Friday, July 29, 2005

Scientific Writing

It's difficult to attain good scientific writing advice. Writing formats and expectations vary among disciplines and have changed over the years causing a rift in the advice given by older versus younger scientists. Given the shift from narrow focus to multidisciplinary research, you may even receive conflicting information within your own "discipline" as it may be composed of chemists, psychologists, molecular biologists, etc. having opinions based on their respective backgrounds. The greatest disparities seem to involve using active versus passive voice, inclusion of prepositional phrases, the appropriateness or location of figures/graphs in proposals and/or research goals, and how to structure and format your grants and manuscripts (using goals versus working hypotheses for example). What is one to do?

I've been looking for some type of collection on the internet of common editorial criticisms to help myself and others know what to look for when editing our own writing. If I find any, I will post them. Additionally, I've been spending a lot of time reading grants, manuscripts, and proposals from successful faculty in my program to understand the styles and formats that worked well for these individuals. I feel this will help me to develop my own personal style while keeping within the spectral limits of successful writing methods. I advise students to start early and take your pink sheets very seriously (the feedback sheets you get when you submit a predoctoral fellowship). Ask faculty who have been successful in publishing and attaining funding if you can read the grant proposals for their currently funded projects and keep a file of their published manuscripts. It really does help.

The journal of neuroscience has two links here and here that I thought were helpful and to the point.

1 Comments:

At 11:39 AM, Blogger James said...

No small thing, this. Feri, being a non-native English speaker, does better at this than some would expect because she learned a good part of her written English from reading neuroscience papers. Her PI has commented on more than one occasion as to how well she can put together a paper or parts for a paper in the necessarly scientifese you guys use. A colleague, though, who is a native English speaker, constantly complains how difficult this is for her. In some ways this is the hardest thing about the job, being able to put it all into writing in a format that's acceptable, as well as in one that tells the story the way you want to tell it.

 

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