Conventions by Discipline

While general writing style, as covered extensively in the Essentials part of this site, applies across all scientific disciplines, many fields choose to adopt differing conventions to suit their particular needs. For example, the lengths and components of figures in many biology journals are consistently different from those in physics journals.

That you may not be writing a paper in a particular field doesn’t mean that being familiar with the conventions in that field won’t be useful to you. For instance, the specific instructions in many physics journals concerning constructing and formatting complicated equations would be incredibly useful if you wanted to put an equation in your chemistry paper. Thus, we hope that by providing some information on these specifications in different disciplines we can broaden the scope of the writing guidelines available to you.

As always, remember that the conventions described throughout this section are general guidelines and do not apply equally in all contexts. Outside of a journal’s own instruction, there are few true “rules” governing your writing.

Note that here we have divided “disciplines” into 4 distinct categories: biology, geology, chemistry, and physics. This is not intended to exclude any particular field but instead to make referencing particular types of information easier. Conventions in sciences not classically considered a “natural science” (such as the earth and life sciences) are not included on this site primarily due to the great degree of variability in writing style introduced outside these bounds.