When reporting our research, presenting our ideas in a logical way is essential for readers to understand our work. Good logical flow is like showing the reader a clear path through the jungle of ideas, experiments, and observations related to the study, and guide the readers toward the destination—the authors’ final conclusions. This path should tell readers how the authors get from one point to the next, so that the final conclusions are justified.
To make your writing flow logically, the content should have a natural connection from one part of a sentence to the next part, from sentence to sentence, and from paragraph to paragraph. Here by natural connection I mean connections that a typical reader of your paper would see as natural without you explicitly explaining some fundamental knowledge. For example, if you say “This single nucleotide polymorphism results in a nonsense mutation, leading to the production of a truncated XXX protein.” Your typical reader with some basic background in genetics would see the connection between a nonsense mutation and the production of a truncated protein, no more explanation needed. However, if you are writing this to someone who doesn’t know what a nonsense mutation is, you will need to add more explanation, to show them how a nonsense mutation points to a truncated protein. So keep your target audience in mind while you write, but in general don’t assume your reader knows everything about your search; you need to show them the connections between your ideas.
Let’s look at an example. Below is a background paragraph of an abstract:
- Breast cancer is highly invasive. YYY gene is a tumor suppressor gene. Our previous study found that the expression of E-cadherin in a human ovarian cancer cell line with high expression of YYY gene was up-regulated, and the migration and invasion ability of the cells were reduced. In a study on epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), Snail family members were found to be involved, and the expression of the transcription factor Snail family members was regulated by the transcription factor ZZZ.
If you are a cancer cell biology researcher, it will be easy for you to figure out the connections between the elements mentioned in this paragraph (invasion, tumor suppressor YYY, E-cadherin, EMT, etc.), but if you don’t have prior knowledge of the connections between EMT, E-cadherin, and tumor invasion, this paragraph offers no clue why these elements are put together. Below is a rewrite of this paragraph:
- Breast cancer can be highly invasive. A previous study demonstrated that human ovarian cancer cells with high expression of YYY, a tumor suppressor, have reduced migration and invasion ability. These cells also show up-regulated E-cadherin expression, suggesting reduced epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Snail family members are known to be involved in the EMT of cancer cells, and the expression of Snail proteins is regulated by the transcription factor ZZZ.
In this new paragraph, the first sentence is about invasiveness, the second sentence connects invasiveness with the tumor suppressor YYY, the next sentence ties YYY to E-cadherin and EMT, and then the next sentence connects EMT to Snails proteins and ZZZ. We’ve added information step-by-step because each sentence is related to some prior information and then introduces new information. In this way, all elements of this study are tightly bound together and the logical connection between the elements is clearly presented to the readers. You might say there are still some gaps, because the connection between invasiveness and EMT is not specifically mentioned, and why up-regulated E-cadherin expression suggests reduced EMT is not made clear either. Since this is only a small part of an abstract, we don’t want to make it any longer by adding more information. The introduction section of the paper can give more detailed descriptions.
Logical flow of a paper is not just about writing; it is about how you understand the internal logic of your study. Presenting this logic step by step, as we have shown in our example, your reader will never get lost.