George D. Gopen and Judith A. Swan [The Science of Scientific Writing] (1).pdf – Download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online. *Examples and explanations from Gopen, George D. and Judith A. Swan. “The Science of Scientific. Writing,” American Scientist 78, no.6 (November-December . Among other things, I was told to read The Science of Scientific Writing, by George Gopen and Judith Swan. Being told that you suck is great;.

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In the first post of this series, I described the first lesson I swxn, which has had a huge effect on my overall communication skills: Poor communicators tend to ignore the needs of their audience. You may have even decided that it was your fault—that your lack of comprehension was due to a lack of background in whatever topic was being presented. Actually, the fault lies entirely with the author or presenter.

Only later did I realize that this was not enough. My problem was that I was presenting information I wanted the viewer to know— rather than what they needed to know.

I also learned that I needed to use a structure that would ensure they would pay attention and remember my swann. Your audience must wsan mental energy taking in the content, but they also have to strive to understand your word choice, syntax, and emphasis. The point is that you can make it easy for the viewer or reader to grasp the substance of your information or you can make it difficult by using tortuous language. If you use cryptic, equivocal, or imprecise language, you risk the audience misinterpreting your message.

Scientists are rarely trained to write and speak clearly and effectively; we are expected to develop these skills on our own. We test the accuracy of the DDA by using the DDA to compute scattering and absorption by isolated, homogeneous spheres as well as by targets consisting of two contiguous spheres.


Did you give up about half-way through? Even if you are communicating with a specialist audience in your field, you need to consider their gopn and make it as easy as possible for them to understand what you did, what you found, and why it is important.

We suffer from the curse of knowledge, which cannot easily be set aside. One remedy is to ask yourself simple questions about a prospective audience.

Do they know what DNA is? Have they heard of sea-level rise? Are they science literate but know nothing about your particular topic? Why is your research important to society? What is innovative or new? Are there some interesting applications based on your work?

The Science of Scientific Writing

In the process of answering such questions, we discover a new way of looking at our science. It occurred to me that this principle could be applied to writing papers and proposals or giving conference annd. I learned to always distill my message before leaping into writing a paper or preparing a conference talk or seminar.

What was my main finding and its significance? Why should people care about my work? What was new or innovative?

The Science of Scientific Writing

The process of crafting that sentence made me think harder about my message and what I wanted to get across in the paper. That sentence accurately zwan the research finding and interpretation, but is long, contains unnecessary detail, and is not easy to grasp.

An improved version might read:.

This sentence would be suitable for both a professional audience and a lay audience. This wording lacks the details about Species A and B, but these anc not really needed.

The revised sentence is much easier to understand and is more memorable. I also began paying more attention to the language I used in writing and speaking. Simple means easy to understand or uncomplicated.

Nor is it the length of the sentence. Now we have a much clearer picture: Subject-verb separation is just one way a writer can confuse the reader. The sentence I listed earlier also minimizes the number of words between subject and verb:. Readers expect to be provided with old information context at the beginning of a sentence, which prepares them for the new information to be given at the end.


Many writers will see nothing wrong with this construction. True, there is nothing grammatically wrong, and most readers will understand what is meant.

The problem is that the construction makes the reader work harder to parse out the context and the new information.

A Summary of “The Science of Scientific Writing”

A final point is andd this reverse construction is passive because the verb is acting on the subject: In the other sentence, the action of the subject is expressed in the verb: There is nothing wrong with passive sentences, which are common in scientific writing; however, use of the active voice, at least occasionally, will bring your writing to life.

For more insight into how structure affects comprehension of scientific writing, see Gopen and Swan Learning to distill my message has helped me write better journal articles…and blog posts! Distill Your Message 2. Use Storytelling Techniques In this post, I will tackle the first lesson: Distill, distill I learned ans always distill my message before leaping into writing a paper or preparing a conference talk or seminar.

An improved version might dwan Simplify, simplify I also began paying more attention to the language I used san writing and speaking.

The sentence I listed earlier also minimizes the number of words between subject and verb: If we reverse this order, the new information appears before we know the context: In the next post, I will talk about Part 2: Focus on Your Audience Share this: Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email.