What is a Scientific Publication?

Scientific research and expert work provide magnitudes of research data that is both grounded and trustworthy. Data is collected via different kinds of experimental arrangements, such as measurements and interviews. The acquired data is then processed into research data with extensive systematic and critical evaluation of the findings and their comparison with previous research.

The aim of scientific publication is to make the research visible to the community and others interested. The core of scientific publication lies in producing new information and evaluating it in the scientific community. With the use of publications, the academic community is able to evaluate and critique research. Publishing also enables researchers to qualify and distinguish themselves.

Research data is published through channels specialised in scientific publication, most often scientific journals. Whether a publication is in fact scientific is often deduced with peer-reviewing. Publications can be either printed or electronic, their form is not an indication of their merit.

In social sciences and humanities, monographies, i.e., books or other qualifying forms of publication by one or more individual authors, are also a commonly accepted publication type. In some other research fields, conference articles are the most popular form of publication. Thus, the information must also be sought from numerous sources, considering the requirements of your own research field.

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Information is distributed in various ways

Publishing scientific information differs from the usual sharing of information, knowledge, insight and ideas. The publication types that focus on scientific publications are discussed in more detail in the Scientific Publications in Different Fields section.

However, it is important to understand that, in general, there are different ways to share information and different types of publications:

  • Publications meant for the scientific community, e.g., peer-reviewed scientific articles in periodicals, conference proceedings, or as part of a book or other compendium, scientific books (a monograph or an edited book), compendiums
  • Publications meant for the professional community, e.g., articles in professional journals, handbooks, or textbooks, reports or accounts on development or research, textbooks, professional handbooks, guides or dictionaries, edited professional works
  • Publications meant for the general audience, e.g., articles in popularised forms, newspaper articles, popularised monographies or edited works, TV, radio and magazine interviews, podcasts
  • Postings created for different communities online and in social media, e.g., blog posts, articles, short written, visual, recorded or videotaped announcements in social media channels and interaction in communities in different platforms
  • Theses

Scientific publications feature a particular structure

There is an established form for academic writing, which must be abided by when writing for scientific periodicals. When it comes to the details, each periodical has its own writing instructions that must be followed when an article is wished to be submitted. These writing instructions are found on the pages of the periodicals.

Scientific articles most commonly contain the following elements: 

  • Title
  • Names and addresses of the authors
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgements and transparency of interests
  • References

This structure is often called IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results And Discussion).

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Peer-reviewing is used to verify a publication’s scientific status

Peer-reviewing is often considered to be the fundamental criterion for whether a manuscript intended for publication can be considered scientific. In peer-reviewing, external experts are used to verify that a research article qualifies for publication. These experts are distinguished researchers in that particular field. There are often at least two reviewers, and the author of the submitted article may not know their identities.

The editorial staff responsible for the scientific journal uses the experts in the field (referees, peer-reviewers) in pre-reviewing. The editorial staff evaluates whether the script they are sent qualifies for publication, as well as its relevance for the journal’s line and readers. Afterwards, the referees evaluate the substance and scientific significance of the script in addition to its originality and the novelty value of the research. Ensuring that the textual structure abides by the standards of scientific writing (in the field and the journal) is also a part of the review process. The reviewers will then recommend the editorial staff to either accept or decline the script, as well as proposes ideas for its revision to the author.

The experts will approve the script for publishing after evaluating its correctness, significance, and originality. In the evaluation process it is also ensured that the structure of the text abides by the scientific writing standards in the field and the journal. It is common that small revisions are made to the script based on what the reviewers have proposed.

However, peer-reviewing is not a watertight system. There is a vast number of scripts intended for publishing, and sometimes an inadequate article may clear the process.

Referee or peer reviews should not be mixed with review articles or book reviews that are a certain publication type in some databases.

How do I identify a peer-reviewed publication?

Peer-review label in Finnish publications:

  • In Finland, peer-reviewed scientific publications usually have a label that can be used to identify publications that have been peer-reviewed. More information on the peer-review label can be found on the website of The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. The scientific articles of the Aikuiskasvatus journal (journal is in Finnish), for instance, have a peer-review label. 
  • The label can apply to an entire publication, in which case each article of the publication has been peer-reviewed. It can also apply to only some of the content, such as individual articles. In such case, the label can usually be found in the article in question.

Foreign scientific journals: 

  • If the article includes a mention of “revised” or something similar, it has most likely been peer-reviewed. In addition to individual mentions, the journal’s website usually contains information on the publisher’s peer-review practices and which article types are peer-reviewed. 
  • The most common types of peer-reviewed articles are original, research and review articles. However, finding mentions of peer review can be more difficult in compilation works and conference articles. 

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