Got assigned this term to teach "Writing the Scientific Paper" for BS Agribusiness Economics juniors. The students, according to one of their professors, need to hone their skills in effective and clear writing. I'll focus on the "clear writing" part then, and work with the students in enhancing their prose (specifically the scientific or technical style).
I'll be using mainly Robert Day's How to write and publish a scientific paper (5th ed.; Oryx Press, 1998) as reference. In his book, Day has very succinct step-by-step chapters starting with a definition of scientific writing, followed by a brief history, then a description of the scientific paper, and chapters on how to write the title of the paper, the abstract, the Introduction, and so on.
Other references that will come in handy include: John Blackwell and Jan Martin's A scientific approach to scientific writing (Springer, 2011), Michael Jay Katz's From research to manuscript: A guide to scientific writing (Springer, 2006), and Jean-Luc Lebrun's Scientific writing: A reader and writer's guide (World Scientific Publishing, 2007). Michael Alley's The craft of scientific writing (3rd ed.; Springer, 1996), Emmanuel S. de Dios's Form and functions: A guide to technical writing in Economics (UP Press, 2004), and John Kirkman's Good style: Writing for science and technology (2nd ed.; Routledge, 2005) are also valuable references for the nitty-gritty of constructing clear sentences and coherent paragraphs that make up an effective scientific paper.
Because scientific papers are written "to communicate new scientific findings" (Day, 1998) and "for recording meaningful scientific observations" (Katz, 2006), they have to be written clearly and with the use of appropriate language. But it wasn't that way when the first scientific journals, Journal des Sçavans (France) and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (England), were first published in 1665. It was only in the 19th century, with Louis Pasteur writing (but still with rather long-winded sentences) and introducing the IMRAD format, that scientific writing soon got to be "tightly written and well organized." The IMRAD format (short for Introduction, Methods, Results, And Discussion) became the standard and, because it saved page space, allowed science journals to publish more articles. It also "convinced [editors] that it was the simplest and most logical way to communicate research results" (Day, 1998).
For this term's class, I'll start off my students with a book review, one type of scientific writing usually given as an academic assignment. This will prepare them for writing other forms of scientific writing: the Review Paper "designed to summarize, analyze, evaluate, or synthesize information that has already been published"; the Conference Report, "a paper published in a book or journal as part of the proceedings of a symposium, national or international congress, workshop, roundtable, or the like"; the Oral Presentation, a condensed version of a research report read in conferences; the Scientific Poster, a poster presentation of a research report; and the Scientific Paper, "a superbly prepared research report" published in a "primary journal or other primary publication" (Day, 1998). I'll also be requiring my students to attend a forum or conference so they can write a Seminar Report.
Here's to a grueling term ahead (good luck to marking papers, too). ✍
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