Many times, I first pay attention to the use of terminology because I see many terms used for the same meaning. Sometimes, the author gives a new term in each paragraph, and a reader must think how this term is related to the one used in the previous paragraph. It would be good if a reader understood the use of all terms immediately – without special thinking. You know; a reviewer does not want to think so much, she only wants to understand all rapidly. Reviewers and readers are busy. Science is difficult and needs much thinking in every case. Try to serve your study as simply as possible. Try to make it easy for readers.
My point is that you could think how the introduction flows so that a reader always understands the new term used. It is good to stop each paragraph so that a reader knows to wait for the next paragraph and is not surprised why it is coming. Present the new term already in the previous paragraph, or start with the term already used and give a new term.
Even if you think that your readers are familiar with the terminology, and thus maybe not wonder it like me, I would advise to think carefully the logic to use the terms. Be sure that a reader always knows, how the new term is related to the ones used before. This is the case also when you are using well-known terms.
I take an example about pollution of halogenated and/or chlorinated compounds. I do know, and most Finnish high school graduated people know, that chlorinated compounds belong to halogenated compounds. However, I was confused about the logic of using the name for the pollution. I started to think if there is logic, and if I must be aware when the author talks about halogenated and when about chlorinated only.
Be especially aware when you are using narrow and wide terms in a mixture. Sometimes, it is necessary to use them in a mixture, but check that there is certain logic in it. Why are you choosing a narrow term (chlorinated) or a wide term (halogenated) in this particular case? You may not have any particular idea to choose the term, most probably you just used them more or less accidently and not thinking why. However, the reader does not know it. She starts to think why you are changing the term, and if the change has any meaning.
Even when your terms are relatively simple and even when you can presume that your readers know the terms, try to minimize any possible confusion. Try to minimize this kind of unnecessary thinking that you are giving to your reviewers. Make it simply.
When the terms are complicated, possibly technical, it is even more important to use the terms logically. It is possible that they are used with good logic and the problem is that I am unfamiliar with the terminology. However, many times the reviewer indeed is unfamiliar with a specific terminology.
Use only one word / term to mean a certain variable, treatment or treatment level.
Sometimes, two or more synonymous words are commonly used in the research area in question. For instance, such word pairs are: altitude vs elevation, secrete vs exude vs produce, tolerance vs resistance, decomposition vs degradation. I would choose one word to be used in one article.
I always suggest using one term for one meaning. I do not see any point in trying to avoid linguistic repetition in scientific writing. When you want to say that there are many terms used for the meaning in question, tell it first to a reader. Make the list of the synonyms even if they perhaps are well-known. The readers might well understand the terminology after they have read the article for the second and third time. However, they most probably want to understand it when reading the text for the first time. Therefore, it is much better to use one term for one meaning. I am here for you to notice the possible difficulty in the terminology you use. It is my work – but a reviewer is just irritated about unnecessary thinking.
If your main aim is to give some information dealing with a certain ecosystem or a certain country, it is possible that the article will be rejected for that reason. This may be the case even if you yourself think that in your country, in this certain rare ecosystem, this information is lacking and these concentrations or species or factors are not known. Journals do not appreciate if your aim is to present some concentrations or identify some species somewhere, and least inside one country.
Think if a good aim is to find out something inside the borders of one country. In most cases, it is not. Most often, ecological scientific issues do not follow country borders. Instead of the country, use a climate or vegetation zone or something that describes your study area in general. Think where your results might hold true. If you can present any wider aspects, don’t mention the country at all in the aims. If it seems necessary, you can mention that the study sites were located in a certain country. However, many times even that is not necessary. How could you get rid of the country name?
Sometimes, the country may be useful in the title, so a reader knows where the study sites were. However, most often, the country should not be important enough to be mentioned in the title. By writing the country name in the title, you are highlighting the locality.
Even a more important point is that the country name may dominate and lead your thoughts too much. Why do you have the country name in the title? What would happen if you deleted it? How does it change your writing? Deleting the country name may force you to think some wider aspects, which is only a good thing.
I read hundred titles of Soil Biology & Biochemistry (2017) journal, the most prestigious soil science journal. Eight out of these hundred titles contained a country or a smaller place name inside a country – most of these had the climate or vegetation zone in addition.
In the discussion, have a look if a reader gets the feeling that all this is already known. Be aware, that there is a problem when you are listing several references that got the same result as you did. If you have this kind of a long list, why does science need your study?
Of course, there most probably are articles published with a same result that you got. You should refer to some of them. However, if you do not raise any new finding or aspect and show what is different, it’s an easy task for a reviewer to say that ‘there is nothing new’. You can have and present some confirmatory results, but many editors want that there is something new as well.
Top journals do not want local and confirmatory results at all. They often ask reviewers to assess how generalizable the results are. Even lower quality journal editors have asked me (as a reviewer) to assess if the results are local and just confirmatory to the ones commonly observed previously elsewhere. Now, if you yourself write many times in the discussion that ‘this has been observed previously’, how can any reviewer say anything else than ‘there is nothing new’? Therefore, when you write that your ‘result has been observed previously’, stop and think. Maybe this sentence is best to delete throughout and find another formulation.
What should you write instead then? I cannot give any universal advice, but, in many cases, you can find contradictory observations. Try to read more carefully the papers you are referring, and find what kind of contradictory results and interpretations exist. Which interpretation does your result support?
Many times and most often, you cannot find anything new about the great lines in ecological science. Therefore, you must work more and go into details. Maybe you can explain more about what specifically was found in the references you give, and then, explain what new you had. What in detail?
How many subtitles should I use? The use of subtitles seems to be increasing. Many times, they really are useful to a reader. However, when you have a subtitle for each method or variable, or between each paragraph, it is not useful any more.
Many times, I would use fewer subtitles in the Methods (and consistently in the Results). I would use them, not for each method. I would use them for instance, for each experiment. Alternatively, I would group the methods under a couple of titles, such as 'Chemical methods' and 'Molecular biology methods'. I think that it would increase clarity.
A reviewer tries to follow your text and remember the great lines. More than, let’s say, five subtitles in the methods do not help in organizing the study in one’s mind. A reader does not remember more than five method subtitles, instead they start to be in a mess in one’s mind. Therefore, many times less is better.
By no means you are able to increase the quality of your study and your data by using many subtitles, one for each small thing.
Our substantial editing service focuses on the substance, meaning the scientific content of the text, at the research level. We call it rather writing help than scientific editing. It is much more than editing of the text at the article level. Mostly, it is not editing at all. It is developing the article together with the authors at the research level. It is supervising in writing. Therefore, our price per word is higher than for any kind of language editing. The English language check could be done in half a day, but not our work focusing on the scientific content of the article. In most cases, I read the text several times, answer to questions and discuss with you.
I believe that using our service is a good investment for you if you are going to continue as a researcher and scientific writer in ecological or environmental area. You will learn scientific writing at the general level. Your second article will be better than the first one.
Sometimes, neither of us knows exactly how much and what kind of work that would finally be. In those cases, we could first try to make a fixed price package and start with that.