Basic Scientific Writing in English Lecture 3

Basic Scientific Writing in English
Lecture 3
Professor Ralph Kirby
Faculty of Life Sciences
Extension 7323
Room B322
Write the paper in English
• It is much harder to translate directly into English without making
many errors unless you have a lot of practice
• Use the vocabulary that you have.
• Use Simplified English with its limited vocabulary. You can make
it read better later
• Use the papers that you have from your literature search to help
– If you are using the same method, for example, refer directly in your paper
– If you have modified the method, keep the same wording and add the changes
– Use the introductions from papers to give you the content and style you want for
your introduction
– Do not plagiarize, but science does allow you to say things in the same way as
others, unlike many other subjects
• Write the paper in stages
– Do an outline, in Chinese if you want, of what you want
the paper to say.
– Decide on the journal
– Get the Instructions to Authors and a hardcopy of a
recent paper on a similar subject
– Create a structure for the paper, also in Chinese if you
want, for each section of the paper
• Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion
– Start writing one section, say the Material and Methods
– When you have a 1st draft, start on a 2nd section, the
Results perhaps
– Then the Introduction and finally the Discussion
– Now put all these 1st drafts together
• Now get the model paper and check that you have
the format correct and that you have the heading as
they should be
• Look at the Instructions to Authors and decide
what is missing
• How about a title page.
– You might have wanted to invent a title earlier. That’s
OK. But the title is not the only thing needed on the title
page. The Instructions will tell you
• You will need an abstract and this usually has a
word limit
• You will need references
• You will need Tables and Figures
The Introduction
• This should tell why the work was done
• Keep it relatively short
– Explain the general field including what is already known
about the question
• 1-3 paragraphs
– Describe other scientists findings and explain how your work
fits in and may change the prevailing view
• 1-3 paragraphs
– Specify exactly what the paper addresses and how it does so,
preferably as an hypothesis. Outline your experimental
approach and why it is different
• 1 or at most 2 paragraphs
• Do not outline in detail your results and conclusions. Some journals
allow a brief outline of your answers (Check model papers for this), but
it should not be more than two or three sentences
The Materials and Methods
• Can have a variety of names. Check your model paper
• Do not make this a laboratory manual. You are talking to
experienced scientists
– Refer to methods published in previous papers as much as possible
– Write in a concise way, that allows the experiment to be reproduced by a
trained investigator
• Start with the animate and inanimate items used and where you
got them from
– Include any legal requirements for human or animal subjects here
• Then explain in chronological order, if possible, the experiments
carried out and why. Alternatively, you can parallel how you
present the results
• Finally discuss any statistically procedures and computer
programs used
The Results
• This should be the easiest as you will already have
presented them to your research group etc
• Present the results logically
– From most simple to most complex
– Chronologically
– In an order that argues the case you are making
• Here is where you first refer to any Tables and Figures
– Do not repeat what is presented in these, merely refer when
needed to a particular Table or Figure
• Only include relevant results
– Even if the experiment worked beautifully but didn’t show
anything useful, don’t include it
– Do include any results that contradict your hypothesis
The Discussion
This can be the hardest section to write
This is where most papers get rejected
Most discussions are too long
Use the discussion to put your results into context
Explain what your results mean in terms of the
Do not repeat what is said in the Introduction more than
you need to
Do not repeat what was said in the Results
Point out any exceptions
Show how the results agree/disagree with previous work
Discuss the theoretical and practical implication of the
• This can make up the last couple of
paragraphs of the Discussion. Look at the
model paper
• Define the significance of the paper so there
is no “so what!” effect
• State the conclusions you draw from your
work as clearly as possible
• Summarize the evidence for each
conclusion independently
• Do not assume anything
What next?
• We have not looked at a number of things yet.
– the title; tables & graphs; references; abbreviations
– jargon, the most common style, grammar and
spelling errors in detail, words and expressions to
– posters; oral presentations; reports
• But we need to look at some real examples and
that’s what we will do next
Writing and Correcting a Manuscript
• Needed, a English-Chinese/Chinese English
– So it is possible to identify exactly what some words
might mean in Mandarin, if necessary.
• And an English Dictionary
– So that we can look up the exact definitions of
problem words in English
• And a Thesaurus
– So we can find alternative words (online or book)