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

“Don’t quote me on this…”

It’s important to integrate information from whatever text you’re studying. However, there are many different ways to integrate information from the text, so you should make sure to add some variety.

Integrate the words of the author into your own sentence:

One way to integrate a quote is to mix the author’s words and your own to form one continuous sentence. If necessary, you can add or change the authors statement with brackets to make the sentence grammatically correct, or to clear up any confusion (such as if the author omits words because it makes sense in the context of their own work). You can never use brackets if it will change the meaning of the sentence, so use brackets sparingly. At the end of the sentence, add an in-text citation according to whatever style of citation you are using. Take this quote about the character of Charlie in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Finest Story in the World” for example:

“When next he came to me he was drunk—royally drunk on many poets for the first time revealed to him. His pupils were dilated, his words tumbled over each other, and he wrapped himself in quotations—as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of emperors.”

-Rudyard Kipling, The Finest Story in the World

If I were to write about “The Finest Story in the World,” I could say:

When drunk, “[Charlie] wrapped himself in quotations-as a beggar would
enfold himself in the purple of emperors” to seem smarter than he
really was (Kipling).

It is important that the sentence flows naturally. Don’t force a sentence to fit; use a different technique instead.

"You done..?" -Rudyard Kipling (from poets.org

“You done..?”
-Rudyard Kipling
(from poets.org)

Not yet Kipling…

Use a ‘Signal Phrase’:

A “signal phrase” is a short phrase, but not a complete sentence, that names the author and what source you are drawing information from, usually set off from the quote by a comma. Think of the “signal phrase” as any other introductory phrase that would be followed by a comma. Take this quotation for example:

“Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another.”
― Ambrose Bierce, The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary

To introduce this with a signal phrase I could say:

In The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defines a quotation as “the act of repeating erroneously the words of another.”

Because you already said the name of the work and the author, you don’t need to mention that with an in-text citation; however, if you had a page number, or named the author but not the work, then mention those in an in-text citation.

"can you not with the quotations" -Ambrose Pierce (from centipedepress.com)

“can you not with the quotations”
-Ambrose Pierce
(from centipedepress.com)

Use a colon:

Courtesy of the author :)

Courtesy of the author 🙂

If you want to use an entire sentence, or you can’t get a sentence flow organically with your own words, write a complete sentence and then introduce the quote with a colon. Don’t start a sentence with a quote, or leave a quote placed randomly in your paper with none of your own words to support it. Here’s another quote about quotation.

“[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.”

― A.A. Milne, If I May

If I wanted to use the whole quote, and include my own sentence, I would write:

Quotes can be a very useful way to incorporate information from other sources, but if you rely on them, you won’t really be thinking for yourself: “[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business” (Milne).

So, no matter what Kipling, Bierce, and Milne say, quotes are an important tool in academic writing. But ultimately, your professor is looking for your own thoughts, not just the repetition of another author’s!

Jehan, “peer tutor”

from reactiongifs.com

from reactiongifs.com

Decongesting Your Clogged Mind: Tips for Dealing with Writer’s Block

“How’s your paper coming along? How many pages do you have by now?” A fellow classmate inquires in a friendly, conversational tone.

“Umm…I have one page…” I reply.

(Insert eye-rolling from the other party here.)

“But it’s due tomorrow! I never understood how people can wait until the last minute to work on their papers.”

“No! It’s not like that! I actually started a week ago, but ummm… ermmm… I know what I’m going to say; I just haven’t actually written it down yet.”

Yeah…likely story, the classmate implies with her supposedly knowing smile.

I originally wrote a page or two on what I thought I was going to say, but decided later that it was a predominantly a piece of disheveled crap. Well, maybe there’s one solid idea hidden inside the incomprehensible text like a tricky Easter egg, but I still end up deciding to erase most of it and essentially start over. I KNOW the ideas are lurking around in some secret mental corridor. I just can’t happen to find them in that moment.

Writer's Block blog post

Courtesy of: http://writersrumpus.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/don_t-be-a-slave-to-writer_s-block.jpg

I mean, I can’t just open a blank word document and magically churn out a polished paper. Stare at the screen. Throw a pen across the room. Ergh, so aggravating! So how do you deal with a congested mind? Perhaps you’ve struggled with the daunting enigma that writer’s block is yourself. In fact, Writer’s block often shares a intrinsic relationship with the overall writing process. What follows are a few tips to combat writer’s block by relating it to some of the various stages constituting the writing process.

1. Experiment with Outlines and Handwriting

Already stuck before you’ve even started? Experiment with outlines, maps, and writing by hand. Scour the web for new and unusual frameworks in which you can brainstorm and sort your ideas. Organizing that amorphous mass of ideas into a new, appealing structure may prove beneficial.

2. Write or Die!

Write or Die is a free, twisted little internet application that draws from principles of operant conditioning you probably learned in your intro to psyche class. In other words, punishment is warranted if you stop writing. I personally prefer kamikaze mode, which erases your writing word by word if you stop for even just a few seconds. Write or Die is actually intended for creative writing but I’ve found it to be an incredibly useful tool for freewriting preliminary drafts.

The objective of Write or Die and freewriting in general is to capture your stream of thoughts on paper before they escape from you and disappear forever. Rawness is key, while refinement will eventually follow.You may find it liberating to spit out a torrent of words without consciousness of editing or grammar. However, there is usually at least one solid idea you can extract from that jumble of nonsensical words typed under the inevitable pressure and doom that Write or Die imposes on you. In fact, I am typing this on Write or Die at this very moment.

3. Write on Your Own

Keep your train of thought flowing as a writer to help loosen your condensed blob of ideas. Keep a journal, a blog, or try your hand at creative writing. You may find that scribbling a page in your journal or adding a new blog post can help diminish your paper anxiety and loosen up your chunk of thoughts, however random or irrelevant it might be. It is all about learning by doing.

4. Devise Your Own Idiosyncratic Habits

Develop fun and/or idiosyncratic techniques to help keep your waterfall of inspiration flowing. I prefer wearing a hat when I write because hats are awesome. I guess you could call it a literal “thinking cap” if you want to be corny about it. Dig out your lucky pair of writing socks and make it a a technique of self-motivation. You can ascribe meaning to any article of clothing by remembering all of those difficult moments of writer’s block you’ve already surmounted in the past when you wore that special hat or lucky sock. You have overcome writer’s block before, and you are certainly capable of triumphing again!

Courtesy of:http://suzannevince.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Writers-Block.png

Courtesy of:http://suzannevince.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Writers-Block.png

5. Take Breaks or Sleep it off

Sometimes writer’s block is a sign that you need to refresh your mind. Take a break. Indulge in some quality “me-time.” Utilize those off-moments as a source of inspiration. The shower, for instance, is brimming with intellectual revelations. Take a walk. Ponder deep writing thoughts in glar. Or if you are simply too exhausted to engage in any of the above…

Never underestimate the value of a high quality nap. Naps can actually help diffuse all that clutter that’s clogging your flow of thoughts. I confess that that is based on personal experience and not a research study, but naps are still worth considering if you are desperate!

6. Create the Right Atmosphere

There are many excellent blog posts on creating the “write” atmosphere available for you to check out, so I won’t divulge into verbose detail. Acquire self-knowledge by assessing the relative values of different spots on campus and determining the environment(s) in which you can concentrate. Experiment with additional elements of atmosphere, such as classical music. Figure out the time of day or night you work best.

7. Employ Writing Center Techniques!

You can emulate several of the techniques you find here at the writing center, such as reading out loud. Try discussing your topic with friends and classmates. Simply discussing (or ranting, whichever you prefer) your struggles and frustrations with friends can also serve as a mental decongestant.

8.) Make a Writing Center Appointment!

The Writing Center is here for you during any stage of the writing process. We can assist you in your struggle with writer’s block and help you transform your stagnant stream of thoughts into a waterfall flowing with inspiration.

Sarah F, peer tutor

Here’s How to Deal with that Twenty-Page Research Paper

from http://www.clker.com/

from http://www.clker.com/

Last week, I paged through each syllabus for my classes, looking for the page count for all of my papers. Chances are you’ve done the same. There’s always that feeling of joy when a paper that makes up big chunk of your grade is only five or so pages long. A short paper is not so bad, right? Then, on the flip side, there’s that feeling of complete helplessness when the minimum page requirement for a paper is ten pages or more. As I saw that I would be faced with more than one of those this semester, I began to panic. Here’s a list of tips I came up with that I plan on using to conquer my bajillion page papers:

  1. Start planning early. If you have an English essay about a particular book, start reading it now. If you have a research paper, start brainstorming a topic and head to the library. The beginning of the semester may feel hectic, but you have more time now than you will later on.
  2. Outline! Outline! Outline! It’s annoying, yes. BUT it will help you stay on track.
  3. Divide the paper up into smaller pieces. Your paper will feel much more manageable when you only work on a page or two at a time.
  4. Set up a schedule for working on your paper. If your paper is due in a month, commit to working on it at least two or three times a week until then.
  5. Just start writing. Remember that even if what you write at first isn’t very good, it’s better than nothing. You can always go back and make changes, but you have to start somewhere.
  6. If you have any questions about the expectations for your paper, ask your professor right away. It’s better to ask now than to realize that you’ve done something wrong and then have to start over again.
  7. Take a break if you need to. If you’re getting frustrated or overwhelmed, sometimes it’s best to walk away from the paper for a bit. Do something relaxing for a few minutes and then go back to the paper. Clearing your head will help more than you think.
  8. Make an appointment at the Writing Center. Or make several appointments with us. We’re here to help!

Photo on 9-8-14 at 3.16 PM

Rebekah, peer tutor