Arts & Architecture

Scientific Writing Style Virus

Your writing had a face once...before you became a scientist. Then the scientific writing style virus defaced it. Your writing became impersonal, your sentences bloated. Your vocabulary dug you into a pit below the reader’s horizon. Yet, your writing
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  Words colored in green are linked to the glossary. Tapping on them opens a window where they are defined. Words colored in blood  red are just there to scare you... Tapping on them hurts the screen. Preface IT Õ S ALL ABOUT YOUR WRITING STYLE . Your writing had a face once...before you became a scientist. Then the scientiÞc writing style virus  defaced it. Your writing  became impersonal, your sentences bloated. Your vocabulary dug you into a pit below the readerÕs horizon. Yet, your writing style blended well with that of others scientists. Everything  you wrote looked objective, measured, hedged to perfection. Details explained other details in great detail. Your writing was  nearing absolute scientiÞc precision and honesty. Nobody complained for all were doomed   ,  plagued   by a corrupted   style they adopted as writers and resented as readers.This book will help your writing Þnd its face, a scientiÞc face  your readers will enjoy. clear = simplistic obscure = expert di ! use = thorough dull = scientiÞc  C HAPTER 1  The   scientiÞc   writing   style  virus No writer scientist is immune to it . There are no  vaccines against it . One gets it  through regular exposure to the journal papers written by those  whose style has been compromised. Question is: How and why does it  target scientists? ecse2012   A  TTRIBUTES OF THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD 1.The scientific method  is increasingly dependent on technology  to observe, measure, and test hypotheses.2.The scientific method   prevents human bias   through human means (peer-review, meta-analysis) and statistical means (placebo, double-blind tests, etc).3.The scientific method   prevents human error    in that it requires testable hypotheses and reproducible results. T HE SCIENTIFIC STYLE VIRUS Synergistic action of the scientific method The more you know, the more is left to know. To dispel mounting levels of ignorance, scientists are now Þrmly dependent on their high-tech tools. These impenetrable algorithmic, molecular, or microbiological tools that deliver sensible results act as the scientistÕs surrogate brain.While tools can be calibrated, tested for accuracy and good working order, the same cannot be said of scientists. Scientists need to show they have not corrupted the facts or coerced them into being, based on imperfect data, method, experiment, simulation or theory. Hence, the need for a scientiÞc method.The scientiÞc method encourages scientists to show objectivity   by removing human bias and human error. To express objectivity, scientists have co-opted and customized the writing style to form the scientiÞc writing style . 3   A  TTRIBUTES OF JUNIOR WRITERS 1.Junior writer scientists mostly learn to  write journal papers by imitating the  writing style of senior published scientists.2.Junior writer scientists are unwilling to depart  from a scientific  writing style accepted and even recommended by some  journals in their instructions to authors.3.Junior writer scientists have had their more readable  writing style  redressed  by supervisors, peer-reviewers, or even  journal editors to conform it to the normative scientific  writing style. T HE SCIENTIFIC STYLE VIRUS Rewarded conformity  ÒIt is not ÔscientiÞcÕ enough. I understand everything in this paper. ItÕs probably not a signiÞcant contribution.ÓÒMy supervisor gave me his highly cited paper as a writing model for my paper. It must be a good model to follow: it has been highly cited.ÓÒIf I follow the instructions given during the course on scientiÞc writing, I will never be published.ÓThe list of quotes goes on. Resistance to change is perennial. Why lead when it is safe to follow!If ÔobscureÕ is interpreted as ÔknowledgeableÕ, ÔclearÕ as ÔsimplisticÕ, Ôdi ! useÕ as ÔthoroughÕ, ÔconciseÕ as ÔshallowÕ, and ÔdullÕ as ÔscientiÞcÕ, being obscure, di ! use, or dull is without risk.It is indeed di " cult to be clear AND concise AND ßuent AND precise AND interesting. Courses on scientiÞc writing would help, but they often come too late to change writing habits formed through years of rewarded imitation. 4
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