Many science students probably hate writing. You know, the same way a journalism student will harbor negative feelings for math subjects and a math student will fret about the literature class he’s required to take. While it all seems, on the surface, totally useless to your planned career, schools look to make you as well rounded a graduate as possible. As such, it doesn’t matter if you intend to be a physicist, a biologist or a purveyor of mad science — writing is likely to be a part of your university existence.
How do scientific ideas get spread? Yep, by writing about them. Scientists, even the most brilliant of them, will need to publish their research if they want other scientists to study it and validate its claims. And if they want to avoid misunderstanding, they’ll need to write in a clear and logical manner — the same way you’re being asked to write in your science courses now.
The way you use language, of course, affects the clarity of your thoughts and arguments. Not only does good writing lend credibility to your ideas, it makes sure readers understand everything you want to convey without confusion either.
8 General Writing Questions To Always Ask Yourself
When writing anything, whether a science paper or a historical essay, always filter your work through these eight questions to ensure you’ve done everything in your power to make it as good as possible:
1. Have you fulfilled the assignment directions?
Review the assignment instructions and check whether you fulfill all the requirements laid out in there. Make an outline of the different items you need to cover so you can check it against your paper’s content.
2. Do you have one clear main point?
Every paper you write need to have one main point and that point should be clear to the reader. This point should be stated early on, either in the first or second paragraph. More importantly, all the points you discuss need to build up towards this main point.
3. Does your writing have a clear and logical structure?
Unless you can organize your ideas into a clear and logical structure, they’ll be isolated thoughts that don’t quite come together right. A structure lets you link ideas into a logical sequence, optimizing their presentation.
4. Is every idea you put forward supported with explanation and reasoning?
Any time you present a claim, an idea or an argument, make sure to back it up with reasons. Either explain why you’re taking that position or present evidence that supports it.
5. Did you use sources properly, integrating them with your thoughts and ideas?
Check how you used sources. Did you use their ideas as support or as starting points for your own? Or did you use them as is, relying solely on the research to make your case? Strive for the former rather than the latter.
6. Do all your paragraphs focus on one topic each?
Doing this modularizes your ideas, making the paper easier to read as a whole. It also gives the reader space to pause after every paragraph, giving them ample time to consume what they just read.
7. Did you tailor your writing to the target readers?
Does word choice, level of formality, discussion depth and other aspects of your paper correspond with the kind of content target readers expect? Remember: everything you write should be considered appropriate for the audience at hand.
8. Did you run a grammar checker and proofreader?
No, using an automated software isn’t necessary. It’s a heck of a lot more efficient than doing them manually, though, so we highly recommend investing in these tools, especially if you write frequently enough.
1. Define your readers early
Know who you’re writing for: is the paper for fellow science students, experts who know more about you, or a general science crowd? Each one will require different kinds of presentation and language choices. The better you can define the audience, the more you’ll be able to tailor the writing such that it communicates with them best.
2. Create an outline of your structure
Before you write, create an outline that maps out how you plan to present your ideas in the paper using your research notes as basis. Not only will this help you organize your thoughts, it’s also going to make your writing a whole lot easier to consume for readers.
3. Minimize direct quotes
While you can get away with tons of quotes on a history paper, it’s not advisable in many types of science writing. Of course, it’s still a good idea to mention names and give attributions for the origins of some ideas, but minimize direct quotes as much as you can.
4. Seek out opportunities to comment on your sources
This shows you’re thinking about what you research critically — something a lot of science professors will appreciate. Just make sure you keep the discussions on topic, regardless of how you personally feel about individual sources.
5. Define words your readers may not know
Don’t assume your reader will know what a term means unless you are 100% certain. Instead, work definitions into your paragraphs. This should be easy enough using compound and complex sentences. Do the same for mathematical formulas they may not be familiar with, as well as historical references.
6. Check your explanations
Double and triple check them as well. You want to check if you have drawn adequately upon your own insights while integrating existing knowledge in the field. You also want to check if you’ve been balanced and fair, acknowledging your argument’s strengths as well as its weaknesses.
7. Make sentences count
You know how laypeople don’t like reading a lot of fluff? It gets worse with people from academe and the sciences. While colorful words may express your feelings about a subject well, they should never be used as a way to cover up inadequacies in your arguments. So try to stay focused and keep your sentences on the topic at hand.