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Words of Wisdom

No man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

— C. S. Lewis

January 2009

MEGHAN- Howdy Ags! I’m Meghan Wall and welcome to “Write Right.” In today’s quick tip we're learning that writing does matter in science.  Did you know that scientists and engineers often write more in their careers than those students that earned English degrees?

In fact, grant writing, proposals, and publications in journals can make or break the career of many that had “non-writing” majors.  Although your TA may grade grammar and style leniently, you should practice your technical writing now to prepare for your future career.

Scientific writing is quick and dirty.  Get your point across with as few words as possible.  However, don’t sacrifice your meaning.  Due to the nature of scientific writing, it is imperative that your audience understand your purpose, methods, and results.

Language should be simple and to the point.  Don’t utilize; use.

Describe experiments exactly as they occurred with quantitative or numerical descriptions and results.   Avoid figurative language and metaphors.

In lab reports, you should either use third person passive or first person active voice.  In other styles of writing, passive voice is typically discouraged.   An example or third person passive voice is “The genome was manipulated.”  An example of first person active voice is, “We manipulated the genome.”

Report format varies from class to class.  A typical lab report will have the following components: title, abstract, introduction, methodology, results including data and figures, discussion, and references.  See your TA or lecturer for the specific components necessary for your lab.

For more information on scientific writing tune into our next episode where we will go into the specifics of writing a lab report.  Thanks for listening to this Quick Tip, we’ll see you next time on Write Right.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The University Writing Center, Texas A&M University.

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