Introduction to Scientific Writing
Definition: Scientific writing is technical writing by a scientist/researcher, intended for other scientists/researchers. For example, a paper published in a Journal on topic Iris Recognition which includes image processing techniques, statistical results etc for achieving the objective would come under scientific writing.
Scientific writing is used to communicate effectively with other scientists and plays a vital role in information spread. Most of the times it is confused with Science Writing, however both are two different things. As mentioned earlier the audiences of Scientific Writing are scientists/researchers but in case of Science Writing the audience is general public so writing is done differently in these.
Scientific writing is not just a mere presentation of information; its fundamental purpose is to communicate effectively with the intended reader. So it is not good enough to just present facts and figures in the form of charts, graphs and formulae etc., in fact it should be written in a way that a large amount of audience perceives it accurately. Scientists do not just read, they interpret the information which can be written in multiple ways. So the objective of scientific writing is to present the information in a way which is easier to understand while its technical essence should be maintained. For example, if we want to present the data collected during an experiment of two variables time and temperature, we could use the following methods to compare them .
Method 1: t = Time, T = Temperature; t=0′, T=15º; t=5′, T=19º; t=2′, T=17º; t=11′, T=12º; t=8′; T=21º
|Time (t)||Temperature (T)|
It can be clearly seen that the second method in which data is present in tabular form is more understandable for comparison. Information can be interpreted more easily and accurately if it is presented in a way which is expected by the reader. Science could be hard to read so by improving the quality of writing it could lead to the improvement of thoughts.
Benefits of Scientific Writing: Scientific writing has many benefits, the most important one is to appreciate and evaluate other’s work. Mostly it is used to advance human knowledge for the benefit of mankind but could also be used as a way to express scientific discovery and publishing of that discovery may also lead to global recognition. One may also write for the pleasure of creative activity derived from writing or to fulfill the minimum requirements for a job. In some industries job promotion is also bonded with research publications by the employer .
Types of Scientific Writing: Scientific writing can be performed for producing following types of documents .
- Journal articles
- Conference research papers
- Workshop papers
- Research Funding Grant proposals (To sponsor a research)
- Literature review articles (summary and analysis the research that has already been carried out on a particular subject)
- Popular science articles (communicating scientific discoveries to a scientific audience)
- Books and Reviews etc
Challenges in Scientific Writing: Sometimes writing fails to disseminate the actual thoughts or work of a scientist and following could be the main reason behind those bad scientific writings .
- Lack of Incentive
- Lack of Interests
- Faulty or Artificial Style
Lack of Appreciation: This is common for house-readers who do not get any incentive for reading instead they are afraid to give sincere comment on their colleague’s writings. They fear that they might hurt the feelings of their colleagues and also if they give comments the writer could also give comments in return when their own paper comes up. Some time correcting bad writing is also considered as disrespect to author so even editors avoid making corrections in writing of well known authors. Solution to avoid this problem is to use double blind review in which author and reviewer of writing are kept hidden.
Lack of Interests: Lack of interests in technical writings could be due to lack of the knowledge of English language. Writers whose English is not good often fail to express their work properly which leads to rejection of that writing. However the work done by them could be of significance importance.
Faulty or Artificial Style: Some of the writers are very much impressed by so called “Beautiful English” so they try to use complex words in their writing which is not necessary. These florid writing styles sometimes lead to artificial or faulty style. In technical writing aside from technical terms, thoughts of author should be communicated in simplest possible way while maintaining its technical aspects.
Key Elements of Scientific Writing: Several key elements are involved in scientific writing which may lead to success or failure, therefore following points should be considered carefully before performing technical writing .
- Be very precise: A reader may be prevented from grasping crucial aspects of the writing if there are ambiguities in writing they will cause confusion.
- Be very clear: Most of the time concepts and methods in the sciences are complex therefore if you are writing that is difficult to follow will create confusion for the reader.
- Objectivity: Your proposition should always be based on facts, not on your emotions. Theoretical explanations, past experiences, and practical examples should be used.
- The article should be well structured means in proper flow which can capture the intention of researchers/scientists.
- Only necessary detail should be included in your article try to exclude extraneous information. The reader should be able to easily follow what you are trying to explain (methodology, results, and logic) without being distracted by irrelevant facts and descriptions. Most of the science communications are space limited.
- Try to increase the use of quantitative descriptions rather than qualitative descriptions.
- Use plain English (but do not avoid the appropriate scientific terms). Understandable to your readers (scientists/specialists) but not necessarily to general public although they should be able to get the general idea.
- Use tables and figures for effective communication of major findings and insights.
- Always provide context if you are going to present something new.
- Do not try to be overly critical when referencing other’s work, respect their work and use a soft tone in your writing. Criticizing is very easy but is of less use but off course if there is a flaw you should point it out .
- Always give references if you quote something from someplace else and try to reference the latest work more.
- Follow a standard for listing all of your references.
Conclusion: Scientific writers must use precise, concrete language to evaluate and explain scientific theories because science theories are also based on mathematical models, data sets or combination of these two.
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- Jane Webster, Richard T. Watson (June 2002). “Analyzing the past to prepare for the future: writing a literature review”. MIS Quarterly Journal Volume 26, Issue 2 (pp. 13-23).
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