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How to Write Organic Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry Papers

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  • Some chemistry conventions are unique when compared with writing about other sciences.
  • In particular, take care to report volume and/or mass of key reagents and to capitalize compounds appropriately.

Beyond all of the standard grammar and syntax involved in writing in English, there are certain additional conventions to follow when preparing a scientific manuscript. Following the standards for writing in your field will make editors and reviewers more confident in your research, so it is worth the effort to pay attention to the little details. Here are some specific tips for authors creating manuscripts in the fields of organic and medicinal chemistry.

1. Experimentals:

There are certain formats for the experimental design section and specific ways to report spectral data. Please be sure to read the journal guidelines and look over other papers in the target journal to ensure that you are using the proper format.

  • When referring to amounts of reagents and chemicals used in reactions, it is best to directly state the amount (volume or mass) of the compound, followed by the number of moles and equivalents in parentheses.
    • For example: 2.4 g of NaH (0.1 mol, 1.1 eq.)
  • For solvents, it is appropriate to just state the volume.
    • For example: 25 mL of EtOAc

2. Abbreviations:

It is not always necessary to define common abbreviations in chemistry papers. Generally, each journal has a list of standard abbreviations for common chemicals and analyses. Please check the journal guidelines to see what needs to be defined in the paper.

3. Referring to compounds within a paper:

In many chemistry journals, the compounds in the reaction schemes are given bold numbers for reference (1, 2, etc.).

  • When using these numbers in the text, use bold type.

  • When defining a compound number using a proper name, the number should be in parentheses behind the name. However, when the proper name is not used, the number should not be in parentheses.

  • In addition, it is best to use a general descriptor with the number if the proper name is not used. In this case, the use of an article (a, an, the) is not usually necessary.
    • For example: “2-Propanol (1) was oxidized to acetone (2).” OR “Alcohol 1 was oxidized to ketone 2.”
    • But do NOT state: “Alcohol (1) was oxidized to ketone (2).” OR “2-Propanol 1 was oxidized to acetone 2.”
  • Try not to use the number alone, always have a noun descriptor if possible.

4. Describing reactions:

The term scheme is used to refer to a sequence of reactions in a figure. The term equation is used for a single reaction in a figure.

5. Capitalization:

If the name of a compound begins a sentence, the first letter of the compound name should be capitalized. Remember to ignore the italicized letters describing the structure of the molecule (such as R or S for stereochemistry; cis-, trans-, ortho-, tert-, n-, i-, etc. describing configurations; or N- for substituents on nitrogen atoms).

  • For example:tert-Butanol was added to the mixture.” OR N,N-Dimethylformamide was used as the solvent.”

For more information about capitalizing chemical compounds, see our related article.

We hope that these tips will help you follow the conventions of chemistry papers. Have more questions? Write to us!

Tags Writing a manuscript Language editing Abbreviation Capitalization Chemistry Organic chemistry Medicinal chemistry

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About the Author: Geoff Heintzelman

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