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Scientific writing

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Title: Scientific writing


1
Scientific writing
2
  • Scientific writing in a broad sense
  • Have you ever written a scientific document?
  • Have you ever written a non-scientific document?
  • Was there a difference between the two?
  • Was there any similarity between the two?

Scientific writing is harder because of the
technical nature of the topics (there are tips to
work on this)
Scientific writing also involves telling a story
(non-fiction) with a beginning, middle and end
and connected by logical flow of thoughts
3
  • When you wrote a scientific paper, what were the
    problems you faced?
  • English language and grammar
  • What should I include in the paper?
  • What should I not include?
  • Should I organize my paper or simply vomit out
    all my knowledge on the page?
  • Am I telling a story?
  • Am I aware of my audience?
  • Why cant I seem to get started???

4
English Grammar if you submit a document with
grammar/spelling mistakes, the reader cannot
focus on the science
  • How many times have you given the first draft of
    a writing assignment to your advisor?
  • Are you satisfied if the write-up is corrected
    for spelling and grammar mistakes and not much
    else?
  • What to do?
  • Wren and Martin
  • Microsoft Word spell check (be careful)
  • Exercises on the internet
  • http//www.writing.eng.vt.edu/exercises/
  • Many others
  • Ask your friends to read your assignments

5
Why bother?
  • Communication of your results
  • Poor communication can screw up the most
    fascinating scientific findings
  • Most common excuse You would have understood it
    if you knew Chemical Engineering (or Biophysics
    or Behavioral Biology or Psycho-neuro-immunology)
  • Communication!

6
  • THE EASY WAY OUT OF SCIENTIFIC WRITING
    DIFFICULTIES PLAGIARISM!!!
  • What is it?
  • Have you ever done it? Ctrl C Ctrl V
  • Why is it bad?

7
Some ways to avoid plagiarism Understand and
paraphrase
Say it in your own words
  • Three blind mice, three blind mice
  • See how they run, see how they run
  • They all ran after the farmers wife
  • Who cut off their tails with a carving knife
  • Did you ever see such a thing in your life?
  • As three blind mice.
  • Also check out http//owl.english.purdue.edu/hand
    outs/research/r_paraphr.html

Use quotes 10 max (cant do this for entire
paragraphs!)
8
How is a scientific paper usually organized?
  • Introduction
  • Materials Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References

9
Why this organization?
  • It is based on the scientific method
  • Asking questions based on observations
  • Looking for sources that might help answer the
    questions
  • Developing possible explanations (hypotheses)
  • Designing experiments to test the hypotheses

10
Predicting what the outcome of the experiment
will be if the hypothesis is correct Collecting
data Organizing data to help interpret
results Developing possible explanations for the
experimental results Revising original
hypotheses to take into account new findings
11
Designing new experiments to test the new
hypotheses (or other expts to support old
hypothesis) Sharing findings with other
scientists
12
The scientific method Non-linear and dynamic A
theory must be falsifiable It is easy to prove
a theory wrong but very difficult to prove it
correct (this often shows up in scientific
writing style ..use of this suggests)
13
The biggest benefit of good scientific
writingBecause scientific writing is based on
the scientific method and logical flow of ideas,
improving the quality of writing actually
improves the quality of thought.
14
The paper could be organized
Introduction Materials and Methods Results
Discussion
Start off with the big picture broad Narrow
down the focus Extremely narrow Broaden the
focus
15
Introduction
  • Background (how much?) enough for the reader to
    understand the rest of the paper
  • Why is this topic interesting?
  • What are objectives of the study?
  • Why were these objectives chosen?

16
Methods
  • What is the purpose of the Methods section? To
    provide enough information for another researcher
    to repeat the experiment
  • A careful balance between excessive detail and
    not enough detail
  • What are standard techniques?
  • If you have a writing block, write this section
    first because it is easy

17
Results
  • Description of the experimental findings
  • Depiction of data in ways that are easy to
    understand (Tables, figures, graphs, etc)
  • Dealing with variability (statistics)
  • No interpretation of data at this stage unless it
    is Results Discussion
  • If you are still in state of writers block, do
    results section after methods. It is simply a
    description of your results

18
Discussion
  • For many first time science writers, this is
    simply the Results section paraphrased
  • Discussion has to go beyond the results
  • Interpretation of data
  • Comparison with other peoples findings
  • Is my work consistent/inconsistent with previous
    work?
  • What new ideas and future prospects can be
    envisioned?

19
Abstract
  • Advertisement for the paper
  • Short and snappy
  • Interesting
  • Summarize the entire paper in a very limited
    number of words
  • Tough! Do it last

20
References
  • Use reference manager software
  • Use reference manager software
  • Use reference manager software
  • Reference wherever you are stating information
    from a source

21
Characteristics of Effective Technical
Communicationhttp//www.mhhe.com/mayfieldpub/tsw
/eff-char.htm
22
  • Good technical communication is
  • accurate,
  • clear,
  • concise,
  • coherent, and
  • appropriate.

23
Accuracy
  • Accuracy, which is the careful conforming to
    truth or fact, has three main aspects
  • Document accuracy
  • the proper coverage of your topics in appropriate
    detail
  • focus clearly on a problem
  • a clear problem statement and by a preliminary
    outline
  • Stylistic accuracy
  • careful use of language to express meaning
    (paragraph and sentence structure and word
    choice)
  • drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading
  • Technical accuracy
  • a technically accurate understanding and
    representation of the subject
  • the writer's conceptual mastery of the subject
    and its vocabulary, as well as on his or her
    ability to analyze and shape data with a minimum
    of distortion

24
Clarity
  • Clarity, which refers to ease of understanding,
    is a special problem in science and technology
    writing.
  • Document clarity
  • make it easy for the reader to get the large
    picture
  • use abstracts and other forecasting strategies
    such as introductions that state the purpose and
    scope of the document
  • tables of contents, problem statements, and even
    strategic repetition
  • graphs and tables
  • descriptive titles and frequent subject headings
    guide readers and help keep the large picture in
    focus
  • Stylistic clarity is promoted by simple, direct
    language.
  • Contextual clarity
  • the importance and implications of your work
  • What prompts you to write? What is your purpose?
    Whose work precedes or has influenced yours? What
    is the organizational and intellectual context of
    your problem?

25
Conciseness
  • The concise document is a piece of writing that
    conveys only the needed material.
  • Document conciseness
  • focus, the narrowing of document scope to a
    manageable problem and response
  • preparing a clear introduction and developing a
    detailed outline are two strategies that give you
    control over document length and scope.
  • graphics are powerful aids to conciseness
  • Conciseness requires careful revising. Look for
    ways of cutting useless words, sentences, and
    sections from the document.

26
Appropriateness
  • Make your document appropriate to your goals in
    writing it, your audience's purpose in reading
    it, and the specific institutional contexts in
    which it is written and read.

27
Coherence
  • Coherence is the quality of hanging together, of
    providing the reader an easily followed path.
  • easy to understand, having a good flow or
    readability
  • make the material logically and stylistically
    consistent by organizing and expressing ideas in
    specific patterns
  • efforts to emphasize the relationships among the
    elements of a document strengthen its impact
  • coherence is especially valued in science and
    technology because of the inherent complexity of
    the subjects

28
OUTLINE
  • Before you start writing the document
  • Helps in almost all the points of clarity,
    coherence, accuracy, etc
  • It is in short sentences and points so gives a
    start for writers block
  • Useful for getting feedback from others (short
    so easy to evaluate and if there are huge
    problems, can be rectified before writing 40
    pages)

29
  • The Science of Scientific Writing
  • If the reader is to grasp what the writer
    means, the writer must understand what the reader
    needs.
  • George D. Gopen and Judith A. Swan
  • American Scientist (Nov-Dec 1990), Volume 78,
    550-558.

30
Coherence or flow
  • Readers do not simply read they interpret.
  • e.g. a simple table
  • t (time)15', T (temperature)32º, t0', T25º
    t6', T29º t3', T27º t12', T32º t9'
    T31º
  • time (min) temperature(ºC)
  • 0 25
  • 27
  • 29
  • 9 31
  • 12 32
  • 15 32

31
What happens when we invert the columns of the
table?
  • Temperature (ºC) time (min)
  • 25 0
  • 27 3
  • 29 6
  • 31 9
  • 32 12
  • 15
  • Is it harder to read? Why?

Expectation
32
Sentences should have an ordered flow to convey
meaning
Did you ever see such a thing in your life? As
three blind mice. They all ran after the farmers
wife Three blind mice, three blind mice Who cut
off their tails with a carving knife See how they
run, see how they run
Three blind mice, three blind mice See how they
run, see how they run They all ran after the
farmers wife Who cut off their tails with a
carving knife Did you ever see such a thing in
your life? As three blind mice.
33
Evaluate these paragraphs for the topics we
discussed
  • The flow of electrical current can induce the
    migration of impurities or other defects through
    the bulk of a solid. This process is called
    electromigration. In simple electromigration, the
    force on the defect is thought to have two
    components. The first component is the force
    created by direct interaction between the
    effective charge of the defect and the electric
    field that drives the current. The second
    component, called the "wind force," is the force
    caused by the scattering of electrons at the
    defect.
  • --J.A. Stroscio and D.M. Eigler, "Atomic and
    Molecular Manipulation with the Scanning
    Tunneling Microscope," Science

34
The smallest of the URF's (URFA6L), a
207-nucleotide (nt) reading frame overlapping out
of phase the NH2-terminal portion of the
adenosinetriphosphatase (ATPase) subunit 6 gene
has been identified as the animal equivalent of
the recently discovered yeast H-ATPase subunit 8
gene. The functional significance of the other
URF's has been, on the contrary, elusive.
Recently, however, immunoprecipitation
experiments with antibodies to purified,
rotenone-sensitive NADH-ubiquinone
oxido-reductase hereafter referred to as
respiratory chain NADH dehydrogenase or complex
I from bovine heart, as well as enzyme
fractionation studies, have indicated that six
human URF's (that is, URF1, URF2, URF3, URF4,
URF4L, and URF5, hereafter referred to as ND1,
ND2, ND3, ND4, ND4L, and ND5) encode subunits of
complex I. This is a large complex that also
contains many subunits synthesized in the
cytoplasm.
35
Coherence throughout the document
  • Individual sentences in each paragraph should
    flow
  • Paragraphs should flow
  • Sections should flow
  • Then the entire document will flow

36
Writing a scientific document
  • Outline
  • Get feedback on your outline from friends/advisor
  • Start writing the MM and Results
  • Write the Intro, Discussion and Abstract
  • Give the document to friends for initial feedback
    and spelling/grammar corrections
  • Give document to advisor for comments
  • Revise, correct, edit
  • When you cant stand looking at it any more, put
    it away for a few days
  • Revise, correct, edit
  • When you are sick to death of the document,
    submit it
  • Whole process can take a month or more. Last
    minute write-ups are bad and it shows!

37
Some useful websites
  • http//classweb.gmu.edu/biologyresources/writinggu
    ide/ScientificPaper.htm
  • http//www.amstat.org/publications/jcgs/sci.pdf
  • http//www.columbia.edu/cu/biology/ug/research/pap
    er.html
  • http//members.verizon.net/vze3fs8i/air/airpaper.
    html (funny!)
  • How to write your PhD thesis
  • http//www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/thesis.html
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