News & Comment / Research Resources


Will G Hopkins PhD

Department of Physiology, University of Otago, Dunedin 9001, New Zealand.

Sportscience 3(3),, 1999 (798 words)



Grant Applications
Scientific Articles
All Documents
Correct the Errors

I adapted these workshop notes from my article on scientific writing at this site. I presented them at the annual conference of Sport Science NZ in Hamilton NZ, October 1999.

Grant Applications


  • Describe what you hope to achieve.
    • Usually the effect of X on Y or the relationship between X and Y
    • Do not "determine whether there is an effect", because there is always an effect.


  • Explain all the uses of the work.
  • State that it hasn't been done before anywhere and/or on athletes/people in your country.
  • Mention potential academic advances.
  • State any unique local expertise, resources, or opportunities you will use.

Review of Literature

  • Keep it focussed.
  • Cite papers by likely reviewers.


  • Describe and justify the design. It must be the best possible under the circumstances.
  • Show a design figure or time line.
  • State and justify your sample size.
    • Use confidence limits to justify it.
    • If your sample has to be suboptimal, remind reviewers the findings are still publishable.
  • Be specific about what you will measure to determine what outcome.
  • Describe or reference techniques and tests.
  • Demonstrate that you understand the practical issues.
  • Keep the size of the project manageable.
    • Measure a few variables well, rather than many poorly.
  • Include an account of any pilot work.


  • Be pessimistic about costs.
  • Account for every item.
  • Check on the availability and cost of existing resources.
  • Check on the delivery time of purchases.

Curriculum Vitae

  • Rewrite it to enhance its relevance to the proposal.

Scientific Articles

All Documents

  • Your main aim is to make it easy for the reader to understand your ideas.
  • Be obsessional about following the instructions.
    • Impress reviewers with your ability to obey sensible rules.
    • Justify any rule breaking.
  • Search the literature on the topic(s) in the document.
    • SportDiscus is better than Medline for research on sport and exercise.
  • The Summary or Abstract is the most important part of the document.
    • Write it first, then rewrite it as you complete the rest of the document.
    • Include as much information as possible by using the maximum space or number of words permitted.
    • Never state "the results will be discussed" or similar.
    • Include no references, draw no figures, and show no tables.
  • Avoid these common grammatical errors:
    • Ambiguous antecedant
    • Misplaced modifier
    • Non-human agent
    • Double conditional
    • Example of all four errors: Based on this, the results may suggest...
  • Avoid...
    • punctuation errors (especially in it's and plural's)
    • spelling errors
    • abbreviations
    • technical terms (jargon)
    • awkward expressions
    • clichés, such as the results showed that...
    • passive voice: e.g. It has been identified that...
    • wasted words
    • wrong words, especially affect and effect
    • repetitions
    • non-sentences
    • one-sentence paragraphs
    • paragraphs with more than one main idea.
  • Focus:
    • Check that all material is in its most appropriate section.
    • Keep to the topic.
    • Be specific.
  • Flow:
    • Avoid unlinked ideas (non-sequiturs).
    • Make a logical sequence of ideas within and between paragraphs.
    • List headings, subheadings, and topics within each section before you begin.
  • Be concerned with magnitudes of effects and the precision of the estimates of magnitude.
    • Avoid all mention of testing whether effects are present or absent.
    • Use confidence limits to justify sample sizes and to report finished work.
    • Never show test statistics (t, F, c 2).
    • Show data with the appropriate number of digits.
  • Consider alternative explanations of findings.
  • Reference most assertions.
    • Qualify unreferenced assertions with apparently, may, I/we believe that…
  • Get a critical colleague to give you honest feedback on a draft version.
  • Read one of the photocopies of the final document before you send the package off.

Correct the Errors...

  1. The subjects (n=34, age 23.45 ± 2 yrs, weight 72 ± 6.2 kg) were recruited from local clubs.
  2. This suggests the rate of change in heart rate response may be important.
  3. The size of the responses depend on the size of the change in heart rate and also the LBNP.
  4. This study looked at the effect changes of pressure had on heart rate.
  5. The results showed that there was no correlation between performance and skinfold thickness (r=0.234, p>0.05).
  6. CONCLUSION: Based on this data, it is concluded that performance is not effected by the supplement.

Edited and webmastered by Will Hopkins.
Published December 1999.