Week 3 – Project Research and Planning (Lecture)

Scientific / Technical Writing

  • Writing about science and technology.
  • Writing for other scientists and domain experts.
  • Is sometimes called ‘Academic Writing’
  • There are general guidelines.
  • But there are also specific style guidelines for technical and scientific fields.

Where is it needed?

  • Scientific communication
    • articles, papers, presentations,
    • academic writing, dissertation, thesis
  • Technical  communication
    • Reports

History of Scientific Writing

  • Early establishment in 14th century
  • In 17th century: royal society began advocating good practice for scientific writing.

Stands of Scientific Writing:

  • Formal
    • Style, Layout
  • Content Elements
    • Chapters with specific content
  • Language:
    • The way of writing scientifically

Formal Style/Layout

  • Often depends on the domain
  • Some domain-specific guidelines are given by academic organisations.
  • Conferences and Journals often have their own style guides – follow them regarding layout and structure of paper.

Figures and Tables:

  • Use a figure to depict a trend
  • Use a table to present exact numbers.
  • Table caption at the top, figure caption at the bottom.
  • Each figure needs number, a caption, and needs to be referenced in the text.
  • When possible, cite statistical tests, tables, and figures at the ends of sentences. This placement avoids breaks in reading the texts.

Elements of a Scientific Paper

  • Titles
  • Names of Authors
  • Abstract
  • Keywords
  • Introduction
  • Empirical Techniques: Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Analysis and Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Reference

Element: Title

  • Concise: Approx 10 words Long
  • Be quite specific in the title, avoid too general forumlation
  • Do not use poetic ‘cute’ or idiomatic titles.

Element: Author Name(s)

  • All authors who contributed to the paper.
  • Each author must know about and agree on the content of the paper
  • If layout / style guide allows, also add institution where work was performed.

Element: Abstract

  • One paragraph, summarising the content of the paper.

Element: Keywords

  • Will be used to find your work fast
  • Choose keywords from terms that characterise your work.

Element: Introduction

  • Can be the ‘most interesting’ part of your paper for non-specialists:
    • Provides the link of your work to the real world.
  • Make clear, why your work is important.
  • Point out unsolved problems, which your work can help solve

Element: State of the Art and Related Work

  • Showing context of previous scientific investigation, existing literature.
  • Show limits of existing knowledge.
  • Identify the concrete gap in knowledge.
  • Describe similar approaches to yours and explain why yours is different and why you chose a different path than others. First thing to do when doing work/ an experiment is to find out what has been done on the same subject previously.

Element: Empirical Techniques

  • Reader of paper should be able to repeat the observations. Therefore, your description of your methodology needs to be thorough.
  • Must provide all relevant details
  • If possible, refer the reader to a reference of a particular technique rather than provide a step-by-step description of the whole process.
  • Always include the dates of each sampling period.
  • Use subheadings to organise lengthy segments.

Element: Results

  • Needs to be accurate and concise
  • Emphasise the main points of the data
  • Report the summary data, not just summary statistics

Element: Discussion

  • Interpretation of results, comparison to previous work or related studies.
  • Also critical view on validity and limits.
  • Argumentation needs to be sound – convince the reader
  • Make the paper come ‘full circle’ by discussing the data in the context of the justification and objectives stated in the introduction.

Element: Conclusion

  • Summary of findings
  • Concluding remarks.
  • Possibly an outlook on future work, in case your results raised some new questions which were not asked before (and which to answer would have exceeded the scope of your work.

Element: References

  • List of all cited literature.
  • Each reference needs to be cited in the text as well.

Use Clear, simple, concise writing.

Flow of ideas

  • Focus your thoughts by writing the summary first, even for articles that don’t require one.
    • Get your ideas in a sensible sequence:
    • Make an outline in the form of headings
    • Put the draft aside for days or weeks
    • and to get others to comment on the drafts =
  • Try to make the ideas within each section flow together
  • Don’t put things in the wrong section or subsection. Skim the finished document to make sure.
  • When appropriate, keep the order of ideas the same in different sections of the article

Avoid Ambiguity

  • Don’t generalise unnecessarily. For example don’t say some if you know of only one instance.
  • This on it’s own is known as an ambiguous antecedent. Used instead  this test or this problem.
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