Many science students believe that how well they write is a matter of little importance. As a necessarily collective endeavour, however, the very success of science depends in large part upon the accurate exchange of information and the reproducibility of results. For this reason scientists need to be able to communicate their hypotheses, procedures, methodologies, results and conclusions in a clear and effective manner.
The unambiguous, precise and logical presentation of data is the core of scientific reporting, enabling other scientists to replicate experiments. It is only in this way that science is able to arrive at reliable, reproducible, inter-subjectively verifiable results.
Since published papers are the most important medium of scientific communication, it is crucial that you acquire the skills of good scientific writing.
The Requirements of Good Scientific Writing
A scientific essay should be clear, concise, simple and direct.
It should avoid digressions, redundancy, overstatement, verbiage, and unnecessary qualifiers.
It should be carefully planned and well structured, follow the format of papers published in professional journals, and be illustrated where appropriate with diagrams, figures, graphs and tables.
Sources should be limited to refereed scientific journals, which should always be properly referenced.
Since science depends on objective observations and focuses on the experiment rather than on the experimenter, scientists tend to avoid using the first person in their writing and verbs often take the passive form.
Good punctuation is also crucial, since even a single misplaced comma can turn a clear sentence into an ambiguous or confusing one.
The Structure of a Scientific Paper
A good science essay should have a concise, informative title, followed by a succinct, one-paragraph abstract summarising the contents of the paper.
The introduction then presents your objectives and hypothesis, and may also indicate the broader scientific context and significance of the work.
The rationale and parameters thereby clearly stated, the next section will describe your materials and methods. This section should be thorough and precise yet avoid unnecessary detail, including only what is necessary in order for the experiment to be accurately replicated.
The results section should present your findings in a clear, well-structured and accessible way, highlighting those observations that are most relevant to your hypothesis.
The discussion section interprets the results, evaluates the extent to which the findings support the hypothesis, discusses the quality and limitations of the data and procedure, and compares the results with those of other studies.
Finally, your conclusion will succinctly summarise your findings and suggest potential follow-up studies.
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