Writing up Results

Things you can do to make scientific writing easier to read:

  1. Use text, figures, and tables together to tell your story.  Cross reference tables and figures in the text. Explain your objectives and your ideas. Teach your readers unfamiliar concepts.
  2. Explain methodology in text and captions. 
  3. Avoid passive voice.  Use active verbs and short sentences. Your goal is to make your writing easy for your readers to understand. Scientific writing may not be the same as churning out New York Times bestselling thrillers, but you can still borrow style tricks from popular writers. While there are ample examples of unclear and turgid science writing, there are also some really wonderful examples, including for example, the scientific computing reference Numerical Recipes.
  4. Proofread. 
  5. Define notation.
  6. Use conventional mathematical notation:
  7. Punctuate equations.  An equation is part of the text.  At the end of a sentence, the equation should end with a period.  If a comma is needed, use it. Aim to number all of the equations, for the convenience of readers who might want to talk about your work.
  8. Label axes in plots.  Identify units and color scales.  Make axes large enough to be readable when plot is sized to final dimensions.
  9. Choose comprehensible color scales.   Use the same color scales for similar plots.  Show the color bars. 
  10. Make plots large enough to be legible, and size similar plots to be consistent.
  11. Cite appropriate sources.  Provide full citation information following standard scientific conventions.


You can write up your results using what-you-see-is-what-you-get software such as Microsoft Word, or using typesetting software such as Latex. The advantage of Latex is that it will allow you to track reference information easily and will typeset equations efficiently (once you master the basics.) Word is often useful for shared documents for which you want to track changes made by multiple writers. For my notes on writing a manuscript with Latex, see here.

Turning in your write up

Please submit your write up to turnitin.com, following instructions posted here.