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Writing Scientific English. Four levels of organization: Word use Sentence structure Paragraph structure Paper/thesis organization and format. Word Use. Jargon Know thy audience Use the simplest, most efficient wording Avoid the most frequent mistakes data/datum

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Writing Scientific English

  • Four levels of organization:
    • Word use
    • Sentence structure
    • Paragraph structure
    • Paper/thesis organization and format

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


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.


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

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

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.”


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



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.”


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.”


“…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.”


For your publication and general formatting:

Use the “guide to authors” for your journal


Thesis/Manuscript Format

  • Title
  • Author(s)
  • Abstract (Summary)
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgements
  • Literature Cited (References)

Abstract or Summary

  • Most widely read
  • State principal objectives
  • Briefly describe methods
  • Summarize results and conclusions


  • Very important
  • Should be precise
  • Major factor in deciding who reads paper
  • Running Head
  • Key Words


  • Provide details for repetition
  • Source of chemicals
  • Types of equipment
  • Quantities and methods of preparation
  • Study sites
  • Experimental animals used


  • Nature and scope of problem
  • Review of pertinent literature
  • Approach to problem outlined


  • Interpret results
  • Suggest principles, relationships, generalizations
  • Exceptions/unsettled questions
  • Compare/contrast with previous work
  • Show theoretical implications


  • 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

Theses and dissertations at UNCW are now all electronic.

  • Aside from the front matter:
    • Title page
    • Abstract
    • Table of contents
    • List of figures
    • List of tables
  • the format of the thesis or dissertation is up to you and your committee.
  • Information is on the Graduate School web site:

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