How To Improve Your Science Writing Skills

Note writing

If you intend to pursue a career in science, you will most likely need to learn how to write science articles or at the very least an experiment protocol.  Survival in the field of scientific research is dependent upon reporting your results in a concise and accurate manner.  Here is a starting point for improving those writing skills necessary to succeed in science.  

  1. Learn APA style.  All major scientific journals require submissions to follow the latest APA style publication manual.  Knowing the ins and outs of this writing style will help reduce the time it takes to revise and format after the article is written and you will be able to focus more on content than mechanics.  Purchase the latest publication manual for handy reference and follow it exactly.
     
  2. Read as many scientific journal articles as possible.  This will give you a feel for expected tone and writing style.  Read both primary research articles and literature reviews to note the similarities and differences.  It is important to know your audience and the purpose of what you are writing in order to select the correct tone and style.
     
  3. Write as much as possible and then edit.  Your first draft should include as much detail as possible.  The intent of a scientific article is so other scientists can reproduce your results and corroborate your claims.  If the article is lacking in detail, results will come out different and your work will not be able to be verified.  The same rule applies to protocols.  If you are not specific with amounts used or times incubated, the instructions are useless.  If it is too long for publication, you can edit out what is unnecessary from the literature review or discussion.  Methods can also be shortened by referencing an earlier published article for an identical procedure.
     
  4. Brush up on grammar and spelling rules.  It never hurts to look through a writing manual to make sure you are using the correct grammar and spelling rules that are currently accepted.  This is a general rule for all types of writing, not just science writing.  Proper grammar and spelling can help your article stand out over other articles that are poorly written.
     
  5. Attend writing workshops.  Many universities and large companies offer writing workshops for scientific personnel to give helpful hints and tools.  These may cost money, but most managers will gladly help you find the funding to improve your writing skills.
     
  6. Use coworkers to read your work and help you revise.  Oftentimes you forget to add something or leave a truly unnecessary detail in your writing.  Coworkers who know the project are great resources to catch those mistakes and help you rework your draft if necessary.

Science writing rules are continually evolving.  Keeping up with the changes will help you succeed in the field of science writing.  

 

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