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Scientific Journal Writing

Ayla's picture

At this point in time, I would consider scientific journal articles to be the main writing of my discipline.  In class, I brought an article that I had written last semester in which I reported results of a five week long experiment.  Whenever I write a scientific journal article, there is a very strict format that I am required to follow.  The introduction provides the reader with the general background information about the experiment at hand.  This includes, but it not limited to, the theory behind the science, the impact of the results of the experiment, previous experimental results, how the experiment described in the paper is new and innovative, and the history and uses of the materials in the experiment.  The section that follows, the results and discussion, should flow like a story and does not have to be in chronological order.  This section presents the results of the experiment so that the reader will understand how the experimenter arrived at a conclusion.  Following the results is a very brief experimental section and an even shorter conclusion.  The conclusion is meant to be one paragraph that restates the results of the experiment and the final conclusion about the experiment.  

I found the guidelines for a scientific paper ironically different from those for a college-level paper about a novel.  For example, if I were to write an essay in response to a novel I had read in an english class, my introduction would include the author’s name, the title of the book, my thesis and perhaps some mention of how I was going to support that claim.  In my scientific article, however, the introduction is the most vague section of the entire paper, and information that it contains is hardly ever repeated later in the article.  The introduction also often has little to do with the experiment described in my paper whereas I would be very hesitant to offer too much irrelevant information in my english essay!  Furthermore, the body of an english essay is not meant to imitate a story in any respect - even though a story is often what the essay is about.  Finally, the conclusion of the english paper should mimic the introduction in that all major points in the paper should be reinforced and the thesis should be restated.  However, in a scientific article, this is no where near the format of the conclusion!  The conclusion should be a very brief restatement of the final results and probably will not reinforce any information from the introduction.

Certainly transformations in scientific writing have been very beneficial.  The movement from paper to digital journals has changed science itself significantly as now hundreds of thousands of experiments are available to researchers across the world.  (For those of us who don’t know, there are many journals dedicated to different fields of science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Physical Chemistry, Microbiology, etc), and they are all available to be viewed online by subscription.  College students can access these journals “for free” because their institution pays to subscribe to the journal).  So,  scientists are able to access so much research on so many topics and future research can be built on ALL past experiments (ideally).  As Jonathan Lethem suggested in his article “The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism,” we will no longer spend millions of dollars to find a certain answer, but researching the database of articles.