UNC Writing in the Sciences

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Writing in the Sciences What this handout is about Nearly every element of style that is accepted and encouraged in general academic writing is also considered good practice in scientific writing. The major difference between science writing and writing in other academic fields is the relative importance placed on certain stylistic elements. This handout details the most critical aspects of scientific writing and provides some strategies for evaluating and improving your scientific prose. What is scientific writing? There are several different kinds of writing that fall under the umbrella of scientific writing, such as: Peer-reviewed journal articles (presenting primary research) Grant proposals (you can't do science without funding) Literature review articles (summarizing and synthesizing research that has already been carried out) Popular science articles (communicating scientific discoveries to a non-scientific audience) As a student in the sciences, you are likely to spend some time writing lab reports, which often follow the format of peer-reviewed articles and literature reviews. Regardless of the genre, though, all scientific writing has the same goal: to present data and/or ideas with a level of detail that allows a reader to evaluate the validity of the results and conclusions based only on the facts presented. The reader should be able to easily follow both the methods used to generate the data (if it's a primary research paper) and the chain of logic used to draw conclusions from the data. Several key elements allow scientific writers to achieve these goals: Precision : ambiguities in writing cause confusion and may prevent a reader from grasping crucial aspects of the methodology and synthesis Clarity : concepts and methods in the sciences can often be complex; writing that is difficult to follow greatly amplifies any confusion on the part of the reader Objectivity : any claims that you make need to be based on facts, not intuition or emotion top Handout Contents What this handout is about What is scientific writing? Precision Clarity Objectivity Works consulted Other UNC Handouts Writing the Paper Argument Audience Brainstorming College Writing Conclusions Evaluating Print Sources Evidence Fallacies Getting Feedback Introductions Paragraph Development Procrastination Reading to Write Reorganizing Drafts Revising Drafts Spell-check Programs Statistics Summary Thesis Statements Track Changes Transitions Understanding Assignments Using the Library Writing Anxiety Writing Groups Citation, Style, and Sentence-Level Concerns Articles Citation Resources Commas Home Make an Appointment Online Tutor UNC Home
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How can I make my writing more precise? Theories in the sciences are based upon precise mathematical models, specific empirical (primary) data sets, or some combination of the two. Therefore, scientists must use precise, concrete language to evaluate and explain such theories, whether mathematical or conceptual. Here are a few strategies for avoiding ambiguous, imprecise writing:
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