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Academic Writing for Scientists and Engineers Definitions in technical writing1

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Academic Writing for Scientists and Engineers Definitions in technical writing1
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   1 Academic Writing for Scientists and Engineers Definitions in technical writing i   In your technical writing, you will often have to write definitions. Definitions are usually needed in two situations:    in introductions, to clarify a word or phrase in the title.    more generally to explain a word or phrase which may be either very technical (and therefore not in normal dictionaries), very recent, or with no widely agreed meaning Task 1 Discuss in pairs and then write down a definition you can agree on. a.   What is a mechanical engineer ?  b.   What is biomedical engineering?   Task 2  There are 2 ways of writing definitions .  You can either start or end with the word that is being defined Write definitions. 1.   A triangle is a geometric figure __________________________ 2.   A geometric figure ____________________________ a triangle. 3.   A table _______________________________ 4.    ______________________________ is a table. Task 3 Look at the following definitions. They all have the same pattern. What is this pattern? a. Air classifiers  are machines which use air to segregate materials by size and weight.  b. An alarm  is a means of attracting attention using either sound or vision c. A crankshaft  is the main shaft of an engine which carries the cranks for the pistons d. Feedback   is a signal responding to the output of a system which is returned to the input to modify the output.  Pattern:   2 Task 4 Fact 1 : Aluminium is a light metal. Fact 2 : Aluminium is used to make aircraft. These facts can be linked to make a definition of aluminium, following the above pattern: Aluminium  is/ a light metal/ which is used to make aircraft. Work in pairs to make your own definitions by choosing the correct information in columns B and C to describe the materials in A. Write the information in 8 sentences, using the pattern above. (Note: for this exercise, getting the definitions right is more important than getting the facts right) A B C 1.   an alloy a metal a material an alloy (= a combination) allows heat or current to flow easily 2.   a thermoplastic remains rigid at high temperature 3.   mild steel does not allow heat or current to flow easily 4.   a conductor contains iron and 0.7% to 1.4% carbon 5.   an insulator becomes plastic when heated 6.   high carbon steel contains iron and 0.15% to 0.3% carbon 7.    brass formed by mixing other metals or elements 8.   a thermosetting  plastic consists of copper and zinc 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.   3 8. Task 5 What, if anything, is wrong with the following definitions? 1.   An ammeter is used to measure electric current. 2.   A lecturer is a person who lectures. 3.   A dictionary is a book such as ‘Collins Cobuild English Dictionary’.  4.   A degree is given by a university to a student who has passed the appropriate examinations. 5.   Wave power uses the movement of waves in water to generate electricity. Task 6 Fill in the gaps with suitable category words. 1.   A barometer is a scientific _______________ designed to measure atmospheric pressure. 2.   Kidneys are ___________________ that separate waste fluid from the blood. 3.   A multi-national company is a business ___________________ that operates in many countries. 4.   Bullying is a pattern of anti-social _________________ found in many schools. 5.   Recycling is a ________________ in which materials are used again. 6.   A recession is a _______________ of reduced economic activity. 7.   Postcodes are a __________________ for making mail delivery more efficient. Task 7 As we have seen, definitions tend to include relative clauses. In academic writing, we often use reduced  relative clauses. Look at the sentence pairs below: A dentist is a person who is   qualified to treat people’s teeth.  A dentist is a person qualified to treat people’s teeth.  In dentistry, enamel is a hard, white inorganic material that is on the crown of a tooth. In dentistry, enamel is a hard, white inorganic material on the crown of a tooth. A parliament is a national governing body which has  the highest level of legislative power within a state. A parliament is a national governing body with the highest level of legislative power within a state. Pollution is a form of contamination that often results  from human activity. Pollution is a form of contamination often resulting from human activity. In each case, the second sentence is just as clear as the first and it is more economical with words. Edit the following by reducing the relative clauses where possible . 1.   Aluminium is a lightweight metal that is often used for high-tension power transmission. 2.   Heat is a form of energy which can be transmitted through solid and liquid media by conduction. 3.   A brake is a device that is capable of slowing the motion of a mechanism.   4 4.   A dome is generally a hemispherical roof which is on top of a circular, square, or other-shaped space. 5.   Snow is a form of precipitation which results from the sublimation of water vapour into solid crystals at temperatures below 0°C. 6.   An antigen is a substance which causes the formation of antibodies, the body's natural response to foreign substances. 7.   A piccolo is a small flute that is pitched an octave higher than a standard flute. 8.   Membrane permeation is a separation process that involves the selective transport of gas molecules through a permeable polymeric film. 9.   A catalyst is a substance that can speed up the rate of a chemical reaction without changing its own structure. 10.   A black hole is a celestial body which has approximately the same mass as the sun and a gravitational radius of about 3km.  ____________________________________________________________________________________ Key   Task 1: suggested answers A mechanical engineer is an engineer who deals with the design, construction and use of machines. Biomedical engineering is engineering relating to both biology and medicine.  Note: an engineer is a person who designs, builds or maintains engines, machines or structures; engineering is the  branch of science and technology that is concerned with these activities. Task 2 A triangle is a geometric figure which has three straight sides and three angles. A geometric figure which has three straight sides and three angles is a triangle. A table is a piece of furniture with a flat top that you put things on (or sit at). A piece of furniture with a flat top that you put things on is a table. (or:) A table is a written set of facts and figures arranged in columns and rows. A written set of facts and figures arranged in columns and rows is a table. Task 3 Pattern: word to be defined + present form of ‘to be’+ category word+ subclause Task 4 1.   An alloy is a metal (which is) formed by other metals or elements. 2.   A thermoplastic is a material which becomes plastic when heated. 3.   Mild steel is an alloy which contains 0.15% to 0.3% carbon. 4.   A conductor is a material which allows heat or current to flow easily. 5.   An insulator is a material which does not allow heat or current to flow easily. 6.   High carbon steel is an alloy which contains iron with 0.7 to 1.4% carbon. 7.   Brass is an alloy which consists of copper and zinc. 8.   A thermosetting plastic is a material which becomes plastic when heated.   5 Task 5 1.   The category word is missing; here ‘ a device ’.  2.   The word to be defined is used in the definition itself. 3.   Here an example is given rather than a definition. Examples can be added but should not replace definitions. 4.   As in 1, here ‘ an award ’  5.   As in 1, here: wave power is a method of generating electricity  by using the movement of waves in water.
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