Author(s): George D. Gopen and Judith A. Swan Source: American Scientist, Vol. 78, No. 6 (November-December ), pp. Published by: Sigma Xi. *Examples and explanations from Gopen, George D. and Judith A. Swan. “The Science Writing,” American Scientist 78, no.6 (November-December ): pp. Gopen, G.D, Swan J.A (). The Science of Scientific Writing. American Scientist Vol. 78 pgs. Add to My Bookmarks Export citation. Gopen, G.D .

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We know who the players are, but we are ignorant of the actions they are presumed to perform.

A Summary of “The Science of Scientific Writing”

There can be no fixed algorithm acientist good writing, for two reasons. In general, try to ensure that the relative emphases of the substance coincide with the relative expectations for scifntist raised by the structure. It is a linguistic commonplace that readers naturally emphasize the material that arrives at the end of a sentence. This is a large complex that also contains many subunits synthesized in the cytoplasm; it will be referred to hereafter as respiratory chain NADH dehydrogenase or complex I.

Our third example attempts to demonstrate how paying attention to the placement of old and new information can reveal where a writer has neglected to articulate essential connections. Our best stylists turn out to be our most skillful violators; but in order to carry this off, they must fulfill expectations most of the time, causing the violations to be perceived as exceptional moments, worthy of note.

If writers can become consciously aware of these locations, they can better control the degrees of recognition and emphasis a reader will give to the various pieces of information being presented. All readers make exactly that kind of choice in the reading of every sentence. Given amerifan this is the first paragraph of the article, which type of earthquake will the article most likely proceed to discuss?

As they begin to formulate a sentence, often their primary anxiety is to capture the important new thought before it escapes. Large earthquakes The rates Therefore As a result, the reader focuses attention on the arrival of the verb and resists recognizing anything in the interrupting material as being of primary importance.

Here first is a list of what we perceived to be the new, emphatic material in each sentence:. A unit of discourse is defined swsn anything with a beginning and an end: By using a semicolon, we created a second stress position to accommodate a sean piece of information that seemed to require emphasis. Large earthquakes along a given fault segment scienfist not occur at random intervals because it takes time to accumulate the strain energy for the rupture.


Since the interbase hydrogen bonds are the only bonds to form upon mixing, their enthalpy of formation can be determined directly by measuring the enthalpy of mixing. Let us say that in tracking the temperature of amerrican liquid over a period of time, an investigator takes measurements every three minutes and records a list of temperatures.

Although this information may provide some sense of comfort, it does little to answer the interpretive questions that need answering. This methodology of reader expectations is founded on the recognition that readers make many of their most important interpretive decisions about the substance of prose based on clues they receive from its structure. We have directly measured the enthalpy of hydrogen bond formation between the nucleoside bases 2’deoxyguanosine dG and 2’deoxycytidine dC.

The first tells us something about bees; the second tells us something about pollen. If we search for repeated old information in hope of settling on a good candidate for several of the topic positions, we find all too much of it: Such an understanding has recently become available through work done in the fields of rhetoric, linguistics aamerican cognitive psychology.

The Science of Scientific Writing | American Scientist

Writers who fail to put new information in the stress position of many sentences in one document are likely to repeat that unhelpful structural pattern in all other documents. Many people hearing this structural advice tend to oversimplify it to the following rule: The contextual material appears on the left in a pattern that produces an expectation of regularity; scientistt interesting results appear on the right in a less obvious pattern, the discovery of which is the point of the table. Any piece of prose, no matter how short, may “mean” in 10 glpen more different ways to 10 different readers.

If “for example” is an inaccurate transitional phrase, then exactly how does the San Andreas fault example connect to ruptures that “vary by a factor of 2”? Note the subject-verb separation in the word third sentence of the original passage: There scientiet no secondary structural indications to fall back upon. It misleads the reader as to whose story is being told; it burdens the reader with new information that must be carried further into the sentence before it can be connected to the discussion; and it creates ambiguity as to which material the writer intended the reader to emphasize.


What has the first sentence of the passage to do with the last sentence? Having begun by analyzing the structure of the prose, we were led eventually to reinvestigate the substance of the science.

The Science of Scientific Writing

We can begin to revise the example by ensuring the following for each sentence: It also fulfills the promise of the “we have directly measured” with which the paragraph began. The list gives us too few clues as scuentist what actions actually take place in the passage. Improving either one will improve the other.

All sentences are infinitely interpretable, given an infinite number of interpreters.

We can distill the problem by looking closely at the information in each sentence’s topic position:. The reader’s expectation stems from a pressing need for syntactic resolution, fulfilled only by the arrival of the maerican.

Much of this information is making its first appearance in this paragraph—in precisely the spot where the reader looks for old, familiar information. As a result, the chances greatly increase that reader and swam will perceive the same material as being worthy of primary emphasis. In all the other examples, revision revealed existing conceptual gaps and other problems that had been submerged in the originals by dysfunctional structures.

Therefore, nearly constant time intervals at first approximation would be expected between large ruptures of the same fault segment. As a concomitant function, the principles simultaneously offer the writer a fresh re-entry to the thought process that produced the science. University of Chicago Law Review America structure presented information to readers in the order the readers needed and expected it.

A reader has reached the beginning of the stress position when she knows there is nothing left in the clause or sentence but the material presently being read.

But, more significantly, the structure of the second table provides the reader with an easily perceived context time in which the significant piece of information temperature can be interpreted. The information in the topic position prepares the reader for upcoming material by connecting it backward to the previous discussion.