“Scientific writing which is an academic style of writing– is a style to write scientific literature, mainly used in scientific research. It is not more different from the academic styles of writing but there are some key features every science student should know.”
The word “scientific writing” scares research scholars. Lab experiments are a key principle in scientific research. Students, over the period, become an expert in doing whatever research they are doing.
They will know how to optimize experiments and draw outcomes but when it comes to writing, they put down their weapons. Scientific writing– which partly differs from the main academic style of writing is a key skill every researcher of science should know.
It’s crucial to perceive from the very beginning that science is more about presenting (in writing) your work rather than doing only experiments or research. Every small point of your findings, you have to show, in a way that other scientists can understand.
Indeed, writing is not as difficult as students wonder. Some specific key principles to writing in science are the only things they have to recognize. Plenty of free and paid thesis writing tools are now available online. Even AIs too.
So English writing isn’t that difficult now. What is more burdensome is to present the knowledge in proper style– Like, writing for science. You are on this article because you want to strengthen your skills in this specific field.
I will not let you down. In this article, I will explain what scientific writing is, its purpose and its importance. Once you learn it thoroughly, in the last segment, I will give you some of the key tips to improve your style.
Trust me these tips are enough to write an excellent scientific draft. There are examples, explanations and many more things this article has. So stay tuned and read the article until the end.
What is Scientific Writing?
Scientific writing is, as aforesaid a style of academic writing, commonly employed to represent scientific literature. It isn’t more separate from the native academic style but only in some aspects which are crucial for science.
Any scientific draft, either a science thesis, article, review or report should follow common and key features of the scientific writing style. It should have features as followed: clear, concise, understandable, peer-reviewed, well-cited, grammatically correct, formally styled and targeted.
The present style of writing has one key feature and must be followed by every science field and interdisciplinary field— its defined structure.
Any scientific draft should have an abstract, introduction or topic background, review of literature, methodology, results and outcomes, discussion, interpretation and references sections. More key features and their examples are explained in the last section.
Related article: How to write a PhD thesis?
What is the purpose of scientific writing?
What should be? You say.
Much like the other writing style, the sole purpose of scientific writing is to present knowledge but in a specific structured manner. However, a few purposes are,
- To show, demonstrate and explain your knowledge.
- To define your research question with arguments.
- To give strength to your finding by discussing other literature.
- To convince readers.
- To educate readers with new knowledge.
- To validate the new knowledge/findings with supporting evidence.
- To engage the readers.
Who can use scientific writing?
Any science student can and should have to use this style to present their knowledge. Students and researchers from biology, botany, zoology, microbiology, physics, chemistry, environmental sciences, social sciences, geology, anthropology, or any interdisciplinary field of science can use this style.
Remember scientific writing is not
- Writing news and blogs
- Writing a novel
- Writing any fictional story
- Writing a letter or email.
It has specific features and that must be there in your draft. So what are those? Let’s see.
Features of Scientific Writing + Examples
Any science writing should have a defined structure. As aforementioned, it should be divided into chapters.
Abstract: Contains a brief overview of the scientific report in 300 words.
Introduction: background information on the topic.
Review of literature: previous and existing literature in accordance with the topic.
Methodology: technique, process or method adopted for the research.
Results: Results, findings, outcomes and data of the research.
Discussion: arguments and discussion with previous research.
Conclusion: concluding findings.
References: List of resources you have used during the research.
Yet another important feature of any science writing is citing every bit of information you are giving in the draft. Citing information is giving validation as well as the importance to the original author of the information.
Hereditary breast cancer is the most common cancer in females (CDC, 2022; WHO, 2022).
Related article: What is an in-text citation?
Scientific literature must be written in a formal style of writing. Now, without going into much deeper, understand the formal writing style as if you are writing for an unknown person. You don’t know the target.
So the formal writing style is for a broad audience, without a target, with less of a personal tone and more grammatically correct.
I performed lab experiments to prove the results. But previous findings don’t support our results.
Lab experiments were carried out to validate the results, however, are in contrast with previous findings.
Tushar et al., (2022) suggest that parents inherit genes into their children.
Genes are inherited by parents to their offspring (Tushar et al., 2022).
Both these examples show the difference between informal and formal writing. And how the formal style can correctly be used in scientific writing. Here are some quick tips to understand this style.
Formal style should have a specific set of vocabulary. For example, instead of ‘think about’, write ‘consider.’Here is a list of vocabulary for scientific writing.
|In my opinion
- Formal-style writing is complex. One should have to write long sentences.
- Do not use contractions, like— don’t, won’t, aren’t, etc.
- Do not short forms, like— TTYL (talk to you later) or ASAP (as soon as possible).
- The tone of writing should be serious and professional.
- Use passive voice.
Use of passive voice
Another crucial parameter for scientific writing is the use of passive voice. The reason behind that is, the passive voice supports the formal writing style more correctly. In fact, it’s a structural ingredient of formal writing.
Hence both formal writing style and passive voice are traditionally employed for academic and scientific writing.
I conducted experiments and also followed strict aseptic conditions.
Experiments were conducted by following strict aseptic conditions.
(Keep in mind that I’m not an English language expert, just explaining the structure for required writing).
The use of abbreviations
Various abbreviations are commonly used in any scientific writing— For example, DNA, cm, g, ml, CPU, etc. But as the thumb rule of formal writing suggests that we can’t use short forms, now what to do?
Abbreviations are an integral part of any science field. To use it effectively, give a list of abbreviations at the very beginning of the thesis or article. And if you very well know the structure of the thesis, after the list of tables, and the list of figures; we use a list of abbreviations.
Notedly, for some specific words which are very rarely used in the thesis, you can list the full name in the bracket also— For example, DNA (Deoxyribose nucleic acid). Avoid using it many times.
Add 3µl (microliter) DNA (Deoxyribose nucleic acid) and 2µl (microliter) buffer.
CVS (chorionic villi sample) is collected for the present study. (True)
The objective of scientific writing is to provide correct, factual and relevant knowledge. Therefore, it should be written with precision and without any vague expression.
Several studies showed that Genes are inherited by parents to their offspring.
Genes are inherited by parents to their offspring (Tushar et al. 2022; Patel M, 2020 and Patel R, 2018).
Clear and concise
The next feature of scientific writing is clarity and conciseness. Peers should know that other peers, scholars and scientists will read their draft so the writing must have clarity. Every bit of information must be delivered correctly and comprehensively.
Concise doesn’t mean short sentences. Conciseness, here, is in the sense of the use of information. Use only “relevant” information. You are not writing a blog or news article, so avoid repeated writing and irrelevant knowledge.
Hereditary Breast cancer is caused by gene mutations and is inherited. The same set of genes also causes ovarian cancer too. Ovarian cancer causes cancer in the female reproductive area.
Information regarding ovarian cancer is irrelevant.
Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer are used by gene mutations. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are common breast cancer-causing genes.
Both sentences are within the scope of the study and are relevant.
What I’m trying to say is to write with a clear intention and within the scope of the study.
Accuracy and trustworthiness
Scientific writing must be trustworthy. Meaning, the information or knowledge provided— within the scope, must be accurate. You are not allowed to fabricate, manipulate, or alter any information, knowledge or data.
Any of these acts is not acceptable and eventually reduces the trustworthiness of your writing. However, you can write “estimated” or “approximate” value if given in many pieces of literature, with proper citation.
This is one of the important points for the present style– the reader should trust your knowledge. To give more strength to your trustworthiness, with citation, give a reference list so that readers can validate and verify information if needed.
This is the reason, vague expressions like, “a few studies suggest or several studies suggest” aren’t used.
Several studies demonstrate that millions of women acquire breast cancer every year. (Wrong)
Until 2020, 2.3 million women acquired breast cancer (WHO, 2020).
Yes, scientific writing is complex and supervisors often reject peers’ drafts because of ‘too simple’ language. To make your sentence complex, in-flow and more engaging, use transition words, like— in addition, moreover, furthermore, nonetheless, nevertheless, oftentimes, or many more.
Keep in mind to know the meaning of transition words and use them only if required or needed.
Hereditary breast cancer is caused by gene mutations. It is an inherited genetic condition. It has a lower death ratio.
Hereditary breast cancer is an inherited genetic condition, majorly caused by gene mutations. However, it has a low mortality rate.
So far, we have discussed things that make our scientific writing very effective, but to make every sentence count as a correct, logical and important one, the meaning of the sentence or writing should remain intact.
That’s achieved certainly by using correct punctuation during writing. Keep in mind, wrong punctuation misinterprets the sentence. Here is the list of useful punctuations for scientific writing.
|To separate sentences or to create a pause.
|To show the break between two connected sentences.
|Thematically connect or join two sentences.
|Complete the sentence or show the end of the sentence.
Breast cancer is common in women, above the age of 35 but may also occur in young women too. Hereditary breast cancer is caused by genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2; there are other genes involved too which are as followed: ATM, CDH1 and CHEK2.
The use of Present tense
The present tense is a fundamental constituent of scientific writing. You may wonder, “isn’t it?” Besides only your methodology and results, peers have to use predominantly the present tense in their thesis, even though you are mentioning the previous research. Take a look at some examples here.
The use of present tense
Tushar et al., suggest the implications of other genes, besides BRCA1 and BRCA2 in breast cancers.
Hereditary breast cancer is caused by gene mutations.
Figure 1.1 represents the prevalence of breast cancer in India.
The findings of the present research also demonstrate the importance of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in breast and hereditary cancer.
Be careful to use the past tense
The past tense is often used in writing scientific literature but for some parts of the thesis. Mostly, to show the methodology and results, the past tense is employed. Check out these examples.
Be careful to use the past tense
DNA sequencing was employed to carry out an analysis of gene mutations at the sequence level.
Statistical analysis was performed for detecting gene and allele frequency.
After 2000, the field of DNA testing had been revolutionized.
Summary (Tips) for scientific writing
- Use a formal writing style.
- Use passive voice to structure your sentence.
- Part your thesis into chapters and sub-chapters.
- Use paragraphs meaningfully.
- Avoid vague expressions.
- Use present tense in your thesis even to quote previous research.
- Use past tense to demonstrate the methodology and your results.
- Give a list of abbreviations at the very beginning.
- Use punctuation correctly
- Use citations and references to increase your thesis’s trustworthiness.
- Engage the audience by using transition words.
I am planning this article for months but, I want to give actionable content value and so it took time. I’m not and English literature expert. I also learn so many new things from this article. I hope you too get actionable value from this article.
Keep in mind that writing for science isn’t as difficult as you think. You just have to learn to make it a bit difficult to achieve the level of writing other scientists have. That’s it. This gigantic content will do the job for you, almost.
But still, keep learning, keep reading and keep writing. And Yes, don’t forget to use our proven and tested daily schedule for PhD students.
Dr. Tushar Chauhan is a Scientist, Blogger and Scientific-writer. He has completed PhD in Genetics. Dr. Chauhan is a PhD coach and tutor.