A Short Course on Scientific Writing
1 / 204

A Short Course on Scientific Writing - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on
  • Presentation posted in: General

A Short Course on Scientific Writing. Prepared by Summer 2006 RET participants Advisor: Dr. Andreas Linninger based on the book entitled:. The Craft of Scientific Writing by Michael Alley. Technical Writing: Overview. Motivation Part I - Structure: (3 topics) Where to start

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.

Download Presentation

A Short Course on Scientific Writing

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Presentation Transcript

A Short Course on Scientific Writing

Prepared by Summer 2006 RET participants

Advisor: Dr. Andreas Linninger

based on the book entitled:

The Craft of Scientific Writing

by Michael Alley

Technical Writing: Overview

  • Motivation

  • Part I - Structure: (3 topics)

    • Where to start

    • Organization of a technical paper

    • Providing Transition, Depth and Emphasis

  • Part II – Language (6 topics)

    • Precision

    • Clarity

    • Tone

    • Familiarity

    • Being Concise

    • Being Fluid

Overview Continued

  • Part III – Illustration (2 topics)

    • Making the right choices

    • Creating the best designs

  • Part IV– Writing (6 topics)

    • Correspondence

    • Proposals

    • Instructions

    • Preparing presentations

    • Format

    • Writing the paper

Motivation: The Importance of Quality Scientific Writing

  • For learning to occur, it is important to clearly communicate concepts

  • Poor writing leads to useless and confusing documents

  • Good writing is necessary to fund projects

  • Good writing is a marketable and highly valued skill

Chapter 1: Deciding Where to Begin

Prepared by Seth Baker

RET Summer 2006

Considerations for Scientific Writing

As you write you must consider the complexity of the subject as well as the unique language used.

  • Complexity of Subject

    • Random (fluid dynamics)

    • Intricate (DNA structure)

    • Abstract (electron orbits)

  • Complexity of Language

    • Terms (unique vocabulary)

    • Abbreviations (common)

Establishing Your Constraints

  • Audience

    • Who are they?

    • What is their level of understanding?

    • Why are they reading the paper?

      • Inform: The most information in the least amount of reading.

      • Persuade: Present well organized logical arguments.

  • Politics

    • Be honest

    • Ethical responsibility

      • Satisfy additional constraints

Establishing Your Constraints Continued

  • Mechanics

    • Follow the rules of punctuation and grammar

    • Keep up with recent change

  • Format

    • Typeface, references, length of document

      • You may not have control over format, just follow it.

      • Worry about your style, that is what you can control.

Elements of your Writing Style

  • Language – choice and arrangement of words

    • Six goals in scientific writing







Elements of your Writing Style

  • Structure

    • Organization of details

    • Transition between details

    • Depth of details

    • Emphasis of details

  • Illustration

    • Integrate the illustrations with the document

    • Selective in use of illustrations

    • Use to clarify written information

Chapter 2

Structure: Organizing Your Scientific Documents

Prepared by Seth Baker

RET Summer 2006

Sections of your Document

  • Beginning- Prepare for the middle section

    • Creating Titles

    • Writing Summaries

    • Writing Introductions

  • Middle- Present and explain the work

    • Choosing an Appropriate Strategy

    • Creating Sections and Subsections

  • End- Analyze the results

    • Writing Conclusion Sections

    • Writing the Back Matter

      • Appendix

      • Glossary

Beginnings of Documents:Creating Titles

  • Single most important phrase of the document

  • A strong title orients in two ways:

    • Identifies a field of study for the document

    • Separates the document from the rest in that field

      Improving Solar Energy

    • Too General

      10MWe Solar Thermal Electric Central Receiver Barstow Power Pilot Transfer Fluid Conversion Study

    • No “small” words, abbreviations, too many facts

      Proposal to Use a New Heat Transfer Fluid in the Solar One Power Plant

    • Good balance of terms and small words, specific topic

Beginnings of Documents: Writing Summaries/Abstracts

  • Descriptive summaries describe the work done

    • table of contents in paragraph form

  • Informative summaries present the results of the work

    • give major conclusions and recommendations

  • Some summaries combine descriptive and informative qualities

    • Choose what type of summary is most beneficial

Beginnings of Documents: Writing Introductions

  • Gives details that would not fit in summary

  • Creates a “map” of the paper

  • Includes any limitations, background information, motivations

  • By the end of the introduction the audience should have these answered:

    • What exactly is the work?

    • Why is the work important?

    • What is needed to understand the work?

    • How will the work be presented?

Middles of Documents:Choosing an Appropriate Strategy

  • Chronological strategy is appropriate in discussion of a time-line or cyclic process

    ie: Evolution of Hawaiian volcanoes

  • Spatial strategy follows the physical shape of an object describing it part by part

    ie: Vascular structure of the human body

  • Variable flow strategy follows the changes of some variable

    ie: Wind patterns in arctic regions

  • Cause-effect and comparison-contrast

    ie: Evaluation of traditional and alternative treatments for Autism

Middles of Documents: Creating Sections and Subsection

  • Sections show readers the strategy of the document and allow to jump to what interests

  • Sections should be of approximately same length and created to properly “pace” the reading

  • A section title should be

    • Indicative of the results within that section

    • In parallel to the other sections

  • If you create one section there should be a second

Ending of Documents:Writing Conclusion Sections

  • A conclusion should

    • analyze as a whole the key results from the document’s middle

    • give a future prospective on the work: recommendations, future direction or place in the big picture

  • A conclusion is like an informative summary but goes into more depth

Ending of Documents: Writing the Back Matter

  • Back matter include appendices and glossary

  • Appendices can present information for a variety of audiences

    • Background information to a less technical audience

    • Detailed information for the experts in the field

  • A glossary is a special appendix that gives background definitions to secondary audience

Chapter 3Structure: Providing Transition, Depth, and Emphasis

Prepared by Brian Sweetman

UIC, Chicago, 1/25/2006

Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

Motivation: Structure

  • Organization of details within a document

    • Transition

  • The depth of information presented

    • Depth

  • The communication of important details

    • Emphasis


  • Introduce the sections of the paper in a list just before they occur

    • As part of the body of text in sentence form.

    • Prepares reader

  • Create logical divisions that are appropriate for the audience

    • Form of sections should have consistency

      • Parallel ideas

      • Reader can anticipate what is coming next

    • Adhere to list

      • Appropriate Beginning


  • Three Beginnings to Avoid

    • “Empty” beginning

      • Ionizing radiation has adverse affects on health.

    • “in media res” beginning – too specific

      • Low linear energy transfer (LET) radiation, ionize sparsely.

    • “Genesis” beginning – too general

      • Ionizing radiation has existed since the beginning of time.


  • Use the following techniques

    • Introduce the subject of the section

    • Explain an unfamiliar term in the section heading

      • Important Repetition


  • Document format

    • Is there a word count restriction?

    • Maintain consistency

      • Keep the same level of depth throughout

  • Audience interest level

    • Satisfy the reader’s interest by providing proper amount of detail

    • Anticipate the reader’s questions

  • Know your Audience

    • Technical level


  • Document purpose

    • Informational

      • Details are limited

      • Emphasis on the how instead of the why – e.g. Set of Instructions

    • Persuasive

      • Include rebuttal arguments to support your position

      • Discuss advantages your position has over alternatives


  • Repetition

    • Repeat what you want the reader to remember

      • People only remember 10-20% of what they read

    • Repetition is not redundant

  • Wording

    • Use dependent clauses (DC) and infinitive phrases (IP)

      • DC’s begin with “because,” “since,” “as,” “although,” and “when”

      • IP’s are action phrases and begin with the word “to”

    • Don’t overuse prepositional phrases

      • Sentences using the words “of”, “on,” “from,” “over,” etc.


Eliminate Ambiguity

  • Avoid:

    • “One of the panels on the north side of the solar receiver will be repainted with Solarcept during the February plant outage.”

  • Use:

    • “Because the February plant outage gave us time to repair the north side of the solar receiver, we repainted the panels with Solarcept, a new paint developed to increase absorptivity.”



  • Should enhance text

    • Scientific readers do not read every sentence

  • Do not overload figures

    • Large numbers of figures dilute significance of any one figure


Placement of Details

  • Bordered by white space

    • Titles and Headings

    • Beginnings and endings of sections

  • At the beginning or end of a paragraph

    • White space due to tab (indent) and space at the end of paragraph’s last line

  • Short following long (sentence/paragraph)

    • Places emphasis on short sentence.

    • Places emphasis on idea in short paragraph


Good Writing is Structured and contains these three important elements




Chapter 4Language: Being Precise

Prepared by Vidya Rao

UIC, Chicago, 2/1/2006

Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

Language: Being Precise

  • Precision

    • Most important goal of language

    • If your writing does not communicate exactly what you did then you have changed the work.

      “When a writer conceives an idea he conceives it in a form of words. That form of words constitutes his style, and it is absolutely governed by the idea. The idea can only exist in words, and it can only exist in one form of words. You cannot say exactly the same thing in two different ways. Slightly alter the expression, and you slightly alter the idea.” -Arnold Bennett

    • Keep in mind the audience.

Choosing the Right Word

  • Word Meaning

    • Be sure to chose the word with the correct meaning.

    • Common mistakes can be made such as choosing affect when what is meant is effect, weight when you mean mass.

  • Word Grouping

    • Common errors occur while combining words such as stating centered around instead of centered on or revolves around, regardless of instead of irregardless of

  • Synonyms

    • Can often confuse the reader

    • Minimize use of a thesaurus/ meanings are often inexact

    • Example of words from a thesaurus: perfect-pure-unvarnished-unfinished-rough-imperfect; perfect and imperfect are antonyms

    • Most writers do not worry about repeating the same word if it is the right word

Chose the Right Level of Detail

  • Achieve balance between statements

    • General statements (establishes the direction of thought)

      Example: The DOE wrote, “Our last progress report (March 1985) discussed the damage to ten solar mirrors during a February thunderstorm...”

    • Specific details (gives evidence to support that direction and gives the audience something concrete to remember-generalities are soon forgotten)

      Example: The DOE continued with, “Now, after finding high winds had caused the cracks, we have been showing all solar mirrors in a horizontal, as opposed to vertical, position during storms.”

Chose the Right Level of Detail

  • How many details should be reported? Discern what is important. Sometimes specific details confuse the reader because they give too much information giving rise to unintentional and unwanted side issues.

  • Being precise does not mean compiling details; it means choose details that inform the reader.

  • Take a lesson from good fiction writing; specific details are what readers remember but too many make for tiresome reading.

A Short Course on Scientific Writing

prepared by Meaghan Fitzgerald

Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

based on a book entitled

The Craft of Scientific Writing

by Michael Alley

Language: Being Clear

  • What makes writing unclear?

    • Needless complexity

    • Ambiguity

  • Part I – Avoiding Needless Complexity

    • Needlessly complex words

    • Needlessly complex phrases

    • Needlessly complex sentences

  • Part II – Avoiding Ambiguity

    • Ambiguities in word choices

    • Ambiguities in syntax

    • Ambiguities in pronouns

    • Ambiguities in punctuation

What makes writing unclear?

  • Clarity means avoiding things that you don’t mean

  • Two main sources:

    • Ambiguity

    • Needless complexity

  • In technical writing each sentence builds on the ones around it, so if your language is unclear your reader misses your point.

Chapter 5: Language: Being Unclear

Prepared by Meaghan Fitzgerald

UIC, Chicago, 2/8/2006

Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

Avoiding Needless Complexity


  • Worst problem in scientific writing

  • Arises in words, phrases and sentences

Needlessly Complex Words

  • Words that don’t add precision or clarity

  • Ask yourself: Are the words precise? Are they clear?

  • Examples:

    • Familiarization  familiarity (nouns)

    • Prioritize  assess (verbs)

    • Personalized  personal (adjectives)

    • Heretofore  previous (adverbs)

  • Collectively, making these substitutions can have a profound effect– BE CONSISTANT

  • Opting for simpler word choices make your ideas more clear to your readers

Needlessly Complex Words


    • Complex:

      • The objective of this study is to develop an effective commercialization strategy for solar energy systems by analyzing the factors that are impeding early commercial projects and by prioritizing the potential government and industry actions that can facilitate the viability of the projects.

    • Revision:

      • The study will consider why current solar energy systems have not reached the commercial stage and will evaluate the steps that industry and government can take to make these systems commercial.

Needlessly Complex Phrases

  • One source: stringing modifiers in front of nouns

  • Nouns are steppingstones in a sentence

    • With too many modifiers readers don’t know where to step,

    • They dilute the meaning of the modifiers

    • And brings imprecision into the sentence


    • Solar One is a 10 megawatt solar thermal electric central receiver Barstow power pilot plant.

    • Solar One is a solar-powered pilot plant located near Barstow, California. Solar One produces 10 megawatts of electric power by capturing solar energy in central receiver design.


    • The decision will be based on economical fluid replenishment cost performance.

    • We will base the decision on the cost of replacing the thermal oil.

Needlessly Complex Sentences

  • Average sentence length in technical papers = 30 words

  • Average sentence length in the average newspaper = 20words


    • The object of the work was to confirm the nature of the electrical breakdown of nitrogen in uniform fields at relatively high pressures and interelectrode gaps that approach those obtained in engineering practice, prior to the determination of the processes that set the criterion fro breakdown in the above-mentioned gases and mixtures in uniform and non-uniform fields o engineering significance.

Needlessly Complex Sentences

  • Why is it complex?

    • 61 words

    • 2 hyphenated

    • After “gaps” the sentence wonders from one prepositional phrase to another

    • 11 prepositional phrases

    • No momentum or flow through the sentence

  • Don’t associate shorter sentences as cure for clear writing

  • It is not LONG sentences that confuses readers- its COMPLEX sentences

Needlessly Complex Sentences

  • Revision:

    • At relatively high pressures (760 torr) and typical electrode gap distances (1 mm) the electrical breakdown of nitrogen was studied in uniform fields.

  • Why its better:

    • 23 words

    • 3 prepositional phrases

  • Complex = too many ideas in one sentence

  • Ask “does the sentence inform?”

Needlessly Complex Sentences

  • To “fix” the sentence:

    • Decide which details are important

    • Focus on one main idea

    • Make sure the sentence doesn’t wander

    • Imagine sitting across from your audience while writing


  • In scientific writing, beauty lies in clarity and simplicity.

Needlessly Complex Sentences

  • The purpose of scientific writing is to inform, not to impress


    • In that the “Big Bang” is currently the most credibly theory about how the universe was created, explains only the creation of hydrogen and helium, we are left to theorize as to how all the other elements came into being. Having studied the nuclear reactions that constitute the life and death cycles of stars, many scientists believe therein lies the key.


    • The “Big Bang” is the most credible theory for the creation of the universe. Nevertheless, the “Big Bang” explains the creation of only helium and hydrogen. What about the other elements? Many scientists believe that they arose from nuclear reactions that occur in the life and death cycles of stars.

Avoiding Ambiguity

  • Ambiguity is created by the use of a word, phrase or sentence that can be interpreted in more than one way.


    • The solar collector worked well under passing clouds.

  • Question:

    • Does the solar collector work at a height that is well below the passing clouds, or under passing clouds does the solar collector work well?

Avoiding Ambiguity


    • Two general requirements to be met are (1)to survive and accurately measure the radiation incident on the receiver and (2) to present the data in a form that can be used to verify computer code predictions.

  • Rough transition

  • Should include phase “radiometer system”

  • Two versus three requirements

  • Questions:

    • Who or what must survive?


    • The radiometer system for the solar receiver must meet three requirements: (1) it must accurately measure to within 5 percent the solar radiation on the receiver; (2) its electronics must survive in solar radiation as intense as 300 kilowatts per square meter, and (3) its output must be able to verify computer codes.

Ambiguities in Word Choice

  • Words can have multiple meanings

  • Common examples is using AS to mean BECAUSE, but many readers see it as meaning WHILE


    • T cells, rather than B cells, appeared as the lymphocytes migrated to the thymus gland.


    • T cells, rather than B cells, appeared because the lymphocytes migrated to the thymus gland.

Ambiguities in Syntax

  • Syntax = order and structure of words and phrases in a sentence

  • EXAMPLE: (word placement)

    • Only I tested the bell jar for leaks yesterday.

    • I only tested the bell jar for leaks yesterday

    • I tested only the bell jar for leaks yesterday

    • I tested the bell jar only for leaks yesterday

    • I tested the bell jar for leaks only yesterday

  • EXAMPLE: (phrase placement)

    • In low water temperatures and high toxicity levels of oil, we tested how well the microorganisms survived.


    • We tested how well the microorganisms survived in low water temperatures and high toxicity levels of oil.

Ambiguities in Pronouns

  • There should never be any doubt as to what the pronoun refers


    • Because the receiver presented the radiometer with a high-flux environment, it was mounted in a silver-plated stainless steel container.


    • What is mounted in the container?

    • The receiver?

    • The radiometer?

    • The environment?

  • It actually refers to radiometer

Ambiguities in Pronouns

  • Two biggest abuses of pronouns:

    • IT and THIS

  • IT is a pronoun

  • THIS is an adjective; a directive, a pointer.

Ambiguities in Punctuation

  • Punctuation marks act as road signs in the writing.

  • Biggest abuse – COMMA

    A. After introductory phrases

    B. Separating three or more items


    • After cooling the exhaust gases continue to expand until the density reaches that of freestream.


  • When feeding a shark often mistakes undesirable food items for something it really desires.


Ambiguities in Punctuation


    • In our study, we examined neat methanol, neat ethanol, methanol and 10 percent water and ethanol and 10 percent water


    • In our study, we examined four fuels: neat methanol, neat ethanol, methanol with 10 percent water, and ethanol with 10 percent water.


    • The three elements were hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.

Chapter 6- Language: Being Forthright

Prepared by Celene Moorer

UIC, Chicago, 2/8/2006

Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

Language- Being Forthright: Overview

  • Part I – Controlling Tone

    • What is tone

    • Avoid pretentious words

    • Avoid arrogant phrases

    • Avoid silliness

  • Part II – Choose Strong Nouns and Verbs

    • Concrete vs Abstract Nouns

    • Using Strong Verbs

    • Active vs Passive Voice

    • Choosing to Use the 1st Person

What is tone?

  • Tone is whatever in your language indicates the attitude that you have towards the subject

  • Often, engineers lose control of tone by avoiding simple, straightforward wording

  • Being forthwright means selecting strong nouns and verbs since they are the most important words in the sentence

Avoiding Pretentious Words

  • Pretentious words offer no precision or clarity to the writing

    Examples of common pretentious words:

    • Approximately: appropriate when used to modify a measurements accuracy to within a fraction but pretentious when applied to a rougher estimate such as approximately twelve people; in this case the word “about” should be used

    • Component: often replaced by part

    • Utilize: a pretentious way to say the word “use”. Should challenge –ize verbs since there is often a simpler substitution

  • Example:

    • “The elevated temperatures of the liquid propellent fuel facilitated an unscheduled irrevocable disassembly.”

    • “The higher temperatures caused the liquid propellant to explode.”

  • Avoiding Arrogant Phrases

    • Avoid such phrases as “as is well known”, “clearly demonstrate”, or “of course”

    • Most arrogant expression is the phrase “it is obvious”, if the detail is obvious than it shouldn’t be included and if it is not obvious, calling it that will annoy the reader

    • Example:

      • “The results clearly demonstrate the ability of Raman spectroscopy to provide unambiguous chemical compound identifications from oxides as they grow on a metal surface.”

      • “The results show that Raman spectroscopy can identify chemical compounds from oxides that are growing on a metal surface.”

    Avoiding Silliness

    • Avoid cliches: figurative expressions that have become too familiar

    • Example:

      • “When you come up to speed, I will touch base with you and we’ll knock heads together and figure out a solution.”

      • “I am in search of a meaningful growth position, and your company is a gateway to the highest professional levels and beyond……”

    Using Strong Nouns

    • Concrete nouns: nouns that provide one of the five senses

    • Abstract nouns: nouns that do not provide one of the five senses

      -reducing abstract nouns will strengthen your writing

    • Common abstract nouns:





    Using Strong Verbs

    • Weak verb phrases make sentences lethargic

    • Examples:

      Weak verb phrasesStrong Verb

      • Made the arrangement forarranged

      • Made the decisiondecided

        Buried verbStrong Verb

      • Is beginningbegins

      • Is following follows

    Active vs Passive Voice

    • Key to choosing between an active and passive voice is to ask which form is more natural

    • Example:

      • “The voltage was given on the oscilloscope.”

      • “The oscilloscope displayed the voltage.” Comfortable

      • “The oscilloscope calculated the voltage.” Uncomfortable

    Choosing to Use the 1st Person

    • Avoiding the first person leads to unnatural wording

      • “It was determined that”

      • “It was decided that”

    • Reserve the use of the first person for situations in which your role in the work is important, for instance when making an assumption

    • Avoid placing the first person as the beginning of the word of a sentence because that position receives heavy emphasis

    • Have the first person follow an introductory adverb, infinitive phrase, or dependent clause.


    • Don’t use pretentious words or arrogant phrases

    • Avoid cliches

    • Be sure to use strong nouns and verbs

    • Know when to use the active vs the passive voice correctly

    • Use the first person when your work is important

    • Avoid placing the first person at the beginning of a sentence

    Chapter 7: Language: Being Familiar

    Prepared by Leianne A. Torres

    UIC, Chicago, 2/15/2006

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger


    • The purpose of a scientific paper is to inform your audience about the results obtained during the course of your research

    • To inform your audience, the language used must be understandable to them

    • You, as the writer, are responsible for bridging the language gap between yourself and your readers


    “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking”

    -Albert Einstein

    • Avoiding Unfamiliar Terms

      • Jargon

    • Defining Unfamiliar Terms

      • Best Way to Define

      • Abbreviations

    • Incorporation Examples and Analogies

    Avoiding Unfamiliar Terms

    • “The quality of our thoughts is bordered on all sides by our facility with language”

    • -J. Michael Straczynski

    • American Writer/Producer

    • The simplest way to handling unfamiliar terms is to avoid them


      • Definition

        • The specialized or technical language of the trade, profession or similar group.

        • Specialized technical terminology characteristic of a particular subject.

      • May be either abbreviation or slang

      • Use only to make the reading more efficient

    Defining Unfamiliar Terms

    • Guidelines

      • If the definition is short, include it within the sentence

      • If the definition is complex or unusual, expand the definition to a sentence or two

      • Select words that are familiar to the readers

    • Examples:

      • Short Definition:

        The data was stored on a small, lightweight, removable, data storage device, or USB Flash Drive.

      • Complex Definition:

        The final shape resembled something similar to a Buckyball. A buckyball is a hollow, spherical, molecule composed entirely of interlocking six-sided shapes that are made of carbon. It is so named after Buckminster Fuller, an engineer who first discoverd it.

    Defining Unfamiliar Terms cont.

    • Noun terms

      • Begin with a familiar noun that identifies the class to which the term belongs

      • Example:

        Cartilage is a connective tissue, found between bones that permits smooth movement of the joints.

    • Abbreviations

      • If the abbreviation occurs only a couple of times, then avoid it

      • For terms used sparingly in the beginning of the document but frequently later on, use the full expression earlier and define the abbreviation later

      • For familiar abbreviations, define it for completeness sake somewhere in the body of the paper, but use the abbreviation in the title and main text

      • Examples:

        • Unfamiliar Abbreviations:

          ATP – Biological or Recreational?

          PBS – Biology or Entertainment?

        • Familiar Abbreviations:

          DNA, RNA, FBI, CIA

    Incorporating Examples and Analogies

    • Used to enrich the writing, and provides better understanding to the reader

    • Whenever a general statement is made, it should be anchored with an example

    • Analogies compare obscure thoughts to familiar ones

    • Analogies provide insight into how the writer thinks


    • Language is an important consideration when writing a scientific paper

    • A good paper employs:

      • Definitions for unfamiliar terms

      • Jargon sparingly and only if it makes the reading more efficient

      • Examples for generalized statements

      • Analogies to help convey complex ideas or numbers

    So Ends the Presentation

    Any questions or comments?

    Chapter 8: Language: Being Concise

    Prepared by: Jacqueline Romero

    University of Illinois at Chicago


    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should have no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make every sentence short, or that he avoid detail and treat his subject only in outline, but that every word tell.

    -William Struck


    • What does it mean to be concise?

      • Clear

      • Forthright

    • How do you accomplish this?

      • Eliminating pretentious diction

      • Ridding sentences of abstract nouns

    • Ways to cut the fat in scientific writing

      • Eliminating redundancies

      • Eliminating writing zeroes

      • Reducing sentences to simplest forms

      • Eliminating bureaucratic waste

    Eliminating Redundancies

    • Redundancies are needless repetitions of words within a sentence

    • Examples

      • Adjectives

        • The aluminum (metal) cathode became pitted during the glow discharge.

      • Verb phrases

        • The use of gaseous insulation is becoming more widespread.

        • Revision: Scientists are using gases more as insulators.

    • Editing suggestions:

      • Read with the sole intention of cutting words – no additions!!!

    Common Redundancies

    Words in parenthesis can be deleted

    (already) existing

    (alternative) choices

    at (the) present (time)

    (basic) fundamentals

    (completely) eliminate

    (continue to) remain

    (currently) underway

    (empty) space

    had done (previously)

    introduced (together)

    mix (together)

    never (before)

    none (at all)

    now (at this time)

    period (of time)

    (private) industry

    (separate) entities

    start (out)

    (still) persists

    Eliminating Writing Zeroes

    • In writing, zeroes are phrases that have no meaning at all and offer no information to readers.

    • Example:

      • It is interesting to note that over 90 incidents of satellite fragmentations have produced over 36,000 kilograms of space debris.

      • Vibration measurements made in the course of the missile’s flight test program were complicated by the presence of intense high-frequency excitation of the vehicle shell structure during the re-entry phase of the flight.

      • Revision: Vibration measurements made during the missile’s flight were complicated by intense high-frequency excitation of the vehicle shell during re-entry.

    Examples of other writing zeroes

    as a matter of fact

    I might add that

    it is noteworthy that

    it is significant that

    it should be pointed out that

    the course of

    the fact that

    the presence of

    Reducing Sentences to Simplest Forms

    • Sentences in their simplest forms allow for easier comprehension

    • How can you tell when a reduction can be made?

      • Look for signals:

        • Overuse of adjectives

        • Overuse of adverbs

        • Nouns containing verbs

        • Needlessly passive verbs

    Example of Adjective Overuse

    • The objective of our work is to obtain data that can be used in conjunction with a comprehensive chemical kinetics modeling study to generate a detailed understanding of the fundamental chemical processes that lead to engine knock.(37 words)

    • Revision: Our goal is to obtain experimental data that can be used with a chemical kinetics model to explain the chemical processes that lead to engine knock. (26 words)

    Example of Adverbs Overuse

    • The achievement of success in these advanced technologies depends very heavily on a rather detailed understanding of the complex processes that govern the velocities in the unburned gases prior to combustion.(31 words)

    • Revision: The success of these advanced technologies depends on understanding the velocities in the unburned gases prior to combustion. (18 words)

    Example of Nouns Containing Verbs

    • The establishment of a well proven, well documented, rational methodology for making precise velocity measurements in the unburned gas has been realized and is being used extensively to aid in the development of numerical models, which in turn are used in the design of advanced piston engines. (45 words)

    • We have found a method to measure velocity in the unburned gas, and with this method, we are developing numerical models that will help design advanced piston engines. (27 words)

    Examples of Needless Passive Verbs

    • It was then concluded that a second complete solar mirror field corrosion survey should be conducted in July to determine whether the tenfold annual corrosion rate projection was valid and to allow determination as to whether subsequent corrective measures would be effective in retarding corrosion propagation. (85 syllables)

    • To see whether the corrosion rate would increase tenfold as projected and to see whether stowing the mirrors in a vertical position would slow the rate, we decided to survey the solar mirror field a second time in July. (61 syllables)

    Eliminating Bureaucratic Waste

    • Broader perspective

      • Examine needless paragraphs and sections

    • In this kind of writing, empty nouns without examples to anchor the meaning of the nouns are used.

      • Examples:

        • Target

        • Parameter

        • Development

    • Steps needed to avoid this

      • Consider who your audience is

      • Consider what your audience needs to learn

      • Allow one thought per paragraph

      • Each paragraph should support the plot


    • Make things short, sweet and to the point.

    • Accomplish to write a concise document by:

      • Eliminating redundancies

      • Eliminating writing zeroes

      • Reducing sentences to simplest forms

      • Eliminating bureaucratic waste



    Language: Being Fluid

    By Monil Shah

    BioE 595

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    based on a book entitled

    The Craft of Scientific Writing

    by Michael Alley


    • Misconception: Scientific writing should be dull.

    • The Purpose of Scientific writing is to inform.

    • Fluid language is the lubricant that makes scientific writing inform.

    • Two principal Sources for fluid writing.

    • Varying Sentence Rhythms

    • Eliminating Discontinuities


    Rhythms help determine the energy of the writing

    • “Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. A cloud of hot rock and gas surged northward from its collapsing slope. The effects of Mount St. Helens were well documented with geophysical instruments. The origin of the eruption is not well understood.”

    • How do you vary rhythm?

    • The way sentences begin

    • The way sentences end

    • Position of the subject and verb

    • The length of paragraphs


    Subject-Verb (important results)

    “The Titanic was nearly 900 feet long, stood 25 stories high, and weighed an incredible 46 thousand tons.”

    Prepositional Phrase (time & position details)

    “At the time of her construction, the Titanic was the largest ship ever built.”

    Transition Words (relationship with previous sentence)

    “However, on April 15, 1912, the Titanic sideswiped a massive iceberg and sank in less than three hours.”

    Infinitive Phrases (answer when, where, why)

    “To measure the brittleness of the Titanic's steel, scientists conducted a Charpy test.”

    Question (verb)

    When do you use Questions?


    • Example

    • “On the morning of may 18, a strong earthquake shook Mount St. Helens, causing the volcano’s cracked and steepened north side to slide away. (24)Photographs taken during these early seconds, together with other information, showed that the blast originated 500 meters beneath a bulge on the north face.(25) ……. Of Significance, the volume of new magmatic material ejected in the blast (about 0.1 km3) equals the volume of the bulge.(22)”

    • A better way

    • “On the morning of may 18, a strong earthquake shook Mount St. Helens, causing the volcano’s cracked and steepened north side to slide away. (24) Photographs showed that the blast originated 500 meters beneath a bulge on the north face. (13).The measured volume of the ejected magmatic material was about 0.1 km3. (11) This equals the volume of the bulge. (8) ”

    • Average length of sentences in the teens

    • Change the sentence lengths often

    • Use a short sentence for an important result

    • Use a long sentence for explanation, before the result


    • Simple Sentences

    • “ Lava from a non explosive eruption ordinarily contains only 0.2 percent water.”

    • Compound Sentences

    • “ Precursor activity to the eruption began on March 20, 1980, and many times during the next two months the mountain shook for minutes.”

    • Complex Sentences

    • “Although the amount of devastation caused by the May 18 blast was a surprise, the eruption itself had been expected for weeks.”


    • A New Paragraph - A different idea

    • Average length – 7-14 lines

    • Paragraph length depends on format



    • “The Cascade Range, with its prominent chain of towering cones, is not the only threatening volcanic region in the western United States. Many people who live in the eastern Sierra Nevada community of Mammoth lakes, California, may have been unaware until recently that their scattered hills and ridges have a remarkably recent volcanic origin as well. ”

    • Use Transitional words:

    • Continuation: also, moreover

    • Pause: for instance, for example, in other words

    • Reversal: however, on the other hand, conversely

    • Solution

    • “The Cascade Range, with its prominent chain of towering cones, is not the only threatening volcanic region in the western United States. The Mammoth Lakes area of the Sierra Nevada also has a recent volcanic origin.”


    Abbreviations, numerals and strings of capital letters bring discontinuities into scientific writing.


    Abbreviation e.g. for example

    Fig. figure

    Capitals FORTRAN Fortran

    IBM Ibm

    Numerals 19 nineteen

    $ 13,000,000 $ 13 million


    • Exceptions

    • Decimals: 0.3

    • Negative numbers: -4

    • Specific measurements: 12 meters/second

    • Percentages: 15 percent

    • Monetary figures: $ 3,450

    • Large numerals: 13 million


    Avoid beginning a sentence with a numeral.


    64.1 milligrams of copper corroded during the tests


    During the tests, 64.1 milligrams of copper corroded.

    Collective Effect

    Long Valley, near Mammoth Lakes, CA, is a caldera that was formed c.990,000yrs. ago.

    Long Valley, near Mammoth Lakes, California, is a caldera that was formed nearly 1 million years ago.


    • Incorrect way

    • “The absorptance is calculated as one minus the correction factor times the measured reflectance.”

    • Use equations even for simple relationships

    • Define all the terms in the equation

    • Show importance of equation

    • Correct way

    • “The absorptance (A) is calculated by

    • A = 1- kR

    • Where k is the correction factor and R is the measured reflectance.”


    • Rd = (6Dt)1/2

    • State assumptions made

    • Use examples to get a feel of numbers involved

    • D is the electron diffusion coefficient and t is the time

    • For the case of nitrogen at atmospheric pressure

    • D= 860 cm2/sec t = 10-8 sec

    • Show how the equation is solved

    • Using integration by parts we arrive at I = 1

     I =   tet dt

    tet dt = tet   - et dt = (e - 0) - (e - 1) = 1

    Murphy’s Laws for Language: being Fluid

    • Keep scientific language energetic and exciting

    • Using variety in opening of sentences

    • Using occasional questions to make readers active participants

    • Varying sentence lengths frequently, keeping average length in teens

    • Changing position and number of subjects and verbs

    • Organize paragraphs, averaging in seven to fourteen lines

    • Maintain smooth transition

    • Removing discontinuities in ideas, using transition words

    • Avoiding needless complex typography

    • Introducing mathematical and scientific equations

    • Defining terms used in equations and state assumptions

    • Explaining steps in equations

    A Short Course on Scientific Writing

    prepared by students of BioE 595

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    based on a book entitled

    The Craft of Scientific Writing

    by Michael Alley

    Chapter 10: Illustration: Making the Right Choices

    Prepared by Eyad Almasri

    UIC, Chicago, 2/22/2005

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

    Albert Einstein


    • Definition

      • Is a visualization such as drawing, painting, photograph or other work of art that stresses subject more than form.

    • Kinds of Illustration:

      • Tables

        • Are arrangements of numbers and descriptions in rows and columns.

      • Figures

        • Are everything else like photograph, drawing, diagrams and graphs.


    • Tables have two important uses:

      • Present numerical data

        • Include a high degree of accuracy for the data.

        • White spaces help the readers to have an easier time locating specific reference numbers.


    2. To present short parallel descriptions that otherwise would have to be listed in the text.

    • If these sequence of events is presented as a text the reader would quickly tire

    • Not only would the repetitive sentence and paragraph patterns take audience longer to read, but also the relationships between the power levels and the events will not be clear.

    • For example at power 2000000 the power surges by a factor of 100000 while at 30 the power was minimum


    • Figures have two important uses:

      • Graphs: an imagistic way to present numerical data

      • Photographs, drawing and diagrams will give three ways to present an image.

    • Graphs

      • Are drawings that show general relationships in data.

        • Line graphs are the most common type of graph in scientific writing.

        • Contour plot are excellent for giving a physical feel for how variables vary (For example temperature changes over the surface).

        • Bar graphs are used to compare sizes of different elements

        • Pie graphs are used to compare parts of single whole.


    • Experimental values are plotted as points, and the analytical solution is represented by a curve.

    • Requirements

    • Label The axes.

    • Show units.

    • Scale the data.


    • Gives the readers realistic depictions of images and events.

    • The major advantage of photographs is the realism.


    • Include line sketches and artists renditions.

    • Major advantage is that you can control the amount of precision


    • Diagrams are drawing such as electrical schematics, that communicate through symbols.

    • Advantage of the diagrams is that they show how the different parts of a system relate to one other.

    • Be sure when using diagram that your readers know what symbols represent

    General Guidelines For Using Illustrations

    • Always explain your illustration and its importance to your work.

    • The precision of the illustrations should reflect the precision of the text. for example, don’t have a simple graph for a complex solution, or vise versa.

    • For clarity, you should introduce and explain illustrations in the text.


    • Illustrations include both tables and figures.

    • Use tables In your text to present organized words or numbers.

    • When presenting numerical data with a graph, Be sure to choose the type of graph that is Applicable to your data.

    • When presenting images, pick a picture, a drawing, or a diagram which best suits your application

    A Short Course on Scientific Writing

    Prepared by students of BioE 595

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    based on a book entitled

    The Craft of Scientific Writing

    by Michael Alley

    Chapter 11:Illustration:Creating the Best Designs

    Prepared by

    Sangeetha Padalabalanarayanan

    UIC, Chicago, 2/22/2006

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    Illustration: Overview

    Goals for illustrations

    • Precision

      -Should best reflect the accuracy of the language

    • Clarity

      -Should not convey any unintended information

    • Fluidity

      -Readers should have continuity

    • Familiarity

      -Audience should gain sense of its size and orientation

    Being Precise

    • Information should be as simple as possible, yet no simpler

    • Avoid details that aren’t self explanatory or explained in your text

    • Precision of illustrations must reflect the precision of language

    Being Precise: Example

    • The thermal storage system stores heat in a huge, steel walled insulated tank. Steam from the solar receiver passes through heat exchangers to heat a thermal oil, which is pumped into the tank. The tank then provides energy to run a steam generator that produces electricity. Figure 11.1 shows a schematic of this system.

    Being Precise: Example

    Being Precise: Example

    Being Clear

    • Illustration should be assigned a formal name.

    • Information either in the text or in the illustration’s caption should be given, so that reader can understand what the illustration is and how it fits into the document.

    Being Clear

    Fig 11.3 does not focus attention on the lab experiment. Instead, extraneous details like messy lab, the researcher standing, clip board behind him stand out.

    Being Clear

    • Fig 11.4 shows a parachute system designed for the crew escape model of a fighter jet. Here, the central image of the parachute system stands out clearly.

    Being Fluid

    • Smooth the transition between what you say and what you show.

      -Important way to do this is to match the information in the text with what’s in the illustration.

    • Placing illustrations

      -Closely follow their text references.

      -Should be placed just below the paragraph that introduces them.

      -Large enough to clarify details. Should include reasonable white space border to emphasize details.

    Being Fluid: Example

    The testing hardware of the missile shown in fig 11.6 has five main components: camera, digitizer, computer, I/O interface, and mechanical interface. Commands are generated by the computer and then passed through the I/O interface where the keyboard of the ICU is operated. The display of the ICU is read with a television camera and then digitized. This information is then manipulated by the computer to direct the next command to the I/O interface.

    Being Fluid: Example

    Weaknesses in the above illustration:

    • There are seven parts in the figure, not five as stated.

    • Printer and control terminals are given names that are different from what’s in the text (“I/O interface”)

    • Testing system and the thing that’s being tested (missile) is not distinguished.

    • Camera didn’t aim at the missile. Reader don’t gain a sense of flow

    Being Fluid: Example

    Revised language and illustration

    Our system for testing the safety devices of the missile consists of four main parts: Computer, camera, digitizer and electromechanical interface to the missile. In this system, shown in fig11.7, the computer generates test commands to the missile through the electromechanical interface. The test results are read with a television camera and then digitized. The computer receives the information from the digitizer and then directs the next test command.

    Being Familiar

    • Consider what your audience does and doesn’t know.

    • Show relative size of an image by including either a scale or familiar-sized image alongside the depicted image

    Being Familiar: Example


    Important points for illustration are:

    • Precision

    • Clarity

    • Fluidity

    • Familiarity

    A Short Course on Scientific Writing

    prepared by Alex Rodriguez

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    based on a book entitled

    The Craft of Scientific Writing

    by Michael Alley

    Chapter 12: Writing Correspondence

    Writing Correspondence: Overview

    • Motivation

      • Letters

      • Memorandums

      • E-mails

    • Part I - Contraints:

      • Audience

      • Mechanics

    • Part II – Style:

      • Organization

      • Emphasis

      • Clarity

      • Forthrightness

    • Summary

    • Questions

    Motivation: Need for Correspondence

    • Why use correspondence?

      • An effective way to make requests

      • Submit changes to a job

      • Deliver specific information.

    • Types of Correspondence

      • Memos

      • Letters

      • Electronic mail

    • Characteristics

      • Written legal contract

      • Dated

      • Can be reread

      • Reaches several people

    • Goal

      • Straightforward and to the point

    Establishing Your Constraints: Audience

    • Who are they?

      • Usually one person

    • What is their level of understanding?

      • Determines how much depth to achieve

    • Why are they reading the paper?

      • Why audience begins reading?

        • It’s in their mail box, obligation, curiosity

      • Why audience continues reading?

    • How do they read it?

      • Location  state your point quickly

      • Pace  keep it short

    Establishing Your Constraints: Mechanics

    • Follow the rules of punctuation and grammar

    • Errors receive more attention than in a report

    • Errors cost credibility

      • i.e. job application

    • Suggestions:

      • Allow correspondence to cool before final proof

      • Make final proof next morning

      • Makes it easier to catch unwanted tone

    Selecting Your Stylistic Tools

    • Organization of details

    • Emphasis

    • Clarity

    • Forthrightness


    • Beginning

      • Determines whether the audience will continue reading

      • Get to the point as soon as possible

    • Middle

      • Delivery of the information

      • Information must help make your point

    • Ending

      • Summary of the information presented

      • Presents a call for action: State what the audience must do

    Styles (continued)

    • Emphasis

      • Accent important details:

        • Place important details in first or last sentence due to white space

    • Clarity

      • Audience reads correspondence faster than other documents

      • Pace is important

      • Opt for shorter sentences than in a report

    • Forthrightness

      • Tone is difficult to control. Avoid sounding arrogant.

      • Use simple language, plain English

        • Do no use phrases such as “per your request”, “enclosed please find”.








    • Keep in mind your constraints (Audience, mechanics)

    • Structure

      • Organization of details

      • Depth of details depends on audience

      • Emphasis

    • Use plain English

    • State your point right away

    • State your point right away

    Thank you!Questions????

    Writing Proposals

    prepared by Yirong Yang, M.S.

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    based on a book entitled

    The Craft of Scientific Writing

    by Michael Alley

    Writing Proposals: Overview

    • Difficulties

      • Difficult to give specific advice about writing proposals

      • Difficult to write proposals

    • Constraints of Proposals

      • Format of Proposals

      • Politics of Proposals

      • Audiences of Proposals

    • Style of Proposals

      • Problem Statement

      • Proposed Solution

    Difficulties of writing proposals

    • Difficult to give specific advice about writing proposals

      • Format: From thousand-page reports to one-page forms

      • Audience: Clients bent on solving a specific problem or audiences who are unaware that a problem even exists

      • Writing situations: some are Individually written, others are collaborative efforts

      • Subject matter of proposals varies greatly

    • Difficult to write proposals

      • Image a solution to a problem and write about that imaginary solution

      • Primary purpose of proposals : persuading

    Constraints of Proposals

    • Format of Proposals

      • Most unsolicited proposals left to your discretion

      • Most solicited proposals are defined in great detail

        • The layout and typography

        • The length and order of information

        • The names of the headings and subheadings

        • Failure to comply with the format results in the proposals being excluded from consideration

      • The reasons why are the formats so specifically defined

        • Guidelines to evaluate all incoming proposals

        • See whether the submitters can follow directions

    Politics of Proposals

    • Variables outside the quality of the proposal ideas and the quality with which those ideas are presented

      • What kinds of projects is Washington funding this year?

      • Is collaboration between companies, laboratories, or universities an advantage or disadvantage?

      • How important are issues such as experience or geographical region?

    • What to do before committing your time and resources to the proposals

      • Carefully read the request for proposal

      • Call the contact person if you have questions

      • Honestly evaluate yourself and your ideas against the likely competition

      • Look at the success of your proposals in terms of the proposals that you write over several years

      • The effort spent on writing one proposal often carries over to the writing of other proposals

    Audiences of Proposals

    • The typical audience for proposals:

      • The management audience who reviews proposals from the perspectives of time and money

      • The technical audience who reviews proposals from the perspectives of science and engineering

    • Address both audiences

      • Put yourself in your readers’ positions

      • Know the answers to the following questions:

        • Who the readers are

        • Why the readers have requested the proposal

        • The level of detail that you should present in your proposal

        • How the audience will evaluate the proposal

    Style of Proposals

    • The organization for proposals consists essentially of two parts

    • The first part presents a hole (a statement of the problem) that needs to be filled

    • The second part is the piece (the proposed plan) that fits into the hole

    • The relationship of the original problem to the proposed solution establishes the organization

    Problem Statement

    • Show the writer understands the problem

    • Make the audience aware of how important the problem is

      Proposed solution

    • Answer the questions that the audience has after reading the statement of the problem

      • What is the proposed solution?

        • Present the scope and limitations of your solution

      • Does the solution make sense from a technical perspective?

        • Address the technical audience and discuss how you will solve the problem

      • Does the solution make sense from a management perspective?

        • The cost of the solution

        • The schedule for the solution

        • The effect of the solution on the environment

        • The effect of the solution on the safety and health of those people involved

      • Can the person making the proposal carry out the solution?

        • Show that you are qualified for the task

          --- your qualification

          --- your experience

          --- your resources

    • What about the situation in which the proposals do compete directly with one another on the same problem?

      • The reviewers focus on finding the best solution to the stated problem

      • Consider the solutions of your competition when shaping your arguments

    • “ If I had my life to do over again, I would have written half a dozen proposals before I got my PhD” -----Michael Reed, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, Carnegie-Mellon University

      Let us do it right now!

      Would you have Any Questions?

    Writing Instructions

    By Vidhya Srinivasan

    BioE 595

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    based on a book entitled

    The Craft of Scientific Writing

    by Michael Alley



    - Teach people how to perform a process


    - Money, time and health depend on the quality of


    A few examples

    • If the specifications for the turbine blade are unclear, the engineer will have to resubmit the job.

    • If the software manual is disorganized, users of the program will waste time searching for commands.

    • If the safety precautions for handling the toxic chemical are ambiguous, someone might become ill.

    Constraints of Instructions


    - Why are instructions read?

    - How are instructions read?


    - affected by the audience.

    - tailored to make it easier for the audience to read

    the instructions and follow them simultaneously.

    Constraints… - Audience interested in how the process occurs, not what causes it to occur - Strategy formulated after anticipating the information that the reader desires and making it easy to find. - Some examples include Detailed table of contents and index in a computer manual; medical procedures and first aid information in a lab safety manual.


    - different from an article or a report

    • enable audience to read and work simultaneously

    • include numbered steps separated by white spaces to allow readers to find their places

    • lengths vary from single phrase cautions to thick handbooks

    • contain glaring, not-to-be missed typography and illustrations with text supplements.

    Style of Instructions

    • Structure

      • Information organized into beginning, middle and ending.

      • Beginning includes a title, summary and introduction.


        • Title-indicates that the document is a set of instructions and what process is being explained.

        • It could be a participial phrase such as “Using a Hot Wire Probe” or a keyword such as “How to” or “Instructions for”.


        • Summary is usually descriptive rather than informative


    • Introduction answers the questions the

      audience might have before they start

      reading the instructions.

    • What is the process?

    • Why is it important?

    • What is needed to perform the process?

    • How will the process be explained?


    • - Presents the information needed to perform a process

    • - Single step by step explanation or a Series of steps

    • - Single step by step

      • Start at the beginning and continue through to its end.

      • Example - changing a tire

  • - Series of steps

  • 1. process divided into logical sections and

  • subsections.

  • 2.some steps performed by all readers, many steps

  • performed by only some readers

  • 3. example - running a computer program.

    • Ending

    • - summarizes the process by showing the inter-

    • relation of steps

    • gives a future perspective on the process

    • Language

    • often written in second person as ‘you’

    • Written in imperative mode

    • “Cautions” written in highlighted type

    • Emphasis on Clarity

    • “To set up tic tac toe, take out the game board and lie flat on a hard surface.Now, take out the two marking pens and divide them equally between the two opponents.Now, toss a coin in the air and have one player call either heads or tails. Play continues until someone is declared a winner”

    How to play Three Dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe?

    • Summary-explains

    • -The game board

    • - Rules for Play

      • - Winning strategies

    • Introduction

    • - What is Three Dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe

    • - Who can play?

    • - What is needed to play?

    • - How do you view the game board?


    • Middle

      - Step by Step Instructions

    • - Setting up the game

    • - Playing the game

    • - Determining a winner



    - Summary of Game

    - Variations on Game

    - Winning Strategies

    • Illustrations

    • People learn a process by seeing a process

    • Goal is to find perspectives that allow the audience

    • to understand the process

    • -Illustrations should serve the document

    • -Superfluous illustrations can confuse the reader


    The disastrous charge of the light brigade at Balaclava was made because of a carelessly worded order to ‘charge for the guns’-meaning that some British guns which were in an exposed position should be hauled out of reach of the enemy, not that the Russian Batteries should be charged. But even in the calmest of times,it is often difficult to compose an English sentence that cannot be possibly misunderstood.

    Chapter 15: Preparing Presentations

    Prepared by Antonio Olivo

    BioE 595

    Motivation: Why even make presentations? Why not just present the information in a document and distribute it?

    Cost in salaries of audience

    Cost in time for presentation

    Cost in time to prepare presentation

    Presentations are expensive

    What are some considerations in deciding to verbally communicate?

    Advantages of presentations

    Work can come alive for audience

    Presenter can read and react to audience interest

    Presenter receives instant reaction

    Disadvantages of presentations

    Speaker has a limited chance to catch errors

    Audience cannot reread text

    Audience cannot look up background material

    Presentations can be viewed from three stylistic perspectives

    Structure and


    Visual Aids


    Archives, Cal-Tech

    Structure: As with documents, the structure of presentations should have clear beginnings, middles, and ends

















    The middle presents the work in a logical order

    In the middle, you make smooth transitions between major points

    The ending summarizes main points and places those results in the context of the big picture

    Beginnings prepare the audiencefor the work to be presented

    Audiences remember more when you

    use well-designed slides




    and See







    Recall (%)

    The sentence headline succinctly states

    the main assertion of the slide

    Body supports

    with images



    Body supports

    with words


    Recommended here is a sentence-headline design that quickly orients the audience



    Delivery is the speaker’s interaction with the audience-you have several choices for how you deliver your speech

    Memorizing the Speech

    + allows eye contact

    - difficult for long speeches

    - room for precision errors

    - no room for improvising

    Reading From a Text

    + ensures precision

    - does not sound natural

    - no room for improvising

    - hinders eye contact

    Speaking From Slides

    + insures organization

    + allows eye contact

    + allows improvising

    - some room for error

    Winging It

    + sounds natural

    - has much room for error






    Stage Presence

    In summary, you can improve by practicing and by critiquing the presentations of others

    Chapter 16: Format: Dressing Document for Success

    Prepared by Samer Al Kork

    UIC, Chicago, 3/8/2006

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    Format: Dressing Document for Success

    Printing should be invisible. Type well-used is invisible as type. The mental eye focuses through type and not upon it , so that any type has an access in design, anything that gets in the way of the mental picture to be conveyed, is bad type.Beatrice Warde


    • Formatting decisions.

    • Typography of Documents.

    • Choices for Typography.

    • Layout of the Documents.

    Format Decisions

    • When we create a document on a computer , we are faced with many formatting decisions:

      1-Choosing a type face to selecting the amount of white space that precedes a heading

      2-Choosing a format easy to read that is in character with the document you have written

      3-Choosing a format that presents your work in such a way that most important details stand out

    Typography of Documents

    Typography is that part of format that deals with the choice and the size of typestyles. A typestyle (font) is a shaped set of alphabetic letters.



    • Typestyle of a document says a lot about the document. For instance the font conveys a sense of professionalism and authority. The are two type of font serif and sans serif.

    • Serif fonts have project stokes such as a little feet on a serif “m”.

    • Sans serif fonts don’t have these projecting strokes “m”

    Choices for Typography

    • In choosing a typography, you want to consider the subject matter, occasion, and the audience.

      1-Do not use to many typestyles in a document.

      2-Rely on serif fonts for the text of the documents

      3-Be conservative with the options such as boldface and italics.

      4-Use a size that is appropriate for the occasion.

      5- Avoid typography that adds needless complexity.

    Layout of the Documents

    • Layout is the arrangement of the words on the page, from number of columns, the spacing between lines, and the width of the margins.

      1- Consider subject matter and audience in layout decisions.

      2- Be generous with white space.

      3- Choose a hierarchy for the headings and subheadings

    Professor Recommendations

    • Always use formatted styles.

    • Do not hand format the text headline

    • Use a table for operations and automatic variables

    • Use numbering for tables , figures and references

    Chapter 17: Actually Sitting Down to Write

    Prepared by Molly Reiter

    UIC, Chicago, 3/15/2006

    Instructor: Prof. Andreas A. Linninger

    Actually Sitting Down to Write

    “The writing aspect of scientific research is exhausting… I have rewritten many parts of papers four to six times, restructuring the entire organization, before I finally became satisfied.”

    -Hermann Helmholtz

    Actually Sitting Down to Write

    • Scientific Writing: Getting Started

    • Getting in the Writing Mood

    • Writing the First Draft

    • Avoiding Writer’s Block

    • Revising, Revising, Revising

    I. Scientific Writing: Getting Started

    • Scientific Writing

      • Convey complex ideas and images

      • Endless revisions

      • Solitary confinement

    • How do you get started?

      • Need a topic

      • Understand your constraints

      • Just do it

    I. Scientific Writing: Getting Started

    • Topic

      • Idea and plot for a paper or proposal

      • Results from your work

    • Constraints

      • Audience

        • What they know about the work

        • Why they will read the document

        • How they will read the document

      • Format

        • Length

        • Organization

    II. Getting in the Writing Mood

    • Clear your mind

      • Exercise

      • Sleep

    • Free a block of time

      • No interruptions

      • White noise (i.e. instrumental music)

    • Mentally prepare and focus on your goal

    III. Writing the First Draft

    • First draft is most difficult

    • Be realistic – months of work will take some time to finish the document

    • Brainstorm ideas

    • Make an outline

      • Detail makes a strong outline

      • Parts of sentences interspersed among the details

      • Solicit feedback

    III. Writing the First Draft

    Example Outline

    Title: Using Solid Particle Receivers in Solar Central Receiver Designs

    Audience: The principal audience is DOE headquarters. They have a general knowledge about solar central receivers, but do not know about solid particle research.

    Introduction: This report will discuss using solid particples as the heat transfer medium in a solar central receiver. Requirements for such a heat transfer medium include:

    1. Withstand temps up to 800 degrees

    2. Convective losses from medium must not be too high.



    III. Writing the First Draft

    Style: Rabbit vs. Turtle


    • Write down anything and everything

    • Strap themselves in front of a computer and finish their drafts as quickly as possible

    • Put ideas in a document and are in a position ready to revise


    • Will not write down a sentence until it is perfect

    • Revises from the beginning of the document every time

    • The beginning and middle is smooth because it has been revised so many times

    III. Writing the First Draft

    • Where to start?

      • Summary

      • Introduction

      • Methodology

      • Discussion

      • Conclusion

    • Write a descriptive summary first and write an informative summary last

    • Write the Introduction as a Rabbit

    • Write the Discussion and Conclusions as a Turtle

    III. Writing the First Draft

    • Tips from professional writers

      • Set realistic goals

      • End your sittings by writing into the next section

      • Watch what you eat

      • When you finish a draft save it on your computer as a separate file (i.e., version 2)

    • The key is momentum – don’t lose your train of thought

    IV. Avoiding Writer’s Block

    • What is Writer’s Block?

      • Can’t think of the right word

      • Can’t find the sentences to express an idea

      • You hear critical voices

    • How can you avoid Writer’s Block?

      • Choose a word or sentence even if you aren’t completely satisfied and make a note to go back to it later

      • Turn up music to drown out critical voices

    • In Scientific Writing there is no such thing as Writer’s Block

      • Results and background is there

      • Just need to get the information written up!

    V. Revising, Revising, Revising

    • Revision is the key to strong scientific writing

    • A common misconception is that great writers do not revise

    • Successful writing is the result of working hard at revisions not in conjuring magic in the first draft

    • Give yourself some distance from your writing and them come back to revise

    V. Revising, Revising, Revising

    • Some revising techniques:

      • Change the look of your document when you revise (hard copy)

      • Try to work through large chunks in one sitting

      • Get some distance between each revision

      • Solicit criticism of your writing

      • Check equations and references separately

    • Work hard until the end

      • Don’t let up at the end of the document

      • Watch the details (spell checker, numbering figures)

    • Enough is enough

      • At some point you will need to be finished

      • There is no perfection in writing


    • Scientific writing is hard work

    • Different techniques work for different people

    • With each document you write, you will improve

    • Set realistic goals for yourself

    • Don’t expect satisfaction from writing to come from other people

  • Login