Science Guidelines

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Thank you so much for deciding to contribute to MEpedia, and for rolling up your sleeves to work on the science! Let's dive right in.

Not sure where to start? Try our How to contribute page after this one.

Guidelines for writing in MEpedia[edit | edit source]

Goals[edit | edit source]

The basic goals of an MEpedia science article are to:

  • Inform the reader of the basics
  • Provide resources via links and citations so the reader can learn more

Start with a one-paragraph summary[edit | edit source]

At the start of every article on MEpedia, there should be a plain-language summary of the content below. Sometimes, it is easier to write the summary last; you will have a much clearer conception of the main idea once the rest of your writing is done. The summary should appear above any sections you create, making it show up above the table of contents.

Outlines[edit | edit source]

You can find MEpedia article outlines for potential treatments, medical hypotheses, and body systems, e.g.. Just copy the outline (Ctrl-C) and paste it (Ctrl-V) into the article to have a template you can use.

Guidelines for writing science in MEpedia[edit | edit source]

Just the facts[edit | edit source]

Science writing should be about what we know to be true, so far as our current understanding of science can tell us.

It's important to omit descriptive words that encourage the reader to think in a certain way, such as adjectives and adverbs. For example, "intriguingly", "disastrously", and other adverbs inform the reader what they ought to think about the next piece of information. The facts must speak for themselves.

Aim as close to the objective truth as possible.

Avoid the omission of credible sources with which you may disagree.

Less is more[edit | edit source]

The goal of an MEpedia page is to inform the reader of the basics and link out to resources that will provide a more thorough grounding in the topic. To best serve our community in the long run, that may mean reading a long article and typing one sentence (or even one phrase!) into MEpedia.

If you aren't certain how to interpret a study or summarize it, you may be able to find more information if you look on Phoenix Rising or Science for ME and search for the study's title in quotes. Often there will be a thread with detailed discussions of the study's implications. You may also check out the MEpedia Project Facebook group and chat about the study there, or go to the Volunteer Slack and connect with other MEpedia volunteers.

Do your best to avoid cutting and pasting, or paraphrasing blocks of information. Find the simplest way to convey the information so that brain-fogged readers can understand.

Use equivocal language[edit | edit source]

Recognize that scientific fact changes by using equivocal language: "it may be that..." "it is possible that..." are good examples. Avoid language like "it has been proved" or "we now know".

Types of studies[edit | edit source]

The type of biological sample used in the study can have a dramatic effect on whether or not the results of the study are accurate for human beings. The following are displayed from least to most applicable to human beings.

  1. In vitro: In vitro studies refer to studies performed on cells or tissues that have been removed from the organism. This could mean cells in a petri dish, blood removed from a patient, or tissue grown in a lab. While these studies can point in the right direction, the premises they introduce must be tested in a living thing before they are fully accepted.
  2. In vivo: In vivo studies refer to any study performed on tissues, cells, or organs within the living organism:
    1. In an organism not a mammal The results of these studies, even perfectly performed, may have very little relationship to what might occur in a human being
    2. In a mammal but not a human While rat and mouse studies are very common, and may lead to greater insight into biological processes, rat and mouse physiology differs significantly from that of human physiology. The immune system in particular is very different in a mouse versus a human.[1]
    3. In a human When possible, always look for studies performed in human beings rather than in any other category. In Pubmed, after you search for a topic you will see a list of modifiers scrolling down the left-hand side of your page. One of these will say Species: Humans. By clicking on this, you will only see studies performed on human cell lines, tissues, or on humans in vivo.

Citation[edit | edit source]

Even if you are certain it is true, if you can't cite it, you can't say it.

Secondary vs primary sources[edit | edit source]

If you have worked on medical pages on Wikipedia before, you may be aware that they encourage the use of review articles (secondary sources). There are few review articles on ME, so it is acceptable to cite primary sources, so long as you use the equivocal language described above.

Seminal works and the age of works[edit | edit source]

The goal in scientific writing is to represent the most up-to-date information. For that reason, in biomedical research it's important to make the attempt to find primary and secondary sources that were published in the past several years.

An exception to this general guideline are seminal works. A seminal work is a publication that changes the way the field thinks about a topic. Did your source define something new or introduce a novel idea? If so, it may be a seminal work.

A second exception are works that focus on history or discuss a sequence of events as an important aspect of the narrative.

A good example in ME might be the Fukuda paper (1994) that presented a working definition for 'CFS'. Because it defines something new, it makes sense to cite it even in a modern paper, or in an article that discusses the history of ME.

When should I cite?[edit | edit source]

According to Citing References in Scientific Research Papers,
You should acknowledge a source any time (and every time) you use a fact or an idea that you obtained from that source. Thus, clearly, you need to cite sources for all direct quotations. But you also need to cite sources from which you paraphrase or summarize facts or ideas -- whether you've put the fact or idea into your own words or not...[2]

How to cite[edit | edit source]

Shows MEpedia banner with citation button
MEpedia banner with citation button
  1. First, check out the top menu running right alongside the MEpedia logo and find the button that says 'cite'.
  2. When you click the 'cite' button, you should see a drop-down menu that offers you options, depending on whether you are citing a website, a book, a news article, a scientific journal, a basic reference, or to re-use a previous reference.
    1. Pop-up displayed when you choose to cite a journal
      Pop-up displayed when you choose to cite a journal
      Use journal for any scholarly source. Scholarly sources are anything from pubmed or a scientific journal online or in print.
    2. Use news for anything from a news outlet or a blog discussing the news. Note: if a news article or blog is discussing science, go back to the original source (the journal) and use the information you find in that original source. Don't count on the writer of the blog to have gotten it right!
    3. Use basic when you aren't sure what category to use.
    4. Important time saver! 'Re-use' if you have already cited a source once in the same article.
  3. When you choose to cite a journal, the pop-up box at right will be displayed: You will see places to fill in the information you know about the article. Items with an asterisk next to them mean you must enter that information.
  4. Often, the journal citation will have information like page number or issue number. Scientific journals may also have multiple authors, even though there is room for only a few in the drop-down menu provided. If you scroll down to the bottom and click the 'add more information' button (circled at right), then you will be able to add that information easily.
  5. When you are finished, click the blue 'insert' button at the top right-hand side of the pop-up box.

Learn more[edit | edit source]

MEpedia article outlines

How to contribute
  1. Mestas, Javier; Hughes, Christopher C.W. (March 1, 2004). "Of Mice and Not Men: Differences between Mouse and Human Immunology". J Immunol. 172 (5): 2731–2738. doi:10.4049/jimmunol.172.5.2731. 
  2. Allen, Timothy T. (2000). "Citing References in Scientific Research Papers". Retrieved May 21, 2018. 


The information provided at this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness.

From MEpedia, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia of ME and CFS science and history