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How to avoid “claims of first discovery” but still tell readers your research is novel

 

Every researcher wants to tell the world they are the first to find out something new

Unfortunately, many journals’ instructions to authors specifically ask that you avoid using phrases like “we provide the first evidence”, “this is the first discovery” or “we are the first group to prove that…”.  These phrases are often referred to as “claims of novelty or priority”, “statements of novelty or priority” or “claims of first discovery”.

 

In fact, every published paper presents new findings

Otherwise, the journal would not have published the study.  If you have really discovered something new, you don’t actually need to use “claims of novelty” at all.  Instead, you can tell the reader how your work provides new knowledge using a clever, subtle method. 

The best approach is to describe the current state of knowledge or technology in your field of research, then make it clear how your research adds value, perhaps by providing the answer to an previously unanswered question, finding the solution to an unsolved problem or improving existing methods.

For example, compare:

Our study provides the first demonstration that Enzyme A is specifically expressed in astrocytes and protects neurons against oxidative stress.

and

It was previously shown that Enzyme A is expressed at high levels in the brain of patients with brain injury (Brown et al., 2006); however, the role of Enzyme A in the brain had not been characterised. Our study demonstrates Enzyme A is specifically expressed in astrocytes and protects neurons against oxidative stress.


The first example simply states what the researcher found out, but does not say how this is important, or whether their research adds to existing knowledge.  The second example is much better, as it summarises what was known (and also what was not known!) about Enzyme A before the study, and then states how the findings expand our knowledge.

 

Avoiding “statements of novelty or priority” or “claims of first discovery” helps you write a better manuscript

A well-written statement (like the example above), provides a concise summary of the findings and importance of your paper, which will help you to structure the basic message of your whole manuscript. 

I remember trying to write my first manuscript. Why was it so difficult? Why did I feel like a failure?

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Simple, bite-sized tips from an English scientific editor, delivered as short videos you can watch in less time than it takes to drink a coffee.

We know the most common mistakes in scientific writing - and we want you to avoid these errors. 

These easy-to-understand videos will show you how to avoid basic mistakes and help you write manuscripts with more confidence.

You'll be able to apply this knowledge immediately, so you can spend more time actually doing research.