How to Write Like a Scientist

Here at Neatorama, we try to link to the original work whenever possible. For science stories, this is sometimes impossible because original science research papers are often unreadable. It makes more sense to link to an explanation written by a science journalist who deciphers the science and writes in a way the rest of us can understand. See, scientists write differently from the way you or I or journalists do, because they are taught to write differently. Adam Ruben teaches science writing for scientists and science writing for non-scientists and assures us that the two classes are very different. Then he gives us twelve tips for writing as a scientist would, therefore assuring that no one outside the scientific community will read your work. Here's a sample:
2. Using the first person in your writing humanizes your work. If possible, therefore, you should avoid using the first person in your writing. Science succeeds in spite of human beings, not because of us, so you want to make it look like your results magically discovered themselves.

3. Some journals, such as Science, officially eschew the passive voice. Others print only the passive voice. So find a healthy compromise by writing in semi-passive voice.

ACTIVE VOICE: We did this experiment.

PASSIVE VOICE: This experiment was done by us.

SEMI-PASSIVE VOICE: Done by us, this experiment was.

Yes, for the semi-passive voice, you’ll want to emulate Yoda. Yoda, you’ll want to emulate.

Read the rest at Science Careers. Link -via Not Exactly Rocket Science

VLS-grown semiconductor nanowires have emerged as a viable prospect for future solar-based energy applications. In this paper, we report highly efficient charge separation and collection across in situ doped Si p–n junction nanowires with a diameter <100 nm grown in a cold wall CVD reactor. Our photoexcitation measurements indicate an internal quantum efficiency of 50%, whereas scanning photocurrent microscopy measurements reveal effective minority carrier diffusion lengths of 1.0 ?m for electrons and 0.66 ?m for holes for as-grown Si nanowires (dNW ? 65–80 nm), which are an order of magnitude larger than those previously reported for nanowires of similar diameter. Further analysis reveals that the strong suppression of surface recombination is mainly responsible for these relatively long diffusion lengths, with surface recombination velocities (S) calculated to be 2 orders of magnitude lower than found previously for as-grown nanowires, all of which used hot wall reactors. The degree of surface passivation achieved in our as-grown nanowires is comparable to or better than that achieved for nanowires in prior studies at significantly larger diameters. We suggest that the dramatically improved surface recombination velocities may result from the reduced sidewall reactions and deposition in our cold wall CVD reactor.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
See if you can understand what I wrote back in grad school.

The biggest problem we had was how to fit all we want to say within the (very) strict character count. We only got 55,000 character (including spaces).
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Nice entertaining article, thanks for the link!

I'm may not be a scientist (unless engineering counts as science), but I also get frustrated sometimes with the style of language that we get told to use when writing reports. And then professors use these conventions in their lecture notes, which doesn't help students understand better.

However, I can understand the need to keep the vocabulary a bit basic. The idea is to convey unbiased facts, and given how easily manipulated the human brain is, making lyrical metaphors could be used to make the reader tend toward a certain point of view.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.
Click here to access all of this post's 3 comments

Email This Post to a Friend
"How to Write Like a Scientist"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More