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Lecture 2 Basics.I - Physics 596 Dr Herbst BASICS OF...

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Physics 596 Dr. Herbst BASICS OF SCIENTIFIC WRITING I Although writing about scientific topics encompasses many types of projects (lab reports, homework assignments, essay questions, actual research papers), it is possible to organize any effort along the following lines: A. WHAT TO DO BEFORE WRITING 1. Ask yourself some questions: (a) Exactly what information do you wish to present? (If your title is the Doppler effect, will you only consider sound, light, both, relativity?) (b) Do you truly understand the topic? It is impossible to write clearly on a scientific subject if you don’t fully understand it. (c) What background information can you assume? Science is a subject with sequential development and different groups of readers will bring differing amounts of knowledge to their task. For example, if you are writing about variable stars, you should not assume that physics students know what RR Lyrae variables are, or what the term luminosity class means. (d) For what group of readers are you writing? Non-experts? Classmates? Competitors? (e) What is the logical sequence in which to write? 2. Make a detailed outline of some type. As you write, you may revise the logical order expressed in your outline. Still, the very act of preparing an outline is a mental stimulus. Several other professors in this course insist on what is known as a “sentence outline” in which you write down the leading (“topic”) sentence for each paragraph of your paper before starting the actual writing. I am not in favor of this approach because I cannot write this way; I tend to change my outline as a I go along and my ideas crystallize. Also, often the last sentence of the first paragraph (the thesis statement) is more important than the first sentence.
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