Writing up Results
Things you can do to make scientific writing easier to read:
- 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.
- Explain methodology in
text and captions.
- 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.
- Correct spelling.
- Make data a plural. ("The
data are noisy and difficult to interpret.")
- Use that and which correctly. ("The data that are
noisy are processed separately from the noise-free data." vs "The
data, which are noisy, were all low-pass filtered.")
- Avoid split
infinitives (when possible; style manuals vary in their judgment on this topic).
- Define notation.
- Use conventional mathematical
- vectors should be bold and small
- matrices should be bold capitals
- f is the Coriolis parameter
- 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.
- Label axes in plots.
Identify units and color scales. Make axes large enough to be
readable when plot is sized to final dimensions.
- Choose comprehensible color scales.
Use the same color scales for
similar plots. Show the color bars.
- Make plots large enough to be
legible, and size similar plots to be consistent.
- Cite appropriate sources.
Provide full citation information following standard scientific
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.