Scientific Writing is an essential step in presenting and elaborating of scientific results and data gathered during research. Still, schools often minimize the amount of time students spend on learning how to write in favor of scientific concepts and methods.
But the ability to effectively communicate your point and show your message is crucial in your road to success. People need to be able to understand your findings and without a research paper turning raw data that only you can understand into digestible conclusions, your findings could prove to be useless.
Even other scientists prefer to read the entire essay rather than just look at some numbers. This is why learning how to write properly for scientific purposes is really important in every scientist’s life. But because they don’t teach this in schools, scientists have to learn how to write themselves. In the spirit of the growth mindset, they definitely should.
Here are some useful scientific writing tips to get you started.
Your paper should flow
No matter how dry the data is to an untrained eye, the paper should flow impeccably. You want to grab and retain attention and spark interest in your field of work. This has several meanings. For one, the reader should be able to transition from section to section and from concept to concept. To keep this up, remind yourself of the story you are trying to tell and always connect new questions to previous ideas and resolutions and resolutions to new concepts and so on. As a rule, try to stick to the same subject throughout the section and mix the sentence length to maintain their interest and avoid boredom in the reader. Emphasize certain things that you find important, especially in comparison with the previous statements that you made. Keep in mind that ideas that are placed near the end of the sentence are usually perceived as the most important.
Be aware of the overall style of writing, make it fun and interesting for your readers but still formal enough to reflect the fact that it is a scientific document.
Use mostly active voice with some passive
If you are mostly using the active voice with an occasional passive sentence where it sounds and feels better than an active sentence, your writing is stronger and better. Scientific writing is full of passive voice which weakens powerful statements by taking the action away from the action. But, when used appropriately, the passive voice might actually improve your writing and make it more comprehensible for the user.
Jargon, flowery prose and technical terms can be redundant in scientific writing. Your audience is looking for something comprehensible and easy to digest, not something they will have to use the dictionary for. So make the writing simple yet powerful, regular words have more impact.
Editing is often just as important as writing since you can find and remove many mistakes that you might be making in your writing.
For scientists to write stellar and interesting papers, it’s crucial to follow these steps. They show you how to make an entertaining paper that can be meaningful in future studies.
A passive sentence is a sentence where the object is being acted on and an active sentence is where the subject is the one doing the acting. During the 20th century, the passive voice was dominating scientific writing because it sounded more formal while now there is a shift towards using more of the active language instead. APA roots for the active voice in order to add clarity and conciseness as well. The general opinion is that the passive voice makes the writing flat and boring while active engages the reader and makes them more interested in the topic at hand. For this purpose, more and more scientists are now using a mixture of passive and active writing, both to the effect of making their papers more clear and entertaining for the readers.
It’s interesting that in the past, before the 20th century, people actually preferred and used the active voice and it became favored at the turn of the century. Passive voice obscured the agents in the actions and readers could lose any sight of relevance when the prose is dominated by things and objects rather than people.
But polarised views on a subject are irrelevant in the writing world and especially in science because both voice types can be used in a scientific paper, depending on the context of it.
The APA recommends that we should use verb tenses and voices carefully. Don’t be reluctant to use the active voice, especially in the discussion section since this is where it’s very important to emphasize who you are and where you stand as a scientist.
When writing the methods section, it can be a good idea to break the passive sentences with active statements. A passive voice is used in science as a way to describe a process that would otherwise be difficult to describe while active voice should be used to describe actions as the very name of it says.
You should generally start by describing the active doers in an active voice and then move on to construct sentences concisely with passive voice if appropriate. Throw in a few sentences inactive in order to break the dullness.
The active voice should be heavily used in the introduction section of your paper. This is where you discuss previous research an introduce your own so it’s a good idea to be as engaging and active as you can. The active voice refers to a sentence format and it emphasizes the agents of the action rather than the object of the action. Passive voice gives everything an impersonal tone which can come off as too formal in today’s world and make readers lose interest but in some cases, specifically with scientific papers, it’s a great addition because this kind of professional writing often means authenticity.
Use these voices by using common sense because that’s the only way to actually create the best possible flow for your document.
Many English writers find it to be a challenge to write concisely. It’s a technique and it takes a lot of practice to actually notice what can be done better in order for the research paper to be shorter and more concise.
People usually have a problem keeping it short namely because they have so much to say and a word limit only stops them. However, with research papers or any kind of essay, in general, it’s essential to keep to the set rules and given word count limits. Exceeding the word count limit usually means that the writer wasn’t clear enough on his message and that he has to edit the document heavily to remove redundancies and make a clearer point. Rarely does the exceeded word count mean that there is any value in the extra amount of words written.
Here are some ways you can revise your research paper and find excess words.
Look at sentence beginnings
Redundancies usually begin at the very start of the sentence. People use phrases to create a subtle yet meaningful transition from one paragraph or chapter to another but there is really no need to do that.
So, when revising, pay attention to redundancies like “therefore”, “there was a previous study on”, “it has been reported that”, “scientists have found” and so on.
Especially with examples like the last three, these are unnecessary. Since you can use citations to show exactly which study it is and scientists involved, you don’t need to emphasize that the statement is related to said research.
Nominalizations happen when you use the noun form of verbs instead of verb forms. These are a huge contributor to redundancies and wordiness in research papers. They also indicate that the passive wording has been used.
The passive wording, in addition to being wordy, is also mitigating the strength of your message. It makes the overall writing weaker and less engaging for the reader. Look out for these in your papers.
Check for obvious sentences
Always remember that it is your professors or someone with more knowledge than you that is reading your document. They already know all of the basics and it would be a good idea to skip them. People usually start sections and paragraphs with these sentences as a way to softly invite the reader in. While in theory it might be a decent idea since you can almost instantly show what the research paper is about, it may seem patronizing to your target audience. It’s still very important to establish some sort of context in the beginning, doing so in this way may come off as poor writing and poor amount of knowledge about the subject.
For instance, if you are writing about toys, it would be a bad idea to start with “Toys are favorite entertainment of millions of children”.
Writing a good research paper is one of the main tasks of any student. But, given the word count, you might need a bit more revising than you have originally expected. Stay within the limits with some of these tips, make sure that you are on the subject and that your message is clear.