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Writing Scientific English

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  1. Writing Scientific English • Four levels of organization: • Word use • Sentence structure • Paragraph structure • Paper/thesis organization and format

  2. Word Use • Jargon • Know thy audience • Use the simplest, most efficient wording • Avoid the most frequent mistakes • data/datum • various/varying/variable • principle/principal • between/among • which/that • who/whom • sea water/seawater

  3. e.g. the freshwater eels were transferred to sea water the seawater eels were transferred to fresh water hyphenation for creating adjectives: the Na,K-ATPase was sensitive to ouabain the ouabain-sensitive Na,K-ATPase…. The data were significantly…. A necropsy was conducted on a dolphin that washed up on the beach. The dolphin, which had previously been tagged, was found in Beaufort.

  4. Sentence Structure • Voice and Person – typical of scientific papers to use passive voice and third person: • It was hypothesized… • The authors hypothesized… • Excessive use of the passive voice should be avoided: • It was concluded by Roer et al. that… • Roer et al. concluded … • Keep sentences reasonably short

  5. Paragraph Structure • Try to limit paragraphs to a single idea • Maintain tense in paragraph (and paper section) • Introduction – present and past tenses • Methods and Results – past tense • Discussion – present and past tenses

  6. Publishing Your Research The following are quoted from: Tipton, C.M. 1991 Publishing in peer-reviewed journals - fundamentals for new investigators. The Physiologist 34: 275, 278-279. “It is very difficult to publish data in peer-reviewed journals from studies that are flawed by their purposes, designs, and methodologies regardless of how well they are presented.”

  7. Selecting the Appropriate Journal “There are now well over 40,000 scientific and technical journals published throughout the world… most of the significant literature is published within 1,000 journals or less.” “As a basic rule, the investigator should first consider the journal of his/her professional society.” “The simplest approach is for the author to ask the question, ‘Who do I want to read and be influenced by my manuscript?’”

  8. Format and Review “Once the journal has been identified, it is essential that the instructions to authors be read before submitting the desired number of copies to a given address.” “Before the two or three reviewers are selected, the corresponding editor first examines the subject area of the study as well as the title, abstract, text, key words, and references. In addition, they check their files for the names of individuals who have expertise in the areas identified within the manuscript.” “The end result is that the abstract, title, and references become extremely important considerations in the selection of reviewers.”

  9. Reviewers will rate the paper and provide written comments on the strong and weak points of the manuscript. “This information plus comments on the critique form is used by the corresponding editor to inform the author of the ‘fate’ of the manuscript.” “It is most unlikely that any submitted manuscripts will be accepted for publication without revision. Within APS journals, the acceptance rate ranges from 52% to 72% with the average around 60%. …many manuscripts require two revisions and some three before they are accepted for publication.”

  10. “…the corresponding editor must balance the rigors of science, the purposes of the journal, the viewpoints of the reviewers, and the integrity of the data with the convictions of the investigators.” “In the main, the reviewer’s opinions are upheld, although all corresponding editors are sensitive to the opinions of authors and receptive to appeals or requests for expert input.” “As a general rule, authors of rejected manuscripts should reflect on the reasons for at least four weeks before accepting the generalization that the editors and reviewers are ignorant, insensitive, and prejudiced against them and their research area.”

  11. For your thesis: Follow the “UNCW Thesis Format Manual” on the Graduate School web site http://www.uncw.edu/grad/ For your publication and general formatting: Use the “guide to authors” for your journal http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/PBZ/instruct.html

  12. Thesis/Manuscript Format • Title • Author(s) • Abstract (Summary) • Introduction • Methods • Results • Discussion • Acknowledgements • Literature Cited (References)

  13. Abstract or Summary • Most widely read • State principal objectives • Briefly describe methods • Summarize results and conclusions Title • Very important • Should be precise • Major factor in deciding who reads paper • Running Head • Key Words

  14. Methods • Provide details for repetition • Source of chemicals • Types of equipment • Quantities and methods of preparation • Study sites • Experimental animals used Introduction • Nature and scope of problem • Review of pertinent literature • Approach to problem outlined

  15. Discussion • Interpret results • Suggest principles, relationships, generalizations • Exceptions/unsettled questions • Compare/contrast with previous work • Show theoretical implications Results • Describe data/observations • Analysis with statistics when appropriate • Graphs and tables to: • summarize data • increase visual impact • Summarize data in words • Leave interpretation to discussion

  16. Remember! Your thesis must have been approved for format by the graduate school BEFORE you can schedule your defense. At least 2 weeks before your defense: Advise the Grad. Coordinator of the time/date of your defense

  17. The library is no longer processing the binding of personal thesis copies. Personal copies can now be bound by: Southeast Library Bindery Attn: Jo Huddleston 7609 Business Park Drive Greensboro, NC 27409 Tel: 800-444-7534 Fax: 336-931-0711

  18. Effective Tables and Figures

  19. Which is the largest number in the series? 12.2 24.7 55.6 37.2 124.7 291.3 21.4 76.8 11.9 292.3 12.2 24.7 55.6 37.2 124.7 291.3 21.4 76.8 11.9 292.3

  20. Effective Slide Presentations • Clear purpose – readily understood • have a main point • simple format • free of nonessential information • Digestible • only ~ 1 min / slide • graphic format • designed for presentation • Visible & legible • Powerpoint – use 20pt or more, Arial

  21. Integrate with verbal text • slide should augment what you say • don’t read your slide • use your slides in place of notes • If you need a slide several times, use duplicates • Use a pointer • don’t overuse the laser • Don’t put your presentation in checked luggage

  22. Pay attention to font size: This is 24 pt font size This is 20 pt font size This is 18 pt font size This is 16 pt font size This is 14 pt font size This is 12 pt font size This is 10 pt font size This is 8 pt font size

  23. Font type makes a difference: Arial font is easy to make out even in relatively small font size Times New Roman is not nearly so clear For a more casual, but easy to read font, use Comic Sans MS More ornate fonts can be hard to read Bold works better in large font size than small Bold works better in large font size than small Bold works better in large font size than small

  24. Color is an important consideration Color is an important consideration Color is an important consideration Color is an important consideration Color is an important consideration Color is an important consideration Color is an important consideration

  25. Designing a Great Poster APS Professional Skills Course: Making Scientific Presentations: Critical First Skills

  26. Simple COMPLEX Poster Designs • There are gradients of poster designs • You want to be in the middle!

  27. Poster Design vs. Impact • Bad content – good design • Low impact • May stop to look but will not stay • Good content – bad design • Low impact • May not even stop to look • Good content – good design • High impact • Stop, look and ask questions!