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Communicating Scientific and Technical Information: Writing Scientific English Miao Desui University of Kansas.

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Presentation on theme: "Communicating Scientific and Technical Information: Writing Scientific English Miao Desui University of Kansas."— Presentation transcript:

1 Communicating Scientific and Technical Information: Writing Scientific English Miao Desui University of Kansas

2 Charles Darwin: A naturalist’s life would be a happy one if he had only to observe and never to write.

3 PAMELA J. HINES, BRAD WIBLE, MELISSA MCCARTNEY (Science, p.447 , April 23, 2010): Science is about generating and interpreting data. But it is also about communicating facts, ideas, and hypotheses. Scientists write, speak, debate, visualize, listen, and read about their specialties daily. For students unfamiliar with the language or style of science, the deceptively simple act of communication can be a barrier to understanding or becoming involved with the science.

4 Organization of a Scientific Paper Title: describe the content of the paper with the fewest possible words. Authorship: who wrote the paper? Abstract: a summary of information in it. Introduction: what was the problem? Materials and Methods : how did you study it? Results : what did you find? Discussion : what do these findings mean? Acknowledgments: a thank-you note. References Cited : on the shoulders of the others.

5 Christopher Marlowe: Who ever loved, That loved not at first sight?

6 Title Describe the contents of the paper in as few words as possible: correct, complete, comprehensible, concise. Provide the key words that aid indexing, abstracting, and computer searching: clear, specific, informative, self-explanatory.

7 Use the specific word, the familiar word, the short word Deadwood in titles: An investigation of the effects of using fertilizer on lawns Standard title: The effects of the use of fertilizer on lawns Rejuvenated title: Fertilizer helps lawns grow.

8 Edmund Burk: Passion for fame: a passion which is the instinct of all great souls.

9 Names of Authors Ideally, the order of the authors should reflect the relative contributions to the paper, and thus alphabetical order is inappropriate. It is best to establish the order of the authors as early as possible in a project. It is gracious for the established senior scientist to give first author to a younger colleague or graduate student.

10 Euripides: A bad beginning makes a bad ending.

11 Introduction Tells the reader what is in the paper, why it is an interesting, worthwhile issue. Introduces what is known, and what remains to be known. Develops the context of the results to be reported: how and why a certain question or questions arose. Ends by saying what you did to answer the new questions.

12 Alfred N. Whitehead: The greatest invention of the 19 th century was the invention of the method of invention.

13 Materials and Methods Explains just how you did the work. Should be as simple and transparent as possible, and yet detailed enough so that the procedures can be duplicated exactly and hence confirmed. For materials, include the exact technical specifications and quantities and source or method of preparation. For methods, use chronological order.

14 Winston Churchill: I pass with relief from the tossing sea of Cause and Theory to the firm ground of Result and Fact.

15 Results Reports the facts revealed by the work. Gives an overall description of the experiments, providing the “big picture.” Presents the data, in both words and tables & graphics. Must be simply and clearly stated, and avoid redundancy.

16 Thomas Barbington: Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely.

17 Discussion Answers the question(s) posed in Introduction. Examines the meaning of the results presented in Results. Compares with the results of others. Discusses the consequences of those comparisons. Ends with a high note on some of the fundamental implications or significance of the paper.

18 Kenneth K. Landes: The abstract is of utmost importance, for it is read by 10 to 500 times more people than hear or read the entire article. It should not be a mere recital of the subjects covered. Expressions such as “is discussed” and “is described” should never be included! The abstract should be a condensation and concentration of the essential information in the paper.

19 Abstract States the main objectives and scope of the research. Describes the methods used. Summarizes the results. States the principal conclusions. Thus, abstract is a mini-paper, and should be concise, specific, non-evaluative, self- contained, and informative.

20 Widespread nowadays in freshwater and coastal seas of the cold and temporal zones, lampreys are a jawless vertebrate group that has lived on earth for over 300 million years but left a meagre fossil record. Only two fossil lamprey species, i.e., Mayomyzon pieckoensis 1, 2 and Hardistiella montanensis 3-5, have been recognized with certainty from North American Carboniferous marine deposits 6. Here we report the first freshwater lamprey from the Lower Cretaceous (ca. 125 million years ago) of Inner Mongolia, China.

21 The new taxon, Mesomyzon mengi, displays a long snout, a well-developed sucking oral disk, a relatively long branchial apparatus showing branchial basket, seven gill pouches, gill arches and impressions of gill filaments, about 80 myomeres and several other characters that are previously unknown or ambiguous. Our finding not only indicates Mesomyzon’s closer relationship to extant lampreys but also reveals the group’s invasion into freshwater environment no later than the Early Cretaceous. The new material furthers our understanding of ancient lampreys, bridges the gap between the Carboniferous forms and their recent relatives, and adds to our knowledge of the evolutionary history of lampreys.

22 Ralph Waldo Emerson: Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.

23 Acknowledgements Give credit to those who helped in some fashion. Thank the reviewers. Acknowledge the funding agencies. This is NOT a place where you’d thank your mom or your significant other who cooked you a delicious meal during the project. Do it somewhere else—buy them flowers!

24 Acknowledgements We thank X. Wang for providing the fossils and information on their provenance and stratigraphic horizon, Z. Zhou for discussions and reading the manuscript, M. Zhu for providing information and discussions, M. Yang for the illustrations and W. Gao for photographing. We also thank the anonymous reviewers for their well-informed and constructive opinions. Supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX3-SW-126 and KZCX3-SW-142), the National Natural Science Foundation of China ( and ), and the Asian-Swedish Research Partnership Program of the Swedish Research Council.

25 Isaac Newton: If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.

26 References Cited List only significant, published references. Check all parts of every reference against the original publication—NEVER cite a reference you have not read or from secondary sources. ALL citations in the manuscript must be listed in “References Cited” and ALL references must be cited in the text.

27 Norman Maclean: My father was very sure about certain things pertaining to the Universe. To him, all good things-- trout as well as eternal salvation- -come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.

28 Publication manual of the American Psychological Association: The prime objective of scientific reporting is clear communication. You can achieve this by presenting ideas in an orderly manner and by expressing yourself smoothly and precisely. By developing ideas clearly and logically and leading readers smoothly from thought to thought, you make the task of reading an agreeable one.

29 Four elements of effective communications: Orderly presentation of ideas: organization of the parts (章法) Smoothness of expression: paragraph structure (分段) Economy of expression: sentence structure (句法) Precision and clarity: word choice (遣 词)

30 Orderly presentation of ideas Connect paragraphs with discourse markers: e.g., subsequently, finally, incidentally, additionally, alternatively, conversely, moreover, furthermore, despite that, therefore, for example… Link paragraphs with structural devices: e.g., first, second, third; Avoid one-sentence paragraph.

31 Paragraph structure Deal with a single idea per paragraph; Start with a topic sentence; Followed by one, two or more developing sentences; End with a concluding sentence. The last sentence may also provide transition to from its topic to that of the next paragraph.

32 An example: Written communications are created when the topics are linked smoothly. In a well- structured piece of writing, each topic is represented by a paragraph and together the paragraphs form sections. Unfortunately, many writers do not take paragraph structure seriously. They write until they are tired and then break off for a new paragraph. By itself, the well-structured paragraph is like a whole paper in miniature…

33 Loosely connected The moon has always been an object of interest to human beings. Until the 1960s, getting there was only a dream. Some thought that we were not meant to go to the moon. In 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface. Moon landings became routine to the general public.

34 More coherent The moon has always been an object of interest to human beings, but until the 1960s, getting there was only a dream. In fact, some thought that we were not meant to go to the moon. However, in 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface. After that, moon landings became routine to the general public.

35 A dialogue between a writing student and Annie Dillard The student: how can I become a writer? Annie Dillard: do you like sentences? The student (puzzled): what? Oh, well… Annie Dillard: well, a painter was asked: “How can I become a painter?” The painter said, “Do you like the smell of paint? I became a painter because I like the smell of paint.”

36 Sentence structure The major elements: Men admire women. The supporting elements: Short men admire tall women. The service element: Short men admire tall women, but women in general prefer tall men. The minor element: Short men admire tall women, but most, if not all, women somehow prefer tall men.

37 Kind of Sentences 简单(陈述)句 (Simple declarative S.): John loves Mary. Or : He ran. 复合(陈述)句 (Compound Declarative S): John is short; Mary is tall. 复杂陈述句 (Complex Declarative S.) : Because short men admire tall women, John loves Mary. 复合 - 复杂陈述句 (Compound-Complex Declaratives.) : A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad Theodore Roosevelt

38 Same idea, different structures Clear communication, which is the prime objective of scientific reporting, may be achieved by presenting ideas in an orderly manner and by expressing oneself smoothly and precisely. By developing ideas clearly and logically, you invite readers to read, encourage them to continue, and make their task agreeable by leading them smoothly from thought to thought. The prime objective of scientific reporting is clear communication. You can achieve this by presenting ideas in an orderly manner and by expressing yourself smoothly and precisely. By developing ideas clearly and logically and leading readers smoothly from thought to thought, you make the task of reading an agreeable one.

39 Mark Twain : The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between “lightening” and “lightening bug.”

40 闻一多: 下一个字,像下一个棋子一样 ,一个字有一个字的用场,不 能随便乱放,敲好它的声音, 配好它的颜色,审好它的意义 ,放好它的位置。谁来看了, 都只能赞赏,而不能挪动它。

41 Word choice The test of what word to use, then, is made of 3 Qs: 1. Do I know what this word means and suggests? (词义) 2. Do I know what its quality or atmosphere is? (词隐义) 3. Do I know what its “hooks” are for linking it with other words. (搭配)

42 Know your words Jehol vertebrates had experienced significant radiations Jehol vertebrates had undergone significant (adaptive) radiations You experienced the pain of giving birth to a child (or the thrill of sexual climax), but you underwent a surgery!

43 Know how to pair your words You do not propose an opinion — you voice one; You do not provide a suggestion — you make one; You do not advance a hypothesis — you propose one.

44 Just for fun: “The Ancient Ship” was translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt. “The Da Vinci Code” has been translated into Chinese.

45 An or a? An estimated 2,200 people died in recent Yushu earthquake. Michael Jordan is an NBA player. Most faults in the region run in a NE/SW direction. Poland is a EU country.

46 Which is right? The boy is climbing up the tree. The boy is climbing down from the top of the tree.

47 Watch your comma Chairman Mao said President Chiang is a dictator. Chairman Mao, said President Chiang, is a dictator.

48 Agreement A writer is like a bean plant—he has his little day, and then gets stringy. --E. B. White The Future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is. --C. S. Lewis

49 Subject/Verb disagreement Mechanical problems appears to be a major reason for the poor data. Mechanical problems with the inclinometer appears to be a major reason for the poor data.

50 Subject/Verb disagreement The composition of each sample was examined carefully. The composition and texture of each sample was examined carefully.

51 Verb/Predicate Noun disagreement The Wasatch Mountains are (form) a narrow, upfaulted range. Eolian strata of the Weber are (compose) the chief petroleum reservoir.

52 Pronoun disagreement Large-scale volcanic eruptions in Iceland began in early April, 2010; this disrupted the air travels of many people in Europe for almost a week.

53 Misplaced modifiers He told her that he wanted to marry her frequently. We saw a man on a horse with a wooden leg. He took a frog to biology class in a glass jar.

54 Dangling modifiers At the age of five, his father died. Running through rain, his clothes got soaked. Preparing for the experiment, several samples were collected. Having done well on her research, the paper earned her an A.

55 Dangling modifiers So incredibly thin, you’ll never know it’s there!

56 Elliptical sentence John loves money more than Mary. John loves money more than Mary loves money. (John loves money more than Mary does.) John loves money more than he loves Mary. (John loves money more than he does Mary.)

57 Faulty parallelism Writing well demands the following: planning your time, paying attention to details, the need for revision, and proofreading. Writing well demands the following: planning your time, paying attention to details, revising, and proofreading.

58 Confusing references John told Larry that he would become a great scientist. John said to Larry, “You would become a great scientist.” John said to Larry, “I would become a great scientist.”

59 The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity. The bible for writers

60 Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. 刚健的文字都 是简练的。应 当句无冗词, 段无赘句,一 如画面应无多 余线条,机器 应无多余部件 。亦非要求句 句写短,或略 去细节,只剩 轮廓,但须字 字言之有物。 (苗译)

61 Simplicity is beauty Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity. ----Plato

62 The best word play ever “Even in rainy weather, it flows freely.” "It never rains, but it pours." "When it Rains It Pours."

63 Parting advice Words are all we have, and let us use them carefully, correctly, economically, wisely, and gracefully!

64 Thank you for coming!


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