IUBio Biosequences .. Software .. Molbio soft .. Network News .. FTP

scientific writing

Sabine Dippel sabine at hlrz28.zam.kfa-juelich.de
Wed Feb 26 12:47:01 EST 1997

In article <3312EDAA.4D89 at nospamsalk.edu>, S L Forsburg <forsburg at nospamsalk.edu> 
|> Not to mention my all time least favorite scientific
|> writing error, the endless use of the passive voice.
|> Argh!

That's my favourite, too ... In German, there is even something worse - 
the pronoun "man", which is some sort of impersonal expression and is 
(wrongly from a grammatical point of view) used by many people instead 
of "I" because they find it too embarrassing to name themselves too often.

|> As for me, I love to write....okay, maybe the degree in
|> English helps...  I find way too many students view writing as an
|> almost unnecessary chore.  I have news for them.  If you
|> can't persuade someone of the elegance and rightness of your
|> ideas using the elegance and rightness of your writing, 
|> you are going nowhere in this profession, be you academic,
|> industrialist, teacher, or policymaker.  Data do not speak for
|> themselves, you have to speak for the data.  

Actually, by posting this I am just escaping from writing a paper 
I'm already working on for too long. Actually, I do not escape from 
writing itself, but from writing the passages that 

(a) are problematic politically (and I think I have never written a paper
    where this didn't happen - good bye dreams of science being only about 

(b) deal with data I still haven't understood completely. 

Could it be that some papers are so hard to read because the people who 
wrote them did not know exactly what they were talking about? I have found
that trying to write things down clearly is the best help in understanding 
them - sometimes even better than discussing with others, because some 
hand-waving arguments will sound all right said aloud, but written down 
look pretty fishy. 

But to get back to politics - this I find really the hardest part. Is that
due to some typically female "try not to hurt others"-behaviour? 

Anyway, I would also say I love to write - letters, for example (yes, there 
are still situations where this is even the only means to communicate - at 
the moment a very good friend of mine works in Siberia for a couple of months :-)
I also loved what I did a few weeks ago - write about science, but for a mixed 
(though all physicists, as I am) audience, none of them working in my field, so 
I did not have to worry about politics or petty details I haven't understood yet).

Well, I suppose that this posting is a bad piece of writing - I don't know if
there is any message in it - except that I'm playing for time to put off having 
to get back to my own manuscript.  So I guess I'd better stop now.

Oops, no, there is something else. In the thread relating to "job descriptions" 
of graduate students, PI's, etc. someone mentioned that she had her graduate
students write the real finished paper (not only a draft) and be corresponding
author. Being a graduate student myself, I can only say that I think that this
is how it should be (how it was in my case), because how else should you learn
how to write a scientific paper? Sure, it's more work for the student (and 
sometimes even for the advisor), but I think it's one of the vital things 
you should learn during your thesis.


| Sabine Dippel     | e-mail: s.dippel at kfa-juelich.de                 | 
| HLRZ              | phone : [++49] (2461) 61-2318                   | 
| FZ Juelich        | fax   : [++49] (2461) 61-2430                   | 
| 52425 Juelich     | WWW   : http://www.hlrz.kfa-juelich.de/~sabine/ | 
| Germany           |                                                 | 


More information about the Womenbio mailing list

Send comments to us at biosci-help [At] net.bio.net