Tag Archives: writing

Presenting statistical results: pointers in scientific writing

This semester, I’m coteaching a graduate/advanced-undergraduate level course in biostatistics and experimental design.  This is my lecture on how to present statistical results, when writing up a study.  It’s a topic I’ve written about before, and what I presented in class draws on several older blog posts here at Scientist Sees Squirrel.  However, I thought it would be useful to pull this together into a single (longish) post, with my slides to illustrate it.  If you’d like to use any of these slides, here’s the Powerpoint – licensed CC BY-NC 4.0.

(Portuguese translation here, for those who prefer.)

Here goes.

How should you present statistical results, in a scientific paper?
Continue reading

Advertisements

The Disco Era of scientific writing

Image: Saturday Night Fever. If you were alive in the 1970s, you probably owned this album.  Acme401 CC BY-SA 2.0 via flickr.com

From doo-wop to hip-hop, popular music has always evolved.  Styles shift, and when a song you don’t know comes on the radio* you can often place it, temporally, without much trouble.  Rock & roll, punk, new wave, indie folk, and dozens of other styles have come (and mostly gone); similarly, the styles that dominate airplay now will surely fade and be replaced. (Sorry, Taylor.) Occasionally, popular music has had a really bad idea, and we’ve all piled onto it, only to shake our heads ruefully a decade later.  Yes, disco, I’m talking about you**.

Scientific writing has also evolved.  Continue reading

How do successful academics write? Helen Sword’s “Air & Light & Time & Space” (review)

Helen Sword’s latest book, Air & Light & Time & Space, has a subtitle to make every academic salivate:  How Successful Academics Write.  Who among us wouldn’t like to know that secret?  Who wouldn’t like to know how academics can write more productively, and at the same time, take more pleasure from writing?  Continue reading

Scientific writing, style, and the trolley problem

Image: Trolley by McGeddon CC BY-SA 4.0 via wikimedia.org

Our scientific literature has a reputation for being not much fun to read: colourless, tedious, and turgid.  By and large, it deserves that reputation (and I would include my own papers in that assessment).  There are exceptions, of course, but they’re few and far between.  I’ve speculated before about some of the reasons for this.  But there’s a possibility I think I’ve been missing, and I’m going to use this post to think through it.

One thing I see fairly often is early-career writers struggling because they think there’s a single best way to write a given piece of text. Continue reading

Some journal covers - Nature, American Naturalist, Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata

How do you choose a journal when it’s time to submit a paper?

Image: Three choices – out of thousands.

Warning: long post. Grab a snack.

Having lots of options is a wonderful thing – right up until you have to pick one.  Have you ever been torn among the two dozen entrées on a restaurant menu? Blanched at the sight of 120 different sedans on a used-car lot? If you have, you might also wonder how on earth you’re going to choose a journal to grace with your latest manuscript.  There are, quite literally, thousands of scientific journals out there – probably tens of thousands – and even within a single field there will be hundreds of options.  (Scimago lists 352 journals in ecology, for example, but that list is far from comprehensive.)

What follows are some of things I think you might consider when you choose a journal.  Continue reading

I’m leading a writing workshop (at Entomology 2018)

Image: Composite.  Book cover, The Scientist’s Guide to Writing; and Entomology 2018 logo, by Michael Blackstock for the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of America.  Find the story behind the meeting logo here.

Just a quick announcement, which will be of particular interest to readers who are considering attending Entomology 2018 (the joint annual meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada and the Entomological Society of America, in Vancouver, BC).  At that meeting, I’ll be leading a workshop on scientific writing. Continue reading

Who’s in charge of the English language?

Image: Oxford English Dictionary, Mrpolyonymous CC BY 2.0 via flickr.com.  But no, the Oxford Dictionary is not in charge.

Who’s in charge of the English language?  Nobody, of course.  You might think that would make our writing easier; but actually, it makes it considerably harder.

Here’s something you see all the time: someone either asks a question about the rules of English, or insists that somebody else is breaking them.

  • “Can I start a sentence with an abbreviated genus name?”
  • “When do I use which and when do I use that?”
  • Decimate really means to kill only one in ten.”
  • “Everyone knows you can’t split an infinitive.”

If English were a set of rules, with some body in charge of enforcing them, then all questions like those first two would have simple, short, unambiguous answers, and all opinions like the latter two would be objectively either right or wrong.  But English isn’t a set of rules.  Continue reading