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CHEM 597R - The Scientific Paper and Peer Review: Rubrics

Rubrics (Title, Abstract, Introduction, Matrials & Methods, Results, Discussion, Conclusion, References, Acknowledgments, Special Sections)

Rubrics are tools that identify key performance criteria and standards linked to learning objectives and used to subjectively assess expected performance.

Rubrics used in this assignment have been developed from the ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, 3rd ed., 2006, Chapter 2, "Scientific Papers", pp.17-26. The rubrics discuss in detail the elements of a scientific paper.  Adherence to the characteristics and suggestions found in the rubrics improve the overall quality of scientific writing and will be used as you evaluate your colleagues papers in the peer review process.

Title Criteria and Standards Rubric

The Title in a scientific paper does the following:

  • reflects the paper's content and emphasis clearly and accurately
  • is brief and grammatically correct
  • is complete enough to stand alone
  • should attract the potential audience
  • aids in retrieval and indexing by including several key words
  • avoids phrases such as "on the", "a study of", "research on", "report on", "regarding", and "use of"
  • omits the word "the" at the beginning of the title, in most cases
  • avoids words such as "rapid" and "new"
  • spells out all terms in the title
  • avoids jargon, symbols, formulas, and abbreviations
  • uses words rather than expressions containing superscripts, subscripts, or other special notations
  • does not cite company names, trademarks, or brand names of chemicals, drugs, materials, or instruments 

Abstract Criteria and Standards Rubric

The Abstract in a scientific paper does the following:

  • states briefly the problem or the purpose of the research

  • includes the theoretical or experimental plan used

  • summarizes the principal findings

  • points out major conclusions

  • includes chemical safety information when applicable

  • is concise, self-contained, and complete enough to appear separately in abstract publications

  • is optimally one paragraph (between 80 and 200 words) in length; it can be as short as two sentences; length depends on the subject matter and length of the paper

  • defines abbreviations or acronyms, if used, when first mentioned in the abstract and again when first used in the text

For a review paper the Abstract does the following:

  • describes the topic, scope, sources reviewed, and conclusions

Introduction Criteria and Standards Rubric

The Introduction in a scientific paper does the following:

  • gives a clear statement of the problem and reasons for studying it in the first few sentences
  • gives concise, appropriate background discussion of the problem and the significance, scope, and limits of the work
  • outlines what has been done before by citing pertinent literature; semi-relevant literature should not be included
  • states how this work differs from or is related to work previously published; demonstrates continuity from previous work to this work
  • is generally one or two paragraphs in length
  • opening paragraphs are usually considered introductory, therefore, the heading "Introduction" is often not used

Experimental Details or Theoretical Basis (Materials and Methods) Criteria and Standards Rubric

The Experimental Details or Theoretical Basis section, also referred to as the Materials and Methods section, in a scientific paper does the following:

  • cites the appropriate literature and gives only the details needed when using a standard method
  • gives sufficient detail about the materials and methods, for experimental work, so that others can repeat the work and obtain comparable results
  • identifies materials used and gives information on the degree of and criteria for purity; does not reference standard laboratory reagents
  • gives chemical names of all compounds and the chemical formulas of compounds that are new or uncommon
  • uses standard systematic, meaningful nomenclature where specificity and complexity requires
  • uses trivial nomenclature where it will adequately and unambiguously define a well-established compound
  • describes apparatus only if it is not standard or not commercially available; (giving the company name and model number in parentheses is adequate to identify standard equipment)
  • uses generic names and avoids using trademarks and brand names of equipment and reagents; (include the trademark in parentheses after the generic name only if the material or product is different from others)
  • describes the procedures used, unless they are established and standard
  • notes and emphasizes any hazards, such as explosive or pyrophoric tendencies and toxicity, in a separate paragraph with the heading, "Caution"

In theoretical papers this section is referred to as Theoretical Basis or Theoretical Calculations.  In a theoretical paper this section does the following:

  • includes all background data, equations, and formulas necessary to the arguments
  • includes all necessary information for other researchers to reproduce derivations and verify numerical results
  • lengthy derivations are best presented as supporting information

Results and Discussion Criteria and Standards Rubric

The Results and Discussion section in a scientific paper is presented as either two separate sections or as one combined section if it is more logical.  Neither section nor a combined Results and Discussion section repeats information presented elsewhere in the paper. 

The Results section in a scientific paper does the following:

  • summarizes only the relevant data collected and their statistical treatment in sufficient detail to justify conclusions
  • uses equations, figures, and tables only where necessary for clarity and brevity
  • extensive but relevant data is included in supporting information

The Discussion section in a scientific paper does the following:

  • interprets and compares the results
  • objectively points out the features and limitations of the work
  • states briefly the logical implications of the results
  • relates the results to current knowledge in the field and to the original purpose in understanding the problem
  • answers the following questions:
    • was the problem resolved?
    • what has been contributed?
  • suggests further study or applications, if justified

Conclusion Criteria and Standards Rubric

The Conclusion in a scientific paper does the following:

  • puts the interpretation into the context of the original problem, based on the evidence
  • does not repeat discussion points or include irrelevant material

Summaries are generally unnecessary in addition to a Conclusion section.  In long papers it can be helpful to summarize the main points.

References Criteria and Standards Rubric

The References in a scientific paper do the following:

  • are accurate; author, title, and publisher; volume, issue, pages and date are correct
  • references copied from another source have been checked; mistakes have been corrected and are not repeated
  • conform to the ACS Style for this course
  • are placed at the end of a paper or chapter or as footnotes dependent on a publisher's style, in other circumstances


Acknowledgments in a scientific paper list people, organizations and financing. 

Examples of acknowledgments include:

  • grant numbers
  • sponsors
  • auspices under which the work was done

Acknowledgments follow the publisher's guidelines

Special Sections

Examples of a Special Section in a scientific paper include:

  • appendix
  • supporting information
  • web-enhanced objects

The Special Section in a scientific paper does the following:

  • provides important background information not included in the Introduction or Results section
  • is essential information for a specialized reader but is not required as an elaboration in the paper itself

Special Sections follow the publisher's guidelines

Subject Guide

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