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Title: Academic%20Writing%20for%20Science%20Students

  • Academic Writing for Science Students

Approaching Academic Writing
  • Who are you writing for?
  • What are you trying to say?
  • How are you going to say it effectively?

Purposes of Academic Writing
  • Advance knowledge in a particular field
  • Replication
  • Rational inquiry
  • Ways to verify scholars claims
  • Scientific method (techniques for investigating
  • Develop, test theories on how the world works

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Differences Between Academic and Personal Writing
Personal Writing Academic Writing
Tells personal experience Comments, evaluates, analyses
Non-technical vocabulary Subject-specific vocabulary
I at the centre I as observer and commentator
Information comes from the writers experience Information comes from sources and references
Personal views and feelings Evidence and arguments
Free form of writing Follow conventions for citations
  • Adapted from Crème P Lea M, Writing at
    University, Buckingham, OUP, 1997, p. 105

Types of Academic Writing
  • Essays
  • Laboratory reports
  • Research proposals
  • Personal statements
  • Presentations
  • Reflective journals

Characteristics of academic writing
Never use a long word where a short one will
suffice. If it is possible to cut a word out,
always cut it out. George Orwell, Politics of
  • Clarity
  • Objective
  • Impersonal, usually formal
  • Unity
  • Focus on one topic only
  • Coherence
  • Achieved by consistent use of terms

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Formal vs. Informal Style
A) The inequity in the distribution of wealth in
Australia is yet another indicator of Australia's
lack of egalitarianism. In 1995, 20 of the
Australian population owned 72.2 of Australia's
wealth with the top 50 owning 92.1 (Raskall,
1998 287). Such a significant skew in the
distribution of wealth indicates that, at least
in terms of economics, there is an established
class system in Australia. McGregor (1988)
argues that Australian society can be categorized
into three levels the Upper, Middle and Working
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Formal vs. Informal Style
B) Because only a few people have most of the
money and power in Australia, I conclude that it
is not an equal society. Society has an Upper,
Middle and Lower class and I think that most
people when they are born into one class, end up
staying in that class for their whole lives. When
all three classes are looked at more closely,
other things such as the differences between the
sexes and people's racial backgrounds also add to
the unequal nature of Australian society.
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Clarity is more important than sounding academic
  • Which do you prefer?

A) Better evaluation of responses to treatment modalities depends on the standardization of an index allowing accurate description of learning behavior disorders.
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Clarity is more important than sounding academic
  • or

B) We could better evaluate how those with learning disorders respond to treatment if we could standardize an index that accurately describes how they behave.
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Passive vs. Active Voice
  • Passive voice, when overused, is weak
  • The actor of the verb is hidden, so is
  • Usually requires a to be construction
  • Find yourself asking by whom or what?
  • But it can be useful, if your topic doesnt
    require a specific acting agent

Poland was invaded in 1939, thus initiating the Second World War.
Insulin was first discovered in 1921 at the University of Toronto and is still the only treatment available for diabetes.
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Task 2 Scientific Writing
  • Which of the two samples of scientific writing is
  • A survey designed at the University of Wales
    Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST)
    offered two different ways of writing up the same
    piece of scientific information. The two authors
    were given neutral names, "Smith" and "Brown".
  • Read the two texts in Task 2 and discuss with
    your group. Choose your preferred text and give

What can you tell?
69.5 of the scientists who responded to the questionnaire preferred Smith's version. In all, 1580 scientists gave their views. Not only did they prefer the easier passage, but they also found it more stimulating and more interesting. In answering the question, Does one author seem to have a better organized mind?, three-quarters said, Yes, Smith. A majority of the scientists who filled out the questionnaire perceived Smith's version as more impressive, more credible, and more worthy of esteem than the Brown version. WHY???
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A more impressive scientist
Both passages have the same content and the order of presentation. The use of technical terms is similar too both passages use five undefined technical words (adrenal, androgen, corticosterone, glucocorticoids and hormone). The difference is more in the handling of ordinary language than in the technical language.
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A more impressive scientist
Smith's version Brown's version
more readable short sentences with direct, active constructions. avoids unfamiliar words, and inflated roundabout phrases good paragraphing difficult to read with long sentences, convoluted constructions long words like adrenalectomized all in a single paragraph
It was these differences in style, not the technical content and organization, which made readers feel that Smith was a more impressive scientist.
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Academic Writing for Science Subjects
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Useful formula
Correct Verb Tense
  • Generally accepted theories gtgt present tense
  • Specific research papers gtgt e.g. describe,
    present or deal with, investigate gtgt past
  • Author Reference number or date verb of report
    ( past tense) that Findings (Present tense)
  • Curie 1 showed that aluminum in seawater is
    regulated by a thermodynamic balance.

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2a. Choosing between active passive voice
  • The passive voice
  • The actor is not really important but the
    process or principle being described is of
    ultimate importance.
  • The active voice
  • The actor is more important than the process
    or principle being described.

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2b. The cases using Active Voice
A process description employs verbs that indicate a change of state, such as expand, rise, cool, and form. e.g. Most metals expand and contract with variations in temperature. Intransitive verbs stem from, originate (in), become Research terms, such as The study, The project, The report, The paper gtgt use the active voice. e.g. The paper aims to investigate the effect of X on Y.
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3a. Effective Verbs
  • Use Formal Precise verbs
  • Phrasal verbs often have one-word synonyms, which
    are usually of Latin origin and are more formal
    than their phrasal verb equivalent.

e.g. figure out --gt determine go up to --gt reach keep up --gt maintain
3b. Effective Verbs
  • Avoid Verb Noun Collocation
  • gtgt use direct verbs
  • gtgt Workshop Ex Task 3

e.g. Make an analysis --gt analyze Make a consideration --gt consider Perform a simulation --gtSimulate Have a discussion about --gt discuss Present a claim on --gt claim
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4a. Skills to write clearly
  • Avoid using unclear pronouns it, this, that,
    these, they.
  • gtgtuse This/ these noun to join ideas

e.g. According to a recent survey, 26 of all American adults, down from 38 thirty years ago, now smoke. This drop can be partly attributed to the mounting evidence linking smoking and fatal disease such as cancer.
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4b. Skills for writing concisely
  • Reduce the relative clause into a prepositional
  • 1. SBe/V (N1) which has N2.
  • ? SBe/V(N1) with N2.
  • Use a prepositional phrase to express the less
    important idea

e.g. A further experiment was conducted which had more accurate results. gtgt A further experiment was conducted with more accurate results.
e.g. Labor cost is rising and manufacturers have to relocate their factories to places where there is cheaper labor. gtgt Due to rising labor cost, manufacturers have to labor.
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4c. Skills for writing concisely
  • Reduce the clause into participle phrase

e.g. A current is sent through the material therefore, the electrons are polarized. ? A current is sent through the material, (thus) polarizing the electrons. Prices rise thus, the chance of hyperinflation increases. ?Prices rise, thus increasing the chance of hyperinflation.
gtgt Workshop Ex Task 4
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4d. Dangling Modifiers should be avoided
  • Have the same subject in two clauses

e.g. 1. To calculate the temperature, the energy balance equation should be used. --gt To calculate the temperature, we should use the energy balance equation. 2. Based on the energy balance, we can calculate the temperature. Based on the energy balance, the temperature can be calculated. On the basis of the energy balance, we can calculate the temperature.
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Concluding Remarks
Phrases gtgt single words (??????,??????,) Clauses gtgt phrases (??????,??????,) Vary sentence structures, but remember simplicity brings clarity (???????,????????) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. (???????????????)
gtgt Workshop Ex Task 5
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The Process of Writing
  • Analyse the question
  • Check your understanding of the topic through
    reviewing the lecture notes or other information
  • Brainstorm
  • Collect more data
  • Organise the details
  • Plan draft an outline
  • Write out the first draft
  • Rewrite it/ edit it

Characteristics of a good essay
  1. Focuses on the question/ task
  2. Has a clear structure - easy to follow
  3. Is well researched - evidence based
  4. Adheres to academic conventions
  5. Is correctly referenced
  6. Is well presented word limit, page numbering,
    margins, line spacing, font type, spelling

Physics (Science) Essay should
  • include diagrams/ equations/ graphs/ tables
  • keep the readers in mind
  • gtgtA reader has to be able to understand your
  • include technical terms but should not overuse
  • gtgt define the terms
  • prefer clarity and accuracy over elegance
  • gtgt shorter sentences, no padding, no poetry
  • have a thesis statement or work from a hypothesis
  • gtgt have a clear objective
  • use some quotations

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Analysing the Essay Question
  • Read the question carefully check any unknown
  • Suggestion use colour pens or highlighters
  • Draw a box around phrases which instruct you how
    to tackle the questions
  • Outline /evaluate / analyse / justify / describe
  • Identify and underline the words or phrases which
    establish the subject(s) of the question
  • Underline with dashes, the refining words/
    phrases which further limit the subject area

A good introduction should
Give an overview of the text. Present the central idea. Give reasons for writing the text. Explain how the title will be interpreted. Justify why the question is answered in a particular way. Give the background to the main topic of the essay explain the context. Present a thematic statement that the rest of the essay will attempt to justify Include some relevant quotes to interest the reader and set a feel for the text. Present a concrete example that the text will explain and elaborate on it. Relate the text to other works in the same field. Crème Lea, p. 116.
A conclusion should
Summarise the answers to the questions the assignment set out to address. Refer back to the question posed in the title and show that it has been answered. Give a sense of an ending. Point out what the assignment has and has not answered. Put forward the writers view in the light of the evidence that has been presented. Point the reader in the direction of a new idea. But do not introduce new information. Crème Lea, p. 121
AP Hamburger Method
Questions to ask when checking Your work
  • Does the introduction act as a signpost for the
    whole text?
  • Does the assignment address the title question?
  • Does the text have a central idea? Is the idea
    apparent to the reader or do you have to search
    for it?
  • Do any points need more explicit framing to
    provide a necessary context for a point raised?
  • Does the text raise questions that it does not
  • Is there a sense of an argument developing?
  • Is the evidence provided substantial? Are the
    illustrations/examples relevant?
  • Do points, both within and beyond paragraphs,
    follow logically? Does the whole piece hang
    together coherently?
  • Why is this piece of information in the text
    what purpose does it fulfil?
  • Is the use of subject specific terminology
  • Is the ending satisfactory?
  • Worthington, P. Language Learning Centre, UWA

What is a laboratory report?
  • A laboratory report is a way of describing
    research in a standardized format.
  • A lab report will include the following
  • An abstract
  • An introduction to the research topic
  • Methods section
  • The results of the research
  • A discussion of the results
  • References

Why Reference
  • To support your ideas with evidence
  • To show that you have read within your subject
  • To inform your reader of the
  • Range
  • Extent
  • Nature
  • of your source material
  • To show that you are able to select and use
    appropriate materials
  • To acknowledge that part of your work has been
    derived from other peoples works.
  • To indicate the approach you have adopted.
  • Adapted from Trzeciak J Mackay S, Study skills
    for Academic Writing (London Prentice Hall,
    1994), p. 56

Why cite?
  • Readers can look up related works
  • Show that you are a professional and that you
    have understood what other researchers have done
  • Give credit to previous researchers
  • Avoid plagiarism

Citing and References
  • Departments have their own guidelines
  • Two main styles of citation in common use
  • Harvard places references within the text (Smith,
    2002) and a bibliography
  • Chicago uses footnotes or endnotes1

e.g. 1 Smith, D, The Freudian Trap in Combat Motivation Theory in Journal of Strategic Studies, 25(3), 2002
Cite what?
  • What needs to be cited1
  • Quotations taken from a published source
  • Someone elses theories or ideas (even if you
    have paraphrased them)
  • Someone elses sentences, phrases, or special
    expressions (invented jargon)
  • Facts, figures, and research data compiled by
    someone else (not you or your colleagues)
  • Graphs, pictures, and charts designed by someone

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Cite for credibility
  • Use credible sources (not Wikipedia!)
  • Avoid statements out of context, e.g.
  • All human minds start as a blank slate.
  • Instead, use a source
  • John Locke developed the concept of tabula rasa,
    that is, that all humans start as blank slates
    and all experiences are learned (cite here). I
    agree/disagree because . . .
  • Clarity of style contributes to your credibility.

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What the ILC cannot do
  • We will not edit or proofread your paper.
  • But we shall work with you to help you become a
    better writer and editor of your own work.
  • We cannot tell you whether or not you have met
    your professors expectations.
  • But we can tell you, based on the topic and
    content you have presented, whether you have
    written the paper clearly.

Writing for science
  • http//
  • The Craft of Scientific Writing by Michael Alley
    held in the main library UL  -  T11 .A37 1996
  • Also see the downloadable work available through
    the university library catalogue The Craft of
    Scientific Presentations

  • Practical Sharing of Paper Submission to Journals
  • Academic Writing - Why it is what it is
  • Essay writing for Physics Students, Angela Koch
  • Style and flow in Scientific Writing http//www.go
  • Writing for Science and Technology Students,
    Effective Learning, SLDC http//
  • Writing about Physics (and other sciences),
    University of Toronto http//www.writing.utoronto.
  • Effective Writing by Pedro Pak-tao Ng, CUHK (H62.
    N338 2003), Appendix 7 Writing Clear and
    Effective Sentences.

Any questions?
  • If you want more help, dont forget the
    Independent Learning Centre has writing workshops
    and online resources !

  • ILC offers a range of resources
  • Check out our resources links
  • Join other workshops
  • Make a booking for a 20 minute face to face

What the ILC can do
  • Join our workshops on various types of academic
    writing, e.g. academic essays, reports, personal
    statements, application letters, etc.
  • One-on-one consultation with writing issues such
  • Focusing your ideas
  • Developing a thesis for an academic paper
  • Constructing an argument
  • Planning and structuring literature reviews
  • Targeting a particular audience
  • Using appropriate referencing styles
  • Learning how to edit for grammar and syntax
  • Developing writing strategies

  • Keep It Simple and Short.

Thank You!