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SCIENTIFIC WRITING 5

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Material in s 19- 20 & 24-adapted from Swales & Feak (1994:86-89) ... Swale's and Feak's Academic Writing for Graduate Students: geared at international students. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: SCIENTIFIC WRITING 5


1
SCIENTIFIC WRITING 5 Data Commentary Robert
Blake, SLDC Nov05
2
Outline
  • Feedback on presentation of figures tables
  • Structuring data commentaries
  • Varying the strength of claims
  • Examples of data commentaries from journals
  • Language for dealing with imperfect data
  • Choosing tenses in results other sections
  • Further reading

3
Problems with Graphical Presentation from
Assessed Work
  • X Figure/Table is too small for quick access to
    information
  • X Figure/table is located too far from text
    describing it
  • X Poor layout figures in series of tests are
    not arranged to allow comparison
  • X Information in figure/table is not accessible
    to any reader other than immediate supervisor
    lacks sufficient context explanation
  • X Axes are unlabelled or poorly labelled
  • X Values for axes are not specified
  • X Values- obscured or difficult to read in
    relation to trend line
  • X Figure is neither numbered nor labelled
  • X Label in wrong position i.e. should be over a
    table v, below a figure v
  • X Plagiarised data dataset is not your own but
    source not acknowledged

4
Problems with Data Commentary Examples from
Assessed Work
  • X Figure/table is not referred to in text
  • X Figure/table is referred to in text but the
    number is omitted
  • X Table or figure is referred to but content
    main purpose
  • are not explained in text
  • X Key patterns/trends are not summarised/highligh
    ted for reader
  • X Commentary does not accurately describe the
    data
  • X Unrealistic statements made in the text about
    the Figure/table
  • - claim is too strong does not reflect the
    data produced add hedging- see
    slides
  • - claim is too weak to describe the data
    produced too much
    cautious hedging-see slides
  • X Commentary is not succinct, therefore purpose
    main trends are obscured

5
Providing a commentary for data in graphical
format
  • Writing the data commentary requires as much
    careful preparation as the presentation of
    graphical information.
  • Commentaries have 2 main functions
  • direct the readers attention to the figures
  • enable the reader to focus on the most important
  • aspects of the results.
  • Data should not be presented without a commentary
    to guide the reader through them.
  • Keep the commentary near to the graphical
    presentation of the data.
  • material in slides 5-19 24-5 adapted from
    Weissburg Buker (1990) Swales Feak 1994)

6
Providing a commentary for data in graphical
format
  • Commentaries can consist of up to 3 elements
  • A location/ summary statement
  • Statements highlighting the most important
    findings
  • Statements that comment on the results (in
    combined results discussions sections)

7
Data commentary location summary statements
  • Location/summary statement
  • This directs the readers attention to
  • a the location of the figures containing the
    results
  • b expresses the main idea of the graphical
    information
  • e.g. Table 3 illustrates the arithmetic mean
  • e.g. The results in table 4 show that most of the
    compounds

8
Location/summary statement
  • Alternatively the sentence summarises the main
    idea of the graphical information with the
    location statement in parentheses e.g.
  • Caffeine was somewhat more prevalent than
    theophylline in preventing leaf-eating (figure 1)

9
Location/summary statement
  • Typical location statements, using the PASSIVE
    FORM
  • The most common forms of transmission are shown
    in table 5
  • The most common forms of transmission are given
    in table 5
  • The most common forms of transmission are
    provided in table 5
  • As can be seen from table 5, the size of
    particles is reduced when
  • As shown in table 5, the size of particles is
    reduced when

10
Location/summary statement
  • Typical location statements, using the ACTIVE
    FORM
  • Table 5 shows
  • Table 5 provides ...
  • Figure 4.2 gives
  • Figure 4.2 suggests
  • As revealed by the graph,

SOME VERBS FOR REFERRING TO DATA show
provide display
summarise demonstrate
illustrate reveal
suggest indicate
display
give present
11
Other elements in a data commentary
  • 2. Statements that present the most important
    findings e.g.
  • As can be seen in the majority of cases, the
    source of transmission can be detected by
  • 3. Statements that comment on the results
    These statements can be
    categorised into
  • generalisations from the results
  • explanations for the possible results
  • comparing the results with those of other
    researchers
  • Note the specific to general pattern in 3

12
A basic data commentary in a results discussion
section
  • FOREIGN LANGUAGE IN THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL A
    COMPARISON OF ACHIEVEMENT
  • Figure 7.2 displays the mean percentile scores on
    the four subtests for non-immersion and immersion
    French students. Students in the French immersion
    programs performed significantly better than
    their non-immersion peers on all four Modern
    language Association tests by more than two to
    one in terms of scores attained on each of the
    subtests. For example in the listening subtest,
    immersion students scored at the 80th percentile,
    while non-immersion students scored at the 14th
    percentile. Clearly, the findings indicate that
    the amount of exposure to a foreign language has
    a positive effect on student performance. It
    appears that the intensity of immersion program
    (an average of 75 of total instruction per week
    in French compared to approximately 10 for
    non-immersion) and the use of the foreign
    language to study basic subjects results in
    substantial differences in performances in all
    four skill area of the MLA test.

    Table not included. Source
    Weissburg and Buker (1990)

13
A basic data commentary in a combined results
discussion section
  • LOCATION OF RESULTS Figure 7.2 displays the
    mean percentile scores on the four subtests for
    non-immersion and immersion French students.
  • MOST IMPORTANT FINDINGS Students in the
    French immersion programs performed significantly
    better than their non-immersion peers on all four
    Modern language Association tests by more than
    two to one in terms of scores attained on each of
    the subtests. For example in the listening
    subtest, immersion students scored at the 80th
    percentile, while non-immersion students scored
    at the 14th percentile.
  • COMMENTS Clearly, the findings indicate that
    the amount of exposure to a foreign language has
    a positive effect on student performance. It
    appears that the intensity of immersion program
    (an average of 75 of total instruction per week
    in French compared to approximately 10 for
    non-immersion) and the use of the foreign
    language to study basic subjects results in
    substantial differences in performances in all
    four skill area of the MLA test.
  • NB Divided into 3 paragraphs headings added
    for purposes of analysis only normally a single
    paragraph or 2 at the most

14
Qualifications and Strength Of Claim
  • Highlighting statements need to be well judged to
    reflect the quality of your data the strength
    of the claim you can make about the data. You may
    need to
  • be cautious- sometimes critical about the data.
  • to choose appropriately cautious language
    (hedging) to express this caution. Hedging
    language that indicates certainty or commitment
    in varying degrees.
  • Slides 14 to 19 examine ways of qualifying or
    moderating a claim in data commentaries.
  • Material in slides 19- 20 24-adapted from
    Swales Feak (199486-89)

15
Probability
  • There are many ways to indicate probability in
    scientific writing. One straightforward way is
    the modal auxiliary, which is used to show how
    certain we are about something (Leech at al
    2001)e.g. will, may, might
  • Notice how the claim progressively weakens in the
    3 sentences.
  • A reduced speed limit will result in fewer
    highway injuries.
  • A reduced speed limit may result in fewer
    highway injuries.
  • A reduced speed limit might/could result in
    fewer highway injuries

16
Probability
  • Task Put the following sentence variations in
    approximate order from 1 (strongest claim) to 6
    (weakest claim).
  • Furthermore, several case studies have indicated
    that climate change _________________ the
    detrimental effects of human exploitation and
    mismanagement.
  • a. has contributed to
  • b. has caused
  • c. may have contributed to
  • d. has probably been a major cause of
  • e. has been one of the causes of
  • f. might have been a small factor in
  • Adapted from Swales Feak (1994)

17
Choosing Weaker Or Stronger Verbs
  • Task You can also reduce the strength of claims
    by choosing a weaker verb e.g.
  • The widespread use of cfcs has caused global
    warming.
    (stronger)
  • The widespread use of cfcs has contributed to
    global warming.
    (weaker)
  • Task Underline the verb making the weaker claim
  • e.g. The results indicate/establish that there is
    a link between smoking and lung cancer.
  • Table 9 suggests/shows that Chinese scientists
    may need help with writing English.
  • The latest series of experiments
    question/undermine much previous research.
  • From Swales Feak 1994

18
Choosing Weaker Or Stronger Verbs
  • 3. The results given in figure 4 validate/support
    the second hypothesis.
  • 4. The quantities displayed in the table have
    been assumed/shown to be about 98 accurate.
  • 5. The test results create/suggest a basis for
    modification of the research design.
  • 6. Changes in ambient temperature may have
    influenced/ distorted the test results.
  • 7. In their earlier work, they failed/neglected
    to take ambient temperature into account.
  • 8. As can be seen from table 3, the new pollution
    controls have encouraged/stimulated research
    into particulate filters.
  • 9. Figure 12 depicts/clarifies the genetic
    relationship
  • Slightly adapted From Swales Feak 199488-9

19
Notice how these sentences weaken in strength
with weaker modals, adjectives etc
  • It is certain that
  • It is almost certain that
  • It is very probable/highly likely that
  • It is probable/likely that
  • It is possible that
  • It is unlikely that
  • It is very unlikely/highly improbable that
  • There is a strong possibility that
  • There is a good possibility that
  • There is a definite possibility that
  • There is a slight possibility that
  • There is a remote possibility that  a reduced
    speed limit will result in fewer injuries.
  • STRONG
  • WEAK

How is this reduction in strength of claim
achieved?
Swales Feak 19947
20
Examples of data commentaries from journals
  • Look at the examples of data commentary from a
    range of journals
  • 1 Underline the hedging
  • Several properties of a plant community might
    influence its resistance to climate change. i
    Previous exposure to climatic extremes 7,8. For
    example, plant communities that frequently
    experience dry conditions may be more resistant
    to the effects of extreme droughts. ii Species
    richness. Some experimental evidence suggest that
    diverse plant communities are more resistant and
    resilient.

21
Examples of data commentaries from journals
  • 2 Which format is used here for referring to the
    figure?
  • Following leaf injury or application of OGAs,
    systemin, or JA through the transpiration stream,
    pin 2 transcripts become detectable after 2 to 4
    hours (Fig 1). . (ODonnell et al. 1996.)
  • 3 Identify 2 verbs used for hedging here
    ODonnell et al. 1996.
  • These data suggest that at least one site of
    ethylene action in the wound response is the
    regulation of JA levels in the plant. Whereas ASA
    pre-treatment abolishes any rise in JA,
    presumably through its multiple inhibitory
    effects, the specific inhibition of the ethylene
    synthesis or action only reduces the overall
    level to some 20 or 30 of that found in wild
    type This suggests that two processes contribute
    to the wound-induced increase in JA, only one of
    which is ethylene-dependent. This data suggest
    working levels in the plant . (ODonnell et al.
    1996.)
  • Extracts 1 2 From ODonnell et al. Ethylene as
    a Signal Mediating the Wound Response of Tomato
    Plants In Nature. 12 Oct 1996.

22
Data Commentaries Example 4
a. Underline
comment on the location statements.
b. Can you find any
hedging?
  • Ice core data reveal that, prior to human
    disturbance, atmospheric pCO2 appears to have
    remained at a pre-industrial level of
    approximately 28 pa for several thousand years2.
    As a result, the GCC must have been in a state of
    quasi-equilibrium over this period and it is
    reasonable to assume, therefore, that the
    perturbations in pCO2 above 28 pa, shown in
    Figure 1b, result primarily from the increases in
    the anthropogenic emissions, U, shown in Figure
    1a. The difference between these two time series
    is determined by the dynamic mixing
    characteristics of anthropogenically sourced CO2
    within the relevant elements of the GCC,
    including the atmosphere. Initial statistical
    analysis of the time series shown in Figure 1a
    and b, without any presumption about the model
    form or order, suggests that the relationship
    between U and
  • extract from Nature article by an ES lecturer

23
Data Commentaries Example 4.
Identify a) location b) summary
statements
  • Quite objectively, this SDP analysis suggests
    that, while there is no evidence of any
    nonstationarity in the offset parameter c and the
    input parameter b, there is clear evidence that
    the estimated parameter a varies as a function of
    DT, at least over a significant part of the
    observation interval, as shown in Figure 2a. On
    the basis of this nonparametric estimation
    evidence, the temperature dependency in the a
    parameter was investigated further by estimating
    the parameters in the following nonlinear dynamic
    SDP model (2).
  • Various parametric functions for a () were
    investigated, based on the form of the initial
    non-parametric identification results shown in
    Figure 2a. Table 1 gives the estimated
    parameters of the model (2), for linear and
    sigmoidal parameterisations of ., and the
    associated form of these estimated functions are
    shown in Figures 2b and c for comparison with the
    non-parametric estimate. The model based on the
    sigmoidal temperature dependency function
    explains the data marginally better than the
    linear temperature function (RT2 0.99951
    compared to RT2 0.99947) but it has one
    additional parameter that is not well defined
    (see Table 1). The model fit and predictive
    validation for model (2) in this case are shown
    in Figure 3. NB problems with inserting equations
    symbols

24
Language For Dealing With Imperfect Data
  • Hedging can also be used where you are having
    problems with your data need to reduce
    certainty when discussing possible causes
  • The difference between expected and obtained
    results may be due to the incorrect calibration
    of instruments
    may possibility i.e. less
    certainty than is
  • The discrepancy can be attributed to the small
    sample size
    can reduces certainty of is
    i.e. there may be other explanations is only
    explanation.

25
Language For Dealing With Imperfect Data
  • The lack of statistical significance is probably
    a consequence of weaknesses in experimental
    design statement strength reduced by probably
    (modal adverb)
  • The anomaly in the observation can probably be
    accounted for by a defect in the camera.
  • Modal adverb probably substitution of is-
    by can gives a lower degree of probability
  • The difficulty in dating this archaeological
    site would seem to stem from the limited amount
    of organic material available.
    would (conditional) reduces
    strength choice of verb seems expresses
    further caution
  • Source Swales Feak 199497

26
Tenses For Results Sections
  • Read the excerpt from Worrall et al (1998)
  • What 2 tenses are used?
  • Why is there a change in tense?
  • The carrot AFP was found to be N-glycosylated
    (fig.2) (10) however, enzymic removal of the
    small glycan side did not affect its RI activity.
    This result contrasts with the Solanum active or
    the fish antifreeze glycor protein (AFGP), which
    lost activity on removal of their glycan
    groups(6,11).

(tense The form of the verb group. This shows
whether you are referring to past, present, or
future time. (Collins Cobuild Dictionary, 1995)
27
Tenses For Results Sections
  • Reporting what you found i.e. results past
    tense
  • Both species of ants exhibited a behavioural
    sequence.
  • Referring to figures tables present simple
  • Figure 1 shows time series of anthropogenic
    emissions of carbon dioxide to
  • Discussing your results implications/conclusions
    present present perfect
  • Thus, the recumbent protein is stable in plants
    grown at greenhouse temperatures.

28
Tenses For Other Sections
  • Reporting what you did i.e. method past tense
  • we isolated a 36-kD glycoprotein from
  • Introduction Present simple e.g.
  • Recent research shows
  • Present perfect e.g.
  • Research has established that.
  • One strategy that has evolved

29
CWA part 2b
  • Using 2 sources Worral et al (Science, 2
    October 1998, pages 115-6)- I ii, and
    O'Donnell (Science, 13 December 1996, pages
    1915-6)- iii iv
  • Underline or identify 4 location/summary
    statements. (in Worral et al.)
  • Which pattern is used most the insentence
    reference to the figure or the bracketed style?
    (in Worral et al)
  • Find 5 examples of hedging of different
    strengths. Arrange them in approximate order of
    strength. (In O'Donnell)
  • Which verb is most commonly used when findings
    are cautiously interpreted? (In O'Donnell)

30
CWA part 2b
  • Weighting 10 of total for CWA 2b
  • Please add to CWA part 1 with the same cover
    sheet, identifying this work as CWA 2b. Assessor
    RB.
  • NB If using the original passage to highlight or
    underline the answer, you need to make clear
    which question you are answering.
  • For CWA 2a, see Powerpoint slides by Andrew
    Jarvis
  • Website url
  • http//www.lancs.ac.uk/depts/celt/sldc/sciencewrit
    ing.htm

31
Further reading
  • Maeve O'Connor's Writing Successfully in Science.
    (1991). Chapman and Hall. Chapter 4 on Preparing
    Effective Figures (pages 31-54) provides a very
    good discussion of effective data presentation
    is well illustrated with good bad examples.
  • A.S.C Ehrenberg's Conference Paper Graphs or
    tables? (1977) offers a more critical discussion
    about choosing appropriate graphical
    representation.
  • Almost Everything You Wanted to Know About Making
    Tables and Figures Bates University (2003)
    http//abacus.bates.edu/ganderso/biology/resource
    s/writing/HTWtablefigs.html This provides a very
    useful introduction, with many clearly explained
    examples.
  • Weissburg and Buker's Writing Up Research
    Experimental Research Report Writing for Students
    of English (1990) geared at international
    students studying science, it provides excellent
    analysis of the structure of data commentary
    gives lots of language advice on structure and
    tenses.
  • Swale's and Feak's Academic Writing for Graduate
    Students geared at international students. it
    has a lot of useful advice on structuring various
    types of postgraduate writing e.g. critical
    reviews, writing summaries for literature
    reviews. Source of materials for these slides
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