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Scientific Writing Essay

Scientific writing -is a form of technical writing that reports scientific observations and results in a manner governed by specific conventions.

Examples and Observations (Definition #1):

“Sustaining a dead body until its organs can be harvested is a tricky process requiring the latest in medical technology. But it’s also a distinct anachronism in an era when medicine is becoming less and less invasive. Fixing blocked coronary arteries, which not long ago required prying a patient’s chest open with a saw and spreader, can now be accomplished with a tiny stent delivered to the heart on a slender wire threaded up the leg. Exploratory surgery has given way to robot cameras and high-resolution imaging. Already, we are eyeing the tantalizing summit of gene therapy, where diseases are cured even before they do damage. Compared with such micro scale cures, transplants–which consist of salvaging entire organs from a heart-beating cadaver and sewing them into a different body–seem crudely mechanical, even medieval.” (Jennifer Kahn “Stripped for Parts.” Wired, March 2003. Reprinted in the Best American Science Writing 2004, edited by Dava Sobel. HarperCollins, 2004)

On Explaining Science

1. The question is not “should” you explain a concept or process, but “how” can you do so in a way that is clear and so readable that it is simply part of the story?

2. Use explanatory strategies such as . . .
– Active-voice verbs
Use the Active Voice . . . Most of the Time “When a verb is in the active voice, the subject of the sentence is also the doer of the action. Active Voice- John picked up the bag
It is in the active voice because the subject, John, is also the thing or person doing the action of ‘picking up. Passive Voice
-The bag was picked up by John
The subject of the sentence, bag, is the passive receiver of the action. . . .
– Analogies and metaphors
Analogies- comparison between two things that are similar in some way, often used to explain something or make it easier to understand. Metaphors- the use to describe somebody or something of a word or phrase that is not meant literally but by means of vivid comparison expresses something about him, her or it ex. Saying that somebody is a snake.

Backing into an explanation, that is, explaining before labeling – Selecting critical features of a process and being willing to set aside the others, as too much explanatory detail will hurt rather than help.

3. People who study what makes an explanation successful have found that while giving examples is helpful, giving nonexamples is even better. Nonexamples are examples of what something is not. Often, that kind of example will help clarify what the thing is. If you were trying to explain groundwater, for instance, you might say that, while the term seems to suggest an actual body of water, such as a lake or an underground river, that would be an inaccurate image. Groundwater is not a body of water in the traditional sense; rather, as Katherine Rowan, communications professor, points out, it is water moving slowly but relentlessly through cracks and crevices in the ground below us. . . .

4.Be acutely aware of your readers’ beliefs. You might write that chance is the best explanation of a disease cluster; but this could be counterproductive if your readers reject chance as an explanation for anything. If you are aware that readers’ beliefs may collide with an explanation you give, you may be able to write in a way that doesn’t cause these readers to block their minds to the science you explain.


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