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Word Choice. A Few Questions…. Is scientific writing the same as literary writing (like Shakespeare)? Do you write it like you would write a novel? Is elaboration necessary? Is it necessary to put a lot of details? What is the goal for Scientific Writing?.

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a few questions
A Few Questions…
  • Is scientific writing the same as literary writing (like Shakespeare)?
  • Do you write it like you would write a novel?
  • Is elaboration necessary?
  • Is it necessary to put a lot of details?
  • What is the goal for Scientific Writing?
the ultimate goal for scientific writing is
The ultimate goal for scientific writing is..

To win the Nobel price of Medicine but not Nobel price of Literature


There are two kinds of scientific writing: that which is intended to be read, and that which is intended merely to show figures.

some curious facts
Some Curious Facts
  • Science is hard to read!
    • the complicated science and graphs/figures is hard to understand already
  • The difficulty in reading science reduces when authors start using clear language!
    • It is possible to produce clarity without oversimplifying scientific issues/facts
core values
Core Values
  • Precision: ambiguities in writing cause confusion and may prevent a reader from grasping crucial aspects of the methodology and synthesis.
  • Clarity: concepts and methods in the sciences can often be complex; writing that is difficult to follow greatly amplifies any confusion on the part of the reader.
  • Objectivity: any claims that you make need to be based on facts, not intuition or emotion.
words in scientific research paper should be
Words in scientific research paper should be ….
  • Precise
  • Simple
  • Necessary
  • Use few (if any) abbreviations
  • Use your dictionary to find examples
    • Don’t just check the Chinese definitions
  • Precise words evoke a mental image
  • Abstractions make reading difficult
word and phrasing choice
Word and Phrasing choice
  • Often several words may convey similar meaning, but usually only one word is most appropriate in a given context. For example:
    • BAD: The population density is associated with SARS transmission rate.
    • GOOD: The population density is positivelycorrelatedwith SARS transmission rate (p<0.05, see Fig. 1).
  • In scientific writing, "correlated" conveys a precise statistical relationship between two variables.
precise style
Precise Style
    • It’s OK to makes your writing interesting, but not imprecise.
      • BAD: “Arctic mutation: at the peak of amyloid iceberg“
  • GOOD: “Aggressive amyloidosis in mice expressing human amyloid peptides with the Arctic mutation”
    • Makes your writing more objective and less is left to the imagination of the reader.
      • Exclude similes and metaphors from your scientific writing.
    • Whenever possible, use quantitative rather than qualitative descriptions.
      • BAD: "experimental subjects were assaulted with a wall of sound“
      • GOOD: "experimental subjects were presented with 20 second pulses of conspecific mating calls.”

reduced by 80%



incubated in







accompanied by


Induce bv


Heparin containing plasma

  • If an idea is simple, do not make it complex. If an idea is complex, write it as simple as possible.
  • All the technical or scientific words are already big, fancy, and heavy. Therefore, choose simple words for the rest of the sentence.
  • The more difficult words you use, the higher chance you’ll get something wrong.
making style more clear
Making Style More Clear
  • When you're writing about complex ideas and concepts, it's easy to get sucked into complex writing.
  • Transforming complicated ideas into simple explanations is probably the most difficult task in scientific writing.
clear style
Clear Style
  • Language Use:
    • When given a choice between a familiar and technical or obscure term, the more familiar term is preferred only if it does not reduce precision.
    • The reader has complicated material to learn, so there should not be any distraction with complex terms that may be confusing.






a first




increase pain




cell body

toward the live


a majority of = most

  • at the present time = now
  • give rise to = cause
  • in some cases = sometimes
  • is defined as = is
  • it is believed that = We believe
  • on the basis of = by
  • pooled together = pooled
  • subsequent to = after
  • with the result that = so that
  • Use the fewest words possible.
  • The more noise, the less message
  • The point is to be as brief as possible consistent with clarity
    • If it takes more words to be clear, use more words!!!

in the cytoplasm

of these changes

  • How many abbreviations should be used in a scientific paper?
  • How should you decide when to use an abbreviation?
when to use
When to use?
  • To replace a term that is long or unwieldy and that appears a great many times in the paper.
  • An abbreviation should be used often enough that reader does not forget the meaning (>10 times)
  • Exceptions:
    • Really long term, Ex: HFIP (1,1,1,3,3,3-Hexafluoro-2-propanol)
    • Some abbreviation that more familiar to reader than the term is. Ex: DNA
how to avoid abbreviations
How to avoid abbreviations
  • Instead of an abbreviation, one word from a long term can be used.
    • Ex: “isometric handgrip exercise” can be called “exercise” instead of “IHE” (if only one type of exercise in the paper)
  • To avoid “group A”, use “treated group”
which vs that
Which vs that
  • that identifies the object about which you are speaking
  • which provides further info about the object

GOOD: The car that is speeding down the road

is about to crash into a pole.

OK: The car, which is speeding down the road,

is about to crash into a pole.

  • Connects two sentences that are closely related to each other
  • Use a semicolon when what follows constitutes a complete sentence
  • When what follows is a fragment, you must use a comma or an em dash

CAREFUL: Max’s head was throbbing; Lyn’s heart was sinking.

The semicolon implies that there is a connection between Max’s

head throb and Lyn’s sinking heart!!

BAD: Holly wanted to live on a farm with plenty of chickens;

and to have a stellar career as well.

GOOD: This machine is difficult to use; for example, it

crashes whenever you turn it on.

  • The colon signifies that what follows it expands on or explains what precedes it: this sentence is an example.
  • Use at the end of a sentence, followed by a list

GOOD: This talk does not assume that you know the basics:

how to form a sentence, how to use words and how

to laugh at your mistakes.


The difference between grant and paper writing

  • Here is an interesting problem (Introduction; specific aims)
  • Here is my idea and approach (Method; Research design)
  • My idea works (Preliminary data; Result)
  • Here’s how my idea compares to other people’s approaches (Background; Discussion)


Reviewers are busy!!!!

Make sure they got your idea the first time (even they read it on the road or when feeding baby)


Key Points of Your Proposal

Whatis your question

Why is your study important

How are you going to do it


The grant should consist of ….

Chinese and English title and abstracts  overview

Hypothesis and Specific aims  What is your question

Background  What people need to know about this field

Significance  Why it is an important question

Preliminary data  evidence you have so far

Research design and methods  how you going to test

Anticipated results  potential answer to your question

References  you ideas are not from nowhere



  • Title of a project = face of a girl
  • Attractive, easy to understand, reflect the central theme
  • Concise: avoid non-informative words like “ A study of---”
  • The shorter, the better (< 100 characters)
  • Word choice
    • Quantitative: increase, decrease, reduced
    • Qualitative: improved, impaired
  • Role of calcium in pharmacological studies. (worst)
  • Role of calcium in pharmacological studies on PC12 cells. (at lease have information on cell type)
  • Role of calcium in effects of drug X on PC12 cells. (better)
  • Role of calcium in apoptotic effects of drug X on PC12 cells. (best)
  • Concisely describe every part of your paper
  • Write it last, following the logic of the proposal
  • English and Chinese title and abstracts should be consistent but not word-to-word translation

Early onset breast cancer has been the unique and major health problem in Taiwan with annual increase-----


Outstanding problems

The etiology and mechanisms of breast cancer in young women is unknown. It has been suggested that carcinogenesis in utero may account for the early-onset of this cancer-------------


To test this hypothesis, we have used fed pregnant mice with fatty diet and found increase in incidence of mammary tumors in the new born mice.----------------------

Background and preliminary data

In this proposal, we will examine the alteration of mammary gland differentiation pathway in the mammary tumors derived from the new born mice using microarray, SAGE (serial analysis of gene expression) as well real-time PCR techniques -------------

Experimental approaches


This study of alterations in mammary gland differentiation in the mammary tumor of new born mice will allow us to identify the genetic and molecular mechanisms involved in the early-onset breast cancer.



This information could be useful for diagnosis/treatment of early-onset breast cancer in Taiwan---------------------------



Hypothesis and Specific Aims

Hypothesis and Specific Aims

Objective, rationale, and hypothesis

Specific aim 1

Specific aim 2

Specific aim 3

Potential outcomes + significance

  • Usually 1-2 pages
  • List your long-term objectives
  • State the hypothesis to be tested.
  • List specific aims: one by one
  • What the specific research proposed to finish.
  • Potential outcomes + significance

Hypothesis non fingo!


Aim 1: To evaluate the protective effect of collagen VI under multiple types of lesions in vitro and in vivo.

Aim 2: To identify the mediators for the protective effect of collagen VI.

Aim 3: To determine the transcription machinery regulating Ab-induced COL6A1 expression


Example for model figure and specific aims

Aim 1: To explore the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling apoE expression in CNS neurons.

Aim 2: To determine if inhibiting apoE4 proteolysis by mutating the primary cleavage sites reduces or abolishes apoE4-related neuronal and behavioral deficits in transgenic mice.

Specific Aim 3: To explore the cellular mechanisms underlying the selective vulnerability of different CNS neurons to apoE4 and its fragments in vitro and in vivo.


Specific Aim 1. Determine if the impairment of vulnerable neurons in the dentate gyrus of hAPP mice depends on the production of hAPP/A by these cells.

Specific Aim 2. Determine if modulation of specific excitotoxicity-related neuronal or glial proteins will normalize neuronal activity and cognitive functions in hAPP mice.

Specific Aim 3. Determine if reducing the level of endogenous, soluble tau protects against diverse proteinopathies.


Specific Aim 1. Determine the age- and time dependence of the requirement for tau in APP/Aβ-induced neuronal dysfunction.

Specific Aim 2. Examine the role of specific tau phosphorylation sites in enabling APP/Aβ-induced neuronal dysfunction.

Specific Aim 3. Identify the downstream

mechanisms by which tau enables APP/Aβ-induced neuronal dysfunction.

specific aims
Specific Aims

Specific Aim #1.Identification of downstream genes involved in ----.

This purpose of this aim will test the hypothesis that-------. This study will be able to allow us to identify -----

Subaim 1a: Yeast two-hybrid technique will be used to ----- Subaim 1b: Deletion analysis will be used to -----





  • To establish the significance of the current work: Why was there a need to conduct the study?
    • What people have done?
    • What’s missing?
  • Clearly state the scope and objectives
  • Do not write any conclusions, methods, or results
  • State concisely and clearly the importance of your study.
  • Emphasize the novelty or innovation.
    • So what?
    • I’m the best person to do it
  • Convey the significance of your research to
    • 1) scientific contribution
    • 2) improving public health
    • 3) make big money
preliminary results
Preliminary Results
  • Provide the unpublished results indicating progress toward their achievement
  • Show only the relevant experiments supporting your hypothesis
  • The results should not be ambiguous
  • Assessing the chance of the success of the proposed project  tell reviewer “this idea is working”
research design and methods
Research Design and Methods

The design should follow the specific aims and test the hypothesis

  • List as specific aims
    • Aim1
    • Subaim1a exp1
    • Subaim1b exp2
    • Aim2
research design
Research Design
  • Do NOT write as protocol or operation manual
  • Design the experiments to solve the problems posed in the specific aims in logical order
  • Be realistic and logical.
  • Provide information on statistical analysis whenever applicable
  • Control! Control! Control!
  • Write in the future tense and active voice
    • BAD: Western blot will be used to identify XXX protein.
    • GOOD: We will identify XXX protein by Western blot.
anticipated results
Anticipated Results
  • Why good results will be expected
  • Reasonable time table for achieving results
  • Alternative Interpretations critically evaluated
  • How the results will support your hypothesis
  • Potential difficulties and limitations of the experiment, and alternative approaches to achieve the aims.
  • How your results would be important for a group project
problems with writing
Problems with Writing
  • Too long sentences and paragraphs
  • No logical connection among paragraphs
  • Explain things unclearly (reviewers probably are not in your field)
  • Beware of acronyms and jargons
  • Misspelling and grammar error; check with Word program
  • Chaotic format

Problems with English

The result of all the molecular events and regulatory processes in the cells are reflected in the phenotypes of the organism

After extraction RNA precipitate with alcohol.

The extracted RNA will be precipitated with alcohol.

After separated in the gel electrophorsis the scientist eluted the proteins by electroporation.

The protein will be separated by gel electrophorsis and eluted by electroporation.