2Thesis What’s the question that your paper is answering? The brief answer to that question is your thesis.The thesis MUST appear at the beginning of the intro.The thesis should be strong, direct and specific.Everything in the paper should be related to the thesis.You can’t organize the paper well until you know what it is about. The organization DEPENDS on the thesis.
3Synthesize, don’t summarize The paper should synthesize information and ideas from multiple sources.If you have whole paragraphs from a single source, you are writing summariesOrganize around ideas, not authors.E.g., each paragraph should be about an idea, not one of your sources. Identify the ideas across your sources, and combine those ideas in a single paragraph or section with appropriate citations.
4Sections and paragraphs Sections are major ideas. You should have Intro & Conclusion plus 3-4 other sections. Every section gets a heading.Paragraphs are minor (but important) ideas. Most sections will be multiple paragraphs.Sections and paragraphs both get topic sentences. Topic sentences should be direct and specific.Let’s avoid clumsy transitions. No transition is better than a clunky one.
5Graphics Two graphics are required: a Figure (picture, graph or diagram)a Table (a chart)You can use something from your source or make your own. Either way it must be good quality and readable. Please put all graphics at the end of the paper, NOT in the text.The graphics are not illustrating text – they are REPLACING text. So the graphics must contribute to the arguments and ideas in the paper.Every graphic must:Have a label: Figure 1. Caption (citation).Be specifically referred to in the text.
6Formatting stuffSpecies names: the genus is capitalized, the species is not; both are underlined or italicHomo sapiens, Homo sapiensCitations: include up to three authors, more than three is “and others”; combine citations inside a single set of parentheses, separated by semi-colon. Usually the list is alphabetic, then most recent to least recent.(Kusnick and Waterstraat, 2011; Kusnick and others 2009)Multiple sources from the same author become (Kusnick, 2013a; Kusnick 2013b) and are listed that way in the reference list.Reference lists are ALWAYS ALPHABETICAL
7Tone This is formal science writing, so… Don’t start sentences with Or, But or And.Don’t write about people (scientists think, some people believe, paleontologists argue).Don’t use adjectives or metaphors for drama.Don’t be chatty or cozy.Don’t strain for fancy vocabulary.Don’t be self-referential – don’t talk about what the paper will do or about “mentioning” thingsDo keep language and sentences simple and direct.
8Avoiding vagueness “There are several factors….” If you say “several” you are being vague. Either the things that make up the “several” are important enough to list or they are not important enough to mention.“(Insert issue here) has both benefits and challenges…”“This issue is of great concern …”If the thing you just said is true of everything in the world, or painfully obvious, then don’t say it.
9Avoiding wordiness Passive voice: Adding unnecessary phrases: Substituting some form of “to be” for an action verb:“Companies have been using” v “Companies use”Making the actor invisible:“It is a matter of great concern that…” v “People who live near power plants fear…”Almost all sentences that start with “It is” are a problem.Adding unnecessary phrases:“When considering blah blah, …”“Researchers have discovered that…”
10Sentence structure KISS – keep it simple (sentence) Compound & complex sentences need to be justified. If there’s no compelling reason to tack on another clause or phrase, don’t do it.You will avoid most run-on sentences if you avoid “however” and use commas sparingly.Starting a sentence with “Also” means you have not structured the paragraph correctly. Don’t do it.
11More sentence structure Start the sentence with the most important piece of your message:NO “Compared to other forms of energy such as coal and natural gas, (YAWN, what were we talking about again?) nuclear power is safer and cleaner.”YES “Nuclear power is safer and cleaner than coal or natural gas”.
12A few random rants on prepositions and pronouns You almost always mean “including”, not “such as” or “like” (which imply the thing that follows is an example of a class of things)“Around” implies proximity, either in space or time. You mean “about” or (even better) “approximately”. An event could occur around 1957, but an amount cannot be around $30 million.Avoid pronouns unless it is OBVIOUS which noun they refer to (it, they, them). Two “its” in a row is too many. One is sometimes too many.“This” and “those” are NOT pronouns in formal writing. They are adjectives and require a noun. NOT “This is…” but “This problem is…”