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Principles of scientific writing


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Introductory presentation on how to write an academic abstract. Intensive Course, Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel Aviv, October 24-25, 2018. iPEN European project (Innovative Photonics Education in Nanotechnology).

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Principles of scientific writing

  1. 1. Principles of scientific writing Katerina Zourou and Tatiana Codreanu, Web2Learn, Greece Weizmann Institute of Science October 25, 2018.
  2. 2. Objectives of this module • Designed as core element of soft skills specific training. • Aimed at candidates carrying out academic work in English. • English tends to be an international “lingua franca” over the range of academic contexts (at faculty, at scientific venues, on the Internet, cf. “the digital scholar”, Weller, 2011). =>Focus on writing of an abstract for academic purposes Writing skills 2
  3. 3. Οutline 1. Writing an abstract for academic purposes 1.1 Main contents of an abstract 1.2 Define your research topic / question 1.3 Where to find bibliographic references 1.4 Why do you need to cite authors? 1.5 Research methodology 1.6 Revise your abstract for grammatical and spelling errors
  4. 4. 1.1 Main contents of an abstract In order to better summarise your work, you need to bear in mind the main contents of your research. An abstract contains: • a research question clearly stated • your approach to answering the research question • A justification and the implications for your study • the results of your study • your conclusions 4 Writing skills
  5. 5. Where to start from? => Starting from your research question/hypothesis,  and taking into account the context in which you will carry out your study  explain and clearly justify all your choices by informing readers what your research is providing in terms of answers.  Avoid jargon, subjective words and adjectives. 5 Writing skills
  6. 6. Guiding questions The following questions will guide you: • What is my research question? • What is the context of my research? • Can I justify my research methodology? • Am I able to explain my choices in writing? • What are the results of the study? 6 Writing skills
  7. 7. Video: 7 Writing skills
  8. 8. 1.2 Define your research topic / question What distinctions do you make between a research topic and a research question? What is a research hypothesis? =>Mapping Your Research Ideas Recommended video: 8 _continue=68&v=jj-F6YVtsxI Writing skills
  9. 9. 1.3 Where to find bibliographic references 9 Writing skills
  10. 10. Discussion: Using google, Wikipedia, google Scholar and ResearchGate to look for bibliography: what are the differences? Writing skills 10
  11. 11. Carefully selecting bibliographical sources 11 Writing skills • Caution! Try to differentiate between web pages established by people who have a scientific or professional project (journal websites, researchers’ websites, laboratory’s website, Google scholar, etc.) and other non-professional sources who may be passionate but might not have the credibility to be referenced as official sources. Also try and connect with researchers on different academic social media platforms.
  12. 12. Bibliography (cont.) Quizz 1: an important paper you are looking for is behind a paywall or it does not belong to the free-access journals in your university library. What do you do? • (likely) Copy/paste its title on Google Scholar+ “all versions” Example • Contact the author Quizz 2: you succeeded in locating a free-of-access electronic copy of a paper but it says “preprint”. What do you do?
  13. 13. 1.3 Why do you need to cite authors? • to give credit to authors you have referenced • to enable the reader of your paper to understand the sources of information you have used to support your arguments • to build your theory on the topic, elaborate on results and conclusions already established Quiz: you found on the Internet a very nicely written master thesis. Do you have to cite it? Yes! Writing skills
  14. 14. 1.4 Research methodology • In order to approach this step, you need to start from your research question. Do you have your main research question or hypothesis in mind? • You will then have to decide on the methodology best suited to answer this main question / hypothesis. • Can you explain your research in a short abstract? 14 Writing skills
  15. 15. 1.5 Revise your abstract for grammatical and spelling errors • Your abstract needs to be formatted properly and your ideas adequately communicated. • - use short, direct sentences : 70 useful sentences for academic writing • - use past tense when describing your results and apply it consistently: • Tenses in Academic Writing • Tense considerations for science writing • How to write in an academic style • - use connectors : List of connectors 15 Writing skills
  16. 16. You can use some free software to review your abstract: • SWAN Scientific Writing Assistant • Grammarly • Ginger • WhiteSmoke: English Grammar Checker Software (paid) 16 Writing skills
  17. 17. Any questions? Writing skills
  18. 18. Task Read the instructions on your handout (released by the University of Maryland Writing Center), and fill in the “Abstract worksheet”. Once you are done, produce an abstract in your preferred topic according to these guidelines and send it to for review (free of charge).
  19. 19. Thank you! @web2Learn_eu Web2Learn_eu 19 All slides available at
  20. 20. Credits • How to write an abstract. University of Maryland, Baltimore Writing Center • Mapping Your Research Ideas. UCLA Library • Raised hands, from Pixabay hands-volunteering-1234037/