scientific writing 12June05

scientific writing 12June05 - Writing page 1 Writing a...

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Writing, page 1 Writing a Paper or Lab Report in Scientific Format Think about your readers’ needs Scientific papers are divided into sections: Title, Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results (or Observations), Discussion, Literature Cited (or References) Common stylistic problems There are many books devoted to writing and to scientific writing in particular. This is to give you ideas about what scientific writing is, and a simple plan for how to do it. Early on, you may be writing a lab report or a term paper for a course. Later, you may want to submit a manuscript to a journal for publication, or apply for a scholarship or a job. Remember, there are many books on style and composition - here we are discussing the form and function of a scientific report. The most important rule for any writing - think about your readers’ needs. What does this mean? Imagine for a moment, now, and then as you write and revise your report, that you are reading it for the first time. Is your information in a logical order? Are your sentences understandable and your paragraphs well organized? Have you described your ideas and results and analyses fully enough, or is there needless detail? Your goal is to teach your reader something, perhaps even to surprise or delight, but never at the end to puzzle, mystify or frustrate. Who is your reader? For now, your reader is probably your professor or your lab demonstrator. These readers will know a lot about what you are trying to say, but they need to see if you do. The easier your paper is to read and the more complete it is, the better your grade. Later, your reader may be a colleague, or another student, or maybe an editor or a potential employer. These readers might not know much about what you are trying to say, but you can assume that they are bright enough to keep up with you, if you give them understandable information in a sensible sequence. Here, ease of reading can translate into a higher grade, better acceptance of your ideas, publication of your paper, or getting a scholarship or a job. Regardless of your audience, a beautifully typed paper whose content lacks clarity or intellectual merit will not help you. A useful strategy, unless your paper is for academic credit where you are supposed to be working alone , is to have a friend (preferably more than one!) read a draft and make written comments on it. If they are puzzled or unsure of your meaning, then assume you have not been completely clear. Rewrite that section(s), even if you think your draft-reader was just being obtuse. Your object is to make your thoughts generally understandable, and it is more likely that you could not see your writing objectively. A friend, who takes the time to read your draft, and criticize it rigorously, is doing you a great service. So, be thankful when they point out your errors and inconsistencies. Another strategy, if working alone , is to leave yourself time between drafts (ideally 1-2 days) so that your errors will be easier for you to detect by yourself. This is not always
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This note was uploaded on 03/03/2010 for the course CHEM 240 taught by Professor Mandal during the Spring '10 term at Illinois Tech.

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scientific writing 12June05 - Writing page 1 Writing a...

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