal impact factor , a direct descendent of the deconfounding variable Journal , thus representing most of its effect.

Example of a figure format in a research paper

To compute the direct causal effect of Title length on Title attractiveness , alternative explanations of the association between these two such as confounding and indirect effects must also be eliminated. From Figure 5, we see that this can be accomplished by adjusting for the Mention of study design in the title (a confounder) and the use of Comma in the title and Colon in the title (indirect effects).

After determining the variables that we want to adjust for, Poisson regression was used to compute the effect of Title length on Citation count . In our case, a Poisson model has 2 major advantages over linear regression: (1) it fits the data better, since counts follow a Poisson rather than a normal distribution, and (2) it accounts for different publication dates of different articles, which is important to offset the advantage of older articles regarding the time they had to collect citations (this can be accomplished by including Years since publication as an offset in the model).

The Poisson model described above can be summarized with the following equation:

log(Citation count) =β 0 + β 1 × Title length + β 2 × Journal impact factor + β 3 × Mention of study design in the title + β 4 × Comma in the title + β 5 × Colon in the title + log(Years since publication)

Variables in the model, such as Citation count , Title length , and Journal impact factor , were summarized using the median and the interquartile range (IQR), since they follow either a Poisson or a skewed non-normal distribution.

Note that in some cases, you will be forced to include some results in the Methods section. Although the research paper has a separate Results section (which we will discuss next), sometimes we include some results in the Methods section to justify the use of a certain material or method.

For example, in the Methods section above, in order to defend the use of the variable Journal impact factor instead of Journal , I ended up reporting the number of journals in the study (which is a number calculated from the data, so it normally belongs to the Results section):

“Since the data contained articles from 1,040 different journals (and to avoid complicating the analysis by creating 1,039 dummy variables), I ended up adjusting for the Journal impact factor, a direct descendent of the deconfounding variable Journal, thus representing most of its effect.”

4. Writing the Results section

In the Results section, you should describe and summarize your findings without explaining them (the interpretation should be left for the Discussion section).

4.1. Length of the Results section

The Results section should be:

  • 610 to 1,660 words long (5 to 11 paragraphs).
  • The same length as the Methods or the Discussion, and about double the length of the Introduction.

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 61,458 articles from PubMed )

4.2. Structure of the Results section

Here’s what you should include in the Results section:

  • At each stage and for each group of the study, report the number of participants (if some were lost to follow-up, provide the reasons).
  • Describe participants’ characteristics.
  • Compare participants in different groups.
  • Describe the main variables in the study.
  • The statistical significance (the p-value).
  • The precision (the 95% confidence interval).
  • The practical significance (the effect size).

4.3. Using figures and tables

A table or a figure are useful to highlight important results or to represent a lot of numbers that, if reported in the text, can be unpleasant for the reader.

Here are a few rules regarding figures and tables:

  • The supporting text should complement the table or figure but not repeat the same content.
  • The table or figure should stand alone (i.e., the reader can understand it without referring to the text).
  • No vertical lines.
  • A line above the header row.
  • A line below the header row.
  • A line at the bottom of the table.
  • No horizontal lines to separate data rows.

(Refer to the example below to see how your tables should look like)

4.4. Verb tense and voice in the Results section

Use the past tense for completed actions.

“In our sample of 9,830 articles, the median title length composed of 16 words (IQR = 6), had 2.2 yearly citations (IQR = 3.33), and was published in a journal with an impact factor of 2.74 (IQR = 1.67).”

Use the present tense for things that continue to be true today.

“The Poisson model shows a significant negative effect of longer titles on citation count.”

Use the active voice when possible.

4.5. Example: writing a Results section

In this section, we are going to verify that the Results section of our example article ( link to the full-text P D F ) follows the structure discussed above. (Remember that this article is about studying the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Results section of this article with the main steps highlighted:

In our sample of 9,830 articles, the median title composed of 16 words (IQR = 6), had 2.2 yearly citations (IQR = 3.33), and was published in a journal with an impact factor of 2.74 (IQR = 1.67). Also, 4,317 (43.9%) of titles contained at least one colon, 1,442 (14.7%) contained at least one comma, and 2,794 (28.4%) mentioned the study design.

The Poisson model shows a significant negative effect of longer titles on citation count (Table 2). Specifically, each additional word in the title causes a drop of 2.5% in the citation rate (95% confidence interval: [-2.7%, -2.3%]; p < 0.001). Equivalently, we can say that removing one word from the title causes an increase of 2.5% in the citation rate. To put that into perspective, removing one word from the title of the median article (that has 2.2 citations per year) causes a gain of 0.055 (= 2.2 × 0.025) citations per year, equivalent to 1 citation every 19 years.

Example of a table format in a research paper

5. Writing the Discussion section

In the Discussion section, you should explain the meaning of your results, their importance, and implications.

5.1. Length of the Discussion section

The Discussion section should be:

  • 820 to 1,480 words long (5 to 9 paragraphs).
  • The same length as the Methods or the Results, and about double the length of the Introduction.

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 61,517 articles from PubMed )

5.2. Structure of the Discussion section

Here’s what you should include in the Discussion section:

  • Step #1: Answer the study objective (i.e., where the Introduction ended). Your first sentence can be: “We/I found that” , “This study shows/proves that” , etc.
  • Explain its consequences.
  • Comment on whether it supports or refutes your initial hypothesis (i.e., was this result expected or unexpected?).
  • Compare it with the results of other studies (if they contradict each other: explain why, and suggest a way for further studies to resolve this contradiction).
  • Then discuss your secondary finding (if you have any) by following the same steps as you did for the main finding.
  • Step #3: Point out the strengths of your study (e.g., the use of a new and superior method, a larger sample size, etc.).
  • How you addressed these limitations in your design and analysis (i.e., justify the methods used in your study).
  • What future studies should do to address these limitations.
  • Step #5: Conclude with a takeaway message that reminds the reader of your most important finding and its implications (this Conclusion paragraph is sometimes put in a separate section after the Discussion [for more information, see: Length of a Conclusion Section: Analysis of 47,810 Examples ]).

5.3. Verb tense and voice in the Discussion section

Use the past tense for completed actions. For instance:

“I found that…”.

Use the present tense for things that continue to be true today. For instance:

“This study shows that…”.

5.4. Example: writing a Discussion section

In this section, we are going to verify that the Discussion section of our example article ( link to the full-text PDF ) follows the structure discussed above. (Remember that this article is about studying the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Discussion section of this article with the main steps highlighted:

This study shows that shorter research titles are more engaging by proving that they attract more citations. However, this effect, although statistically significant, is practically negligible since removing one word from a title will attract, on average, a single additional citation every 19 years–so I would not recommend shortening research titles as a strategy for increasing the citation count.

Previous studies on the subject reported conflicting results for articles in different disciplines since they did not use a causal approach to control bias and confounding. For instance, they found that shorter titles attracted more citations in psychology (Subotic and Mukherjee, 2014) and general scientific research (Letchford et al., 2015), but less in economics (Guo et al., 2018) and medicine (Jacques and Sebire, 2010; Habibzadeh and Yadollahie, 2010), and had no effect in marketing research (Stremersch et al., 2007) and scientometrics (Falahati Qadimi Fumani et al., 2015). What distinguishes the present study was the use of a causal diagram to identify and block alternative paths between title length and citation count, removing all but the causal explanation of any association between the two.

However, there are some limitations: (1) the 3 million biomedical research articles that are freely available on PubMed Central from which our sample was drawn may not accurately represent all published articles—thus introducing selection bias; (2) adjusting for the journal impact factor instead of the journal itself (to reduce model complexity) may have resulted in some residual confounding; and (3) the general approach taken to adjust for bias and confounding using a causal diagram (Figure 5) created based on my understanding of the subject may have incorporated an element of subjectivity into the analysis. Future studies can address these issues by: (1) collecting data on articles from different disciplines (to increase the result’s generalizability), (2) including a larger number of articles from each journal (to enable adjusting for Journal instead of Journal impact factor ), and (3) validating, either theoretically or analytically, the structure of the causal diagram (to reduce subjectivity).

Finally, this study proves that shortening a research title is not an effective strategy for earning more citations. Yet, writing shorter titles may still have other benefits, such as: getting more reads on Mendeley (Zahedi and Haustein, 2018; Didegah and Thelwall, 2013), tweets (Haustein et al., 2015), appearances in social media in general (Zagovora et al., 2018), and avoiding truncation when they appear on the results page of an online search engine like Google.

6. Writing the Abstract

The Abstract is a summary of the article.

6.1. Length of the Abstract

The Abstract should be 220 to 320 words long (1 to 4 paragraphs).

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 61,429 articles from PubMed )

6.2. Structure of the Abstract

In the Abstract, you should provide a summary of each section of your paper (It can be divided into subheadings, if the journal allows it):

  • Step #1: Start with a one sentence introduction to the subject.
  • Step #2: Mention the study objective .
  • Step #3: Summarize the Methods section .
  • Step #4: Highlight key results in numbers (including data is important for researchers who want to cite your article based only on the Abstract).
  • Step #5: End with a one sentence conclusion (i.e., skip the detailed discussion of the results and go straight to the takeaway message).

6.3. Example: writing an Abstract

In this section, we are going to verify that the Abstract of our example article ( link to the full-text PDF ) follows the structure discussed above. (Remember that this article is about studying the influence of title length on its attractiveness).

What follows is the Abstract of this article with the main steps highlighted:

Attractive titles are expected to drive more reads and thus more citations to a research article, so studying the effect of title length on its attractiveness can be reduced to analyzing its influence on the citation count. Previous studies on the subject showed conflicting results that are probably attributable to bias and confounding, since they mostly focused on predicting citation count based on title length instead of using a causal model to explain the relationship between the two. The present study aims to quantify the direct influence of title length on its attractiveness guided by a causal diagram to identify and eliminate alternative explanations such as indirect effects and confounding. The study used data on 9,830 biomedical research articles from PubMed Central, downloaded through an API created by Comeau and colleagues. Poisson regression modeled the citation rate as a function of title length, adjusting for mediators of indirect effects—such as the use of a comma and a colon in the title—and confounders—such as the journal impact factor and the mention of study design in the title. The model shows that each word removed from the title increases the citation rate by 2.5%. This means that, for the median article that receives 2.2 citations per year, each word removed from the title causes a gain of 0.055 citations per year, equivalent to 1 citation every 19 years. Although statistically significant, this effect is practically negligible—so shortening a research title is not an effective strategy for earning more citations.

7. Writing the Title

The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first. Blaise Pascal

The Title’s role is to describe the content of the article and attract people to read it. Remember that only 18% of those who read the title proceed to read the Abstract [Source: Mabe and Amin, 2002 ].

7.1. Length of the Title

The Title should be 11 to 18 words long (80 to 129 characters).

Keep your Title as short as possible, since:

  • Google shows only the first 60 characters of titles in their results page, so longer titles will be truncated when they appear in Google search.
  • High-impact journals tend to publish articles with short titles.

(These data are based on an analysis I did on 104,161 titles from PubMed )

7.2. Structure of the Title

The Title should:

  • Mention the central question or the purpose of the study (including important variables).
  • Be front loaded : this means that the keywords should be close to the beginning of the title (remember that readers are scanning the title and they want to determine as fast as possible if they are interested in your article).
  • Have a meaningful short version . For those searching online, Google will show them only the first 60 characters of your title and the rest is truncated. So, make sure to pack enough information in this part for users to be able to judge whether they want to click it.
  • Mention the study design [optional].
  • Avoid abbreviations and jargon . For instance: “ The effects of having CVD on the psychological status “ should be replaced by “Psychological effects of cardiovascular disease” .

7.3. Example: writing a Title

The following figure shows how the Title of our example article follows the structure discussed above:

Example of writing a title for a research paper

8. Writing optional sections

8.1. writing the acknowledgement section.

In this section, you should acknowledge any significant technical contribution, permission, advice, suggestion, or comment you received.

“I would like to thank Prof. John for assistance with choosing an appropriate study design”.

“Thanks are due to all the hospital crew members who contributed their time and effort to make the data collection feasible in the shortest time possible”.

8.2. Writing the Funding section

In this section, you should provide the sources of funding, or the sources of the equipment and materials used in the study, and the role of funders.

“The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, or publication of this article”.

“This work was supported by [name of the funder, and grant number]”.

8.3. Writing the Conflicts of Interest section

In this section, you should state if you have any direct or indirect competing interests that may have influenced the outcome of the study, such as: financial, work, personal, or religious interests.

“The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest”.

“The corresponding author was a former employee in company X that sells the main product used in this study”.

8.4. Writing the Appendix

In this section, you should provide supplementary information that was too large to be included in the main text, such as: data, questionnaires, and additional details on the materials and methods used.

9. Refining and improving your article

The following is a list of useful tips to improve your writing:

  • Avoid jargon , be concise, and focus on saving your readers’ time. The truth is that nobody enjoys reading, if readers can download information into their brain, they would!
  • Assume that your readers are beginners : so, use terms that are easy to understand.
  • Avoid acronyms when possible.
  • You don’t know the subject.
  • You don’t want to repeat the pronouns ”I” or ”We” in many places in the same paragraph (although it would be fine to use them sparingly, see: ”I” & ”We” in Academic Writing: Examples from 9,830 Studies ).
  • You want to emphasize what was done instead of who did it (especially in the Methods section).
  • To maintain the flow of ideas (for more information, see the video lecture by Steven Pinker below).
  • Write short sentences and paragraphs : each paragraph should be between 2 and 6 sentences long (65 to 167 words), and should cover a single topic. (For more information, see: Paragraph Length: Data from 9,830 Research Papers )
  • Get rid of hedge words : e.g. ”These results might suggest that a fair amount of x is suspected to have a meaningful impact on y” . These make you sound hesitant or unsure about what you are talking about.
  • Avoid using “They” or “Their” when the subject is singular . For a gender-neutral language, revise the sentence to make the subject plural. For instance, use: “Participants were assigned according to their choosing” instead of “Each participant was assigned according to their choosing” .

For more writing tips, I highly recommend this lecture by Steven Pinker:

10. Managing and formatting your References

When it comes to references, you should:

  • Cite between 25 and 56 references overall (approximately 1 reference for every 95 words or 4 sentences) [Source: How Many References Should a Research Paper Have? Study of 96,685 Articles ].
  • Aim to find those published within the past 13 years [Source: How Old Should Your Article References Be? Based on 3,823,919 Examples ].
  • Cite the original source, not secondary sources.
  • Cite research papers and books instead of websites and videos (unless these contained original data not available elsewhere).
  • Use a citation management software to collect and organize your references. I recommend Zotero® since it is free, easy to learn, and has a lot of tutorials online.

11. Submitting your article

Here’s a step-by-step description of how to find a journal and submit your article:

  • Go to: The Directory of Open Access Journals (This is a database of 17,614 journals that publish open-access articles–i.e., if you publish in these journals, your article’s full-text will be available for free to your readers).
  • Under SEE JOURNALS, select: Without article processing charges in order to exclude journal where you have to pay to publish your article.
  • Under SUBJECTS, choose: the domain that is closest to the topic of your article.
  • Under LANGUAGES, select: English.
  • Select a journal from the suggested list.
  • Go to the journal’s website, look for their “Instructions for authors”, and format your article accordingly.
  • Sign-up to their website and submit your article.

Once your article is submitted, the editor takes a look at it and may:

  • The topic of your article is not interesting for the journal’s audience.
  • Your work is not important enough to be published in that journal.
  • Rejected: In this case, you have to send your article to another journal (don’t get discouraged by rejection, sometimes important articles get rejected).
  • Rejected, but can be resubmitted after making some major changes suggested by the reviewers (for instance, expanding, deleting, or re-writing major parts of the article): in this case, you can either revise and resubmit, or look for another journal.
  • Accepted, but needs minor changes.
  • Accepted (without the need for changes).

When you want to revise and resubmit your article, you should prepare 2 things:

  • A revised manuscript with all the modifications you made highlighted (to make it easy for the reviewers to see what you changed).
  • A response for the reviewers where you address their comments point by point: you can either agree or disagree with their recommendations (but, in case you disagree, you should explain the reason).

Once your paper is accepted, you will get a final version formatted in the journal’s style. Be careful to look for errors before you accept this final version.

Further reading

  • How Long Should a Research Paper Be? Data from 61,519 Examples
  • Can a Research Title Be a Question? Real-World Examples
  • Statistical Software Popularity in 40,582 Research Papers

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  • Research paper

How to Write a Research Paper | A Beginner's Guide

A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research.

Research papers are similar to academic essays , but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research. Writing a research paper requires you to demonstrate a strong knowledge of your topic, engage with a variety of sources, and make an original contribution to the debate.

This step-by-step guide takes you through the entire writing process, from understanding your assignment to proofreading your final draft.

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Table of contents

Understand the assignment, choose a research paper topic, conduct preliminary research, develop a thesis statement, create a research paper outline, write a first draft of the research paper, write the introduction, write a compelling body of text, write the conclusion, the second draft, the revision process, research paper checklist, free lecture slides.

Completing a research paper successfully means accomplishing the specific tasks set out for you. Before you start, make sure you thoroughly understanding the assignment task sheet:

  • Read it carefully, looking for anything confusing you might need to clarify with your professor.
  • Identify the assignment goal, deadline, length specifications, formatting, and submission method.
  • Make a bulleted list of the key points, then go back and cross completed items off as you’re writing.

Carefully consider your timeframe and word limit: be realistic, and plan enough time to research, write, and edit.

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how to write research paper and publish it

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There are many ways to generate an idea for a research paper, from brainstorming with pen and paper to talking it through with a fellow student or professor.

You can try free writing, which involves taking a broad topic and writing continuously for two or three minutes to identify absolutely anything relevant that could be interesting.

You can also gain inspiration from other research. The discussion or recommendations sections of research papers often include ideas for other specific topics that require further examination.

Once you have a broad subject area, narrow it down to choose a topic that interests you, m eets the criteria of your assignment, and i s possible to research. Aim for ideas that are both original and specific:

  • A paper following the chronology of World War II would not be original or specific enough.
  • A paper on the experience of Danish citizens living close to the German border during World War II would be specific and could be original enough.

Note any discussions that seem important to the topic, and try to find an issue that you can focus your paper around. Use a variety of sources , including journals, books, and reliable websites, to ensure you do not miss anything glaring.

Do not only verify the ideas you have in mind, but look for sources that contradict your point of view.

  • Is there anything people seem to overlook in the sources you research?
  • Are there any heated debates you can address?
  • Do you have a unique take on your topic?
  • Have there been some recent developments that build on the extant research?

In this stage, you might find it helpful to formulate some research questions to help guide you. To write research questions, try to finish the following sentence: “I want to know how/what/why…”

A thesis statement is a statement of your central argument — it establishes the purpose and position of your paper. If you started with a research question, the thesis statement should answer it. It should also show what evidence and reasoning you’ll use to support that answer.

The thesis statement should be concise, contentious, and coherent. That means it should briefly summarize your argument in a sentence or two, make a claim that requires further evidence or analysis, and make a coherent point that relates to every part of the paper.

You will probably revise and refine the thesis statement as you do more research, but it can serve as a guide throughout the writing process. Every paragraph should aim to support and develop this central claim.

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how to write research paper and publish it

A research paper outline is essentially a list of the key topics, arguments, and evidence you want to include, divided into sections with headings so that you know roughly what the paper will look like before you start writing.

A structure outline can help make the writing process much more efficient, so it’s worth dedicating some time to create one.

Your first draft won’t be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows:

  • Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later.
  • Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second draft.
  • Expressing your ideas as clearly as possible, so you know what you were trying to say when you come back to the text.

You do not need to start by writing the introduction. Begin where it feels most natural for you — some prefer to finish the most difficult sections first, while others choose to start with the easiest part. If you created an outline, use it as a map while you work.

Do not delete large sections of text. If you begin to dislike something you have written or find it doesn’t quite fit, move it to a different document, but don’t lose it completely — you never know if it might come in useful later.

Paragraph structure

Paragraphs are the basic building blocks of research papers. Each one should focus on a single claim or idea that helps to establish the overall argument or purpose of the paper.

Example paragraph

George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” has had an enduring impact on thought about the relationship between politics and language. This impact is particularly obvious in light of the various critical review articles that have recently referenced the essay. For example, consider Mark Falcoff’s 2009 article in The National Review Online, “The Perversion of Language; or, Orwell Revisited,” in which he analyzes several common words (“activist,” “civil-rights leader,” “diversity,” and more). Falcoff’s close analysis of the ambiguity built into political language intentionally mirrors Orwell’s own point-by-point analysis of the political language of his day. Even 63 years after its publication, Orwell’s essay is emulated by contemporary thinkers.

Citing sources

It’s also important to keep track of citations at this stage to avoid accidental plagiarism . Each time you use a source, make sure to take note of where the information came from.

You can use our free citation generators to automatically create citations and save your reference list as you go.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

The research paper introduction should address three questions: What, why, and how? After finishing the introduction, the reader should know what the paper is about, why it is worth reading, and how you’ll build your arguments.

What? Be specific about the topic of the paper, introduce the background, and define key terms or concepts.

Why? This is the most important, but also the most difficult, part of the introduction. Try to provide brief answers to the following questions: What new material or insight are you offering? What important issues does your essay help define or answer?

How? To let the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper, the introduction should include a “map” of what will be discussed, briefly presenting the key elements of the paper in chronological order.

The major struggle faced by most writers is how to organize the information presented in the paper, which is one reason an outline is so useful. However, remember that the outline is only a guide and, when writing, you can be flexible with the order in which the information and arguments are presented.

One way to stay on track is to use your thesis statement and topic sentences . Check:

  • topic sentences against the thesis statement;
  • topic sentences against each other, for similarities and logical ordering;
  • and each sentence against the topic sentence of that paragraph.

Be aware of paragraphs that seem to cover the same things. If two paragraphs discuss something similar, they must approach that topic in different ways. Aim to create smooth transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and sections.

The research paper conclusion is designed to help your reader out of the paper’s argument, giving them a sense of finality.

Trace the course of the paper, emphasizing how it all comes together to prove your thesis statement. Give the paper a sense of finality by making sure the reader understands how you’ve settled the issues raised in the introduction.

You might also discuss the more general consequences of the argument, outline what the paper offers to future students of the topic, and suggest any questions the paper’s argument raises but cannot or does not try to answer.

You should not :

  • Offer new arguments or essential information
  • Take up any more space than necessary
  • Begin with stock phrases that signal you are ending the paper (e.g. “In conclusion”)

There are four main considerations when it comes to the second draft.

  • Check how your vision of the paper lines up with the first draft and, more importantly, that your paper still answers the assignment.
  • Identify any assumptions that might require (more substantial) justification, keeping your reader’s perspective foremost in mind. Remove these points if you cannot substantiate them further.
  • Be open to rearranging your ideas. Check whether any sections feel out of place and whether your ideas could be better organized.
  • If you find that old ideas do not fit as well as you anticipated, you should cut them out or condense them. You might also find that new and well-suited ideas occurred to you during the writing of the first draft — now is the time to make them part of the paper.

The goal during the revision and proofreading process is to ensure you have completed all the necessary tasks and that the paper is as well-articulated as possible. You can speed up the proofreading process by using the AI proofreader .

Global concerns

  • Confirm that your paper completes every task specified in your assignment sheet.
  • Check for logical organization and flow of paragraphs.
  • Check paragraphs against the introduction and thesis statement.

Fine-grained details

Check the content of each paragraph, making sure that:

  • each sentence helps support the topic sentence.
  • no unnecessary or irrelevant information is present.
  • all technical terms your audience might not know are identified.

Next, think about sentence structure , grammatical errors, and formatting . Check that you have correctly used transition words and phrases to show the connections between your ideas. Look for typos, cut unnecessary words, and check for consistency in aspects such as heading formatting and spellings .

Finally, you need to make sure your paper is correctly formatted according to the rules of the citation style you are using. For example, you might need to include an MLA heading  or create an APA title page .

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Checklist: Research paper

I have followed all instructions in the assignment sheet.

My introduction presents my topic in an engaging way and provides necessary background information.

My introduction presents a clear, focused research problem and/or thesis statement .

My paper is logically organized using paragraphs and (if relevant) section headings .

Each paragraph is clearly focused on one central idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Each paragraph is relevant to my research problem or thesis statement.

I have used appropriate transitions  to clarify the connections between sections, paragraphs, and sentences.

My conclusion provides a concise answer to the research question or emphasizes how the thesis has been supported.

My conclusion shows how my research has contributed to knowledge or understanding of my topic.

My conclusion does not present any new points or information essential to my argument.

I have provided an in-text citation every time I refer to ideas or information from a source.

I have included a reference list at the end of my paper, consistently formatted according to a specific citation style .

I have thoroughly revised my paper and addressed any feedback from my professor or supervisor.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (page numbers, headers, spacing, etc.).

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Home → Get Published → How to Publish a Research Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Publish a Research Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide

Jordan Kruszynski

Jordan Kruszynski

  • January 4, 2024

how to write research paper and publish it

You’re in academia.

You’re going steady.

Your research is going well and you begin to wonder: ‘ How exactly do I get a research paper published?’

If this is the question on your lips, then this step-by-step guide is the one for you. We’ll be walking you through the whole process of how to publish a research paper.

Publishing a research paper is a significant milestone for researchers and academics, as it allows you to share your findings, contribute to your field of study, and start to gain serious recognition within the wider academic community. So, want to know how to publish a research paper? By following our guide, you’ll get a firm grasp of the steps involved in this process, giving you the best chance of successfully navigating the publishing process and getting your work out there.

Understanding the Publishing Process

To begin, it’s crucial to understand that getting a research paper published is a multi-step process. From beginning to end, it could take as little as 2 months before you see your paper nestled in the pages of your chosen journal. On the other hand, it could take as long as a year .

Below, we set out the steps before going into more detail on each one. Getting a feel for these steps will help you to visualise what lies ahead, and prepare yourself for each of them in turn. It’s important to remember that you won’t actually have control over every step – in fact, some of them will be decided by people you’ll probably never meet. However, knowing which parts of the process are yours to decide will allow you to adjust your approach and attitude accordingly.

Each of the following stages will play a vital role in the eventual publication of your paper:

  • Preparing Your Research Paper
  • Finding the Right Journal
  • Crafting a Strong Manuscript
  • Navigating the Peer-Review Process
  • Submitting Your Paper
  • Dealing with Rejections and Revising Your Paper

Step 1: Preparing Your Research Paper

It all starts here. The quality and content of your research paper is of fundamental importance if you want to get it published. This step will be different for every researcher depending on the nature of your research, but if you haven’t yet settled on a topic, then consider the following advice:

  • Choose an interesting and relevant topic that aligns with current trends in your field. If your research touches on the passions and concerns of your academic peers or wider society, it may be more likely to capture attention and get published successfully.
  • Conduct a comprehensive literature review (link to lit. review article once it’s published) to identify the state of existing research and any knowledge gaps within it. Aiming to fill a clear gap in the knowledge of your field is a great way to increase the practicality of your research and improve its chances of getting published.
  • Structure your paper in a clear and organised manner, including all the necessary sections such as title, abstract, introduction (link to the ‘how to write a research paper intro’ article once it’s published) , methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion.
  • Adhere to the formatting guidelines provided by your target journal to ensure that your paper is accepted as viable for publishing. More on this in the next section…

Step 2: Finding the Right Journal

Understanding how to publish a research paper involves selecting the appropriate journal for your work. This step is critical for successful publication, and you should take several factors into account when deciding which journal to apply for:

  • Conduct thorough research to identify journals that specialise in your field of study and have published similar research. Naturally, if you submit a piece of research in molecular genetics to a journal that specialises in geology, you won’t be likely to get very far.
  • Consider factors such as the journal’s scope, impact factor, and target audience. Today there is a wide array of journals to choose from, including traditional and respected print journals, as well as numerous online, open-access endeavours. Some, like Nature , even straddle both worlds.
  • Review the submission guidelines provided by the journal and ensure your paper meets all the formatting requirements and word limits. This step is key. Nature, for example, offers a highly informative series of pages that tells you everything you need to know in order to satisfy their formatting guidelines (plus more on the whole submission process).
  • Note that these guidelines can differ dramatically from journal to journal, and details really do matter. You might submit an outstanding piece of research, but if it includes, for example, images in the wrong size or format, this could mean a lengthy delay to getting it published. If you get everything right first time, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and trouble, as well as strengthen your publishing chances in the first place.

Step 3: Crafting a Strong Manuscript

Crafting a strong manuscript is crucial to impress journal editors and reviewers. Look at your paper as a complete package, and ensure that all the sections tie together to deliver your findings with clarity and precision.

  • Begin by creating a clear and concise title that accurately reflects the content of your paper.
  • Compose an informative abstract that summarises the purpose, methodology, results, and significance of your study.
  • Craft an engaging introduction (link to the research paper introduction article) that draws your reader in.
  • Develop a well-structured methodology section, presenting your results effectively using tables and figures.
  • Write a compelling discussion and conclusion that emphasise the significance of your findings.

Step 4: Navigating the Peer-Review Process

Once you submit your research paper to a journal, it undergoes a rigorous peer-review process to ensure its quality and validity. In peer-review, experts in your field assess your research and provide feedback and suggestions for improvement, ultimately determining whether your paper is eligible for publishing or not. You are likely to encounter several models of peer-review, based on which party – author, reviewer, or both – remains anonymous throughout the process.

When your paper undergoes the peer-review process, be prepared for constructive criticism and address the comments you receive from your reviewer thoughtfully, providing clear and concise responses to their concerns or suggestions. These could make all the difference when it comes to making your next submission.

The peer-review process can seem like a closed book at times. Check out our discussion of the issue with philosopher and academic Amna Whiston in The Research Beat podcast!

Step 5: Submitting Your Paper

As we’ve already pointed out, one of the key elements in how to publish a research paper is ensuring that you meticulously follow the journal’s submission guidelines. Strive to comply with all formatting requirements, including citation styles, font, margins, and reference structure.

Before the final submission, thoroughly proofread your paper for errors, including grammar, spelling, and any inconsistencies in your data or analysis. At this stage, consider seeking feedback from colleagues or mentors to further improve the quality of your paper.

Step 6: Dealing with Rejections and Revising Your Paper

Rejection is a common part of the publishing process, but it shouldn’t discourage you. Analyse reviewer comments objectively and focus on the constructive feedback provided. Make necessary revisions and improvements to your paper to address the concerns raised by reviewers. If needed, consider submitting your paper to a different journal that is a better fit for your research.

For more tips on how to publish your paper out there, check out this thread by Dr. Asad Naveed ( @dr_asadnaveed ) – and if you need a refresher on the basics of how to publish under the Open Access model, watch this 5-minute video from Audemic Academy !

Final Thoughts

Successfully understanding how to publish a research paper requires dedication, attention to detail, and a systematic approach. By following the advice in our guide, you can increase your chances of navigating the publishing process effectively and achieving your goal of publication.

Remember, the journey may involve revisions, peer feedback, and potential rejections, but each step is an opportunity for growth and improvement. Stay persistent, maintain a positive mindset, and continue to refine your research paper until it reaches the standards of your target journal. Your contribution to your wider discipline through published research will not only advance your career, but also add to the growing body of collective knowledge in your field. Embrace the challenges and rewards that come with the publication process, and may your research paper make a significant impact in your area of study!

Looking for inspiration for your next big paper? Head to Audemic , where you can organise and listen to all the best and latest research in your field!

Keep striving, researchers! ✨

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How To Write A Research Paper

Step-By-Step Tutorial With Examples + FREE Template

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Expert Reviewer: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | March 2024

For many students, crafting a strong research paper from scratch can feel like a daunting task – and rightly so! In this post, we’ll unpack what a research paper is, what it needs to do , and how to write one – in three easy steps. 🙂 

Overview: Writing A Research Paper

What (exactly) is a research paper.

  • How to write a research paper
  • Stage 1 : Topic & literature search
  • Stage 2 : Structure & outline
  • Stage 3 : Iterative writing
  • Key takeaways

Let’s start by asking the most important question, “ What is a research paper? ”.

Simply put, a research paper is a scholarly written work where the writer (that’s you!) answers a specific question (this is called a research question ) through evidence-based arguments . Evidence-based is the keyword here. In other words, a research paper is different from an essay or other writing assignments that draw from the writer’s personal opinions or experiences. With a research paper, it’s all about building your arguments based on evidence (we’ll talk more about that evidence a little later).

Now, it’s worth noting that there are many different types of research papers , including analytical papers (the type I just described), argumentative papers, and interpretative papers. Here, we’ll focus on analytical papers , as these are some of the most common – but if you’re keen to learn about other types of research papers, be sure to check out the rest of the blog .

With that basic foundation laid, let’s get down to business and look at how to write a research paper .

Research Paper Template

Overview: The 3-Stage Process

While there are, of course, many potential approaches you can take to write a research paper, there are typically three stages to the writing process. So, in this tutorial, we’ll present a straightforward three-step process that we use when working with students at Grad Coach.

These three steps are:

  • Finding a research topic and reviewing the existing literature
  • Developing a provisional structure and outline for your paper, and
  • Writing up your initial draft and then refining it iteratively

Let’s dig into each of these.

Need a helping hand?

how to write research paper and publish it

Step 1: Find a topic and review the literature

As we mentioned earlier, in a research paper, you, as the researcher, will try to answer a question . More specifically, that’s called a research question , and it sets the direction of your entire paper. What’s important to understand though is that you’ll need to answer that research question with the help of high-quality sources – for example, journal articles, government reports, case studies, and so on. We’ll circle back to this in a minute.

The first stage of the research process is deciding on what your research question will be and then reviewing the existing literature (in other words, past studies and papers) to see what they say about that specific research question. In some cases, your professor may provide you with a predetermined research question (or set of questions). However, in many cases, you’ll need to find your own research question within a certain topic area.

Finding a strong research question hinges on identifying a meaningful research gap – in other words, an area that’s lacking in existing research. There’s a lot to unpack here, so if you wanna learn more, check out the plain-language explainer video below.

Once you’ve figured out which question (or questions) you’ll attempt to answer in your research paper, you’ll need to do a deep dive into the existing literature – this is called a “ literature search ”. Again, there are many ways to go about this, but your most likely starting point will be Google Scholar .

If you’re new to Google Scholar, think of it as Google for the academic world. You can start by simply entering a few different keywords that are relevant to your research question and it will then present a host of articles for you to review. What you want to pay close attention to here is the number of citations for each paper – the more citations a paper has, the more credible it is (generally speaking – there are some exceptions, of course).

how to use google scholar

Ideally, what you’re looking for are well-cited papers that are highly relevant to your topic. That said, keep in mind that citations are a cumulative metric , so older papers will often have more citations than newer papers – just because they’ve been around for longer. So, don’t fixate on this metric in isolation – relevance and recency are also very important.

Beyond Google Scholar, you’ll also definitely want to check out academic databases and aggregators such as Science Direct, PubMed, JStor and so on. These will often overlap with the results that you find in Google Scholar, but they can also reveal some hidden gems – so, be sure to check them out.

Once you’ve worked your way through all the literature, you’ll want to catalogue all this information in some sort of spreadsheet so that you can easily recall who said what, when and within what context. If you’d like, we’ve got a free literature spreadsheet that helps you do exactly that.

Don’t fixate on an article’s citation count in isolation - relevance (to your research question) and recency are also very important.

Step 2: Develop a structure and outline

With your research question pinned down and your literature digested and catalogued, it’s time to move on to planning your actual research paper .

It might sound obvious, but it’s really important to have some sort of rough outline in place before you start writing your paper. So often, we see students eagerly rushing into the writing phase, only to land up with a disjointed research paper that rambles on in multiple

Now, the secret here is to not get caught up in the fine details . Realistically, all you need at this stage is a bullet-point list that describes (in broad strokes) what you’ll discuss and in what order. It’s also useful to remember that you’re not glued to this outline – in all likelihood, you’ll chop and change some sections once you start writing, and that’s perfectly okay. What’s important is that you have some sort of roadmap in place from the start.

You need to have a rough outline in place before you start writing your paper - or you’ll end up with a disjointed research paper that rambles on.

At this stage you might be wondering, “ But how should I structure my research paper? ”. Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, but in general, a research paper will consist of a few relatively standardised components:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology

Let’s take a look at each of these.

First up is the introduction section . As the name suggests, the purpose of the introduction is to set the scene for your research paper. There are usually (at least) four ingredients that go into this section – these are the background to the topic, the research problem and resultant research question , and the justification or rationale. If you’re interested, the video below unpacks the introduction section in more detail. 

The next section of your research paper will typically be your literature review . Remember all that literature you worked through earlier? Well, this is where you’ll present your interpretation of all that content . You’ll do this by writing about recent trends, developments, and arguments within the literature – but more specifically, those that are relevant to your research question . The literature review can oftentimes seem a little daunting, even to seasoned researchers, so be sure to check out our extensive collection of literature review content here .

With the introduction and lit review out of the way, the next section of your paper is the research methodology . In a nutshell, the methodology section should describe to your reader what you did (beyond just reviewing the existing literature) to answer your research question. For example, what data did you collect, how did you collect that data, how did you analyse that data and so on? For each choice, you’ll also need to justify why you chose to do it that way, and what the strengths and weaknesses of your approach were.

Now, it’s worth mentioning that for some research papers, this aspect of the project may be a lot simpler . For example, you may only need to draw on secondary sources (in other words, existing data sets). In some cases, you may just be asked to draw your conclusions from the literature search itself (in other words, there may be no data analysis at all). But, if you are required to collect and analyse data, you’ll need to pay a lot of attention to the methodology section. The video below provides an example of what the methodology section might look like.

By this stage of your paper, you will have explained what your research question is, what the existing literature has to say about that question, and how you analysed additional data to try to answer your question. So, the natural next step is to present your analysis of that data . This section is usually called the “results” or “analysis” section and this is where you’ll showcase your findings.

Depending on your school’s requirements, you may need to present and interpret the data in one section – or you might split the presentation and the interpretation into two sections. In the latter case, your “results” section will just describe the data, and the “discussion” is where you’ll interpret that data and explicitly link your analysis back to your research question. If you’re not sure which approach to take, check in with your professor or take a look at past papers to see what the norms are for your programme.

Alright – once you’ve presented and discussed your results, it’s time to wrap it up . This usually takes the form of the “ conclusion ” section. In the conclusion, you’ll need to highlight the key takeaways from your study and close the loop by explicitly answering your research question. Again, the exact requirements here will vary depending on your programme (and you may not even need a conclusion section at all) – so be sure to check with your professor if you’re unsure.

Step 3: Write and refine

Finally, it’s time to get writing. All too often though, students hit a brick wall right about here… So, how do you avoid this happening to you?

Well, there’s a lot to be said when it comes to writing a research paper (or any sort of academic piece), but we’ll share three practical tips to help you get started.

First and foremost , it’s essential to approach your writing as an iterative process. In other words, you need to start with a really messy first draft and then polish it over multiple rounds of editing. Don’t waste your time trying to write a perfect research paper in one go. Instead, take the pressure off yourself by adopting an iterative approach.

Secondly , it’s important to always lean towards critical writing , rather than descriptive writing. What does this mean? Well, at the simplest level, descriptive writing focuses on the “ what ”, while critical writing digs into the “ so what ” – in other words, the implications. If you’re not familiar with these two types of writing, don’t worry! You can find a plain-language explanation here.

Last but not least, you’ll need to get your referencing right. Specifically, you’ll need to provide credible, correctly formatted citations for the statements you make. We see students making referencing mistakes all the time and it costs them dearly. The good news is that you can easily avoid this by using a simple reference manager . If you don’t have one, check out our video about Mendeley, an easy (and free) reference management tool that you can start using today.

Recap: Key Takeaways

We’ve covered a lot of ground here. To recap, the three steps to writing a high-quality research paper are:

  • To choose a research question and review the literature
  • To plan your paper structure and draft an outline
  • To take an iterative approach to writing, focusing on critical writing and strong referencing

Remember, this is just a b ig-picture overview of the research paper development process and there’s a lot more nuance to unpack. So, be sure to grab a copy of our free research paper template to learn more about how to write a research paper.

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  • © 2017

Writing and Publishing a Scientific Research Paper

  • Subhash Chandra Parija 0 ,
  • Vikram Kate 1

Department of Microbiology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, India

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Department of Surgery, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, India

The book covers all aspects of scientific writing from submission to publishing in detail

Written and edited by world leaders in the field

Chapters are easy to understand with essential contents for writing quality scientific research paper and easy to follow algorithms and key points in each chapter

Chapters highlight the importance of each section of the scientific article

A comprehensive book which will focus on how to deal with rejected manuscripts, issues of plagiarism and ethical principles of scientific publications

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Table of contents (18 chapters)

Front matter, writing a scientific research paper, why write a scientific research paper.

  • Subhash Chandra Parija, Vikram Kate

Components and Structure of a Manuscript

  • Sitanshu Sekhar Kar, Rakhee Kar
  • S. Shyama Prem

Abstract and Keywords

  • Vikram Kate, S. Suresh Kumar, Mohsina Subair

Introduction

  • Tamilarasu Kadhiravan, Molly Mary Thabah
  • B. Vishnu Bhat, S. Kingsley Manoj Kumar, G. Krishna Rao
  • R. Ramesh, N. Ananthakrishnan

Discussion and Conclusion

  • Zubair H. Aghai, David Carola
  • Anup Mohta, Medha Mohta

Figures, Tables and Supporting Material

  • Dinker Pai, Soon Kyit Chua, Suneet Sood

Publishing a Scientific Research Paper

Choosing a journal for paper submission and methods of submission.

  • Vikram Kate, Madhuri Parija Halder, Subhash Chandra Parija

Revision of an Article and How to Deal with the Rejected Manuscript

  • Vikram Kate, Raja Kalayarasan

Authorship and Contributorship

  • Akash Shukla, Avinash Supe

Types of Manuscripts

  • Rajive Mathew Jose, Kiruthika Sivasubramanian

What Does a Reviewer Look into a Manuscript

  • Devinder Mohan Thappa, Malathi Munisamy

Open Access for Publication – Can It Be Chosen?

  • Savio George Barreto

Publishing Misconduct Including Plagiarism and Permissions

  • C. Adithan, A. Surendiran

This book covers all essential aspects of writing scientific research articles, presenting eighteen carefully selected titles that offer essential, “must-know” content on how to write high-quality articles. The book also addresses other, rarely discussed areas of scientific writing including dealing with rejected manuscripts, the reviewer’s perspective as to what they expect in a scientific article, plagiarism, copyright issues, and ethical standards in publishing scientific papers. Simplicity is the book’s hallmark, and it aims to provide an accessible, comprehensive and essential resource for those seeking guidance on how to publish their research work.

The importance of publishing research work cannot be overemphasized. However, a major limitation in publishing work in a scientific journal is the lack of information on or experience with scientific writing and publishing. Young faculty and trainees who are starting their research career are in need of a comprehensive guide that provides all essential components of scientific writing and aids them in getting their research work published.

  • Components of Scientific research paper
  • Choosing a journal for paper submission
  • Dealing with rejected manuscript
  • Authorship and contributorship
  • Reviewer’s perspective of the manuscript
  • Plagiarism and permissions

Department of Microbiology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, India

Subhash Chandra Parija

Department of Surgery, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, India

Vikram Kate

Subhash Chandra Parija is the Director of the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry, India, and has nearly three and half decades of teaching and research experience in Medical Microbiology. Prof. Parija is a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expert, and has been consulted to draft guidelines on food safety for parasites. Prof. Parija was on the Board of MD Examination at Colombo University, Sri Lanka, Sultan Quaboos University, Oman, University of Malaya, Malaysia. He was conferred a D.Sc. for his contributions in the field of Medical Parasitology by Madras University. The author of ten books including the “Text Book of Medical Parasitology,” he has published more than 300 papers in both national and international journals of repute.

Prof. Parija has been honored with more than 25 awards including the Medical Council of India’s Dr. BC Roy National Award and the National Academy of Medical Sciences’ Dr. PN Chuttani Oration Award. Prof. Parija founded the Indian Academy of Tropical Parasitology (IATP), the only professional organization of Medical Parasitologists in India, and initiated the journal Tropical Parasitology.

Vikram Kate  is currently the Professor and Head, Department of the Surgery and Senior Consultant General and Gastrointestinal Surgeon at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), Puducherry. He has contributed more than 25 chapters in reputed surgical gastroenterology and surgery textbooks, and has more than 140 papers to his credit. He is a Past President of the Indian Association of Surgical Gastroenterology. He was awarded the Membership Diploma of the Faculty of Surgical Trainers by the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. Further, he currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of The International Journal of Advanced Medical and Health Research , the official journal of JIPMER.

Professor Kate is Examiner for the M.S./M.Ch./DNB and Ph.D. program for Surgery, Surgical Gastroenterology and Intercollegiate Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. He is a Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons of England, Edinburgh and Glasgow (FRCS, FRCS Ed., FRCS Glasg.), and of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) and the American College of Gastroenterology (FACG). He has been honored with many awards, including the Dr. Mathias Oration (2010), the Prof. N. Rangabashyam Oration (2015), by the Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry Chapter of the Association of Surgeons of India and the Silver Jubilee MASICON Oration (2016) by the Nagpur Branch of the Association of Surgeons of India. 

Book Title : Writing and Publishing a Scientific Research Paper

Editors : Subhash Chandra Parija, Vikram Kate

DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-4720-6

Publisher : Springer Singapore

eBook Packages : Medicine , Medicine (R0)

Copyright Information : Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Hardcover ISBN : 978-981-10-4719-0 Published: 09 August 2017

Softcover ISBN : 978-981-13-5211-9 Published: 13 December 2018

eBook ISBN : 978-981-10-4720-6 Published: 28 July 2017

Edition Number : 1

Number of Pages : XVII, 195

Number of Illustrations : 12 b/w illustrations, 39 illustrations in colour

Topics : Medicine/Public Health, general

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How to Write and Publish a Research Paper for a Peer-Reviewed Journal

Affiliations.

  • 1 Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, 135 Dauer Dr, 27599, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.
  • 2 Department of Maternal and Child Health, University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, 135 Dauer Dr, 27599, Chapel Hill, NC, USA. [email protected].
  • 3 Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, 1415 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor, MI, 48109-2029, USA. [email protected].
  • PMID: 32356250
  • PMCID: PMC8520870
  • DOI: 10.1007/s13187-020-01751-z

Communicating research findings is an essential step in the research process. Often, peer-reviewed journals are the forum for such communication, yet many researchers are never taught how to write a publishable scientific paper. In this article, we explain the basic structure of a scientific paper and describe the information that should be included in each section. We also identify common pitfalls for each section and recommend strategies to avoid them. Further, we give advice about target journal selection and authorship. In the online resource 1, we provide an example of a high-quality scientific paper, with annotations identifying the elements we describe in this article.

Keywords: Manuscripts; Publishing; Scientific writing.

© 2020. The Author(s).

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  • v.103(2); 2015 Apr

How to write an original research paper (and get it published)

The purpose of the Journal of the Medical Library Association (JMLA) is more than just archiving data from librarian research. Our goal is to present research findings to end users in the most useful way. The “Knowledge Transfer” model, in its simplest form, has three components: creating the knowledge (doing the research), translating and transferring it to the user, and incorporating the knowledge into use. The JMLA is in the middle part, transferring and translating to the user. We, the JMLA, must obtain the information and knowledge from researchers and then work with them to present it in the most useable form. That means the information must be in a standard acceptable format and be easily readable.

There is a standard, preferred way to write an original research paper. For format, we follow the IMRAD structure. The acronym, IMRAD, stands for I ntroduction, M ethods, R esults A nd D iscussion. IMRAD has dominated academic, scientific, and public health journals since the second half of the twentieth century. It is recommended in the “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals” [ 1 ]. The IMRAD structure helps to eliminate unnecessary detail and allows relevant information to be presented clearly in a logical sequence [ 2 , 3 ].

Here are descriptions of the IMRAD sections, along with our comments and suggestions. If you use this guide for submission to another journal, be sure to check the publisher's prescribed formats.

The Introduction sets the stage for your presentation. It has three parts: what is known, what is unknown, and what your burning question, hypothesis, or aim is. Keep this section short, and write for a general audience (clear, concise, and as nontechnical as you can be). How would you explain to a distant colleague why and how you did the study? Take your readers through the three steps ending with your specific question. Emphasize how your study fills in the gaps (the unknown), and explicitly state your research question. Do not answer the research question. Remember to leave details, descriptions, speculations, and criticisms of other studies for the Discussion .

The Methods section gives a clear overview of what you did. Give enough information that your readers can evaluate the persuasiveness of your study. Describe the steps you took, as in a recipe, but be wary of too much detail. If you are doing qualitative research, explain how you picked your subjects to be representative.

You may want to break it into smaller sections with subheadings, for example, context: when, where, authority or approval, sample selection, data collection (how), follow-up, method of analysis. Cite a reference for commonly used methods or previously used methods rather than explaining all the details. Flow diagrams and tables can simplify explanations of methods.

You may use first person voice when describing your methods.

The Results section summarizes what the data show. Point out relationships, and describe trends. Avoid simply repeating the numbers that are already available in the tables and figures. Data should be restricted to tables as much as possible. Be the friendly narrator, and summarize the tables; do not write the data again in the text. For example, if you had a demographic table with a row of ages, and age was not significantly different among groups, your text could say, “The median age of all subjects was 47 years. There was no significant difference between groups (Table).” This is preferable to, “The mean age of group 1 was 48.6 (7.5) years and group 2 was 46.3 (5.8) years, a nonsignificant difference.”

Break the Results section into subsections, with headings if needed. Complement the information that is already in the tables and figures. And remember to repeat and highlight in the text only the most important numbers. Use the active voice in the Results section, and make it lively. Information about what you did belongs in the Methods section, not here. And reserve comments on the meaning of your results for the Discussion section.

Other tips to help you with the Results section:

  • ▪ If you need to cite the number in the text (not just in the table), and the total in the group is less than 50, do not include percentage. Write “7 of 34,” not “7 (21%).”
  • ▪ Do not forget, if you have multiple comparisons, you probably need adjustment. Ask your statistician if you are not sure.

The Discussion section gives you the most freedom. Most authors begin with a brief reiteration of what they did. Every author should restate the key findings and answer the question noted in the Introduction . Focus on what your data prove, not what you hoped they would prove. Start with “We found that…” (or something similar), and explain what the data mean. Anticipate your readers' questions, and explain why your results are of interest.

Then compare your results with other people's results. This is where that literature review you did comes in handy. Discuss how your findings support or challenge other studies.

You do not need every article from your literature review listed in your paper or reference list, unless you are writing a narrative review or systematic review. Your manuscript is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the topic. Do not provide a long review of the literature—discuss only previous work that is directly pertinent to your findings. Contrary to some beliefs, having a long list in the References section does not mean the paper is more scholarly; it does suggest the author is trying to look scholarly. (If your article is a systematic review, the citation list might be long.)

Do not overreach your results. Finding a perceived knowledge need, for example, does not necessarily mean that library colleges must immediately overhaul their curricula and that it will improve health care and save lives and money (unless your data show that, in which case give us a chance to publish it!). You can say “has the potential to,” though.

Always note limitations that matter, not generic limitations.

Point out unanswered questions and future directions. Give the big-picture implications of your findings, and tell your readers why they should care. End with the main findings of your study, and do not travel too far from your data. Remember to give a final take-home message along with implications.

Notice that this format does not include a separate Conclusion section. The conclusion is built into the Discussion . For example, here is the last paragraph of the Discussion section in a recent NEJM article:

In conclusion, our trial did not show the hypothesized benefit [of the intervention] in patients…who were at high risk for complications.

However, a separate Conclusion section is usually appropriate for abstracts. Systematic reviews should have an Interpretation section.

Other parts of your research paper independent of IMRAD include:

Tables and figures are the foundation for your story. They are the story. Editors, reviewers, and readers usually look at titles, abstracts, and tables and figures first. Figures and tables should stand alone and tell a complete story. Your readers should not need to refer back to the main text.

Abstracts can be free-form or structured with subheadings. Always follow the format indicated by the publisher; the JMLA uses structured abstracts for research articles. The main parts of an abstract may include introduction (background, question or hypothesis), methods, results, conclusions, and implications. So begin your abstract with the background of your study, followed by the question asked. Next, give a quick summary of the methods used in your study. Key results come next with limited raw data if any, followed by the conclusion, which answers the questions asked (the take-home message).

  • ▪ Recommended order for writing a manuscript is first to start with your tables and figures. They tell your story. You can write your sections in any order. Many recommend writing your Result s, followed by Methods, Introduction, Discussion , and Abstract.
  • ▪ We suggest authors read their manuscripts out loud to a group of librarians. Look for evidence of MEGO, “My Eyes Glaze Over” (attributed to Washington Post publisher Ben Bradlee and others). Modify as necessary.
  • ▪ Every single paragraph should be lucid.
  • ▪ Every paragraph should answer your readers' question, “Why are you telling me this?”

The JMLA welcomes all sizes of research manuscripts: definitive studies, preliminary studies, critical descriptive studies, and test-of-concept studies. We welcome brief reports and research letters. But the JMLA is more than a research journal. We also welcome case studies, commentaries, letters to the editor about articles, and subject reviews.

Publish Research Papers: 9 Steps for Successful Publications 

publish research papers

Researchers and scholars undertake academic studies to advance knowledge in their respective fields of study. To this end, they also focus on getting their work published in high-impact and widely read journals. This helps them to highlight and disseminate their work, be known in their respective fields, and grow professionally in their careers.

However, the process of publishing a research paper can be challenging and time-consuming. It requires careful planning, attention to detail, and the ability to receive feedback constructively. In this blog, we outline nine steps to publish research papers successfully in high-impact journals and help researchers contribute to their fields of study.

9 Steps to Publish Research Papers Successfully  

Publishing a well-written research paper can be confusing. To achieve a successful publication within a reasonable timeframe, researchers must grasp the intricacies of the publication process outlined below:

  • Finalize your research topic:  A contemporary research topic, reflecting current challenges and trends in your respective field of study, is an aspect that you can seriously consider while finalizing your topic. 
  • Choose the right journal and article type:  It is crucial to identify early on the most appropriate journal for your research paper. This will save considerable time and effort and increase the likelihood of its acceptance. Discussing with peers and colleagues in the field who have authored and reviewed articles will undoubtedly be helpful. Review the aims, objectives, and scope of the journal and its area of specialization to assess if your research conforms to the necessary guidelines. Consider also the peer review process, the impact factor of the journal and the time taken to publish an article. Depending on the nature of your work, also decide on the type of article relevant to your work, which may be a completely original research paper, review paper or letter, rapid or short communication. 
  • Write, format, and refine your paper for submission: Even before starting to write the paper , go through the author guidelines and formatting style followed by the journal. This will make the writing process easier. Structure the article according to the type of article you are writing. Going through the published articles in the target journal will also help you in the process. A standard structure for a research paper needs to have the title, abstract, keywords, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, acknowledgements, and references. 
  • Prepare required documents like a cover letter and declaration of conflicts of interest:  When you submit your manuscript, a cover letter is a must. It should highlight the central theme of your paper and the significance of your study. Further, clearly state that you comply with all basic requirements and declare any or no potential conflict of interest that could arise. 
  • Check that your work is complete and submission-ready.  Read your work several times to identify any gaps and ambiguities. Review your work for innovativeness, rigour, and contribution to topical issues in the field. Seek feedback from supervisors and peers. 
  • Submit your manuscript to your chosen journal : Re-check the paper to ensure that there are no errors in grammar, wording, sentence construction, or formatting and that there is consistency in formatting. Professional proofreading is important in this regard. Check if there is a logical flow of arguments and that any images or graphs used are easy to understand and clear. Ensure that all co-authors have reviewed and approved the paper for submission. 
  • Tackle post-submission revisions (including peer review comments):  Nearly all papers submitted to journals undergo a peer review process, which ensures the quality of the papers published in the journal. The reviewers may provide comments and suggestions to strengthen your paper. Review the reviewer’s comments carefully and make sure to respond to each one. Aim to send your responses using the timeline given by the journal editors. 
  • Revise and resubmit the manuscript (responding to peer review comments):  It is essential to approach the comments as constructive criticism. Remember to be polite and respectful in your response. Make sure to provide a detailed response on how you have addressed each comment by the reviewers. If you do not agree with any comment, always respond professionally with care; avoid getting into a personal attack. Give a detailed explanation of your arguments. Resubmit the revised manuscript highlighting all the modifications carried out based on the comments by the reviewers. Along with the manuscript, provide a letter stating the author’s responses and that they have addressed the comments by the editor and the reviewers. 
  • Get accepted for journal publication:  Once the revisions are made to the satisfaction of the editor and reviewers, the paper is accepted for publication. If your paper is rejected, make the necessary revisions and send it to the journal of your second choice. 

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  • Published: 14 March 2024

Python farming as a flexible and efficient form of agricultural food security

  • D. Natusch   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-3275-518X 1   na1 ,
  • P. W. Aust   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-5660-0799 2 , 3   na1 ,
  • C. Caraguel 4 ,
  • P. L. Taggart   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-9523-0463 4 ,
  • V. T. Ngo 5 ,
  • G. J. Alexander   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-3991-4099 3 ,
  • R. Shine   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-7529-5657 1 &
  • T. Coulson 2  

Scientific Reports volume  14 , Article number:  5419 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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  • Animal physiology
  • Herpetology

Diminishing natural resources and increasing climatic volatility are impacting agri-food systems, prompting the need for sustainable and resilient alternatives. Python farming is well established in Asia but has received little attention from mainstream agricultural scientists. We measured growth rates in two species of large pythons ( Malayopython reticulatus and Python bivittatus ) in farms in Thailand and Vietnam and conducted feeding experiments to examine production efficiencies. Pythons grew rapidly over a 12-month period, and females grew faster than males. Food intake and growth rates early in life were strong predictors of total lifetime growth, with daily mass increments ranging from 0.24 to 19.7 g/day for M. reticulatus and 0.24 to 42.6 g/day for P. bivittatus , depending on food intake. Pythons that fasted for up to 4.2 months lost an average of 0.004% of their body mass per day, and resumed rapid growth as soon as feeding recommenced. Mean food conversion rate for dressed carcasses was 4.1%, with useable products (dressed carcass, skin, fat, gall bladder) comprising 82% of the mass of live animals. In terms of food and protein conversion ratios, pythons outperform all mainstream agricultural species studied to date. The ability of fasting pythons to regulate metabolic processes and maintain body condition enhances food security in volatile environments, suggesting that python farming may offer a flexible and efficient response to global food insecurity.

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Introduction

The raising of livestock is a cornerstone of human civilization, has underpinned the rise of global economies, and continues to play a central role in the well-being of people in many cultures 1 , 2 , 3 . Livestock production traditionally has relied on a small number of domesticated species and production models—a little-changed formula that until now has served humanity well 2 . A central characteristic of conventional livestock systems has been a high rate of production, driven by energy intensive endothermic (warm-blooded) animals 2 , 4 . High performance endothermic physiologies generating nutrient-dense food, and cheap horsepower in the form of draft animals were important enablers for early civilisations 2 . Essential feed inputs were sustained by primary productivity, and livestock systems often developed within a context of resource abundance and stability 5 , 6 . These parameters are now no longer the norm, and the twin challenges of resource limitations and climate volatility are rapidly changing the production imperatives of our food systems 7 , 8 , 9 .

Conventional livestock and plant crop systems are faltering. Twelve percent of the global human population is undernourished and acute protein deficiency in low-income countries is compromising workforce productivity and development 10 , 11 , 12 . Global food security is predicted to worsen with global change 10 . Infectious diseases, diminishing natural resources, and climate change are having significant and compounding impacts on the agricultural sector 13 , 14 , 15 . Many conventional livestock systems fail to satisfy the criteria for sustainability and/or resilience, and there is an urgent need to explore alternatives 13 .

Ectotherms (cold-blooded animals) are approximately 90% more energy efficient than endotherms 16 . In the context of agriculture, this energy differential readily translates into a potential for higher production efficiency 17 , 18 . It is partly for this reason that the aquaculture and insect farming industries are currently experiencing rapid growth rates 17 , 19 . Like insects, snakes are a traditional source of protein in many tropical countries 20 , 21 , and their consumption is linked to important food, medicinal, and cultural values 22 , 23 , 24 . As demand for snake meat and co-products has increased in line with development, so too have production systems. Over the last two decades, snake farming has expanded to include more species, production models, and markets, partly as a result of competitive agricultural advantages 20 . For example, some snake production systems require minimal land and freshwater, they can rely on waste protein from other industries, and some snake species have specialised adaptations for mitigating the impacts of environmental shocks 20 , 25 , 26 , 27 . Another reason for recent expansion is appeal. Reptile meat is not unlike chicken: high in protein, low in saturated fats, and with widespread aesthetic and culinary appeal 22 , 28 , 29 , 30 .

We examined the potential of pythons as a novel form of livestock for commercial agriculture. To achieve this aim, we studied the growth patterns of two python species in two commercial farms in Southeast Asia. We assessed growth rates of juvenile snakes and conducted feeding experiments on a subset of the snakes to assess production efficiencies and key variables influencing growth. We compared the data gathered during our study to the results of research on other agricultural species (both endothermic and ectothermic) to assess the potential of commercial pythonfarming to enhance food security in the context of global change.

Materials and methods

We collected data from two Asian python farms within the natural range of the model species used in this study: one in Uttaradit Province, central Thailand (17° 38′ N, 100° 07′ E) and the other in Ho Chi Minh City, in southern Vietnam (10°58'N, 106°30'E). The farm in Thailand farms both reticulated ( Malayopython reticulatus ) and Burmese ( Python bivittatus ) pythons, whereas the Vietnamese farm produces only the latter. Both Burmese and reticulated pythons are large-bodied (can grow to > 100 kg), fast growing , and highly fecund, with females reaching maturity within 3 years and producing up to 100 eggs per year for 20 years or more 31 . They are thus well suited for commercial production.

In both Thailand and Vietnam, pythons are housed in enclosures situated within warehouses. The warehouses are constructed and managed in a semi-open fashion to facilitate ventilation and provide optimal temperatures. We did not record the temperature of pythons or their enclosures during this study, but temperatures anecdotally varied between 25 and 32 °C. Pythons were housed communally at stocking densities of approximately 15 kg per m 2 . Captive-bred pythons in Thailand and Vietnam were fed on a variety of food types depending on local protein resources. The most common feed inputs were wild-caught rodents and waste protein from agri-food supply chains (e.g., pork, chicken, fish 20 , 32 ). Many of the larger python farms make sausages from processed waste protein. Sausages are typically introduced into the diet only after the young pythons have developed a robust feeding response 32 .

Trials of growth rate

To quantify growth rates and related attributes, individual pythons were repeatedly measured over a 12-month period. Most pythons are grown for 1 to 1.5 years before slaughter for meat, skins, and other products 32 . At each farm we collected hatchling pythons from eggs produced and hatched onsite. To identify individual snakes, we either maintained a photographic database of the skin patterns on a dorsolateral section of skin immediately posterior to the head, or implanted snakes with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags 33 .

In Thailand, we measured snout-vent length (hereafter, SVL; using a flexible measuring tape run along the spine of each snake) and body mass (to the nearest g) of pythons on three occasions over the 12-month growing period: (1) at hatching, (2) at six months of age, and (3) at 12 months of age. We sexed snakes by inserting a lubricated probe into the cloacal bursae and recording depth. Pythons were each offered a frozen-thawed day-old chicken to eat once per week for the first two months. From two to 12 months pythons were offered a combination of frozen-thawed day-old chickens and sausages on a weekly basis (Table 1 ). The mass of food offered was not measured but was estimated to be less than 15% of the snakes’ bodyweight per feeding event.

In Vietnam, we measured SVL and body mass of pythons at six intervals over a 12-month period (approximately 0, 2, 4, 7, 9, and 12 months of age) and sexed snakes at hatching by eversion of the hemipenes. Non-hatchling pythons were fed pork-based sausages or experimental diets (see below; Table 1 ). Feeding regimes followed farm protocols for maximum growth rates (food equal to ~ 15% of body mass provided once every 5 days). Hatchlings were started on vertebrate prey (i.e., rodents, day-old quail, or day-old chickens). Apart from one of the experimental groups, the diet of all snakes in treatment groups was changed to sausages at approximately two months of age.

Intensive trials on growth rate

To quantify the influence of food intake on growth rates of pythons and to better quantify food-conversion efficiencies, we conducted a detailed feeding trial on a subset of Burmese pythons at the Vietnamese farm. When python eggs hatched, we divided snakes into five experimental groups, each comprising seven males and seven females (14 snakes total per treatment); we used systematic random allocation to distribute individuals among treatment groups (to deconfound treatments from maternal effects). Diet treatments included: (1) 100% pork; (2) 90% pork, 10% chicken pellets; (3) 90% pork, 10% fish pellets; (4) 80% pork, 20% fish pellets; and (5) 100% wild-caught rodents. We chose these diet treatments because they reflected those currently used in the python farming industry 20 , 32 . Rodents were sourced from local rice fields via professional trappers 20 and humanely euthanized immediately prior to being fed to the pythons. The pork used in the sausages comprised of still-born piglets obtained from local farms, defrosted in vats of water then ground in an industrial meat grinder. The dry pellets used were commercial catfish and chicken grower pellets (31% and 16% protein, respectively) made predominantly from processed anchovies and rice-bran (Ha Lan Aquafeed, Viet Nam). The dry pellets were added to the pork immediately after grinding to facilitate rehydration. The homogenised paste was reconstituted into appropriately sized sausages using a commercial sausage-making machine.

Pythons were offered food approximately once every five days throughout the year, except for three months over the coldest period of the year when they were offered food less often. At each feeding event, we weighed each sausage before one or more was offered to the pythons. Food was offered using forceps and snakes were never force-fed. We recorded whenever snakes refused food. After feeding, pythons were weighed to calculate the pre-feeding body mass of each snake. This procedure allowed us to not disturb the pythons before feeding, ensuring a natural feeding response. We did not measure SVL due to the potential impact of handling stress on feeding behaviour. All study animals were provided drinking water ad libitum .

During the growth trials in Vietnam, we recorded the length of time pythons went without food to examine the influence of fasting on growth and mass loss. Depending on prey size, pythons typically digest meals within two weeks (range = 4–13 days 34 ). To eliminate the influence of energy derived from previous food consumption we only considered pythons to be fasting if they had gone without food for at least 20 consecutive days. We used body mass measurements derived from feeding records before versus after fasting to calculate total mass lost during the fasting event. We divided total mass lost during the fasting event by the duration of each event to calculate mean mass loss per day.

Carcass processing

At the completion of the intensive growth trials, pythons were humanely killed using standard procedures (i.e., captive bolt pistol 35 ) and processed to record carcass characteristics. We dissected and weighed parts of the snake that are of commercial value, including the fat, gall bladder, skin, and dressed carcass (excluding head, tail, visceral organs and skin). We weighed the remaining organs and tissues to calculate the percentage of each item relative to total body mass. Finally, we calculated food conversion ratios (FCR) by dividing the total amount of food consumed by the mass of the dressed carcass.

Analysis of data

Because commercially valuable products from pythons are sold by mass, we mostly report rates of growth in body mass; however, in Fig.  1 and Table 2 we also provide growth rates as changes in SVL. Body mass in snakes is strongly correlated with SVL 36 . To assist with visualisation, we plotted variation in growth rates of individual pythons by presenting the growth rates of the 1 st , 25 th , 50 th , 75 th , and 99 th growth percentiles for pythons in each treatment. However, for our analysis we used the mean rate of growth from hatching to slaughter. We examined the influence of farm site and sex on growth rates for each python species in our non-intensive growth trials (separately) using a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with sex and site (and their interaction) as factors, and growth rate over 12 months as the dependent variable.

figure 1

Change in snout-vent length (SVL) over time of ( a ) Burmese pythons in Vietnam, ( b ) reticulated pythons in Thailand, and ( c ) Burmese pythons in Thailand over a 12-month period. Solid lines show calculated averages (50th percentile) whereas dotted lines show other percentile values.

To explore the factors influencing variability in growth rates of Burmese pythons in our intensive trial, we modelled mean 12-month growth rate against five attributes of the pythons and their husbandry (ln mass at birth, diet, ln 2-month growth rate, total amount of food consumed, and days spent fasting) in a multiple regression. We used a model selection approach to rank all possible models (and two-way interaction terms) based on AIC c values 37 . We applied a one-way ANOVA with food type as the factor and growth rate over 12 months as the dependent variable to explore the potential influence of food type on rate of growth.

In some cases, our fasting dataset contained pythons that underwent multiple fasting events. We tested for differences in the likelihood of fasting between diet treatments using contingency table analysis. To account for pseudoreplication and the influence of individual-specific growth rates in our analysis, we analysed the influence of fasting duration, and the influence of mass prior to fasting, on the rate of loss of body mass using a generalized linear mixed model incorporating individual python ID as a random effect. We ln-transformed our data wherever necessary to meet the normality and homogeneity of variance assumptions required for our statistical tests, and conducted all analyses in JMP Pro 14 (SAS Institute: Cary, NC).

Ethics statement

We stress that no snakes were harmed for the purpose of our study; we utilised existing farm operations and trade. Our data were gathered from snakes bred for a commercial industry, which employs humane methods of killing reptiles (by brain destruction 38 ). All work was carried out with relevant permissions from the farm owners and authorities (Administration of Forestry of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam 114/TCLN-CTVN). All procedures were approved by the Animal Ethics Screening Committee of the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa (approval number: 2014/17/B), the University of Adelaide, Australia (approval number: S-2018-084), were consistent with ARRIVE guidelines 39 , and all methods were performed in accordance with the relevant guidelines and regulations.

Growth rates

Both species of python grew rapidly at both farms (up to a maximum of 46 g/day; Tables 2 ,  S1 ; Figs. 1 , 2 ). Our ANOVA revealed that growth rates of Burmese pythons were slower at the Thai farm than at the Vietnamese farm (F 1,2591  = 1005, P  < 0.0001; Table 2 ) and females grew more rapidly than males at both farms (F 1,2591  = 8.97, P  < 0.0028; Table 2 ). Sex differences in growth did not vary between farms (interaction sex*site: F 1,2591  = 2.01, P  = 0.1559). At the Thai farm where both species were raised and husbandry and feeding procedures were similar, reticulated pythons grew faster than Burmese pythons held in the same facility (F 1,4526  = 124, P  < 0.0001) but still slower than Burmese pythons in Vietnam (Table 2 ; Fig.  2 ).

figure 2

Change in body mass over time of ( a ) Burmese pythons in Vietnam in intensive trials, ( b ) Burmese pythons in Vietnam in rapid growth trials, ( c ) reticulated pythons in Thailand, and ( d ) Burmese pythons in Thailand. All data were gathered over a 12-month period. Solid lines show calculated averages (50th percentile) whereas dotted lines show other percentile values.

Our most parsimonious model included growth rates over the first two months of life and the amount of food consumed (Fig.  3 ). Pythons that grew fastest in their first two months of life, and which consumed the most food, grew the fastest over the 12-month period (Figs. 1 , 2 , 3 ). The model with the best support that included only a single predictive variable included the amount of food consumed, confirming that food intake is the primary determinant of python growth rates (Fig.  3 ). A follow-up ANOVA with food type as the factor and ln 12-month growth rate as the dependent variable confirmed that the different food types provided as part of our experimental trials (Table S1 ) did not significantly influence growth rates in Burmese pythons (although this difference was close to statistical significance: F 4,54  = 2.50, P  = 0.054).

figure 3

Relationship between growth rate over the first 12 months of life in captive Burmese pythons, and two significant predictors of that long term rate of growth: ( a ) growth rate over the first two months of life, and ( b ) total amount of food consumed over 12 months. See text for results of statistical significance tests.

Influence of fasting

Over the course of our intensive growth study, 61% (43/70) of Burmese pythons fasted for periods of 20 days or more (up to 127 days). Some pythons fasted multiple times throughout the study, for a maximum fasting duration of 228 days. Fasting was recorded in pythons from all diet regimes and although the proportion of pythons fasting was higher in animals fed on the two diets containing fishmeal, contingency-table analysis confirmed that the difference was not statistically significant (χ 2 4  = 5.7, P  = 0.23). Mean daily mass loss during episodes of fasting was 0.16 ± 0.7 g per day. When calculated as a percentage of body mass prior to the fasting event, pythons lost an average of 0.004 ± 0.03% of their body mass per day. Some snakes gained body mass while fasting (likely due to drinking), and our mixed effects model showed no significant correlation between the rate of mass loss (or gain) and the duration of time spent fasting (F 1,72  = 1.89, P  = 0.174). Our mixed effects model also confirmed that larger pythons fasted for longer durations than did smaller conspecifics (F 1,72  = 9.08, P  = 0.0037). Although fasting did not result in a significant loss of body mass, it did reduce the total amount of food consumed, which significantly reduced overall growth rates.

Food conversion ratios and useable products

Mean food conversion ratio for the 58 snakes followed throughout their lives was 4.1: 1 (4.1 ± 0.06 g; range 3.15–4.85). That is, pythons consumed an average of 4.1 g of food for every 1 g of dressed carcass produced. The mass of commercially valuable body parts obtained from each snake increased with the mass of the animal (and hence, with its growth rate; all correlations have P  < 0.0001). After removal of non-useable organs, useable parts of the snake (including dressed carcass, gall bladder, fat, and skin) averaged 82 ± 0.8% (range: 69–90%) of overall snake mass (Table 3 ).

An extensive literature documents fast growth rates for pythons, and our experimental trials confirm that pythons can grow very rapidly over their first year of life. Despite this ability, pythons have been overlooked as a mainstream agricultural species 40 . Instead, concerns have been raised that commercial production of these snakes in captivity is not feasible and that Asian farms are simply laundering wild-caught snakes under the guise of being captive-bred 41 , 42 . We have no data to support or refute the latter claim, but our studies confirm earlier work that it is biologically and economically feasible to breed and raise pythons in captive production facilities for commercial trade 32 . We first discuss the significance and limitations of our results before turning our attention to the assessment of pythons as a novel livestock species for commercial agriculture.

Growth rates in both python species that we assessed were highly plastic and were strongly influenced by the amount of food consumed. Although fasting resulted in slower growth, variation in growth rates was best explained by overall food intake rates; that is, fasting pythons grow slower due to reduced food intake, but there did not appear to be any additional growth cost to fasting per se. In keeping with other studies on snakes, body mass at hatching did not influence growth rates. Instead, a snake’s growth trajectory over the first two months of its life predicted its subsequent growth rate and hence its body size later in life 43 .

Females of both species grew faster than males. Although female-biased growth rates are common in snakes, growth rates in pythons do not typically diverge until after reaching maturity 44 , 45 . We detected sexual divergence in growth rates well before maturation, suggesting that sex-based divergences in growth rate divergence are subtle and may only be detectable with large sample sizes such as those used in our study.

Pythons grew faster in the Vietnamese farm than in the Thai farm, likely due to a more frequent feeding regime. Although reticulated pythons grew faster than Burmese pythons in the Thai facility, where both species are maintained, we are reluctant to conclude that this species exhibits faster overall growth rates in the wild, or that the growth potential of the reticulated python exceeds that of the Burmese python. Growth rates are very flexible and driven primarily by food consumption. Burmese pythons in both trials in Vietnam had faster growth rates than did Thai reticulated pythons, and overall snakes in Thailand were offered less food than their Vietnamese conspecifics.

Why were the costs of fasting (in terms of mass loss) so low? Pythons have specialised physiological and morphological responses to both feeding and fasting 46 , 47 , 48 . The gastrointestinal tract is adapted for long periods of quiescence punctuated by rapid metabolic upregulation for digestion and assimilation of large meals (sometimes, > 100% of body mass 49 ). During digestion, pythons exhibit a tenfold increase in metabolic rate above resting levels; organ performance increases up to 40-fold; and circulating hormones and metabolites increase by as much as a 100-fold 46 , 47 , 48 . After digestion is completed, the process is reversed and metabolic functions are rapidly downregulated. Ingested macronutrients are partitioned and selectively oxidised in preparation for fasting 50 . Lipids are stored in specialised fat bodies and leveraged during fasting to fuel atrophic energy requirements 50 , 51 . Our study provides further evidence for these remarkable physiological processes and identifies their utilitarian potential in an agricultural context.

We now turn our attention to the agricultural potential of pythons as it relates to the biology of these snakes. As large-bodied, fast-growing ectotherms with flexible digestive physiologies, our study confirms that pythons have considerable agricultural potential. The pythons in our study were capable of high food conversion ratios and rapid growth rates, and can tolerate long periods of fasting without substantial loss of mass. The dietary treatments that we offered did not significantly influence growth rates of the snakes, suggesting that pythons exhibit efficient protein conversion ratios under a range of dietary and production scenarios. Our findings support previous studies highlighting the role of snake farms in facilitating efforts to control rodent pests, and in upcycling waste-protein resources to close nutrient cycle loops 20 , 21 , 32 , 52 .

Pythons are obligate carnivores, and thus belong to a trophic level (predators) that classical Lindeman trophic pyramids would regard as poorly suited to farming: that is, inefficient and environmentally unsustainable 53 , 54 . Our results suggest otherwise. Table 4 provides a comparison of some key production criteria in livestock systems. Production efficiencies for pythons were higher than those reported for poultry, pork, beef, salmon, and crickets (Table 4 ). This remarkable outcome reflects the synergistic effects of ectothermic physiology 16 , sessile behaviour 55 , efficient digestive physiology 56 , and economic serpentine morphology (e.g., no legs or wings ~ higher edible carcass ratio). High assimilation efficiencies also translate into low volumes of faeces, and the nitrogenous wastes that pythons produce are excreted as water-insoluble urates rather than more volatile urea 57 . Python farms, therefore, produce fewer greenhouse gasses (CO 2 , methane and nitrous oxide) than do endothermic livestock systems 58 , 59 .

One caveat to the rapid growth rates reported here is that in one of our diet treatments (Burmese pythons in Vietnam), a significant proportion (~ 20%) of pythons died due to respiratory infections. Similar growth rates of pythons from a different treatment at the same farm, and from Thailand, did not result in such high mortalities (< 5%). It is not known what caused such a high incidence of respiratory infection in one year, but the experimental diet (e.g., possible micronutrient deficiencies) coupled with unseasonably cool weather may be contributing factors.

The ability of pythons to fast for extended periods without jeopardizing survival or body condition is remarkable. For example, five 6-month-old pythons ceased feeding for four months (approximately 45% of their lives) but only lost 30 to 70 g (2.7–5.4% of their pre-fasting body mass) over that period. Few other animals can downregulate metabolic costs to this degree, and species utilized by the mainstream agricultural industry certainly cannot do so (Table 4 ). That ability of pythons to maintain near-stasis in body mass over prolonged periods of food deprivation confers great flexibility for producers. Food systems resilience is closely linked to disruptions in supply chains and famine tolerance 15 , 71 . Pandemics and extreme weather events coupled with the inability of livestock to retain body condition in the absence of reliable feed supplies present increasing risks to food security. Pythons offer farmers the flexibility needed to regulate both feed inputs and product outputs in response to unpredictable external factors.

In addition to flexibility in feeding regimes and rapid growth rates, the natural history of at least some species of pythons is characterised by early maturity and high reproductive output 31 , 72 . Most species are ecological generalists, exploiting both above- and below-ground habitat niches to evade extreme weather events 27 , 55 , 73 , 74 . They can survive without fresh water for extended periods 25 , 75 , and in captivity they have undemanding spatial requirements, especially since they are ambush foragers with highly sedentary lifestyles that co-exist amicably in communal aggregations 32 , 76 . They display few of the complex animal welfare issues commonly seen in caged birds and mammals 77 , 78 . Reptiles also seldom transmit endotherm-centric zoonotic viruses such as bird flu, swine flu or Covid-19 79 , 80 .

Despite their impressive physiologies, the hands-on production of pythons differs in several important ways to mainstream livestock. For example, feeding pythons can be labour-intensive because of the current necessity to remove them from their enclosures for individual feeding (to prevent agonistic encounters with conspecifics over food). However, this labour cost may be offset against the need to only feed pythons once per week. Technical expertise and capacity is another barrier to realising the agricultural potential of pythons. The biology and husbandry requirements of pythons are poorly understood relative to many endothermic taxa. Coupled with the general fear humans have towards snakes, it may be some time before the agricultural potential of pythons is realised at the global scale.

Commercial production of pythons is in its infancy, with farms receiving minimal scientific input or optimisation through formal channels for agricultural development. Even in its current relatively crude format, python farming appears to offer tangible benefits for sustainability and food systems resilience. Our study suggests that python farming can not only complement existing livestock systems, but may offer better returns in terms of production efficiencies. When compared to existing endotherm-based livestock industries, pythons are more efficient mass producers of animal protein. In countries with a cultural precedent for eating reptiles, and where food security is increasingly compromised through the impacts of global challenges such as climate change, reptiles offer an efficient, safe, and flexible source of protein. To exploit that potential, we urgently need more research into the agricultural potential of reptiles, and the most effective and humane ways to produce this novel group of livestock animals.

Data availability

The datasets used and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Cao Tran Thinh, Cao Tran Tung, and Emilio and Liceno Malucchi for allowing us to use their python breeding facilities and specimens for our research. Thanks to Tomas Waller for assistance in collecting data from captive pythons. This study was undertaken with the support of the Python Conservation Partnership, the University of Witwatersrand Research Council, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York through the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute.

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These authors contributed equally: D. Natusch and P. W. Aust.

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School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, 2109, Australia

D. Natusch & R. Shine

Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

P. W. Aust & T. Coulson

Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

P. W. Aust & G. J. Alexander

School of Animal & Veterinary Science, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, 5371, Australia

C. Caraguel & P. L. Taggart

National Key Laboratory, Institute of Tropical Biology, Vietnamese Academy of Sciences and Technology, 9/621 Hanoi Highway, Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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D.N. and P.A. defined the concept, D.N., P.A., V.T., C.C., and P.T. collected the data; all authors wrote the manuscript.

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None of the authors are involved in the meat industry, but this research took place on existing commercial snake farms. This work was partly funded by an initiative working to better understand snakes used in the leather trade, which is itself partially funded by companies that use snake skins. Funders had no influence at any stage of this research.

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Natusch, D., Aust, P.W., Caraguel, C. et al. Python farming as a flexible and efficient form of agricultural food security. Sci Rep 14 , 5419 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-54874-4

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