Writing in the Sciences (in general) and Astronomy (in particular) Tom Statler, Dept.

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Bad writing is opaque, unconvincing, disorderly, vague, andboring My Physics & Astronomy Each group must submit a project report for it's lab project. For our example project, we might write the introduction as follows:..

Whether you are writing science or fiction (or science fiction),the same rules of good writing apply: Know your message.

What are the most important things that youwant your reader to come away with? Know your audience. What base of knowledge do you share?What do they already know, and what is it your job to explain? Present a connected argument.

Does each sentence build logicallyon the previous one? Does each paragraph deal with a single centralidea? Be precise. Have you said exactly what you meant to say, or justsomething roughly in the ballpark? Be interesting.

Are you using language in a reader-friendly way?   Good scholarly writing is difficult. Moreover, it can get more difficultthe better you know your subject.

The reason is that an expert's understandingof a subject is a multidimensional network of connections among many differentconcrete facts and abstract concepts. As an expert writer, it's your responsibility to create a comprehensibleone-dimensional path through that network, and to lead the reader through itin a way that he or she can then begin to build his/her own network ofunderstanding.   The worst writing of all is unoriginal writing, and specifically plagiarized writing. Thereis no way to sugar-coat this: There are no circumstances underwhich copying text from another source is acceptible.

How to write a good lab report - department of physics and astronomy

Copying and making minor changes so thatit doesn't obviously look like an exact copy is even more wrong A Guide to Writing Lab Reports in Astronomy. By Charli Sakari. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License..

  The point of this article is not to show you what the format of a scientificpaper looks like.

I'm assuming that you have seen and read enough papers thatyou are beyond that. Rather, my point is to alert you to specific writingissues that are going to come up as you write the various sections of yourpaper.

The Introduction   The function of the introduction is exactly what it says: you are introducingyour readers to a subject that they're not familiar with.

You're also tryingto convince them that the particular topic you are addressing---which isprobably one tiny piece of a much bigger puzzle---is interesting and worthreading about. You can lose your reader on page one with a poor introduction,so keep this advice in mind: Start with the big picture.

Step by step, narrow the focus toarrive at your specific subject. At each step, give the reader specific information about what iscurrently known and understood, citing relevant papers (thereby givingcredit to those who have contributed to this understanding). Also at each step, give the reader specific information about whatis not understood.

If there is disagreement between differentresearchers, explain the nature of the disagreement (with citations) Here are some tips for freelance science writers on writing and submitting articles reviews of telescopes and other astronomical equipment in S&T Test Report..

Astronomy research report

Critique the logical flow of your presentation. Does eachsentence logically follow from or build on the previous one? Have you giventhe reader all the information he/she needs to understand it? Make sure youdefine terms before using them, and spell out acronyms the first time theyappear.

The last paragraph (sometimes two) of the introduction is where youfinally arrive at your work. Be explicit about how your contribution adds to the work that has come before.

Don't discuss your conclusions; that comeslater. But if you've done your job, your reader will now be thinking thatit's obvious that somebody needs to do exactly what you have done.

The Main Body of the Paper   This is usually the easiest part of the paper to write.

Here you arereporting on what you did and what the results are, so the logical orderingis often fairly intuitive. If you're writing an observational paper, youwill probably have a section on the observations, one on the data reductionand analysis, and one describing the results.

If you're writing atheoretical or modeling paper, you'll have a description of the modelor the assumptions of the theory, followed by a derivation of the keyequations or a description of your numerical code, and then a presentationof the results. I'm trusting you to know at a basic level what informationis essential for each of these sections.   But before you start writing, work through the following key issues: What is your most important result? What is the one thingthat you want the reader to remember from your paper? How can you best present that result? The answer is probably"graphically"---which makes the issue how to design the one perfectfigure to show this one most-important thing.

What other supporting figures would help the reader?Remember, the goal is not for you to show everything you did, but for thereader to understand the results.

How to write a lab report - union college

An advantage of thisstrategy is that you can then write your text around the figures Report. Mrs. Hoyer. 5th Grade. January/February 2015. Astronomy Project. Research This is our one BIG research paper we will write in 5th grade. There is a .

Butremember that any figure or diagram must include: Labeled axes, with numerical values and units; Error bars on any plotted data; and A caption, clearly explaining what is being plotted.

A figure caption is not a substitute for a clear presentation and descriptionof the figure in the main text. Point out what the reader should notice, andexplain why it is interesting.

  Precise language is especially important here. If you mean "filter", don't write"color"; if you mean "luminosity", don't write "magnitude". You need to communicate ina way that will be understandable to somebody who has not been workingwith you, and has not been sitting inon your meetings with your advisor/professor. Be conscious of the distinction between your private jargon and the propervocabulary of your discipline, and remember that it's your job, not thereader's, to translate.

  And although this is not strictly a point about writing,one can't overemphasize the importance of the error analysis Make sure you record what you do as you do it, so that the procedure section of your report accurately and completely reflects what you did. Some helpful hints .

Don'tshirk the responsibility to do a statistically legitimate error estimate onany measured quantity.

A guide to writing lab reports in astronomy

If it doesn't have an error bar, it isn't science.

Discussion and Interpretation   This is, arguably, the most important part of the paper, and, sadly, the one most often neglected by fledgling writers.

You've explained yourmethods and presented your results. but what does it all mean? It'sthe author's job to put the results in context.

  First comes the meaning of your quantitative results themselves. You may havemeasured the central B-V color of M33 with unprecedented accuracy, butso what? Your measurement has meaning only to the extent that it tells ussomething about the natural world. This places a non-trivialburden on you to understand (in this example) what physicalprocesses influence the optical color of a galaxy, and then to logicallyinfer what your measurement implies about those processes.

Can you ruleout the presence of dust? Can you put a limit on the rate of star formation?   This exercise in logic will probably allow (i. , require) you to revisitthe papers you cited in your introduction, and explain how your resultsfit in with previously published work.

Be forthright about where your workagrees with or differs from others' 30 May 2008 - Writing in the Sciences (in general) and Astronomy (in particular) Here you are reporting on what you did and what the results are, so the .

If there is agreement, be explicit aboutwhat that implies; it may be increased confidence in some published model,or a recognition that this particular object is unusual in an important way. If there is disagreement, try to suggest a reasonable explanation, butavoid unsupported speculation.

The End   It's traditional to end the paper with a recapitulation of the main results.

This conclusion can be very similar to the abstract, which has a similarpurpose. But the end of the paper is also an opportunity tomake a graceful exit from the maze of knowledge through which you have justled your reader.

Step back out to the big picture, and (without getting overlytheatrical) remind the reader how this new knowledge has bearing on ouroverall understanding of this particular part of the universe, and, ifappropriate, how it sets the stage for future work.

Written report - how to - department of physics and astronomy

But, ofcourse, this doesn't rule out the use of passive voice where it is appropriate.

Generally, you should stick to present tense, even when youare reporting on the past work of others; e.

, "Smith and Jones (1994)show that dark matter dominates NGC8153.

" An exception is if you are talkingabout work in a historical context: "This phenomenon was first discovered byZwicky (1930). " When describing your own observations and data reduction, youcan use past tense ("the data were flat-fielded using IRAF"); but the resultsof that work should be described in present tense ("the flat-fielded imagecontains 14 resolved sources").

Remember that statements about astronomicalobjects should always be in present tense ("the galaxy has a strong colorgradient") unless you are specifically talking about a past event or an objectthat no longer exists ("the supernova progenitor star was a type O supergiant"). In astronomy, writing in the 1st person isencouraged (e.

, "we observed M51", "we show the results in Table 2",etc Physics and Astronomy. How to Write a Formal Lab Report. A formal lab report is essentially a scaled-down version of a scientific paper, reporting on the results .

In the case where there is only one author, opinions differ on whetherone should use the "editorial we", or merely charge ahead in 1st personsingular ("I"). The latter is more honest, and is becoming more common,but it can sound annoying if it is overused.

Additional Resources A Scientific Writing Booklet, from the Dept.

ofBiochemistry & Molocular Biophysicsat the Univ.