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The Craft of Scientific Writing. AEE 804 ANR Communication Strategies Spring 03 Reese & Woods. Scientific Writing. In science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs. - Sir Francis Darwin. audience. occasion. purpose.

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the craft of scientific writing

The Craft ofScientific Writing

AEE 804

ANR Communication Strategies

Spring 03

Reese & Woods

scientific writing
Scientific Writing

In science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.

- Sir Francis Darwin

presentation objectives



Presentation Objectives

Importance of Scientific Writing

Key Principles

impact of career
Impact of Career
  • How well you communicate affects your career
    • Successful scientist spent 25% of work week writing (Davis 1997)
    • Professional scientists found writing their most useful subject (University of Wisconsin)
    • MSU CANR Alumni need most work on their writing (Suvedi, 2001)
impact on others
Space Shuttle Challenger

(January 28, 1986)

Impact on Others
  • Explosion was caused by failure of O-rings in the solid rocket boosters
  • Engineers knew of O-ring problems well before fatal launch
  • Engineers failed to communicate seriousness of problem
a matter of difference
4. Writing Style

3. Purpose of Writing

To inform

To persuade

A Matter of Difference

2. Writing Constraints

1. Subject Matter




communication needs








Communication Needs








Web Pages

writing stages
2. Writing the First Draft

1. Getting in the Mood

4. Finishing

3. Revising, Revising, Revising

Writing Stages
in the beginning
In the Beginning
  • Begin by analyzing your constraints
    • Audience
      • Who they are
      • What they know
      • Why they will read
      • How they will read
    • Occasion
      • Format
      • Formality
      • Politics and ethics
      • Process and deadline
    • Purpose
      • To inform
      • To persuade
aspects affecting reader
Aspects Affecting Reader




style what you control










Style What You Control


broad content issues
Broad Content Issues
  • Check your use of supporting evidence.
  • Check your use of sources.
  • Check to see that you achieve your purpose.
  • Check your attention to audience.
  • Check for overall impression.
organization presentation
Organization & Presentation
  • Check the overall organization.
  • Check sentence structure and style.
  • Check paragraph structure.
  • Check format.
  • Check documentation.
20 most common errors
20 Most Common Errors

1. Missing comma after an introductory element.

  • Frankly, we were baffled by the findings.
  • In fact, agricultural education…
  • Determined to get the job completed, we worked all weekend.
  • Though I gave advice for revising, his draft only became worse.
20 most common errors15
the airwaves

a policy

20 Most Common Errors

2. Vague Pronoun Reference

  • Transmitting radio signals by satellite is a way of overcoming the problem of scare airwaves and limited how, they are used.
  • Company policy prohibited smoking, which many employees resented.
20 most common errors16
20 Most Common Errors

3. Missing comma in a compound sentence

  • We wish dreamily upon a star and then we look down to find ourselves standing in mud.
  • The words “I do” may sound simple but they mean a life commitment.



20 most common errors17


20 Most Common Errors

4. Wrong word

  • The Pacers played there best, but that was not good enough.
  • Paradise Lost contains many illusions to classical mythology.
20 most common errors18




20 Most Common Errors

5. Missing comma(s) with a nonrestrictive element.

  • Susan who was the president of the club was first to speak.
  • John’s first doll Malibu Barbie is still his favorite.
20 most common errors19


20 Most Common Errors

6. Wrong or missing verb ending

  • Ernesto use feline imagery throughout the poem.
  • The United States drop two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945.
20 most common errors20



20 Most Common Errors

7. Wrong or missing preposition.

  • We met in Union Street at San Francisco.
  • Who called the game yesterday?
20 most common errors21


20 Most Common Errors
  • Comma Splice
    • I was strongly attracted to her, she had special qualities.
    • They always had ham for Easter, this was a family tradition.
20 most common errors22
its20 Most Common Errors

9. Missing or misplaced possessive apostrophe.

  • AEE is pleased to announce it’s new graduate students.
20 most common errors23


20 Most Common Errors

10. Unnecessary shift in tense

  • Abby laughs until she cried during the class.
  • Brian is in charge of finance; he will always keep his office locked.
20 most common errors24
one is20 Most Common Errors

11. Unnecessary shift in pronoun

  • When one first sees a painting by Cathy, you are impressed by a sense of power.
20 most common errors25
was20 Most Common Errors

12. Sentence fragment

  • The old aluminum boat sitting on its trailer.
  • We returned to the drugstore. Where we waited for out parents.
20 most common errors26


20 Most Common Errors

13. Wrong tense or verb form

  • Luke Reese has broke many soccer records.
  • By the time Jim arrived, Mikel left.
20 most common errors27
has20 Most Common Errors

14. Lack of subject-verb agreement

  • A central part of my life goals have been to go to graduate school.
20 most common errors28
20 Most Common Errors

15. Missing comma in a series

  • AEE Graduate students study mostly teaching, methods, writing and other research activities.


20 most common errors29
she20 Most Common Errors

16. Lack of agreement between pronoun and antecedent

  • Neither Nadja nor Kari felt that they had been treated fairly.
20 most common errors30
20 Most Common Errors

17. Unnecessary comma (s) with a restrictive element.

  • People, who wanted to preserve wilderness areas opposed the plan to privatize national parks.
20 most common errors31


20 Most Common Errors

18. Fused sentence

  • The current was sift he could not swin to shore.
20 most common errors32
20 Most Common Errors

19. Misplaced or dangling modifier.

  • She had decided she wanted to be an agriscience teacher when she was ten years old.
  • When she was ten years old, she had decided she wanted to be an agriscience teacher.
20 most common errors33




20 Most Common Errors
  • Its/It’s confusion
    • The car is lying on it’s side in the ditch. Its a white 2000 Audi.
select a writing mentor
Select a Writing Mentor
  • Review Journals for writing style.
  • Identify a writing mentor to assist with thinking through and reviewing paper.
final thought
Final Thought
  • Our greatest battles are that with our own minds. - Jameson Frank
  • Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire. - William Yeats
  • There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come. - Victor Hugo