How to Write a Science Paper

A lot of people think of the Writing Center as a place to take papers from your English class. But, as we’ve discussed in previous blogs, we can help with al kinds of assignments! Not only can we help you with your English essay, we have expertise in History papers, presentations, visual texts such as fliers, making videos, and much more.

We can even help you with writing a report for your biology, chemistry, or other science course. Check out Bryn’s Tips for Writing a Science Report and make an appointment with us today!

  1. Use separate section headers!

    1. Introduction or background

      1. State the need for your project
      2. Explain the past research and findings
      3. State the objectives of the project
      4. State and explain hypothesis (if one exists)
    2. Methods

      1. Explain, in detail, the experiment so that another may recreate it the same way
      2. Explain which materials and apparatus were used
      3. Explain what you measured and how, etc.
    3. Results

      1. Explicitly state the results of the experiment
    4. Discussion

      1. Explain why results are important and what they mean
      2. Explain whether or not the results support any hypothesis presented in the introduction
      3. Explain error with error analysis and how it affected results
    5. Future Research

      1. Where to go from here
      2. Next steps in experiment or next experiments to follow the previous one
  2. Check your tone!

    1. Be sure to use a professional and factual voice
    2. Be as concise as possible
    3. Refrain from “First… second…” listings and “story-like” or directional language
    4. Use past tense about findings and methods
    5. Use present tense for generalizations and future research/conclusion
  3. Share your equations!

    1. Separate line from text
    2. Numbered for reference
  4. Show graphs!

    1. Only post the relevant, final graphs
    2. Be sure to title the graph and label its axes

How to Actually Concentrate While Writing: 6 Tips from a Tutor

Focus! (on writing).

Let’s be honest, most of us tell ourselves we will definitely start writing at a certain time of the day, and by the time it comes, we find ourselves sitting in front of our computer, staring at a blank Word document (almost blank! It probably has our name on it and an earlier date so it looks like we started earlier than the night before it’s due). After a while, you find yourself writing, but soon enough you are checking Instagram, or texting, or doing anything remotely entertaining to distract you from your work. Sound familiar? So how do you remain focused once you’ve started? Here are some tips!

 

  • Find a good place to write. This may sound cheesy, but I can’t stress this enough. Find a place that’s conducive to writing for you. Some people get severely distracted in loud places, while some others can’t stand to sit in silence. Figure out what kind of person you are and find that place where you’ll be comfortable and feel like you can conquer anything.
  • Accept the fact that, yes, you could be doing something more fun, but this assignment needs to get done. Many times, merely knowing that we could be relaxing instead of doing work creates writer’s block, making it impossible to concentrate. Let go of the tension that those feelings are causing and accept the assignment as it is. You’re in college now, you will get through this assignment and many more, so accept it and get to writing!
  • Try not to think about how much you have left. I completely understand the feeling of dread you get when you look at how much you’ve written and it’s not even close to the page limit. Don’t get stuck! The more time you think about that, the less time you spend writing. Look at what you’ve written, give yourself a pat in the back for getting something done, and keep going!
  • Give yourself breaks. Let yourself get distracted for 5-10 minutes, but stick to a schedule. Write for a while, then give yourself a break. I know turning off your phone sounds like torture, and I know the urge to check all your social media grows by the minute, but if you stick to a schedule you are more likely to get stuff done. You can even use these shorts breaks as a reward. You go, you!
  • Get up! Ultimately, if your mind is wandering too much, go take a walk. Get some coffee or water, stretch your legs, and think about something else. By the time you come back to your computer, you are bound to feel recharged and have some fresh ideas.
  • Visit the Writing Center! Just saying, if you come see us, you’ll have little choice but to focus on your assignment—at least for that hour.

Sometimes writing is a struggle for all of us, and that’s okay. But learning how to concentrate on your writing will help you in the long run. It may not be easy at first, but I’m sure you’ll get there. Good luck!

Mirii Rep, Writing Center Tutor

3 Tips for Writing an Essay with a “Boring Topic”

I get it. Just because I’m a Writing Center tutor doesn’t mean I don’t understand that sometimes essays can be boring. And when they’re boring, it’s easy to put off writing the paper until the last minute, which invites a whole host of problems.

My fellow students, it doesn’t have to be this way! Together, we can come up with ways to conquer the mountain that is an essay with a boring assigned topic. Try these four tips for success:

Tip One: Visit the Writing Center!
I know, I know, shameless self-plug here. But here’s the thing: we’re here to help you, and we can do that at all stages of the writing process! Need to brainstorm? We’ve got some storm clouds* for you. Need an outline? We’ve got pen and paper. Need to find a way to make your topic interesting? We can totally do that with you! We have tutors available in all subjects, not just English. If you’re finding a science paper boring, come visit one of our tutors that’s in the science program! They’ll be happy to help, and hearing someone who’s passionate about the subject might just help spark some ideas.

Tip Two: Find Something Interesting About It
Find something within your topic that sparks your interest. Maybe there’s a thread of a story you read for your English class, the one you have the ten-page paper on, and you want to explore that one thread further. Maybe there’s a throwaway comment your teacher made during math class about the history of pi, and you find that fascinating, and now you get to write a ten-page paper on that. Maybe you can take the period of history that you’re supposed to be writing about and find one interesting person whose past you want to explore further. The possibilities are endless!

Tip Three: Surrender
Sometimes, in spite of all of the attempts to engage with the topic, there’s just nothing that can be done to make a boring topic more interesting. And that’s okay! That doesn’t mean that the essay you write is going to be a bad one, it just means you’ll have to use different strategies. The fact is that we write better when we’re interested in the topics we’re writing about, but it doesn’t mean an uninteresting topic is un-writeable. Instead, take a breath, plan, and write.

And remember, no matter how boring you think your topic is, we’re here at the Writing Center, ready and willing to help you out. We won’t complain about the topic, but we will walk you through planning, pre-writing, research, or any other stage of the writing process you need help with.

–Katy

*Please note, the Writing Center does not actually contain storm clouds, nor do we encourage the use of storm clouds inside. Lightning is a dangerous, people.

Fun Ways to Work with Words

Have you ever finished a paper and felt like you just can’t look at it any more because you’ve been staring at it for so long? Using a text editor or generator is one exciting way to get a fresh look at a paper. There are an endless number of free online programs that can help you reassess a piece that you’ve written, whether it’s a blog post, a poem, a short story, or a research paper. Two types of programs that you can run a text through, whether in its entirety or in part, are:

  • Word cloud generators
  • Up-goer five text editors

Each of these programs can give new perspectives on a piece of writing that may seem stagnant.

Word Cloud Generators

There are a variety of free word cloud generators available on the Internet. Some of these include Jason Davies Word Cloud Generator, Wordle, WordItOut, and Tagul. Below is an example of a world cloud created by running the text from our tutor bios through the Tagul generator. The larger a word appears, the more it has been used in the entered text. As you can see from our word cloud, the tutors are a bunch of people who have majors and minors and who love to write and to spend their time on a variety of activities (apparently our preferred pet is a cat). Because of this feature, making word clouds can be a fun way to see which words appear most frequently in your text. Perhaps you will realize you have been subconsciously using a word more than you should. Maybe you will be able to see that your text has focused more on an idea than you originally thought you would (which means you should schedule an appointment at the Writing Center to adjust your thesis statement accordingly!). Either way, using a word cloud generator is a great way to get a new look at your writing.

Word Cloud

Up-Goer Five Editors

There are also a number of text editors that are referred to as “Up-goer Five Editors.” After copying and pasting text into these kinds of editors, they will essentially highlight or underline any words that are NOT one of the thousand most commonly used words in the English language. This seemingly absurd concept was first made popular by a group of scientists who made a comic attempting to explain the Saturn V moon rocket using only the “ten hundred” most common words – hence the name “Up-goer Five.” In this way, it can be a very useful tool for highlighting jargon. While discipline-specific terminology is wonderful to use with targeted audiences, general papers or presentations are a different case. Works that are shared with a general audience should avoid these words – or actively define them so that audience members can understand the progression of ideas. It is important to remember, however, that a limit of only the thousand most common words is a little bit overkill, so please proceed with caution (all the underlined words in the sentence were highlighted by Up-Goer Five text editor)!

— Jason Swartz, writing tutor

Top Tip to Writing: Bleed

Image result for ernest hemingway
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” -Ernest Hemingway

Many writing guides have specific tips, and others have strict guidelines. Some are overflowing with suggestions, and others are musings on writing philosophies. Some are didactic, others flinch from ‘restricting’ the creativity of writing. Some focus on creating the correct environment for writing, and others on finding new sources of inspiration.

However, there is a general vein in many modern guides to writing: avoiding pain. Lessening suffering, creating ease, emphasizing joy and pleasure.

For some writers, it’s absolutely true that the work itself is a joy and a beauty forever. They love writing, and none of it distresses them. They’ve never cried over the idea of a five-page essay, or doubled over in agony at the prospect of 250 words a week for a class. They are puzzled by the aversion to writing that others display.

But for other writers, writing is suffering. There are many sources of pain: feeling exposed and vulnerable, feeling as if you can’t write anything worthwhile, feeling as if you are wasting your time humiliating yourself instead of doing, well, just about anything else. Knowing that you’ll have to edit and edit, proofread and get help, double-check all citations and agonize over every verb.

And while working on curing one’s perfectionism and learning how to write in general can reduce the suffering, nothing can quite make it untrue that writing is very, very scary for many people. People can and do judge you on what you write–isn’t that the entire purpose of grades? People can and do notice even tiny errors. Every comma is an opportunity for someone seeing and judging you, or, at least, what you created.

Some of this is due to an artistic entanglement between the created and the self. It’s true that artists are not their art, but especially in academic writing, it’s false to say that the author is completely divorced from their work. Many college writing assignments are highly personal to boot–write about what you did this summer. Write about a time you experienced discrimination. Write about your first kiss. Write about how you interpreted this movie, and explain why. Defend your beliefs. Advance your arguments.

The freshmen authors aren’t dead, folks.

It’s lucky we live in a diverse world, because there is an alternative to repressing or hiding the truth of writing pains: embracing them. Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Now, the quality of Hemingway’s works can be debated, but what cannot be debated is that he wrote, and for a living, even.

So stop fiddling with the exact arrangement of your desk. Stop chasing the field of daises that will magically inspire you to write the perfect poem. Stop memorizing punctuation guides to ensure nobody will question your semicolons. Stop closing your eyes and telling yourself it’ll be perfect. Stop running away from the pain and lean in. Grit your teeth and pump out the paper.

Sit down and bleed.

(Come to the Writing Center. We have paper towels.)

-Writing tutor Kaijaii

Top 10 Slang Words to Avoid in Your Writing

Why should you avoid them? Slang can mean different things to different people, so it may not be comprehended the way that you intended it to be. Also, slang is very informal. It can show a laziness or a lack of effort by using slang. Lastly, it is boring! There are over a million words in the English language so I guarantee that you can find a more interesting word than a slang term.

1.  “Like”

This word is bland, humdrum, and dull. There is absolutely nothing exhilarating about it. To say that you “like” something or your roommate likes something is meaningless. Great, who cares?! But if you or someone else really has an opinion, express it! Make sure that you use words to get the opinions and feelings across to the reader.

2.  “Thing”

This is the least specific word in the English language. Your reader has no clue what you are referring to when you use it. Be specific!!

3.  “Kids”

I remember my 6th grade teacher complaining about this word, and it has stuck with me. But I am not the only one that feels like this. They are “children,” “teenagers,” etc; give them some credit! Just choose a more specific and less demeaning word. (Unless, of course, you are talking about baby goats. Then, by all means, use “kids.”)

blog pic- baby goats

4.  “Ripped off”

If your brother ripped off his shoes before jumping in a pool, go ahead and use this phrase. However, if your brother got ripped off because he was not given the correct change at the grocery store, use a different phrase. This is slang and sounds sloppy when it is used in a paper.

5.  “Awesome”

This word is so overused that it has become almost as meaningless as “good.”

“Did you have an awesome time? Did you drink awesome shooters, listen to awesome music, and then just sit around and soak up each other’s awesomeness?” -Mean Girls

6.  “Always/Never”

Really? Because I guarantee that someone could prove you wrong most of the time. Very few phenomenon always or never happens. So, use a more realistic term in your writing if there is a slight chance that it may actually happen.

7.  “Good”

Pizza is good. A book is good. But if it is good enough for you to write a paper about, you should use a more descriptive and exciting word!

 

pizza blog pic

8. “Very”

This is often an over exaggeration and is used as a way to express an emotion that is not nearly as strong as you make it sound.

9. “The use of contractions”

This was one of the first rules I learned when I began writing. Do not use contractions. Let me repeat: NEVER USE CONTRACTIONS IN FORMAL WRITING! Contractions are a short cut. If you use a contraction in your paper, you might as well say to your professor that his or her paper is not worth your time to write out entire words.

blog post pic4

10. “First, Secondly, finally, in conclusion, lastly,” etc.

Your readers can count. They know that it is the first paragraph or the second paragraph by counting the paragraphs. Also, they know you are concluding your paper because it stops after your paragraph. Do not tell them things that they can figure out on their own.

-Adrienne, Peer Tutor