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REU Communications Class The Science of Science Writing Lauren Shepherd Foege N303 Quotes on Scientific Writing

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reu communications class
REU Communications Class

The Science of Science Writing

Lauren Shepherd

Foege N303

quotes on scientific writing
Quotes on Scientific Writing

Write for a scientist in another field. Don't underestimate your readers' intelligence, but don't overestimate their knowledge of a particular field. When writing about science, don't simplify the science; simplify the writing.Julie Ann Miller, Editor of Science News

One way to find out if you have succeeded (in writing clearly) is to show your draft to colleagues in other specialties. If they do not understand, neither, very probably, will The Lancet's staff. The Lancet


Disseminate knowledge

  • Communicate finding
  • Provide record of work
types of articles
Types of Articles
  • Research - original findings
  • Review - summarize field
  • Brief communication - “hot method”

Don’t plagiarize

  • Don’t falsify data
  • Publish original work
writing suggestions
Writing Suggestions
  • Use active voice (avoid passive when at all possible)
  • Use past tense*
  • Balance substance and structure

*Introduction & discussion

tips for logical prose
Tips for Logical Prose
  • Determine main message(s)
  • Topic ➙ emphasis
  • Old ➙ new
  • Find the action
  • Clarify!
strategies for writing
Strategies for Writing
  • Determine key ideas
  • Think in sections
  • Flesh out details
  • Add transitions
article structure
Article Structure
  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials and methods
  • Results
  • Discussion (conclusion)
  • Acknowledgments
structural details
Structural Details


objectives and hypotheses


methods and data


conclusions and implications



  • Succinct and catchy
  • Attract attention
  • Describe message

A reversible wet/dry adhesive inspired by mussels and geckos

A structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid

Imaging the biogenesis of individual HIV-1 virions in live cells



  • Summarize paper (150-300 words)
  • Acts as gatekeeper to paper
  • 1-2 sentences per section
  • Give away take-home message


  • Objective
  • Survey field
  • Review status
  • Construct motivation
  • How you fit in
  • Hypothesis
  • What’s novel

Materials and Methods

  • Enough detail for peers to reproduce
  • Describe and cite (general reader)
  • Supplemental information (expert)

Present the Data


  • ‘Big picture’ description of experiments


  • Support objectives and hypotheses
  • Present in logical order
  • Present analyzed data
  • Integrate text and data


  • Place results in context
  • Examine and explain results
  • Discuss implications (theoretical & practical)
  • Summarize evidence for conclusions

Discuss − do not repeat − Results



  • Significant assistance
      • discussions
      • physical and technical
      • reagents or supplies
  • Facilities
  • Funding
5 practical tips
5 Practical Tips
  • Create figures and results
  • Outline each section
  • Provide context and impress
  • Connect dots for readers
  • Have peers review paper
homework due july 30
Homework: Due July 30
  • Create a rough draft of your paper
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Preliminary figures and results
  • Revised Poster
  • Introduction
  • Methods graphics or schematic
  • Preliminary figures and results

Books and Articles:

How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, Robert Day.

Doing Science, Ivan Valiela.

The Science of Scientific Writing, Gopen, G. and Swan, J. American Scientist, 78, 550-558: 1990.

Me Write Pretty One Day: How to Write a Good Scientific Paper. Wells, W. Journal of Cell Biology, 165, 757-758: 2004.