- Montgomery, Scott L.
The Chicago Guide to Communicating Science
THE VALUE OF SCIENTIFIC
Kircz of Elsevier Science states that "The object of scientific
communication is the registration, evaluation, dissemination and archiving of
human knowledge, facts and insights into our world for the benefit of mankind
and the advancement of science."
Click for the full article:
Communication as an object of science
Gerhard Fröhlich in his article "The
(Surplus) Value of Scientific Communication" explained the value of the
scientific communication. According to this article, the scientific
communication is "the social phenomenon whereby intellectual and creative
activity is transmitted from one scholar to another"
Click for the full article:
(Surplus) Value of Scientific Communication
Contemporary concepts of science start from the
discursive and cooperative character of modern sciences:
Individual scientists are in this view merely small "wheels" in the overall
"machinery," who make modest contributions to the progress of their
According to the same article, 80-90% of all scientists who
ever lived are alive today. None of them will be able to be the
candidates of future's long-term scientists if they do not share their
intellectual properties with other scientists.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
of UK declared in 1995 that "The communication of the results of research is
an integral part of the research process, which is incomplete and
ineffective if findings are not made available to others"
Writing, which is the most important communication tool in science is a
frequent task. The quality of a researcher's writing is a reflection of the
quality of his/her research.
Scientific communication has its own character: it involves
a special language (e.g., the words "I" or "we" is never used), a
special format (e.g., thesis, article, report),
a special content (e.g., abstract, keywords, list of references etc.,)
style (depending on the pupliation medium,margins,
typography, illustration etc.,) and
special communication tools (like ISIS Draw for chemical drawings,
SPSS for statistical analysis, Grapher for drawing graphs).
Therefore, a researcher should
develop his/her communication skills
parallel to his/her skills in research. Although experience help a lot in
effective communication, some tools may be used for quick development.
Various skill development tools are available. Chapters 14-16 of "The
Elements of Academic Research" by McQuin and chapters 7, 12-14 of "The
Research Student's Guide to Success" are devoted for this purpose. The WEB
is full of similar or other guides. One very useful one is an article of
Svetla Baykoucheva ( the manager of the ACS Library and Information Center
in Washington, DC):
Internet resources for scientific writing (Baykoucheva,S,
Chemical Innovations, Vol 31, No 2, February 2001)
Another useful collection of resources about how to do research
and how to communicate effectively is available in the WEB of Carnegie
Collected Advice on Research and Writing, (February 2003)
Indiana University Chemical Information Sources (Cheminfo) WEB page has
an excellent list of science writing aids and access to lecture notes on
this topic mainly for chemists:
Umea University (Sweden) has a perfect collection on the Chemistry and
Science Teaching Resources. This collection includes a very good list of
software used in chemistry:
Chemistry and Science Teaching Resources (February 2003)
Software in Chemistry (February 2003)
Virginia Technology Institute in association with University of Illinois,
University of Texas and Georgia Tech publish "Writing
Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students" in their WEB site:
Writing Guidelines for Engineering and Science Students (February 2003)
Top of Page
Assessing the Audience
In assessing your writing situation, audience is your most important
constraint. To understand this constraint, you must first decide who your
readers are. Are they professors, managers, engineers, scientists, or
technicians? You also assess what your audience knows about the subject.
What terms will you have to define? What background information will you
have to include? Another consideration for audience is why your audience is
reading the document. This consideration is often referred to as the purpose
of the document. Is the document supposed to inform or to convince? Finally,
in assessing the audience, you assess how your audience will read your
document. Will they read it straight through like a story or will they turn
to specific sections?
Consider the example of the Sandia engineer [Carlson, 1982] who designed
an implantable electronics device that delivered insulin to the human body.
In documenting his design, the engineer had two distinct audiences. One
audience consisted of electrical engineers familiar with the electronics,
but not with diabetes. Another audience consisted of medical doctors
familiar with diabetes, but not with the electronics of this device. Given
the different backgrounds of these two audiences, the engineer had to define
different terms for each audience. The engineer also had to provide
different background information for each audience.
Not only were the audiences different in what they knew about the
subject, but they also had different purposes for reading about the design.
The electronics engineers were, for the most part, curious about the
electronics design. The medical doctors, on the other hand, were interested
in whether they could safely use this device to treat diabetic patients.
Notice that this second audience had much at stake as far as whether they
would actually implant this device into patients. For that reason, the
engineer's report documenting the design had to be not only informative, but
Finally, the engineer had to consider how his audience would read the
report that documented his design. Because the engineers and doctors wanted
to read different background information and were interested in different
aspects about the design, the engineer realized that neither audience would
likely read the report straight through from front to back. Rather, the
audiences would move from section to section. For that reason, the engineer
parceled the information into sections with descriptive headings so that the
audiences could quickly find specific information.
Decide: who is reader
What they know? A background information may be included.
Why they read your document? They will be informed or
convinced? Usually both.
How are they going to read it? roughly or thoroughly?
Readers read by jumping (zapping). Therefore parcel the information into
Selecting the Format
Besides audience, another important constraint is
format, which is the arrangement of type upon the page. The choice of
typeface, the placement of headings, the method of citing references--these
are aspects of format. For longer documents such as reports, format also
encompasses the arrangement of information into sections. In engineering and
science, there is no universal format. Rather, companies, journals, and
courses select formats to serve their particular audiences, purposes, and
When your grade school teachers asked you to write something, the format
was often simple: double spaced and front side of the paper only. However,
in engineering and science, the formats are much more detailed. Why is that
so? One reason is to make the reading process efficient. For instance, in a
laboratory report, having all the information follow a specific sequence
makes it easier for readers to locate specific information such as the
results. In another instance, having all information in proposals placed
under specified headings helps reviewers compare information fairly.
In your laboratory, design, or communication course, your instructor
will select a format that helps emphasize the important information, that
allows readers to find key information, and that allows evaluators to assess
your work. These guidelines are designed to help your instructor communicate
those formats efficiently and accurately to you. As stated earlier, no
universal formats exist in engineering and science. For that reason, these
guidelines present a number of common formats that your instructor can
choose from or modify to serve the documents of your course.
Table 1 presents some common differences found in just two format
issues: the hierarchy of headings and the listings of references in the
text. One reason that a format specifies a hierarchy for headings is so that
readers can understand what information in the document is primary and what
information is subordinate. The actual ways to represent these hierarchies
vary considerably. Common ways are different type sizes for the headings,
different amounts of white space surrounding the headings, different
typestyles for the headings, and numbering schemes for different order
headings. In still other cases, such as the default option of your word
processor (header 1, header 2, header 3), the formats call for combinations
of these variables. Likewise, the formats for assigning credit to sources
vary a great deal. Some formats call for an author-year listing in the text,
others call for a numbered listing, and still others call for an abbreviated
listing. Each of these listing systems refers to a section, often named
"References," where readers can find a full citation for the source. Note
that the ways those full citations are written vary widely as well.
Table 1. Choices in Format for Heading Hierarchy and Reference
to help rank information
Hierarchy by type size (18
points, 14 points, 12 points)
Hierarchy by white space (3 spaces, 2 spaces, 1 space)
Hierarchy by type style (boldface, boldface italics, italics)
Hierarchy by number (2.0, 2.0.1, 220.127.116.11)
to give credit to sources
[Author, Year]: [Jones,
[Abbr. author, abbr. year]: [JON, 98]
Given the wide variety of format issues and the even wider variety of
options for those issues, these format guidelines cannot possibly present
every format option that you will encounter in engineering and science. Such
a collection would be cumbersome and, in the end, not particularly helpful.
What's important is not that you learn every format which exists, but that
you realize a specified format will often exist and that you follow that
format. For those situations in which no specified format exists, you should
choose a professional format to follow that is appropriate for your
situation. Following box presents a professional format that is commonly used in engineering
Format: arrangement of type upon the page
In some disciplines there are predefined formats:
- Social sciences: MLA, APA or Turabian Styles
- Engineering and Science: No universal format
Format depends on:
Purpose of formatting: to make the reading process
Common differences in formatting:
- hierarchy of headings
- listing of references
Hierarchy of headings:
- shows the location of primary and secondary
- differentiated by different typefaces, different
- assign credit to sources
- format varies - author,year - numbered - abbreviated
One should learn which format (s)?
- not necessary to learn all formats
- just be aware of the fact that a specified format will
often exist and that you follow that format
Typography includes the size and style of type for a document. Type
sizes are measured in points. In general, twelve point type is used for the
text portion of most documents. Larger sizes may be used for headings and
titles, and smaller sizes may be used for footnotes and illustration
call-outs. As far as the styles of types, two main classifications exist:
serif and sans serif. Which typestyle should you use? Here, much depends on
the situation, but a serif font of 12 points is generally accepted for the
text portion of formal documents such as reports and correspondence. An
example of a serif typeface is Times. Why are
serif typefaces generally used for the text? The reasons are historical as
much as anything. For the headings and illustration call-outs of documents,
professionals use both serif and sans serif typefaces such as
Helvetica or Arial. One
reason that professionals use sans serif typefaces for these situations is
that they contrast nicely with the serif text.
A Sample (common) Format
Another aspect of typography is the use of initial capitals in titles
and headings. One convention, but not the only one, for using initial
capitals is that you capitalize the first letter of the first and last
words--no matter what the words. Then, you capitalize the first letter of
every included word except for articles, conjunctions, and prepositions that
have fewer than four letters: a, an, and, as, but, for, in, nor, of, on,
or, out, the, to, up, and yet.
Besides type sizes, type faces, and initial capitals, there are other
typography guidelines that vary from institution to institution. For
instance, the following list presents one recommended way to format unusual
plurals: IBMs, CDs, 1970s, and 1900s.
Typography: size and type of the font
- 12 points for the text portion
- Serif typeface (times new roman)
- all titles and headings
- exceptions: a, an, and,
as, but, for, in, nor, of, on, or, out, the, to, up, and yet
- No exception for the first and last words
Layout includes such things as the type of paper chosen, the margins,
the line spacing, the pagination, and the incorporation of equations,
illustrations, and references. Table 1 presents general specifications for
the page layouts.
Table 1. Specifications for Page Layout
||standard (about 1 inch)
||single space (unless other requested)
||standard tab for all paragraphs (about
||lineskip between paragraphs (optional)
||centered page numbers (about 0.5 inches
Headings. A format for headings, subheadings, and
sub-subheadings follows the pattern shown below. In this pattern, all
headings, subheadings, and sub-subheadings are in initial capitals. In a
short report, the major heading is the report's title. In a formal report,
the major heading serves as the name of each section--for example, the
"Introduction" or "Conclusion." Note that in a long report (more than 50
pages), these major headings begin a new page, while in a shorter report,
these major headings follow one another in a continuous fashion.
- type of paper
- line spacing
- incorporation of equations, illustrations, references
- 1 inch margins
- single line spacing
- 1 tab indentations of paragraphs
- lineskip between paragraphs
- centered page numbers at the bottom
- initial capitals
- each section (major headings) starts in a new page in
Title or Major Heading
For a major heading, skip three carriage returns from the top margin (or
previous section) and place the heading. Use a font larger than the text (14
or 18 points), initial capitals, and boldface. For minor reports, the major
heading serves as the report's title.
Subheadings are 12 or 14 points, flush left, and boldfaced. For all
subheadings, skip two lines before and one line afterwards. Use initial
First Sub-Subheading. Sub-subheadings are in 12 point type,
boldfaced, and followed by a period. Skip one line before the
sub-subheading. Begin the sub-subheading's text one space after the period.
Use initial capitals for sub-subheadings.
Second Sub-Subheading. If you have one sub-subheading, you must
have a second. Otherwise, the first sub-subheading has nothing to be
If you have one subheading, you must have a second. Otherwise, the first
subheading has nothing to be parallel with. Note that the subheadings
"Introduction" and "Conclusion" are inherently parallel with other types of
subheadings: noun phrases, participial phrases, or questions. "Introduction"
and "Conclusion" are also descriptive because the audience expects
particular kinds of information from them.
- Font: 14-18 pts - bold
- 3 carriage returns from the margin
- font: 12-14 pts - bold
- 2 carriage returns before and 1 returns after
- 12 pts - bold
- followed by a period
- 1 line before
Note: If you have a subheading, you mast have a second.
Incorporation of Illustrations.
There are two classes of illustrations: figures and tables.
Illustrations should appear below the end of the paragraph in which that
illustration is first introduced. If not enough space is available below the
end of the paragraph, then continue the text and place the illustration on
the next page. When placing an illustration into a document, leave a space
between the illustration and the text (one line skip both above and below
Captions for figures appear below the figure. Use Arabic numerals to
number figures. A figure caption includes a phrase that identifies the
figure and a sentence or two that explains important details in the figure.
See the example shown in the Figure 1. When referring to figures, call them
by their names: Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure IS-1, Figure A-1, and so forth.
Note that Figure IS-1 would appear in an informative summary and Figure A-1
would appear in an Appendix A. Unlike figures, titles for tables appear
centered above the table. Number tables using Arabic numerals. Use initial
capital letters for table titles. In the text, call tables by their names:
Table IS-1, Table 1, Table A-1, and so forth.
Figure 1. Eruption of Mount St. Helens [Smith,
Unlike figures, titles for tables appear above the table. For an
example, see Table 2. In the text, call tables by their names: Table 1,
Table 2, and so on. Note that another common table format has the title
centered above the table.
Table 2. Physical characteristics of
planets [Handbook, 1969].
- below the end of the paragraph in which the
illustration is first introduced
- if enough space is not available, then on the next
- one line skip before and after the illustration
Captions for figures:
- they appear below the figure
- numbering with arabic numerals
- a phrase to identify the figure; 1 or 2 sentences for
Captions for tables are similar except:
- on top of the table
- initial capitalized
When incorporating the opinions, data, and illustrations of other sources
into your writing, you must give credit to those sources. In these
writing guidelines, the format for bestowing that credit is an author-year
referencing system. Within the text of the article or report, references
should be cited by giving in brackets the last name of the author(s) and the
year of publication of the reference. The year should always be enclosed in
brackets; whether the name of the author(s) is enclosed depends on the
context. The two possibilities are illustrated as follows:
Recently, a new chemical process was developed for eliminating nitrogen
oxide emissions from diesel engines [Perry and Siebers, 1986].
Recently, Perry and Siebers  developed a new chemical process for
eliminating nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel engines.
For three or more authors, just list the first author's name as follows:
[Lee and others, 1972]. If there is no author listed, give the first word
(not articles, conjunctions, or prepositions) of the document: [Manual,
1983] or ["Plastic," 1989].
The full reference citations will appear in an alphabetical list at the
end of your document. Given below are examples of the listings.
Author, Title in Initial Capitals and Italics, edition #
(City of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication).
Fox, R. W., and A. T. McDonald, Introduction to Fluid Mechanics
(New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1978).
A Manual of Style, 12th ed. (Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 1969).
McElroy, W. D., Cell Physiology and Biochemistry, 3rd ed.,
Foundations of Modern Biology Series (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Author, "Title in Initial Capitals and Quotation Marks,"
Journal Name in Italics, vol. #, no. # (Date), page #s.
Owyoung, A. "High Resolution Coherent Raman Spectroscopy of Gases,"
in Laser Spectroscopy IV, ed. by H. Walther and K. W. Rothe (New
York: Springer- Verlag, 1979), pp. 175-182.
Perry, R. A., and D. L. Siebers, "Rapid Reduction of Nitrogen Oxides
in Exhaust Gas Streams," Nature, vol. 324, no. 2 (August 1986),
Steeper, R. R., "Reducing Nitrogen Oxides With Ammonia Injection,"
Phys. Rev., vol. 13, no. 2 (1983), pp. 132-135.
Author (if known), "Title in Initial Capitals and Quotation
Marks," Newspaper Name (Date), section #, page #s.
Luoma, J. R., "U.S. Hunts New Ways to Clean Up Wastes," New York
Times (3 January 1988), pp. 15, 18.
"Plastic Explosives Blamed for Airline Disaster," New York Times
(3 January 1989) sec. 2, p. 11.
Author, Title in Initial Capitals and Italics, Report #
(City of Publication: Publisher (Company or Agency), Date).
Borcherdt, R. D., Results and Data From Seismologic and Geologic
Studies Following Earthquakes of December 7, 1988, Near Spitak, Armenia
SSR, vol. 1, USGS OFR 89-163-A (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Geological
Guide to Operations, IBM Personal Computer Hardware Reference
Library #1502490 (Boca Raton, Florida: IBM Corporation, 1984).
Spent Fuel Storage Requirements, DOE RL-88-34 (Richland, WA:
Department of Energy, 1988).
Patent Holder, Patent # (Date of Patent).
Lyon, R. K., U.S. Patent No. 3,900,554 (August 1975).
Author, "Title in Initial Capitals and Quotation Marks," brochure
(City of Publication: Publisher (Company or Agency), Date).
Cheng, D., "Chemtronix XT Manometer," brochure (Asheville, NC:
Chemtronix Corporation, 1974).
Speaker's Name, Speaker's Affiliation (City of Interview: Date of
Interview), type of interview.
Lee, R., Engineer at Apple Corporation (San Jose: 5 June 1987), phone
Author, Affiliation (City: Date of Letter), recipient of letter.
Alley, C. D., Plant Manager of Mason-Hanger Pantex Plant (Amarillo,
TX: 3 March 1989), letter to Amarillo Globe News.
Author, "Title," web listing in italics (City: Publisher,
Thole, Travis, "Exploring the Possibility of Primitive Life on Mars,"
Undergraduate Engineering Review, November 1997).
Crafting the Style
An important, but sometimes hazy, distinction in scientific writing is
between format (the way you place the type upon the page) and
(the way that you express a thought in words and images). Style
comprises structure, language, and
illustration. These guidelines do not attempt to discuss the many
questions of style; rather, these guidelines focus on stylistic points
particular to writing a few technical documents, such as laboratory reports,
that you are likely to encounter.
Writing is an essential skill for the successful engineer and scientist.
As an engineer or scientist, you cannot treat your writing in the same way
that you treat fluid mechanics or organic chemistry. Scientific writing is
not a science; rather, it is a craft. The game of golf provides a good
analogy to the way you should view your writing. Think of your technical
problems as your drives and iron shots. In your drives and iron shots, you
want loft, accuracy, and distance. Now, think of your writing problems the
same as you would a putt. Notice that the clubs, swings, and mental approach
of driving differ dramatically from those of putting. The same is true for
the differences between the solution or technical problems and the
communication of those solutions.
Top of Page
the way you place the type upon the page
the way that you express a thought in words and images and
Scientific witing is not a
science, rather it is a craft
Writing is an essential
Correspondence consists of memos, letters,
and electronic mail. In engineering and science, correspondence is an
effective way to make requests, submit changes to a job, and deliver
specific information. Unlike telephone conversations, correspondence
presents the audience with a legal contract that is dated and can support a
claim in court. This section presents formats for memos and letters. Because
electronic mail usually has a built-in format, no format is assigned here
- electronic mail
In your correspondence, you should
concentrate on being clear and precise. Because audiences tend to read
letters and memos quickly, opt for shorter sentences and paragraphs than you
would use in a formal report or journal article. Also, in correspondence,
you should consider carefully the tone. Tone is difficult to control in correspondence. For instance, in a
job application letter, how do you talk about your accomplishments without
sounding boastful? Or in a letter complaining about faulty workmanship, how
do you motivate the reader to repair the damage without alienating the
reader? The answers are not simple. Often, engineers and scientists lose
control of tone by avoiding simple straightforward wording. When some people
sit down to write a business letter or memo, they change their entire
personality. Instead of using plain English, they use convoluted phrases
such as "per your request" or "enclosed please find." Because these phrases
are not natural or straightforward, they inject an undesired attitude,
usually arrogance, into the writing.
- being clear and precise
- short sentences and paragraphs
- careful tones (natural, plain straightforward wording)
Typically, you write memos to people within your place of work, and you
write letters to people outside your place of work. One major difference
between memos and letters is the title line found in memos. Because readers
often decide whether to read the memo solely on the basis of this title
line, the line is important. Another difference between letters and memos is
that you sometimes write memos that serve as short reports. In such cases,
the format for the memo changes somewhat. For instance, in a memo serving as
a progress report for a project, you might include subheadings and
sub-subheadings. Notice that people who are mentioned in a memo or are
directly affected by the memo should receive a copy. Included here is a
- to make requests,
- to give announcements,
- and sometimes to communicate reports.
A Sample Memo
University of Wisconsin
September 23, 1997
To: Professor Michael Alley
From: Cindy Reese CTR
Subject: Request to Research How Credit Was Awarded for the Discovery of
For my EPD 397 project, please
grant me permission to study the way in which credit has been awarded
for the discovery of nuclear fission. Although Otto Hahn received the
1946 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery, several people assert
that Lise Meitner and Fritz Strassman should have also received credit.
In my research, I will attempt to discern how credit should have been
This topic meets the criteria for a successful topic in this course.
First, I am interested in the topic. As a nuclear engineering student, I
realize that the discovery of nuclear fission was perhaps the single
most important discovery this century in my field. As a woman scientist,
I am also deeply interested in the successes and challenges faced by
other women scientists. A second way in which this topic meets the
criteria is that it can be quickly researched. A computer search in the
library has revealed many sources available on this topic. Attached to
this memo is a summary of one such source, Lise Meitner: A Life in
Physics by Ruth Sime.
This topic also meets the third criterion for a successful topic in
this course, namely, that it be technical. The fission of a uranium
nuclear involves an understanding of both chemistry and physics
principles. By focussing on this single discovery, I believe that I can
achieve the fourth crierion for a successful topic: the achievement of
depth. Finally, because the library system at the University of
Wisconsin offers such a wide array of possible sources, including papers
in German, and because many of these sources have been written for
audiences more technical than my intended audience, I believe that I can
create a project that is unique.
If you have any suggestions for modifying this topic, please let me
know. With your permission, I will continue researching.
- A Life in Physics by Ruth Sime
- Date of Memo
To: Recipient of Memo
From: Writer's Name, signature and initials
Subject : Title of Memo in Initial Capitals
Titles of Persons:
- Academic titles: before the names
- Degrees (MPhil, MS etc.,): after the names
- Job titles: Below the names
- Must be typed (capital) by ink
- If somebody else typed the memo, his/her initials should also be
printed (eg, CTR/oy, here oy is being the typer)
- Some institutions prefer the initials at the bottom of the page
Memos that make requests or announcements:
- are read quickly
- get to the point in the first paragraph--the first
sentence, if possible
- single space your memos and use a serif typeface
- Skip a line between paragraphs
- keep the sentence lengths and paragraph lengths
- final paragraphs should tell readers what you want
them to do or what you will do for them
- never exceed one page
Memos that make requests or announcements:
- attach a long report after a short memo in the first page
- drawings, tables should be attached for short reports.
Copies: send copies to anyone whose name you mention in
the memo or who would be directly affected by the memo
Top of Page
Formats for letters vary from company to company. For instance, some
formats call for paragraph indents; others don't. Included in this section is a
sample job letter and a sample thank-you letter written by someone after a job interview. In
this letter, notice how the writer gets to the point in the first sentence
of the first paragraph. Notice also the simple and straightforward
salutation ("Sincerely"). As with a memo, people who are mentioned or
directly affected by the letter should receive a copy.
- quick introduction of the point (first sentence of the
- straightforward salution
6103 Oliver Loving Trail
October 30, 1996
Dr. Art Ratzel
Sandia National Labs
P. O. Box 5800
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185
Dr. Art Ratzel:
In last month's issue of Undergraduate Engineer, Sandia
National Laboratories advertised positions for a summer undergraduate
research program that is to begin in June 1997. Would you please
consider me for such a position with your solar thermal division? I am a
junior in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, and my
emphasis is in thermal fluids (see enclosed résumé).
In reading about Sandia, I learned of the solar thermal work in your
division. Solar thermal technology interests me greatly. While here at
the University of Texas, I have taken a course in solar energy
applications. My project for that course--the comparison of heat
transfer fluids for a solar thermal power plant--specifically pertains
to your division's work.
After completing my bachelor of science here at the University of
Texas, I plan to attend graduate school because I am interested in
research. Last summer, I had the opportunity to work at Balcones
Research Center in Austin and enjoyed the work and atmosphere associated
with research. Given that Sandia National Laboratories is the foremost
engineering research laboratory in the country, I would welcome the
chance to work for you.
Thank you for your consideration, and if you have any questions,
please feel free to write, email, or phone.
A Sample Resume (Curriculum Vitae or CV)
Brad Lee Smith
6103 Oliver Loving Lane
Austin, Texas 78749
To research thermal/fluid systems, particularly those in solar
energy and gas turbine applications.
B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas (12/97)
Technical Block Option: Thermal/Fluid Systems
Solar Energy Systems
GPA: 3.7/4.0 in major; 3.5/4.0 overall
1996: Research Assistant, Balcones Research Center; Austin,
Assisted in turbine cooling laboratory
Helped set up and perform laser doppler velocimetry measurements
Authored section of progress report to project sponsor (Garrett
Updated large Fortran computer programs
Learned Lotus 1-2-3 to edit data files
1994-1995: Field Service Technician, Longhorn Business
Products; Dallas, Texas
Maintained and repaired copiers and facsimiles
Scored in top 5% in Ricoh's facsimile training school in 1994
Trained new service technicians for facsimiles
1993: Lifeguard, North Dallas YMCA; Dallas, Texas
Scheduled and supervised weekend lifeguard crews
Taught CPR classes to new lifeguards
||Third place in Rube
Goldberg Design Contest, 1996
Engineering Honor Roll, 3 semesters
Four-year partial scholarship, College of Engineering
||ASME; Society of
Automotive Engineers; Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Austin; Intramural
softball and basketball; Guitar
Available upon request
- (Logo is preferrable)
- Date of Letter
- No need for Dear, Mr etc.,
- Only academic titles
People read business letters quickly. Therefore:
- get to the point in the first paragraph--the first
sentence, if possible.
- use shorter sentences and paragraphs than you would in
a longer document.
- Sentences: max 20 words
- Paragraphs: max 7 sentences
- Single line spacing
- space between paragraphs
- Serif typeset (times-new-roman or courier)
- Do not crowd the top
- if possible, maximum one page. Second pages are usually not read
Final paragraphs should tell readers
- what you want them to do or
- what you will do for them
Copies: send copies to anyone
- whose name you mention in the letter or
- who would be directly affected by the letter
A résumé is a summary of your
- work experience, and
Your résumé is important:
- Employers often use résumés to decide whether to
interview you for a job,
- proposal reviewers use résumés to decide whether you
are qualified to do the proposed work.
- Therefore, you should highlight your best attributes.
- you should arrive quickly at the important points
- they are often read in less than a minute; y64r
characteristics should quickly be seen
- you should be clear and concise
- should be as long as it needs to be, but no longer
- use tables rather than paragraphs
- put your accomplishments in the strongest light
- Finally, proof your résumé--no mistakes are allowed
Top of Page
Electronic mail is a less formal version of memos and letters.
Electronic mail is relatively new and is changing in terms of
sophistication in format and expectation by audience. The principal
advantages of electronic mail over other types of correspondence are its
speed and ease of use. For instance, in minutes, you can send out
information to many recipients around the world.
One disadvantage of electronic mail is the crudeness of the format.
Many electronic mail systems do not allow such things as tabs or
italics. For that reason, the look of the message is not as attractive
as a memo or letter that has been printed on letterhead paper. Because
the message does not look formal, many people mistakenly adopt a style
that lacks the "appropriate formality" [Markel, 1996]. For instance,
these people include needless abbreviations (such as "BTW" rather than
"by the way"). Another disadvantage of electronic mail is also one of
its advantages: its ease of use. With letters and memos, you must print
out the correspondence before you send it. That printing out allows you
to view the writing on paper--a step that makes it easier for you to
proof for mechanical mistakes in spelling, usage, and punctuation. With
electronic mail, though, you are not forced to print out on paper before
you send. For that reason, electronic messages often are not as well
proofed as regular correspondence. Remember: Because most networks
archive electronic mail, you should take the same care with electronic
mail as you do with printed correspondence. That means using the
appropriate formality in style and carefully proofing your message
before you hit the "send" button.
- less formal
- crude: formatting the style and layout is limited
- difficult to see the mechanical mistakes in spelling, usage and
- Use electronic spell-checker before sending
- send as attachments
- see the printed copy before sending
- Same seriousness as letters or memos
- Be sure that electronic version of the documents are considered by
receiver "official" enough. Otherwise, send a "hard copy" separately
Top of Page
Engineers and scientists write formal reports for many
reasons, including the documentation of experiments and designs. As an
engineer or scientist working on the design of an airplane seat, you might
write several formal reports. One formal report might propose a new design
for the seat. A second formal report might update the progress on the
construction of a test seat. Yet another formal report might document
tests performed on the design. Still another formal report would assess
whether the new design should replace the existing design. In this last
report, you would combine elements from all the previous reports. Note
that this last report might appear as a research article, which is a
special kind of formal report for a research audience.
They are written for various purposes
Several reports may be written before completion of a
What distinguishes a formal report from an informal reporting of
information? The answer lies not in the topics of formal reports, but in the
expectations of the audiences for formal reports. In a formal report, the
audience expects a methodical presentation of the subject that includes
summaries of important points as well as appendices on tangential and
secondary points. Note that the readers for a formal report are often two or
more distinct audiences. These distinct audiences include professionals
specializing in the report's subject matter, professionals not specializing
in the report's subject matter, and managers overseeing the report's subject
Format distinguishes formal reports from an informal reporting of
information. A well-crafted formal report is formatted such that the
report's information is readily accessible to all the audiences. For that
reason, formal reports are split into different sections. One way to group
these sections is in terms of the front matter, main text
and back matter. The front matter, which presents
preliminary information for the report, serves to orient all intended
audiences to what the report contains. The text portion of the formal report
is the report's "story" and contains the introduction, discussion, and
conclusion of the report. The text delivers a methodical explanation of the
report's work to the report's primary audience. The report's back matter
portion, which contains the appendices, glossary, and references, serves to
provide secondary information to all readers as well as primary information
to secondary readers.
The audience determines whether should be formal or
informal.They expect a methodical presentation of subject including:
- summaries of important points
Types of audience:
- professionals in your field
- professionals in other fields
- overseeing managers
Format is important: Split into different sections.
The front matter to a formal report includes the
preliminary information that orients all readers to the content of the
report. In the format presented in these guidelines, the front matter
includes a front cover, title page, contents page, and summary. Other
sections that sometimes appear in the front matter are preface,
acknowledgements, list of illustrations, and list of abbreviations. Except
for the cover, which has no page number, pages in the front matter are
numbered with roman numerals.
orient the audience to the contents of the report
page numbering by roman numerals
Front Cover. The front cover of a formal
report is important. The front cover is what people see first. When the
report sits flat on a desk, the front cover is in view. Therefore, the
front cover should contain the report's title and the author's name.
Because reports are often revised and republished, the front cover should
also contain the date of publication. The front cover has no page number.
Space the title, name, and date to achieve a nice balance on the page. If
possible, type the title in a larger font size than the name and date. Use
initial capitals for the title.
People see it first
- Report title
- Publication date
- no page number
- Title in larger font
- Initial capitals for title
Title Page. The title page for a formal
report often contains the same information as is on the cover. In some
formats, there is a summary included. Most often, because of space
restrictions, that summary is descriptive (more like a table of contents
in paragraph form). Sometimes, though, this initial summary is informative
and geared toward the technical audience of the report. In such
situations, that summary is often named an "Abstract." Consult with your
instructor to find out what kind of summary, if any, should be on this
page. Note that the title page is numbered "i" (the actual presence of a
page number on the first page is optional).
Simmilar to the cover page
summary (or abstract) may be included. It should be
geared toward the technical audience
Page number "i"
Contents Page. The table of contents includes
the names of all the headings and subheadings for the main text. In
addition, the table of contents includes names of all headings (but not
subheadings) in the front matter and back matter. For instance, the
contents page includes listings for the appendices (including appendix
titles), the glossary, and the references.
All headings and subheadings of
- front matter
- main text
- back matter
Summary. Perhaps no term in engineering writing is as confusing
as the term "summary." In general there are two types of summaries:
descriptive summaries and informative summaries. A descriptive summary
describes what kind of information is in the report; it is a table of
contents in paragraph form. An informative summary is a synopsis of the text
portion of the report; it is analogous to a baseball boxscore.
Unfortunately, few people use these terms to name the summaries in reports.
The names you're likely to run into are "abstract," "executive summary," and
plain old "summary."
An "abstract" usually, but not always, refers to a summary written to a
technical audience, and depending on its length can be either descriptive,
informative, or a combination of both. As you might imagine, short abstracts
are typically descriptive and longer abstracts are typically informative.
Abstracts generally do not include illustrations. Sometimes the word
"abstract" is proceeded by the word "descriptive," which is usually a clue
that you should write a descriptive summary written to a technical audience.
Other times the word "abstract" is proceeded by the word "technical," which
is usually a clue that an informative summary written to a technical
audience is called for.
An "executive summary" is the most consistently defined term-it refers to
an informative summary written to a management audience. Because it is
informative, it includes the most important results and conclusions of the
document. Because it is written to a management audience, it includes enough
background for the manager to understand those results and conclusions.
Stylistically, it is tailored so that a manager can read it quickly and
garner what happened in the report. Whether it contains illustrations or not
depends on the format.
The catch-all term "summary" can be most anything--a descriptive
summary, an informative summary, a summary with illustrations, a summary
without. So how do you proceed if a company, laboratory, or professor asks
you to write a "summary" for a formal report? Well, the best thing to do is
to look at examples of summaries in previous reports for that company,
laboratory, or professor. In formatting the main summary of your report,
treat the name ("Abstract," "Executive Summary," or whatever your instructor
prescribes) as a major heading. If illustrations are allowed, number them
using the abbreviation of the summary's title. For instance, if the summary
is named an "Executive Summary," number the illustrations ES-1, ES-2, and so
on. Number the equations in the same way.
summary = "abstract", synopsis", "executive summary"
- descriptive (executive summary) - what kind of
information is in the report - short - audience = managerial
- informative (abstract) - summary of text -long -
audience = technical
Avoid illustrations. If necessary number them properly.
The text portion of your formal report contains the
introduction, discussion, and conclusion of your report. Begin all major
headings ("Introduction," for example) on a new page. Use Arabic numerals
for numbering pages of the text and begin the first page of your text as
Contains (in separate pages):
Page numbering: Arabic numerals
Introduction. The introduction of a report prepares
readers for understanding the discussion of the report. Like the title and
summary, the introduction is written for the widest audience possible.
It prepares the audience for understanding the report
It is written for the widest audience
Discussion. The discussion or middle is the story of
your work. You do not necessarily present results in the order that you
understood them, but in the order that is easiest for your readers to
understand them. In your discussion, you not only present results, but you
also evaluate those results. Note that you do not generally use the word
"Discussion" as the title for the major headings in this part of the
report. Rather, you choose titles that reflect the content of the
It is the story of your work
of results: resulting with easiest understanding by readers
The title: reflect the content of
the sections; not necessarily "discussion"
Conclusion. The conclusion section analyzes for the
most important results from the discussion and evaluates those results in
the context of the entire work. In your conclusion, you often make
recommendations based on those evaluations. The conclusion is much like an
informative summary except for one thing-in the conclusion, you are
writing to an audience who has read your report. Note that you do not
necessarily have to use the word "Conclusion" as the title for this
section. Depending on the situation, you might for example choose
"Conclusions and Recommendations." In still other situations, your
conclusion might span two sections.
Analysis of most important results.
Often make "recommendations" based on these evaluations
Title: "conclusions and recommendations" or split into
two separate sections
The back matter portion of your report contains your
appendices, glossary, and references. The back matter portion usually
begins on the page following the conclusion. Continue numbering back
matter pages with Arabic numerals. In other words, if the conclusion
section ends on page 16, the first appendix will begin on page 17.
- Start with a new page
- continued page numbering
Appendices. Use appendices to present
supplemental information for secondary readers. When the occasion arises
in the text, refer readers to information in the appendix. For example:
This section compares three software pages to run tests on
Hemodyne's blood analyzer. Hemodyne's blood analyzer performs test for
such diseases as syphilis, tuberculosis, and the AIDS virus. The
analyzer has a complex design, which is discussed in Appendix B. The
three software packages considered in this report are...
Treat each appendix as a major heading. If you have
only appendix, call it the "Appendix." If you have more than one appendix,
number the appendices with letters: Appendix A, Appendix B, and so on. As
with all major headings, skip three returns from the top margin and center
the appendix name and title. Illustrations in appendices are numbered as
follows. In both a single appendix and in an Appendix A, figures and
tables are numbered A-1, A-2, and so on. Equations in Appendix A are
numbered in the same way. In an Appendix B, illustrations and equations
follow a B sequence.
Appendix: supplemental information for secondary readers
Refer to the apendices in the text.
- Number them with capital letters (Appendix A, B, etc.)
- Number the illustrations and equations in separate
sequences like Fig. A-1, A-2 etc.,)
Glossary. Use a glossary to define terms for
secondary readers. Arrange terms in alphabetical order. Use italics or
underlines to key readers to terms that the glossary will define. Footnote
the first italicized or underlined term in the text and key readers to the
location of glossary, where that term and all future underlined or
italicized terms will be defined. Use a reverse indent for each definition
and treat each definition as a separate paragraph.
Glossary: definition of terms for secondary readers
References. Use a reference page to list alphabetically the
references of your report. Also skip a space between each citation.
Top of Page
Laboratory reports are written for several reasons. One
reason is to communicate the laboratory work to management. In such
situations, management often bases company decisions on the results of the
report. Another reason to write laboratory reports is to archive the work so
that the work will not have to be done in the future. This web page presents
a commonly used organization for laboratory reports:
Lab reports are
A complete laboratory report might
include the following sections:
- Results and discussion
You should not assume, though, that this organization
will serve all your laboratory reports. In other words, one organization
does not "fit" all experiments. Rather, you should pay attention to the
organization requested by your instructor who has chosen an organization
that best serves your experiments.
Organization may vary.
Abstract. A good abstract
- should have the topic of the experiment in the first
- contain the prodecure esed very briefly
- contains the newly introduced data in the body
- is no longer than 200 words
- is 1 paragraph
May not always be necessary
The "Introduction" of a laboratory report identifies the experiment to be
undertaken, the objectives of the experiment, the importance of the
experiment, and overall background for understanding the experiment. The
objectives of the experiment are important to state because these objectives
are usually analyzed in the conclusion to determine whether the experiment
succeeded. The background often includes theoretical predictions for what
the results should be.
- importance of experiment
- overall background (theoretical predictions)
The "Procedures," often called the "Methods," discusses how the
experiment occurred. Documenting the procedures of your laboratory
experiment is important not only so that others can repeat your results but
also so that you can replicate the work later, if the need arises.
Historically, laboratory procedures have been written as first-person
narratives as opposed to second-person sets of instructions. Because your
audience expects you to write the procedures as a narrative, you should do
Achieving a proper depth in laboratory procedures is challenging. In
general, you should give the audience enough information that they could
replicate your results. For that reason, you should include those details
that affect the outcome. Consider as an example the procedure for using a
manometer and strain indicator to find the static calibration of a pressure
transducer. Because calibrations are considered standard, you can assume
that your audience will have access to many details such as possible
arrangements of the valves and tubes. What you would want to include, then,
would be those details that might cause your results to differ from those of
your audience. Such details would include the model number of the pressure
transducer and the pressure range for which you calibrated the transducer.
Should you have any anomalies, such as unusual ambient temperature, during
your measurements, you would want to include those.
When the procedure is not standard, the audience would expect more detail
including theoretical justification for the steps. Given below is such a
procedure--this one for an experiment devised to determine whether the
frictional torque associated with a multi-turn film potentiometer is
strictly the Coulomb friction between the slider and the film.
The test performed on the potentiometer was accomplished by winding a
string around the potentiometer shaft, attaching a mass to the string, and
letting the mass fall. The change in resistance of the potentiometer with
time indicated the acceleration of the mass. In this experiment it was
assumed that the constant Coulomb friction torque was the only friction
affecting the potentiometer. If this assumption were true, the friction
force from the torque would be Ff = T/r (where T
is the torque and r is the radius of the potentiometer's shaft).
Likewise, the gravity force would be Fg = mg (where
m is the mass tied to the string and g is the gravitational
acceleration). A force balance then gives
T = mr (g-a),
where a is the acceleration of the mass. If the assumption holds
that the only friction affecting the potentiometer was constant Coulomb
friction, then each mass would undergo a constant acceleration.
The potentiometer measured voltage versus time for the masses as they
dropped, but the measurement of interest to us was position versus time.
For that reason, a 'calibration' was performed before we measured any
data. In the calibration, the potentiometer's initial voltage was
measured. Then the string was pulled a set distance (2 inches), and the
voltage was recorded. This process of pulling the string a set distance
and recording the voltage continued another two times (see Appendix A for
the results). To determine the relationship between voltage and position,
the differences in the voltages were averaged and divided by the length.
The resulting relationship was 0.9661 volts/inch.
Five different masses were used to test the assumption of constant
acceleration. For each mass, the string was rolled up on the shaft, the
oscilloscope was triggered, and the shaft was released. As each mass
dropped, the oscilloscope collected the potentiometer's voltage versus the
time. After obtaining plots for each mass, we used the voltage-position
relationship, mentioned above, to convert the data from the form voltage
versus time to the form position versus time squared. The residuals of the
data determined whether the assumption of constant acceleration was valid.
Procedures ≈ methods
Purpose: allow duplication
of the experiments by
- Yourself in future
What to write:
- enough information that others
could replicate your results
- only names of known standard) methods, not
- brands and model numbers of the equipment used
- abnormal environmental conditions (varying room temp,
loe power voltage etc.,)
- For nonstandard methods: theories justifying the steps
- description and purification method of chemicals
- methods of data analysis
- sketch of a detailed experimental setup
- Flow diagram for a complex procedure
- List of the code of a software developed (as an
appendix if long)
- Name and version information of commercial software
Results and Discussion.
The heart of a laboratory report is the presentation of the results and
the discussion of those results. In some formats, "Results" and "Discussion"
appear as separate sections. However, P.B. Medawar  makes a strong
case that the two should appear together, particularly when you have many
results to present (otherwise, the audience is faced with a "dump" of
information that is impossible to synthesize). Much here depends upon your
experiment and the purpose of your laboratory report. Therefore, pay
attention to what your laboratory instructor requests. Also, use your
judgment. For instance, combine these sections when the discussion of your
first result is needed to understand your second result, but separate these
sections when it is useful to discuss the results as a whole after all
results are reported.
In discussing the results, you should not only analyze the results, but
also discuss the implications of those results. Moreover, pay attention to
the errors that existed in the experiment, both where they originated and
what their significance is for interpreting the reliability of
conclusions. One important way to present numerical results is to show them
Results & Discussion: Presentation an evaluation of
Combined ("Results & Discussion" or Separate sections
("Results" and "Discussion")?
- seperate when it is useful to discuss the
results as a whole after all results are reported
- combined when the discussion of your first result is
neede to understand your second result
In longer laboratory reports, a "Conclusion" section often appears.
Whereas the "Results and Discussion" section has discussed the results
individually, the "Conclusion" section discusses the results in the context
of the entire experiment. Usually, the objectives mentioned in the
"Introduction" are examined to determined whether the experiment succeeded.
If the objectives were not met, you should analyze why the results were not
as predicted. Note that in shorter reports or in reports where "Discussion"
is a separate section from "Results," you often do not have a "Conclusion"
"Conclusion" section discusses the results in the context of the entire
Achievements of the objectives are examined.
If you have a separate "discussion" section in a short
report, you may omit "conclusions"
In a laboratory report, appendices often are included. One type of
appendix that appears in laboratory reports presents information that is too
detailed to be placed into the report's text. For example, if you had a long
table giving voltage-current measurements for an RLC circuit, you might
place this tabular information in an appendix and include a graph of the
data in the report's text. Another type of appendix that often appears in
laboratory reports presents tangential information that does not directly
concern the experiment's objectives.
If the appendix is "formal," it should contain a beginning, middle, and
ending. For example, if the appendix contains tables of test data, the
appendix should not only contain the tabular data, but also formally
introduce those tables, discuss why they have been included, and explain the
unusual aspects that might confuse the reader. Because of time constraints,
your instructor might allow you to include "informal" appendices with
calculations and supplemental information. For such "informal" situations,
having a clear beginning, middle, and ending is not necessary. However, you
should still title the appendix, place a heading on each table, place a
caption beneath each figure, and insert comments necessary for reader
- too detailed information information
(e.g., long tables of which a graph is included in the text)
- tangential (secondary) information (like the whole
story of a case study similar to yours)
Similar seriesness is expected for appendices:
- title of the appendix
- caption to figures and tables
- comments for reader understanding etc.
A Sample Report
This report discusses an experiment to study the relationship of
temperature and pressure of an ideal gas (air) that was heated in a
closed container. Because the ideal gas was in a closed container, its
volume remained constant. The objective of the experiment is to test
whether the ideal equation of state holds. In the equation,
pV = mRT,
where p is the pressure the gas, V is the volume, m is the mass, R is
a constant, and T is temperature. This report presents the procedures
for the experiment, the experiment's results, and an analysis of those
In this experiment, air (an ideal gas) was heated in a pressure vessel
with a volume of 1 liter. Attached to this pressure vessel was a
pressure transducer and thermocouple to measure the pressure and the
temperature, respectively, of the air inside the vessel. Both of these
transducers produced voltage signals (in Volts) that were calibrated to
the pressure (kPa) and temperature (K) of the air (the atmospheric
pressure for where the experiment occurred is assumed to be 13.6 psia).
In addition, the theoretical temperature (K) of air was calculated as a
function of the measured pressured values (kPa).
Results and Discussion
This section analyses the results of the experiment. The experiment went
as expected with no unusual events that would have introduced error. The
voltages as measured for the pressure and temperature transducers appear
in Table A-1 of the Appendix. Also included in the Appendix are the
equations used for calibrating those voltages with the actual pressures
and temperatures. These equations led to the values of pressure and
temperature that are shown the third and fourth columns of Table A-1.
From these values, a graph between temperature (K) and pressure (kPa)
was created (Figure A-1). As can be seen from the graph, the
relationship of temperature versus pressure is roughly linear.
As part of this experiment, the theoretical values of temperature
were calculated for each measured pressure value. In this calculation,
which used the ideal gas equation, the volume and mass were assumed to
be constant. These theoretical values of temperature are shown in the
final column of Table A-1. From this final column arose Figure A-2, a
graph of ideal temperature (K) versus pressure (kPa). As shown in this
graph, the relationship between temperature and pressure is exactly
A comparison between the graph showing measured data (Figure A-1) and
the graph showing theoretical data (Figure A-2) reveals differences. In
general, the measured values of temperature are lower than the ideal
values, and the measured values are not exactly linear. Several errors
could explain the differences: precision errors in the pressure
transducer and the thermocouple; bias errors in the calibration curve
for the pressure transducer and the thermocouple; and imprecision in the
atmospheric pressure assumed for the locale. The bias errors might arise
from the large temperature range considered. Given that the temperature
and pressure ranges are large, the calibration equations between the
voltage signals and the actual temperatures and pressures might not be
precise for that entire range. The last type of error mentioned, the
error in the atmospheric error for the locale where the experiment
occurred is a bias error that could be quite significant, depending on
the difference in conditions between the time of the experiment and the
time that the reference measurement was made.
Overall, the experiment succeeded in showing that temperature and
pressure for an ideal gas at constant volume and mass follow the
relation of the ideal gas equation. Differences existed in the
experimental graph of temperature versus and pressure and the
theoretical curve of temperature versus pressure. These differences,
however, can be accounted for by experimental error.
Appendix: Experimental Data and Plots
This appendix presents the data, calculations, and graphs from the
experiment to verify the ideal gas equation. The first two columns of
Table A-1 show the measured voltages from the pressure transducer and
the temperature transducer. Column three shows the measured values of
pressures calculated from the following calibration curve for the
p = 4.3087(V·V) - 13.1176V + 10.7276
where V equals the voltage output (volts) from pressure transducer,
and p equals the absolute pressure (kPa). Column four presents the
measured values of temperature (K) calculated from the calibration curve
for the thermocouple:
T = Tref + V/S
where Tref equals the ice bath reference
temperature (0°C), V equals the voltage (volts) measured across the
thermocouple pair, and S equals the thermocouple constant, 42.4 µV/°C.
Finally, column 5 presents the ideal values of temperature for the
corresponding measured values of pressure. These ideal values arise from
the ideal gas equation (PV=mrt). Figure A-1 shows the graph of
temperature (K) versus pressure (kPa) for the measured case. Figure A-2
shows the graph of temperature versus pressure for the ideal case.
Table A-1.Data From Experiment
Figure A-1. Temperature versus pressure, as measured by the
Figure A-2. Temperature versus pressure, as calculated from
the ideal gas equation.
Design reports are written to introduce and document
engineering and scientific designs. In general, these reports have two
audiences. One audience includes other engineers and scientists interested
in how the design works and how effective the design is. Another audience
includes management interested in the application and effectiveness of the
Top of Page
- other engineers and sientists interested in how
effective the design is
- management interested in the application and
effectiveness of the design
For most purposes, the following section are included:
Summary. The summary, sometimes labeled the abstract or
executive summary, is a concise synopsis of the design itself, the
motivation for having the design, and the design's effectiveness. The
author should assume that the reader has some knowledge of the subject,
but has not read the report. For that reason, the summary should provide
enough background that it stands on its own. Note that if the summary is
called an abstract, you are usually expected to target a technical
audience in the summary. Likewise, if an executive summary is requested,
you should target a management audience in the summary.
- a concise synopsis of the design itself
- motivation for having the design
- design's effectiveness
The "Introduction" of a design report identifies the design problem, the
objectives of the design, the assumptions for the design, the design
alternatives, and the selection of the design being reported. Also included
for transition is a mapping of the entire report. Note that in longer
reports, the selection of design is often a separate section.
- design problem
- objectives of design
- design alternatives
- selection of the design being reported
The discussion presents the design itself, the theory behind the design,
the problems encountered (or anticipated) in producing the design, how those
problems were (or could be) overcome, and the results of any tests on the
design. Note that this part usually consists of two, three, or four main
headings. In regards to the actual names of these headings, pay close
attention to what your instructor requests. Also consider what would be a
logical division for your particular design.
Discussion - presentation of the design:
- problems encountered
- solution to those problems
- test results
Conclusions. The "Conclusions" section summarizes the design and testing work
completed and assesses how well the design meets the objectives presented in
the "Introduction." Note that if the design does not meet the objectives,
you should analyze why the design did not succeed and what could be modified
to make the design a success. Besides summarizing the work and analyzing
whether the objectives were met, the "Conclusions" section also gives a
future perspective for how the design will be used in the future.
Conclusions - summary of
- testing work
- achievement of objectives
- modifications needed
- future prospective
In a design report, appendices often are included. One type of appendix
that appears in design reports presents information that is too detailed to
be placed into the report's text. For example, if you had a long table
giving voltage-current measurements for an RLC circuit, you might place this
tabular information in an appendix and include a graph of the data in the
report's text. Another type of appendix that often appears in design reports
presents tangential information that does not directly concern the design's
If the appendix is "formal," it should contain a beginning, middle, and
ending. For example, if the appendix contains tables of test data, the
appendix should not only contain the tabular data, but also formally
introduce those tables, discuss why they have been included, and explain the
unusual aspects that might confuse the reader. Because of time constraints,
your instructor might allow you to include "informal" appendices with
calculations and supplemental information. For such "informal" situations,
having a clear beginning, middle, and ending is not necessary. However, you
should still title the appendix, place a heading on each table, place a
caption beneath each figure, and insert comments necessary for reader
Simmilar to a lab report's appendices
A Sample Design Report
Design of a Temperature Measurement and Display
Using the 68HC11 Microcontroller
This report presents the design of a temperature measurement and display
system that uses the Motorolla HC11 microcontroller. This design makes
use of the HC11 analog-to-digital converter and the serial subsystems.
Temperature measurement and display circuits were built and control
software was written to use the added hardware. In this design, the
overall objectives were met. By keeping track of the measured
temperature, the HC11 is able to control a temperature display that uses
light emitting diodes. Also, if the temperature becomes very cold or
hot, an alarm message is sent to a host PC terminal. This design has
many potential applications, including temperature control and factory
This report presents a design of a temperature measurement and display
system that incorporated the Motorolla 68HC11 microcontroller, simply
referred to here as the HC11. This design made use of the HC11's
analog-to-digital (A/D) converter and the serial subsystems.
As shown in Figure 1, the design included a temperature sensor
connected to one of the HC11's A/D input pins on Port E, and light
emitting diodes (LEDs) connected to Port B. These LEDs acted as
temperature indicators. Additionally, the design included a connection
between the HC11 and a remote personal computer (PC). This connection
served to send messages regarding temperature to the PC. An assembly
software program developed for this design performed various functions
for using the added hardware.
The design had two main objectives. The first objective was to use
the HC11 to measure temperature. Included in this objective was the task
of connecting the temperature sensor and the LEDs to the HC11. Also
included in this objective was the task of designing software to do the
following: initialize the A/D converter and serial subsystems; control
the measurement and storage of temperature in a RAM variable called
TEMP; and control the display of temperature on the LED outputs. The
second objective of the design was to use the HC11 to indicate if the
temperature went outside of prescribed limits: below 20 degrees
Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Included in this objective
was the task of connecting the HC11 to a remote PC terminal through an
RS-232 connection. Another task within this objective was developing
software to initialize the serial subsystem. The final task of this
objective was to create subroutines for the software program of the
first objective to have the HC11 send a message to the PC if the
measured temperature went outside the stated limits.
In performing the testing and design, my laboratory partner and I
divided the work in the following way. My partner assumed the lead role
in connecting the hardware, and I assumed the lead role in writing the
programs. Although one of us had a lead role in performing either the
hardware or the software, we worked collaboratively in checking both the
hardware and software and in troubleshooting any problems.
This report first presents the procedures for and assessment of the
design to have HC11 measure temperature. Then the report discusses the
procedures for and assessment of adding a serial output to the HC11
design to communicate whether the temperature is outside of prescribed
Figure 1. Temperature measurement and display system
developed for the Motorolla 68HC11 microcontroller, which is attached
to a universal evaluation board (EVBU).
Connecting a Temperature Measurement Circuit to the HC11
Connecting a temperature measurement circuit to the HC11 microcontroller
involved both hardware and software. Hardware was added to control the
measurement and display of the temperature. This hardware included a
temperature sensor attached to Port E and LEDs attached to Port B. The
circuit was designed according to the specifications obtained from the
Computer Engineering Laboratories web site for ECPE 4535 [Lineberry,
1998]. For the complete temperature measurement circuit, see Appendix A.
Procedures for Design. Within the circuit was an LM3911
temperature controller integrated circuit (IC), the output of which we
connected to a non-inverting op-amp. The output of this op-amp attached
to the HC11 A/D input pin E2 through a 1000-ohm resistor. The circuitry
was scaled so that 0 volts out corresponded to 0 degrees and 5 volts out
corresponded to 110 degrees. To each of the output pins of Port B, we
connected LEDs using a 74HC244 buffer IC and 330-ohm current limiting
resistors, as shown in Appendix A. The LEDs were located in the
breadboard area of the trainer kits.
To control this added hardware, we programmed the HC11 following the
pseudo code and program listing given in Appendices B and C,
respectively. The program shown in Appendix C consisted of three
subroutines that were called from Main. The three subroutines were named
Startup, GetTemp, and SetDisp. The Startup subroutine was used to enable
the A/D converter subsystem. First the A/D charge pump was powered up by
setting bit 7 of the OPTION register, and bit 6 was cleared so that the
charge pump used the system E-clock. After a 100 microsecond delay to
allow the charge pump to stabilize, the control word $22 was written to
the ADCTL register to start continuous, single-scan conversions on Port
E pin E2.
The subroutine GetTemp was used to input and scale the analog voltage
from the temperature sensor circuit. The register ADR3 held the result
of the A/D conversions, which was treated as an 8-bit binary fraction
between 0 and 1. This value was loaded into accumulator A and then
multiplied by a scale factor of 110 using the MUL instruction. The
result of this multiplication is a 16-bit number between 0 and 110, with
an 8-bit integer portion stored in accumulator A and an 8-bit fractional
portion stored in accumulator B. The integer portion of the temperature
was then stored in the RAM variable TEMP.
The subroutine SetDisp controlled the lighting of the LEDs connected
to Port B. The amount of lighting was based on the present value of
TEMP. First, TEMP was loaded into accumulator A and compared with the
value 20, the designated cut-off for low temperature. Accumulator B was
cleared to zero and represented the initial value to be written to Port
B. If the value in accumulator A was greater than or equal to 20, then
the value in accumulator B was shifted one position left and
incremented, and 10 was subtracted from accumulator A. The process then
repeated itself as long as the value in accumulator A was greater than
or equal to 20. An abbreviated form of this process appears in Figure 2
(the complete process appears in Appendix C). After the number of LEDs
to turn on were determined, as shown in Figure 2, the number of bits
indicated by the count value in accumulator B were set high on Port B
beginning with bit 0.
Figure 2. Flowchart illustrating the determination of the
number of Port B bits to enable for the LED display.
Assessment of Design. To test the operation of the GetTemp and
SetDisp subroutines, we measured the actual temperature with a
temperature probe and compared that with the measured value represented
by the LED display indicators at several different temperature settings.
Table 1 shows the results of the measurement comparison, where the
actual temperatures measured are shown on the left, and the temperatures
represented by the number of LEDs lit are shown on the right. From Table
1, we verified that the developed hardware and software for this part of
the lab were functioning properly. Overall, this section of the
laboratory went smoothly.
Table 1. Comparison of temperature measurements.
||Number of LEDs Lit
Adding Serial Output to the HC11
This section presents the addition of four subroutines to the existing
software developed in the previous section. The added subroutines,
listed in Appendix D, were called InitSCI, SendChar, SendMsg, and
CheckLimits. The InitSCI subroutine initialized the serial subsystem of
the HC11 so that it could communicate with the host PC at 9600 baud.
This initialization was done by writing control words to the BAUD,
SCCR1, and SCCR2 control registers in the HC11 as shown in Appendix C.
Procedures for Design. The subroutine SendChar was added to send
a single data byte from the HC11 to the remote PC terminal. The data
byte to be sent was contained in accumulator A. After waiting for the
TDRE bit in the SCSR register to be set, indicating that the HC11 is
ready to transmit another byte, the value in accumulator A was written
to the SCDR register to begin the transmission.
The subroutine SendMsg used the SendChar subroutine to write
character strings to the remote PC terminal. Before calling SendMsg, the
X index register was set to point to the beginning of the character
string to be sent. The SendMsg subroutine then sent out the string by
calling SendChar for each character until the NULL character was
reached, which marked the end of a string.
The third and final subroutine CheckLimits was added to the existing
software program to check the temperature range. The subroutine
CheckLimits called SendMsg to print the following message if TEMP was
less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit: "Temperature is very low." If TEMP was
greater that 90 degrees Fahrenheit, CheckLimits called SendMsg to print
the following message: "Temperature is very high." If TEMP was between
20 and 90 degrees Farenheit, CheckLimits called SendMsg to print the
following message: "Temperature is acceptable." A flag variable called
FLG ensured that the messages were not repeatedly sent for each entry
into the very hot, very cold, or acceptable temperature regions. FLG was
set to zero if TEMP was between 20 and 90 degrees, one if TEMP was less
than 20 degrees, and two if TEMP was greater than 90 degrees.
Assessment of Design. While developing the design presented in
this section, several mistakes and difficulties were encountered. The
initial setup of the serial subsystem of the 68HC11 involved some
troubleshooting. We also had problems with sending the alarm messages
more than one time because a flag variable was not set. The diagnosis
and solutions to these problems are discussed in this section.
Initially, the serial writes from the 68HC11 to the host PC did not
work properly because the SendChar routine did not check the TDRE bit
before writing to the SCDR register. This caused characters to be
dropped when sending a message. We also had a problem sending out
messages using SendMsg because we did not terminate the message strings
correctly with the NULL zero. By adding the NULL zero to the end of the
strings, the sending of messages worked as expected.
A final problem was the output rate of the alarm messages. At first,
we did not set a flag to indicate to the program that a message had
already been sent to the PC. This failure caused messages to be
continually sent to the PC terminal when the temperature was outside of
the normal operating region. This problem was fixed by making a variable
called FLG that was set as soon as the alarm message was sent and then
cleared when the temperature returned to the normal operating region.
This report has discussed the development of a temperature measurement
and display system. The objectives of this lab were to develop the
necessary hardware and software to have the HC11 measure temperature and
indicate whether that temperature fell outside of prescribed limits.
Both objectives were met. By keeping track of the measured temperature,
the HC11 was able to control an LED temperature display. Also, if the
temperature became very cold or hot, the HC11 sent an alarm message to a
host PC terminal.
This lab has introduced us to the important topics of A/D conversion
and serial communications. In the lab, an A/D converter allowed us
access to analog inputs of temperature from a remote computer. Besides
temperature measurement, A/D converters have many applications in
automatic control systems and factory automation. For example, in an
electric motor drive, the phase currents and flux are continually
measured by using scaling circuitry and an A/D converter input to a
Lineberry, Bob, "Computer Engineering Laboratories Website at Virginia
Tech," http://www.ee.vt.edu/cel (Blacksburg, VA: ECE Department,
1998), ECpE 4535: Laboratory Assignments, Lab X.
Motorola Corporation, M68HC11 E Series: Reference Manual, rev. 3
(Oak Hill, Texas: Motorola Corp. 1991), p. B-5.
Spasov, Peter, Microcontroller Technology: The 68HC11, 2nd ed.
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996), p. 107.
Appendix A: Hardware Schematic
Figure A-1 presents the hardware schematic for the temperature circuit.
The circuit was designed according to the specifications obtained from
the Computer Engineering Laboratories web site for ECPE 4535 [Lineberry,
Figure A-1. Hardware schematic for the temperature
measurement circuit designed for this lab. In an actual report, all
the connections, pin numbers, and pin labels should be shown.
Appendix B: Pseudocode for the Software Developed
*In an actual report, the pseudocode would appear
here. Also note that some professors allow you to substitute
an appendix with program flow charts for this appendix.
Appendix C: Program Listing
Assembler release TER_2.0 version 2.09
(c) Motorola (free ware)
; Temp_Monitor: This program implements a temperature
; measurement and display system. The A/D system is
; used to read an analog temperature. The value is
; scaled to Farenheit, and displayed on an LED bar
; display. If the temperature is above 90 or below
; 20, a message is transmitted over the serial link.
; Programmer: JMB
; Define some I/O registers
PORTB EQU $1004
BAUD EQU $102B
SCCR1 EQU $102C
SCCR2 EQU $102D
SCSR EQU $102E
SCDR EQU $102F
ADCTL EQU $1030
ADR1 EQU $1031
ADR2 EQU $1032
ADR3 EQU $1033
ADR4 EQU $1034
OPTION EQU $1039
; Define some constants
UPPER_LIMIT EQU 90 ; upper temperature limit
LOWER_LIMIT EQU 20 ; lower temperature limit
HOT EQU 2 ; flag value indicating
; temperature UPPER_LIMIT
COLD EQU 1 ; flag value indicating
Once you have written a
successful proposal and have secured the resources to do a project, you
are expected to update the client on the progress of that project. This
updating is usually handled by progress reports, which can take many
forms: memoranda, letters, short reports, formal reports, or
presentations. What information is expected in a progress report? The
answer to this question depends, as you might expect, on the situation,
but most progress reports have the following similarities in content:
Background on the
project itself. In many instances, the client (a manager at the
National Science Foundation, for instance) is responsible for several
projects. Therefore, the client expects to be oriented as to what your
project is, what its objectives are, and what the status of the project
was at the time of the last reporting.
achievements since last reporting. This section follows the progress
of the tasks presented in the proposal's schedule.
problems that have arisen. Progress reports are not necessarily for
the benefit of only the client. Often, you the engineer or scientists
benefit from the reporting because you can share or warn your client
about problems that have arisen. In some situations, the client might be
able to direct you toward possible solutions. In other situations, you
might negotiate a revision of the original objectives, as presented in
Discussion of work
that lies ahead. In this section, you discuss your plan for meeting
the objectives of the project. In many ways, this section of a progress
report is written in the same manner as the "Plan of Action" section of
the proposal, except that now you have a better perspective for the
schedule and cost than you did earlier.
whether you will meet the objectives in the proposed schedule and
budget. In many situations, this section is the bottom line for the
client. In some situations, such as the construction of a highway,
failure to meet the objectives in the proposed schedule and budget can
result in the engineers having to forfeit the contract. In other
situations, such as a research project, the client expects that the
objectives will change somewhat during the project.
Top of Page
Progress Reports: updating the client, supporter, or
academic department on the progress of the project
- formal reports
- background on the project itself (summary of topic,
objectives, status at the time of the last report)
- discussion of achievements since the last reporting
- problems arised
- work that lies ahead
- assessment of objectives in the proposed schedule and
A Sample Progress
Mechanical Engineering Department
October 28, 1996
To: Michael Alley
From: Kris Johnson
Subject: Progress of My
Research on the Evacuation of the R.M.S. Titanic
This memo responds to your request on the progress of my
research project for ME 4984. As you might remember,
my research project was an assessment of the evacuation of passengers
from the R.M.S. Titanic on April 14-15, 1912, after it struck an
iceberg. As presented in my proposal of October 14,
1996, I identified two principal objectives for the research: (1) assess
theevacuation equipment that was available when the ship struck the iceberg,
and (2) assess the evacuation procedures during the
three hours that it took the Titanic to sink. This memo will first
present the research that I have completed so far, including
preliminary results. Then this memo will discuss the
remaining research and suggest modifications to that research based on
information uncovered so far. Finally, the memo will
discuss my progress on meeting the original deadlines for
Since submitting my proposal, I have spent most of my
research time obtaining and reading sources. My
principal source, Titanic: End of the
Dream [Wade, 1992], is a book that has
required much time to read through. Figure 1 presents
a timeline depicting the work done so far. The shaded
bars represent work that has been completed.
Preliminary research shows that an assessment of the equipment is
straightforward. The Titanic did not have nearly
enough lifeboats. In fact, it had lifeboats for only about half the 2200
passengers and crewmembers, but this lack of available lifeboats was
not unusual for cruise ships at that time [Wade,
1992]. Of more interest from an engineering perspective is an assessment of
the procedure the crew used for loading and filling
those boats during the three hours that it took for
the Titanic to sink. For instance, the first lifeboat that was lowered into
the water was at less than half capacity. That low
percentage is interesting since almost two-thirds of the passengers and crew
went down with the ship. Why were the lifeboats not full? Was it
because the crew members were not skilled at filling
them? Or was it because the crew had not made the passengers aware of the
severity of the situation? Or was it something else? These questions
are interesting from the perspective of safety
Timeline showing progress on research project. The filled bars indicate the
work that has been completed. The open bars indicate the work that has yet to
be done. The triangles indicate the key milestones:
the formal presentation (November 11) and the formal report (December 6).
Because preliminary results in the previous section raise
interesting questions about the evacuation procedure,
I would like to change my research to focus on that evacuation procedure, as
opposed to discussing both the evacuation procedure and equipment. By
focusing on the evacuation procedures, I believe that
I can achieve more depth into a subject that could provide important
safety lessons for engineers.
So far, I am on schedule with the research project. The open
bars shown in Figure 1 present the timeline of work
that I have yet to do to complete my research project by December 6, 1996.
The two triangles indicate the important milestones for the
project, the top one being the formal presentation
(November 11) and the bottom one being the formal report (December 6). Most
of the work remaining involves preparing a
presentation on a portion of the research, drafting the final
report, and revising the formal report. Because I am choosing a
synopsis of the procedures for filling the lifeboats
as my presentation topic (a topic that requires the presence of key images
that will be used in the final report), I will have a
head start on assembling important illustrations for the
This progress report has updated you on the status of my
research on the evacuation of the R.M.S. Titanic on
the night of its sinking. As stated, I am on schedule and should complete
the project by the original deadline, December 6,
1996. Because preliminary research has raised
interesting questions about the evacuation procedures, I request permission
to modify my original objectives, discussed in the
proposal, to focus on those evacuation procedures. In doing so, I
believe that I will attain depth into an interesting engineering
aspect of the Titanic's sinking.<P>
Wade, Wyn Craig,
Titanic: End of the Dream (New York:
In engineering, the formats of
instructions can vary from single-phrase cautions on clothing to thick
handbooks on procedures in nuclear submarines. Instructions have four
unusual aspects of style. First, instructions often include numbered steps.
Using numbered steps with white space between each step allows readers to
perform a step of the process and then quickly find their place in the
instructions. Also, instructions include the use of the imperative mood, in
which the subject is an understood you (for example, "Learn the basic
procedures of first aid"). Note that you do not use the imperative mood in
every sentence; however, you often use it for important steps. In the
language for instructions, you also use cautions to warn readers of
difficult or dangerous steps. Finally, with instructions, you use more
illustrations or examples than with other types of documents.
Instructions tell people how to perform a
process. Because processes are so common in engineering, engineers often
write instructions. For example, you may have to write specifications to
technicians on how to machine a drive shaft, or you may have to write a
software manual for computer users on how to run a contour-plotting
program. You may even have to instruct the public on the safety
precautions for using a snow blower that your company manufacturers. Each
of these three examples points to the importance of well-written
instructions in engineering. If the specifications for the drive shaft are
unclear, your company may have to resubmit the job (at your company's
expense). If the software manual is disorganized, users of the program may
waste valuable time searching for a command. If the safety precautions for
your company's snow blower are ambiguous, someone could be injured. Money,
time, and health often depend of the quality of the writing in
Top of Page
Instructions: telling people how to perform a process
- technicians or workers of the same company (handbooks)
- users (user manuals)
- people (cautions or warnings)
Format varies from a single sentence warning to a thick
- numbered and sufficiently separated steps
- Use of imperative style (commands, orders) but not at
- cautions or warnings on difficult or dangerous steps
- more illustrations and examples
A Sample Instruction
How to and More Importantly,
How NOT to Treat a Snakebite
I recently was advised that someone that was bitten by a Copperhead and
when treated at the local hospital it was evident that the staff had no idea
on how to treat the bite. It was purely by luck that one on the doctors at
the hospital (but not part of the A&E staff is a keen herpetologist and knew
how to correctly treat a bite. This was after ice was incorrectly used (it
shouldn't have been used at all with a snake bite) and the patient after
suffering much pain is now recovered.
The information below has been put together from numerous articles (all
of them from medical and expert herpetologists). I hope that this article
will help to remedy the situation, so that mistakes like the one related
above happen less frequently.
Lets cover the most important part first:
What Not To Do
Though U.S. medical professionals may not agree on every aspect of what
to do for snakebite first aid, they are nearly unanimous in their views of
what not to do. Among their recommendations:
- No ice or any other type of cooling on the bite. Research has shown
this to be potentially harmful. The same applies for hot packs.
- No tourniquets. This cuts blood flow completely and may result in loss
of the affected limb.
- No electric shock. This method is under study and has yet to be proven
effective. It could harm the victim.
- No incisions in the wound. Such measures have not been proven useful
and may cause further injury.
- Do not eat or drink anything unless advised by medical sources.
- Do not engage in strenuous physical activity.
- Do not drink any alcohol or use any medication.
- Do not apply oral (mouth) suction to bite.
- Do not remove dressings/elastic wraps until arrival at hospital and
- Do not waste time or take any risks trying to kill or catch (to bring
in) the snake responsible for the bite.
Arizona physician David Hardy, M.D., says part of the problem when
someone is bitten is the element of surprise. "People often aren't trained
in what to do, and they are in a panic situation." He adds that
preparation--which includes knowing in advance how to get to the nearest
hospital--could greatly reduce anxiety and lead to more effective care.
Now let's look at the advice on how to treat snakebite:
First Aid for Snakebites
"In the past five or 10 years, there's been a backing off in first aid
from really invasive things like making incisions," says Arizona physician
David Hardy, M.D., who studies snakebite epidemiology. "This is because we
now know these things can do harm and we don't know if they really change
Many health-care professionals embrace just a few basic first-aid
techniques. According to the American Red Cross, these steps should be
- Wash the bite with soap and water.
- Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart (if
- Get medical help.
"The main thing is to get to a hospital and don't delay," says Hardy.
"Most bites don't occur in real isolated situations, so it is feasible to
get prompt [medical care]." He describes cases in Arizona where people have
caught rattlesnakes for sport and gotten bitten. "They waited until they
couldn't stand the pain anymore and finally went to the hospital after the
venom had been in there a few hours. But by then, they'd lost an opportunity
for [effective treatment]," which increased the odds of long-term
complications. Some medical professionals, along with the American Red
Cross, cautiously recommend two other measures:
- If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, a
bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, may help slow venom.
The bandage should not cut off blood flow from a vein or artery. A good
rule of thumb is to make the band loose enough that a finger can slip
under it. The bandage should be a crepe or elastic bandage and should be
wrapped as you would for a sprain.
- A suction device may be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of
the wound without making cuts. Suction instruments often are included in
commercial snakebite kits.
What to Tell The Staff at the Hospital
- Ask Staff to Contact Poison Control Immediately.
- Locate nearest Antivenom/Antivenin Resource.
- Ask staff to use physician consultants available through Poison
- Describe the snake to the consultant so that the correct antivenin can
be administered (if needed and one is actually available for that species
Some bites, such as those inflicted when snakes are accidentally stepped
on or encountered in the wild are nearly impossible to prevent. But many
experts say a few simple precautions can significantly lower the risk of
- Leave snakes alone. Many people are bitten because they try to kill a
snake or get a closer look at it.
- Stay out of tall grass unless you wear thick leather boots, and remain
on hiking paths as much as possible.
- Keep hands and feet out of areas you can't see. Don't pick up rocks or
firewood unless you are out of a snake's striking distance. (A snake can
strike around half its length)
- Be cautious and alert when climbing rocks.
- Be aware of which venomous snakes that are common to the area before
you set out.
What do you do if you encounter a snake when walking, etc.? All you need
to do is simply walk around the snake, giving it a wide berth, say six foot
or so and leave it alone. Whatever you do, don't try to catch it or annoy
Where Can I find Out More?
This article is for informational purposes and no liability is assumed
in its use. Always consult with a competent medical professional regarding
health related issues. Because of its rarity, some doctors know little or
nothing about snakebite management so one should always request that they
contact a Poison Control Center and ask to be placed in direct telephone
contact/consultation with a physician who is experienced in this area. A
number of tragic deaths have occurred due to the lack of medical knowledge
about snakebite by staff at many A&E/Hospitals.
Top of Page
In engineering and
science, a thesis or dissertation is the culmination of a master's or PhD
degree. A thesis or dissertation presents the research that the student
performed for that degree. From the student's perspective, the primary
purpose of a thesis or dissertation is to persuade the student's committee
that he or she has performed and communicated research worthy of the
degree. In other words, the main purpose of the thesis or dissertation is
to help the student secure the degree. From the perspective of the
engineering and scientific community, the primary purpose is to document
the student's research. Although much research from theses and
dissertations is also communicated in journal articles, theses and
dissertations stand as detailed documents that allow others to see what
the work was and how it was performed. For that reason, theses and
dissertations are often read by other graduate students, especially those
working in the research group of the authoring student.
Dissretation - thesis especially for PhD degree
Content : presentation of the research that the student
performed for the degree.
- student - convince that your work scientific enough to
deserve the degree
- Engineering or scientific community - all of your work
Difference from the journal articles - more detail in
format of a thesis or dissertation encompasses the layout and typography of
the document. For instance, questions of format would include how much line
spacing to have (single, space and a half, or double), where to place page
numbers (bottom centered, bottom right, or top right), and how to format
chapter titles, main headings, and subheadings. For these questions, there
is no universal format in engineering and science. For that reason, each
student should check the guidelines given at his or her institution.
With a thesis or dissertation, the format
also encompasses the names of the sections that are expected: Abstract,
Acknowledgments, List of Figures, List of Tables, Nomenclature, Glossary,
and References. Given in the following link is a
sample table of contents that shows where these sections typically occur
in the document.
No universal format:
- Check the guidelines of your own institution
- Examine the most recent thesis in your department
- Get approaval from the authorities before proceeding
writing. The change of the format of a 80 page completed thesis is a
nightmare for a student. Changes may end up with invisible mistakes!
Style. In a
thesis or dissertation, the style is the way in which the author
communicates the research. One interesting stylistic consideration concerns
how formal the thesis or dissertation should be. In general, theses and
dissertations are written in a formal style. For instance, many committees
frown upon the use of contractions, such as don't or can't
that would be readily accepted in a less formal document such as an e-mail.
Another example of the formality of the document is the use of the word
you. While this word is commonly used in instructions, it does not
appear in theses or dissertations. One reason is that its use is too
informal (note, though, that the implied you does appear in clauses
such as see Figure 1. In regards to the words I or we,
the use depends upon the committee.
Another stylistic question concerns how
wide an audience the document should target. Given the purpose of a thesis
or dissertation, the primary audience for the document is the thesis or
dissertation committee. For that reason, while an author might include
appendices and a glossary to reach a wider audience, the text portion of the
document is usually aimed for the committee. For that reason, a thesis or
dissertation written to a multi-disciplinary committee is broader in style
than a thesis or dissertation written to a committee within a single
Yet a third consideration for theses and
dissertations concerns how much depth the author should go into. Certainly,
the author should go into enough depth to allow someone to repeat the work.
Moreover, the author should provide enough depth that the committee can
follow the author's argument. Along those same lines, the author has to
provide enough detail to persuade the committee that the work warrants the
degree. Some authors, however, go too far in this direction by including
details of almost every bolt that they turned. A balance has to be reached,
and a good way to determine that balance is to submit a title page,
table-of-contents, and sample chapter early in the writing process
A careful language is necessary for a good style
Wideness (length) dependes on audience (thesis commitee)
- broader style for a multidisciplinary committee
- norrower style for a single discipline
Depth (details): enough depth
- to allow someone to repeat the work
- the committee can follow your arguments
- to convince the committe that the work warrants the
- that there is a ballance (don't convert it to a lab
"Contents" Page of a Thesis
List of Figures
2.1 Effect of Boundary Layer Thickness on Secondary Flows
2.2 Effect of Temperature Gradients on Secondary
3 Theoretical Analysis of Secondary
3.1 Theoretical Development of Classical Secondary
3.2 Effects of Compression and Viscosity on Classical
Secondary Flow.... 29
3.3 Methods of Predicting Secondary Losses at the Endwall......................
4 Computational Methods
4.3 Numerical Simulation
4.4 Computing Resources
5 Experimental Design and Flowfield Measurements
5.1 Test Section Design
5.2 Cascade Inlet Flowfield
5.3 Instrumentation and Flowfield Measurement
6.1 CFD Analysis Methods and
6.2 Grid Independence
6.3 Comparison of Turbulence Models
6.4 Leading Edge
7 Experimental and Computational
7.1 Low-Speed Parametric Study
7.2 High-Speed Engine Conditions
7.3 Comparison of Low-Speed and High-Speed
8 Conclusions and Future
8.1 CFD Benchmarking
8.3 Parametric Study and Engine
8.4 Recommendations for Future Work
Appendix A: Data for Stator Vane
Appendix B: Uncertainty Analysis Calculations
SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL PAPERS
There is no universal recepie for the preparation of a
scientific paper. It is possible, however, to state principles and offer
suggestions that will encourage any author to present a body of scientific
information in a reasonably smooth and coherent form.
There are various resources on
this topic. The following discussion was based on:
- J.S. Dodd (editor),
"The ACS Style Guide - A Manual for Authors and Editors", 2nd Ed.,
American Chemical Society (1977), chapter 7. (On-line
Other resources used are:
4th Edition, American
Institute of Physics, Inc. (1990) (On-line
version with downloadable PDFs - Perfect and useful for all
- G. Anderson, "How to
Write a Paper in Scientific Journal Style and Format", Bates College,
version with a very handy presentation)
P. Fairweather, "Publication
as an Academic Way of Life", Daekin University WEB Page (On-line
- Perfect in explaining the publication process)
No universal format
Types of (Journal) Papers
Followings are the types of
papers in scientific literature:
- Book Chapters
Articles, also called full papers, are definitive accounts of significant,
original studies. They present important new data or provide a fresh
approach to an established subject.
The organization and length of an article
should be determined by the amount of new information to be presented and
by space restrictions within the publication. The standard format is
suitable for most papers in this category.
article = full paper: present new data or provide a fresh
approach to an established subject
length depends on:
- new information presented
- space restrictions within publication
Notes are concise accounts of original research of a limited scope. They
may also be preliminary reports of special significance. The material
reported must be definitive and may not be published again later.
Appropriate subjects for notes include improved procedures of wide
applicability or interest, accounts of novel observations or of compounds
of special interest, and development of new techniques. Notes are subject
to the same editorial appraisal as full-length articles.
notes: preliminary reports of special significance
- improved procedures
- accounts of novel observations
- compounds of special interest
- development of new techniques
Value ≈ full article
Communications, called “Letters” or “Correspondence” in some
publications, are usually preliminary reports of special significance and
urgency that are given expedited (accelerated) publication. They are accepted if the
editor believes that their rapid publication will be a service to the
scientific community. They may also be comments on the work of others, in
which case the original authors' rebuttal may be published at the same
time. Communications are subject to strict length limitations; they must
contain specific results to support their conclusions, but they may not
contain polemics or nonessential experimental details.
The same rigorous standards of acceptance
that apply to full-length papers also apply to communications.
Communications are submitted to review, and they are not accepted if the
editor believes that the principal content has been published elsewhere.
In many cases, authors are expected to publish complete details (not
necessarily in the same journal) after their communications have been
published. Acceptance of a communication, however, does not guarantee
acceptance of the detailed manuscript.
Communications = "letters" = "correspondance" : reports of
- special significance
- urgency for accelerated publication
- comments on other articles
- small length
- no polemics
- no nonessential experimental details
- same standards as articles
- complete details in another publication
Reviews integrate, correlate, and evaluate results from published
literature on a particular subject. They seldom report new experimental
findings. Effective review articles have a well-defined theme, are usually
critical, and present novel theoretical interpretations. Ordinarily, they
do not give experimental details, but in special cases (as when a
technique is of central interest), experimental procedures may be
included. An important function of reviews is to serve as a guide to the
original literature; for this reason, accuracy and completeness of
references cited are essential. Reviews critically analyze the literature.
- integrate, correlate and evaluate results from
published literature on a particular subject
- seldom new experimental findings
- usually no experimental details
- serves as a guide to original literature
- critically analyze the literature
In multiauthored books, chapters may be accounts of original
research or literature reviews (like journal articles), but they may also
be topical overviews. They may be developed and expanded from
presentations given at symposia, or they may be written especially for the
book in which they will be published. Multiauthored books should contain
at least one chapter that reviews the subject thoroughly and also provides
an overview to unify the chapters into a coherent treatment of the
subject. In a longer book that is divided into sections, each section may
need a short overview chapter.
In books entirely written by one author
or collaboratively by more than one author, each chapter treats one
subdivision of the broader topic, and each is a review and overview.
- multiauthored books
- original research, lit.review or topical overviews
(Mainly from: "Publication
as an Academic Way of Life")
Top of Page
Deciding that you have "enough" material to
justify a paper is difficult for relatively
inexperienced researchers. In this it is best to be guided by your
supervisor and your peers. Other issues are the
relevance of, and interest in, your results, and whether your
approach or results might spark further studies by others.
Step 1: Deciding to submit.
Become aware of the standards evident in any
discipline within which you wish to publish, and
compare your work with them. The space in journals is very limited
(despite a recent doubling time of only 7 or so years!) and so
competition for publication can be fierce. Having a
relatively neat and informative story to tell is pretty routine, so
you may need to tidy up those loose ends before submitting a
manuscript. It is less common for papers to be
"prefatory" (i.e. foreshadowing work in progress rather than
reporting completed studies), but this does crop up more often in
From here on it is all proactive - you are
going to badger the editor of some journal to publish
Issues in deciding (guided by your supervisor):
- amount of material to justify publication
- relevance of, or interest in your results
- sparkling results, or approach
- standards of the discipline
- limited space in journals
- competition for publication
- report of completed work
Become aware of the range of journals that
publish the sorts of research you are doing. This
should be evident from what you read in the library and what ends up in the
reference list in your thesis.
Step 2: Journal selection.
You must select the most appropriate one to
target. What audience do you wish to reach? Is your
work of international, national or purely local significance? Use this
domain as criterion for choosing a journal.
There are probably four "types" of journals:
journals that are refereed, e.g. Australian Journal of Ecology
journals (also refereed), e.g. Environmental
journals or magazines (not always refereed), e.g. Water (the
AWWA journal), Planner
special interest or
semi-technical but popular magazines read also by the layperson
(rarely refereed), e.g. Victorian
Naturalist, National Parks Journal
I try to think in terms of the thrust of
the message I want to put into each manuscript I
write. Note differences of emphasis and subject matter that align roughly
with the publishing profile of different journals.
For example, some journals publish reports of
phenomena with relatively little wider analysis. Others prefer contrasts
drawn between your study and previously published
cases whilst some limit themselves to tests of
established theory or contributions to the body of theory around a subject
(including management questions). To see where your
manuscript would fit requires, of course, that you
are familiar with the journals in your field of study!
After sheer appropriateness, there are
other reasons for selecting a journal, e.g. how long
does it take to publish accepted manuscripts, is the journal new or
expanding, how many reviewers do they use, is it
refereed? There is also a pecking order of journals that
roughly translates into their rate of rejecting submitted
manuscripts. For example, in Nature or
Science it is about 85%, about 70% for Ecology and for the
Australian Journal of Ecology a bit over 50%
(for others left unnamed it is much closer to zero). A higher
rejection rate means that editors are being more selective. If many
more authors submit manuscripts then the rejection
rate can increase and so the journal continues to become
Although there are many steps required to successfully
publish a research study, the step is
selecting a proper journal for publication is very
important. Issues to
consider include the ‘‘level’’ or ‘‘tier’’ of the journal,
the scope and readership of the journal, and
whether the journal has published similar studies
in the past. If the author selects a journal characterized
by extremely stringent peer review and the
study is not of sufficient quality and impact, a
rejection may end the motivation for resubmission
and effectively kill the project or, at the least, it
will delay publication in an appropriate venue.
Conversely, if the manuscript is submitted to an
‘‘easy’’ journal (a journal that has a reputation for
a low rejection rate) and is accepted rapidly, the
article may not reach the widest and most appropriate
readership, or it may not be published in the
highest-quality journal possible, reducing its impact.
(DeBehnke et al. "Research Fundamentals:
Choosing an Appropriate Journal, Manuscript
Preparation, and Interactions with Editors",
ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2001; 8:844–850)
8500 journals in ISI WebOfScince!
- Audience (international, national, local)
(very norrow discipline → interdisciplinary)
(respect in scientific community)
- Type of journal
- (refereed disciplinary scientific journal
- speialist prof. Journal or magazine (not always refereed)
- interdisciplinary journals (refereed)
popular magazines (not refereed)
- Pofile of journal:
- theory vs application
- review vs full article
- publication lag
- Age of journal
(young journal ≈ easy acceptance, fast
- Rejection rate (selective)
"Tough" or "easy" journal?
- stringent peer review
- possibility of rejection
- may destroy your motivation
- low rejection rate
- easy acceptance
- may not reach appropriate readers
- reduce ethe impact fo your results
Step 3: Using a journal’s advice to authors.
Once you have
decided on a journal, you must obtain, study and digest the sheet titled
"Instructions to Contributors" (or similar) that is usually located
in either the front or the back of each issue (but
perhaps not all issues). Copies are also available from the
editorial office of the journal or via its Webpage (if it has one).
This is designed to guide anyone wishing to submit
a manuscript and gives details of the editors' expectations
regarding format, style, structure, number of copies, figure
preparation, etc. If you do not follow it closely
you run the risk of having your MS returned immediately (because it
indicates that you haven't thought about your MS in relation to
this journal - they might not be suited). Complying
with the advice sheet is one of the hoops that you must jump
through to gain acceptance for your manuscript.
Alternative Path - Doing it via Conferences.
Another way of getting published is to be
aware of upcoming conferences and to submit an
Abstract about your research. You will then be invited to give an oral
paper at the conference (unless your abstract was
awful), and perhaps contribute to a Proceedings
from the conference. Beware that not all conferences result in
publications. Two trends are becoming more
common: review of conference papers is becoming moderately
common, especially for international conferences; and conference
organizers are arranging with journal editors to
publish proceedings as special issues of the journal (in
this case the usual refereeing standard of the journal will
probably apply, as will the instructions to
authors). The other avenue for conference proceedings is as a book, but
the quality of, and procedures for, these vary a lot.
Step 4: Writing your manuscript.
Now you write
your manuscript. Start with the data, getting figures, tables and their
interpretation right. Then start to write the MS sections but you
don’t have to do that in the order of the finished
product. The easiest section is the Methods (ideally you made
thorough notes as you did your work!), then the Results,
Discussion, Introduction and lastly the Abstract or
You should be striving to communicate. This
involves attempting to avoid ambiguities and to
write exactly what you mean as concisely as you can (because few people
have as much time to read as they would like).
Always choose the simplest construction that
fulfils these criteria. Many books (see list at end) give alternatives to
the jargon-filled expressions we drift into so
easily. The key concepts to keep in mind are:
A good way to get there is to follow George
Orwell’s five rules:
never use a long word where a short one
if it is possible to cut a word out,
always cut it out;
never use the passive voice where you can
use the active voice;
never use jargon or foreign words if you
can think of everyday English equivalents;
break any of these rules sooner than
write anything outright barbarous!
Subsidiary objectives included fluency,
consistency, following conventions, hooking the
reader’s attention, avoiding annoying quirks and overall appearance. Try
to structure your arguments so that they lead
somewhere – to your conclusions, of course! Each
paragraph should address only one point or maybe a few closely related
ones. A practice I use regularly (especially in
Discussions, which I find hard to wrote) is to summaries on
scraps of paper the point of each paragraph. Then I push these
around until a clear and logical order emerges
(maybe with splitting or adding some).
You should get used to a
draft-feedback-edit cycle of writing. Any piece usually can be
improved by some thoughtful and measured consideration on it. Let a
draft sit for a day or so before attempting to edit
it. This allows time for it to turn over in the back of your
mind (often subconsciously, it seems to me) and you will be "fresh"
when you return to it.
Manuscript = MS
The key concepts:
- Clarity - avoid ambiguities
- brevity - no unnecessary informaion
- precission - a scientific presentation
- terseness - write exactly what you mean as concisely
- following conventions
- hooking the reader's attention
- avoiding annoying quirks (flourishing)
- overall appearance
- clear an logical order towards "conclusions"
Step 5: Getting feedback on your draft.
After writing your MS to fit the journal and its Instructions
sheet, get feedback on what you have written before
you submit it. As a minimum, your supervisor should read
everything you write because it is their duty to do so. Also fellow
students and staff, and your "significant other"
should read and critically comment of your draft. And it is a
until you submit it (thence a MS)! Editing what you have written is
an iterative process of polishing, polishing and
polishing. Refer to books on writing per se.
- your supervisor
- fellow students
- fellow staff
Once you having edited your drafts to
your satisfaction, you need to work off a checklist
before sending your manuscript away to the journal. Some thoughtful
journals provide them for you. As a minimum you
should check that: you have all sections of the
manuscript in the required number of copies; references appear as pairs in
the text and in the reference list (omit all ‘lost’
cases appearing in only one); all tables and figures are as
you want them and are referred to in the text; figures are readable
at the size they will appear in the journal (a good
idea is to submit them at the reduced size); it fits the
Instructions to Authors; and you make a clear point with the
manuscript. To emphasize this last part, it is wise
to give careful consideration to the title and the abstract/summary.
These are the parts that create the initial (often only!)
impression on the editor, reviewers and potential
readers. Communication can only occur after you have sucked them into
Step 6: Preparation checklist.
- you prepared all sections
- number of copies
- true referencing (reference numbers in text and list)
- all tables and figures as you want them
- figures are of appropriate size
- consistency with "Instructions to Authrs" of the
the above is right, do you just bundle it off to the journal? Wrong! As
well as the several copies and (perhaps) the
original figures, you should send a letter of
submission to the editor. This serves to open up the lines of
communication with the editor, who you will have to
deal with extensively over your MS. You can also make the
usual declarations that the work is your own and that you have not
published it elsewhere (nor have it currently being
considered elsewhere). It is also good to inform the editor of
any absences from work or the country you may have coming up and to
give contact addresses or numbers. I also include a
brief justification of why I believe this material
suits the journal (= the point of it) - in case the editor can't see the
obvious - and point to any novel features of my
work. As an editor, I appreciate getting these because it
indicates the author(s) has thought carefully about the MS and its
submission. The tone of this letter should display
a mixture of careful thought, confidence and humility. It is
NOT the place for bragging about your work! All this is sent to the
journal by the most secure post available to you -
you don't want to lose it now - but do keep a complete, final
copy for yourself. It is usual for journals to notify receipt of
your MS. If this doesn't happen within a month of
submission then fire off a politely inquiring letter. After
learning that it is being dealt with, just sit back and relax - it
is out of your hands now. For a refereed journal,
the editor is about to send it out to two or more specialist referees
for their advice on whether it should be published.
Step 7: Submitting.
Write a letter of submission
- title of the manuscript
- declarations of originality (it is your work and not
- Contact address
- justification of publication in that journal
- A serious but not bragging tone
- Send the package by a "SECURE" post
- Save a copy to yourself
- expect a letter of "receival" within one month. If
not, ask the editor about the fate.
Eventually all or part of your MS will be
returned by the editor, along with the reviews from
the referees (who usually remain anonymous). It is very rare that an
editor rejects a MS without review, but take the
hint if that happens rather than demand review. Each
reviewer will make general comments about the worth of your MS,
specific suggestions for changes and perhaps an
overall recommendation of its fate. It is usual to feel rather
crushed at this point. Yes, someone has threatened your baby that
you spent so much time on and now seems so clear
and perfect to you. I take a quick look at the reviews
then shove them in a drawer for a few days or until the rage
subsides. Then I take a cool and rational look at
the comments. Usually they turn out to be more helpful than
damaging. Consult your supervisor on this.
Step 8: Reviews arrive.
There are three things to keep in mind:
a good editor either only transmits or
emphasizes the important parts of the reviews
(i.e. the bits to consider carefully). Therefore you can't ignore them;
bad reviews do happen but it is pretty
pointless to argue over anything but errors of
fact - the real problem is that you haven't communicated with one
reader, the referee, who is usually a researcher
of some standing in the field - it is your problem, not
the bottom line is, do you want to
publish your MS or not? This may seem a little
cynical but I usually try to incorporate the suggested changes unless
they alter the meaning of my story or they are
just plain wrong.
So don't fight an anonymous enemy, respond
as best you can to the suggestions and attempt to
improve your communication as you go. It is not uncommon for me to go
much further than a review suggests and rewrite the whole MS to
better make my point. It is also important to know
when to desist and so withdraw your manuscript - flogging a
dead horse is no good unless you are a sadistic equine-fancier with
You will recieve:
- all parts of your manuscript
- Reviewer (referee reports)
Keep in mind:
- you can't ignore referee comments
- with bad reviews:
be calm and never argue over anything but errors of the fact
- incorparate the suggested changes unless they alter
the whole meaning or they are wrong
- don't fight. If you realize that your MS is not in the
standards of the journal, then withdraw and send to another journal
Pay particular attention to suggestions made by the editor.
He/she controls the destiny of your MS, can
override picky or contentious reviews and is also whether your revised
version needs to be sent back to referees. Above all, the editor is
concerned with matters of editorial policy for that
journal. This ultimate arbiter can also assist where you can't
reconcile separate reviews and over issues of the best way to
present material (there is usually some preferred
format - check recent issues of the journal). Together you can
work at improving your MS for publication. Be mindful also that,
along with issues of content, the editor also has
to ensure that your MS is as concise as possible and fits the
journal in matters of style, etc.
Step 9: Interacting with the editor.
Pay attention to suggestions made by the editor
The review/revise process may actually take several iterations
before all three parties (author, editor, referee)
are satisfied with the MS. It is virtually unheard of that a MS is
accepted without the need for at least minor changes. A need for
minor revision is a good indicator toward eventual
acceptance but don't bank on it! A request for a major revision
is an opportunity to consider the form of the whole MS, but don't
leave it too long or else you run the risk of
having it treated as a novel submission in view of your delay. Once
you have revised the MS to your satisfaction, send it back with
another covering letter outlining how you have
responded, the changes made and making your case over any
points of disagreement. The editor may or may not send your
revision back to the original reviewer(s) for
another look, but a detailed letter demonstrating your revisions
might just dissuade she or he from embarking on this lengthy
further step. You should try to convince the editor
but leave out the bulltwang - the editor will read your revision
carefully. Each time around the loop you should get closer to
acceptance, but you also need to be mindful of when
Step 10: Remember it's an iterative process.
review/revise process: may take several iterations (author,
editor, referee cycle)
At least "acceptance with
Send with a new cover letter including:
- how you responded
- the changes made
- points of disagreement
Your new MS may not be sent to the referees. Therefore be
as "scientist" as possible to convince the editor.
Hopefully after one or more revisions you will receive a letter
telling you that the MS has been accepted for
publication and perhaps giving some indication of when this will occur.
Only from this time can you use the description "in press" for your
MS (previously you should refer to it as "unpub.",
"in prep." or "submitted"). At acceptance your wishful
thinking becomes reality! Be prepared for a variable and perhaps
quite long delay before the next stage (your MS is
being copy-edited and sent to the presses - in fact it is
probably sitting in a queue somewhere waiting to be called).
Step 11: Acceptance & then delay.
You get an "acceptance letter". Consequences:
- you can cite it (as "in press")
- wait for the proofs
next thing that will happen is that proofs (usually page proofs rather
than galleys) of your paper will arrive. You must
check the accuracy of these against your MS (many
mistakes happen at the typesetting stage) and you should do so very
quickly (despite the delay since you last heard
anything, most journals have very tight production schedules).
To fail to do this or to be tardy runs the risk of either your
paper appearing as is, warts & all, or a further
delay. The latter usually means an even longer wait till your paper
finally appears in print (up to six months if the
journal appears only two times a year, 3 months for
4 times, etc.). So send back the corrected proofs ASAP. The best way to
proof read is to have someone else read from the MS
while you scan every character in the proofs
(or vice versa). Exhausting stuff! You can usually only fix errors
at this stage without extra fuss and cost. Other
changes cost money and cause delay.
Step 12: Proofs arrive.
Proofreaing - cheking the accuray against your MS, mainly
- be quick for fast publication
- someone else read from MS, you scan "every" character
in the proofs.
- major changes is not desired (journal rejects or ask
Also at the proof stage is your only opportunity to order reprints of your
paper (the electronic templates will be destroyed
after the print run). Some journals offer 25 to 50
free reprints but you may wish to get more. I usually get 100. After
publication, eager researchers will write to for
reprints upon seeing your paper in Current Contents, an
abstracting Webpage or on the shelf. It is a courtesy of research
for you to provide these free, although they will
cost you to get any extra ones. The trade-off is that the
arrangement is reciprocal, you can ask for an exchange or can get
into the habit of sending out reprint requests
yourself. So who should get one? Apart from your
supervisor, the School archives and your mum, you should give them to any
researcher who you want to impress or just
establish contact with. I try to send them to all who send
me reprint requests, rationing them so that they definitely go to
the third world, recognizably active researchers
and up-&-comers first. Be sure to keep about ten reprints
for your later use, e.g. as your portfolio in job or promotion
Step 13: Obtaining reprints.
limited number of free copies are offered.
You should order if you want more in the proof stage.
It is also possible that after your paper is published someone decides
that they don't like it and so they write what is
termed a rejoinder. This is another paper that basically
criticizes yours. You do have a right of reply that unfortunately
you must insist on with some journals. Although
some researchers love this cut-&-thrust (at least you get cited
and then you get to write another paper in reply!), you should
consider the arguments very carefully. Some replies
make the author look quite foolish. We all make mistakes,
but you may just have made one in print. Clear up all errors on
both sides and try to be gracious about it
whichever way it goes. See comments above about dead horses and
take counsel from your supervisor.
Step 14: Handling rejoinders.
Components of a Paper
Style Guide - A Manual for Authors and Editors)
Use the standard format, which is
described next, for reports of original research but not necessarily for
literature reviews or theoretical papers. Present all parts of your paper
as concisely as possible.
best time to determine the title is after you have written the text, so
that the title will reflect the paper's content and emphasis accurately
and clearly. The title must be brief and grammatically correct but
accurate and complete enough to stand alone. A two- or three-word title
may be too vague, but a 14- or 15-word title is unnecessarily long. Choose
terms that are as specific as the text permits: “a vanadium-iron alloy”
rather than “a magnetic alloy”. Avoid phrases such as “on the”, “a study
of”, “research on”, “report on”, “regarding”, and “use of”. In most cases,
omit “the” at the beginning of the title. Avoid nonquantitative,
meaningless words such as “rapid” and “new”.
Spell out all terms in the title, and
avoid jargon, symbols, formulas, and abbreviations. Whenever possible, use
words rather than expressions containing superscripts, subscripts, or
other special notations. Do not cite company names, specific trademarks,
or brand names of chemicals, drugs, materials, or instruments.
The title serves two main purposes: (1)
to attract the potential audience and (2) to aid retrieval and indexing.
Therefore, be sure to include several keywords. The title should provide
the maximum information for a computerized title search.
Series titles are of little value. Some
publications do not permit them at all. If consecutive papers in a series
are published simultaneously, a series title may be relevant, but in a
long series, paper 42 probably bears so limited a relationship to paper 1
that they do not warrant a common title. In addition, an editor or
reviewer seeing the same title repeatedly may reject it on the grounds
that it is only one more publication on a general topic that has already
been discussed at length.
If you cannot create a title that is
short, consider breaking it into title and subtitle.
- reflect paper's content and emphasis
- accurate and clear
- brief and gramatically correct but accurate and
complete enough to stand alone
- 5-10 words
- specific terms
- avoid jargon, symbols and abreviations
- should provide the maximum information(keywords) for a
- Avoid "series" titles. Some publications do not allow
- Break long titles into title and subtitle.
Byline and Affiliation.
Include in the byline all those, and only those, who made
substantial contributions to the work, even if the paper was actually
written by only one person.
Many publications specifically
request at least one full given name for each author, rather than only
initials. Use your first name, initial, and surname (e.g., John R. Smith)
or your first initial, second name, and surname (e.g., J. Robert Smith).
Whatever byline you use, be consistent. Papers by John R. Smith, Jr., J.
Smith, J. R. Smith, Jack Smith, and J. R. Smith, Jr., will not be indexed
in the same place; the bibliographic citations may be listed in five
different locations, and ascribing the work to a single author will
therefore be difficult if not impossible.
Do not include professional, religious,
or official titles or academic degrees.
The affiliation is the institution (or
institutions) at which the work was conducted. If there is more than one
author, use an asterisk or superscript (check the specific publication's
style) to indicate the author or authors to whom correspondence should be
addressed. Clarify all corresponding authors' addresses by accompanying
footnotes if they are not apparent. If the current address of a
corresponding author differs from that at which the work was done, give
the author's current address in a footnote.
Also provide the corresponding author's
e-mail address and fax number, in addition to postal address and telephone
The names of participants only
names with the initials of middle names.
No professional, religious, official or academic titles
Asterks (*) or superscript for
- authors from different institutions
- Authors to whom correspondance should be addressed
Fax and e-mail of corresponding author
Most publications require an informative abstract for every paper, even if
they do not publish abstracts. For a research paper, briefly state the
problem or the purpose of the research, indicate the theoretical or
experimental plan used, summarize the principal findings, and point out
major conclusions. Include chemical safety information when applicable. Do
not supplement or evaluate the conclusions in the text. For a review
paper, the abstract describes the topic, the scope, the sources reviewed,
an the conclusions. Write the abstract last to be sure that it accurately
reflects the content of the paper.
The abstract allows the reader to
determine the nature and scope of the paper and helps editors identify key
features for indexing and retrieval.
Although an abstract is not a substitute
for the article itself, it must be concise, self-contained, and complete
enough to appear separately in abstract publications. Often, authors'
abstracts are used in Chemical Abstracts. Furthermore, abstracts of
full papers submitted to ACS journals will be published in Advance ACS
Abstracts several weeks before the journal is published.
The optimal length is one paragraph, but
it could be as short as two sentences. The length of the abstract depends
on the subject matter and the length of the paper. Between 80 and 200
words is usually adequate.
Do not cite references, tables, figures,
or sections of the paper in the abstract. You may refer to equations or
structures presented in the body of the paper if they occupy only a single
line and can readily be incorporated into the running text when the
abstract is used in the secondary literature (e.g.,Chemical Abstracts).
Do not include equations and structures that take up more than one line.
Use abbreviations and acronyms only when
it is necessary to prevent awkward construction or needless repetition.
Define abbreviations at first use in the abstract (and again at first use
in the text).
- readers to determine the nature and scope
- editors to identify key features for indexing and
- complete enough for separate publication
- statement of the problem or purpose
- indication of theoretical or experimental plan used
- summary of principle findings
- safety information
- no evaluaton of conclusions
- no citing to references, tables, figures or sections
- avoid citing the equations
- avoid abbreviations or acronyms
- 1 paragraph
- 2-3 sentences
- 80-200 words
A good introduction is a clear statement of the problem or project
and the reasons that you are studying it. This information should be
contained in the first few sentences. Give a concise and appropriate
background discussion of the problem and the significance, scope, and
limits of your work. Outline what has been done before by citing truly
pertinent literature, but do not include a general survey of semirelevant
literature. State how your work differs from or is related to work
previously published. Demonstrate the continuity from the previous work to
yours. The introduction can be one or two paragraphs long. Often, the
heading “Introduction” is not used because it is superfluous; opening
paragraphs are usually introductory.
- clear statement of problem and the purpose
- concise background discussion
- significance, scope and limits of your work
- disussion of knowns (literature) and unknowns
- 1 or two paragraphs
- Heading "Introduction" may be omitted
Experimental Details or Theoretical
Basis. In research reports, this section can
also be called “Experimental Methods”, “Experimental Section”, or
“Materials and Methods”. Check the specific publication. For experimental
work, give sufficient detail about your materials and methods so that
other experienced workers can repeat your work and obtain comparable
results. When using a standard method, cite the appropriate literature and
give only the details needed.
Identify the materials used, and give
information on the degree of and criteria for purity, but do not reference
standard laboratory reagents. Give the chemical names of all compounds and
the chemical formulas of compounds that are new or uncommon. Use
meaningful nomenclature; that is, use standard systematic nomenclature
where specificity and complexity require, or use trivial nomenclature
where it will adequately and unambiguously define a well-established
Describe apparatus only if it is not
standard or not commercially available. Giving a company name and model
number in parentheses is nondistracting and adequate to identify standard
Avoid using trademarks and brand names of
equipment and reagents. Use generic names; include the trademark in
parentheses after the generic name only if the material or product you
used is somehow different from others. Remember that trademarks often are
recognized and available as such only in the country of origin. In ACS
publications, do not use trademark (™) and registered trademark (®)
Describe the procedures used, unless they
are established and standard.
Note and emphasize any hazards, such as
explosive or pyrophoric tendencies and toxicity, in a separate paragraph
introduced by the word “Caution:”. Include precautionary handling
procedures, special waste disposal procedures, and any other safety
considerations in adequate detail so that workers repeating the
experiments can take appropriate safety measures. Some ACS journals also
indicate hazards as footnotes on their contents pages.
In theoretical reports, this section is
called, for example, “Theoretical Basis” or “Theoretical Calculations”
instead of “Experimental Details” and includes sufficient mathematical
detail to enable other researchers to reproduce derivations and verify
numerical results. Include all background data, equations, and formulas
necessary to the arguments, but lengthy derivations are best presented as
Other names: "Experimental Methods", Experimental
Section","Materials and Methods"
- materials and methods
- sufficient detail for "duplicability"
- only literature citing for standard methods
- identitiy and purity criteria for chemicals of
- correct systematic nomenclature
- company name and model number of nonstandard apparatus
- description of nonstandard procedures
- cautions on dangeraous material or procedure (handling
procedures, waste disposal procedures)
- sufficient mathematical detail to enable others to
reproduce derivativations and verify numerical results
Summarize the data collected and their statistical treatment. Include only
relevant data, but give sufficient detail to justify your conclusions. Use
equations, figures, and tables only where necessary for clarity and
- data collected and their statistical treatment
- only relevant data
- equations, figures and tables
The purpose of the discussion is to interpret and compare the results.
Be objective; point out the features and limitations of the work. Relate
your results to current knowledge in the field and to your original
purpose in undertaking the project: Have you resolved the problem? What
exactly have you contributed? Briefly state the logical implications of
your results. Suggest further study or applications if warranted.
Present your results and discussion
either as two separate sections or as one combined section if it is more
logical to do so. Do not repeat information given elsewhere in the
- objective interpretation and comparison of results
- relation of results with current knowledge and your
original purpose (have you resolved the problem?, what is your
- statement of logical implications of results
- suggestions for further study
The purpose of the Conclusions section is to put the interpretation
into the context of the original problem. Do not repeat discussion points
or include irrelevant material. Your conclusions should be based on the
summary is unnecessary in most papers. In long papers, a summary of the
main points can be helpful, if you stick to the main points only. If the
summary itself is too long, its purpose is defeated.
Generally, the last paragraph of the paper is the place to
acknowledge people, organizations, and financing. As simply as possible,
thank those persons, other than coauthors, who added substantially to the
work, provided advice or technical assistance, or aided materially by
providing equipment or supplies. Do not include their titles. If
applicable, state grant numbers and sponsors here, as well as auspices
under which the work was done, including permission to publish.
Follow the journal's guidelines on what
to include in the Acknowledgments section. Some journals permit financial
aid to be mentioned in acknowledgments, but not meeting references. Some
journals put financial aid and meeting references together, but not in the
Conclusion - putting the interpretation into the context of
Summary - necessary for long
- people with major contributions
- joint organizations (state grant number)
In many journals and books, references are placed at the end of the
article or chapter; in others, they are treated as footnotes. In any case,
place your list of references at the end of the manuscript.
In ACS books and most journals, the style
and content of references are standard regardless of where they are
located. Follow the reference style presented in Chapter 6.
The accuracy of the references is the
author's responsibility. If you copy citations from another source, check
the original reference for accuracy and appropriate content.
References: check "Instructions to Authors" and obey
This discussion on format applies to most manuscripts, but it
is not a set of rigid rules and headings. If your paper is well organized,
scientifically sound, and appropriate to the publication for which you are
preparing it, you may include other sections and subsections. For example,
an appendix contains material that is not critical to understanding the
text but provides important background information.
Material that may be essential to the specialized reader but
not require elaboration in the paper itself is published as Supporting
Information. Examples are large tables, extensive figures, lengthy
experimental procedures, mathematical derivations, analytical and spectral
characterization data, biological test data for a series, molecular
modeling coordinates, modeling programs, crystallographic information
files (CIF), instrument and circuit diagrams, and expanded discussions of
peripheral findings. More journals are encouraging this type of publishing
to keep printed papers shorter.
Equations and Reaction
Top of Page
Equations should be numbered properly. Here are some
- Only displayed equations are numbered
- The preferred style is to number equations
consecutively throughout the text with arabic numerals in
paranthesis: (1), (2), (3). etc. Numbering by section is also
acceptable: (2.1), (2.2), (2.3), etc. In appendices use the numbering
sequence: (A1), (A2), (A3) etc.
- Place equation numbers flash with the right
margin. Place at least two characters between equation number and
equation. Use a "right alligned tab stop for this purpose in MS Word.
To insert such a tab stop follow this menu-click sequence: "Format /
An equation number should be centered
beside a group of equations identified by one number:
It should be alligned with the last
line of a multilinear equation:
Equation Editor of MS Word is sufficient
enough for most purposes, and equations produced are acceptable by most
journals. To insert an equation with Equation Editor, follow this
menu-click sequence in MS Word: "Insert / Object.../ Microsoft
equations should be numbered appropriately:
- right aligned numbering as (1), or (2.1) or (A1)
Tables and Figures
(Mainly from: "How to
Write a Paper in Scientific Journal Style and Format"
Top of Page
Every Figure and Table included in
the paper MUST be referred to from the text. Use sentences that draw the
reader's attention to the relationship or trend you wish to highlight,
referring to the appropriate Figure or Table only parenthetically:
rates were significantly higher after 24 h in running water than in
controls (Fig. 4)."
sequence homologies for the purple gene from the four congeners
(Table 1) show high similarity, differing by at most 4 base pairs."
When referring to a Figure in the text,
the word "Figure" is abbreviated as "Fig.", while "Table" is not
abbreviated. Both words are spelled out completely in descriptive legends.
Figures and Tables are numbered
independently, in the sequence in which you refer to them in the text,
starting with Figure 1 and Table 1.
In consideration of your readers, place
each Table or Figure as near as possible to the place where you first
refer to it (e.g., the next page.) For manuscripts (e.g. lab papers),
Tables and Figures are usually put on separate pages from text material.
Any Table or Figure you present must be
sufficiently clear, well-labeled, and described by its legend to be
understood by your intended audience without reading the results section,
i.e., it must be able to stand alone and be interpretable. Overly
complicated Figures or Tables may be difficult to understand in or out of
context, so strive for simplicity whenever possible. If you are unsure
whether your tables or figures meet these criteria, give them to a fellow
biology major (not in your course) and ask them to interpret your results.
Table legends go above the body of
the Table and are left justified; Tables are read from the top down.
Figure legends go below the graph; graphs and other types of Figures
are usually read from the bottom up.
Following examples show
the common anatomy of different tables.Tables are most easily
constructed using your word processor's table function or a spread sheet
such as Excel. Gridlines or boxes, commonly invoked by word processors,
are optional for our purposes, but unlikely to be permitted in a journal.
Refering in the text: (parenthetically)
Abbreviation: Figures only as "Fig."
Place in text: as near as possible to the place where you
first refer to it.
- well labeled
- described by its legend
- understood without reading the text
- Tables - top-left
- Figures - below
In these examples notice several
- the presence of a period after
- the legend goes above the
- units are specified in column
headings wherever appropriate;
- lines of demarcation are used to set
legend, headers, data, and footnotes apart from one another.
- footnotes are used to clarify
points in the table, or to convey repetitive information about entries;
- footnotes may also be used to denote
statistical differences among groups.
Below are example figures (typical line
and bar graphs) with the various component parts labeled in red. Refer
back to these examples if you encounter an unfamiliar term as you read the
Some general considerations about
- Big or little? For
course-related papers, a good rule of thumb is to size your figures to
fill about one-half of a page. Readers should not have to reach for a
magnifying glass to make out the details.
- Color or no color? Most often
black and white is preferred. The rationale is that if you need to
photocopy or fax your paper, any information conveyed by colors will be
lost to the reader. However, for a poster presentation or a talk with
projected images, color can be helpful in distinguishing different data
sets. Every aspect of your Figure should convey information; never
use color simply because it is pretty.
- Title or no title? Never use
a title for Figures included in a paper; the legend conveys all the
necessary information and the title just takes up extra space. However,
for posters or projected images, where people may have a harder
time reading the small print of a legend, a larger font title is very
- Offset axes or not? Elect to
offset the axes only when data points will be obscured by being printed
over the Y axis.
- Error bars or not? Always
include error bars (SD or SEM) when plotting means. In some courses you
may be asked to plot other measures associated with the mean, such as
Common Types of
In this example notice that:
- legend goes below the figure;
- a period follows "Figure 1" and the
legend itself; "Figure" is not abbreviated ;
- the measured variable is
labeled on the Y axis. In most cases units are given here as well (see
- the categorical variable
(habitat) is labeled on the X axis, and each category is designated;
- a second categorical variable
(year) within habitat has been designated by different bar fill
patterns. The patterns must be defined in a key,
located wherever there is a convenient space within the graph.
- error bars are included, extending +1
SD or SEM above the mean.
- statistical differences may be
indicated by a system of letters above the bars, with an accompanying
note in the caption indicating the test and the significance level used.
Frequency histograms (also called frequency distributions) are
bar-type graphs that show how the measured individuals are distributed
along an axis of the measured variable.
Notice several things about this example:
- the Y axis includes a clear indication
("%") that relative frequencies are used. (Some examples of an absolute
frequencies: "Number of stems", "Number of birds observed")
- the measured variable (X axis) has
been divided into categories ("bins") of appropriate width to visualize
the population distribution. In this case, bins of 0.2 cm broke the
population into 7 columns of varying heights. Setting the bin size at
0.5 cm would have yielded only 3 columns, not enough to visualize a
pattern. Conversely, setting the bin size too small (0.05 cm) would have
yielded very short columns scattered along a long axis, again obscuring
- the values labeled on the X axis are
the bin centers;
- sample size is clearly indicated,
either in the legend or (in this case) the graph itself;
- the Y axis includes numbered and minor
ticks to allow easy determination of bar values.
X,Y Scatter plot.
These are plots of X,Y coordinates showing each individual's or
sample's score on two variables.
Note in this example that:
- each axis is labeled (including units
where appropriate) and includes numbered and minor ticks to allow easy
determination of the values of plotted points;
- sample size is included in the legend
or the body of the graph;
- if the data have been analyzed
statistically and a relationship between the variables exists, it may be
indicated by plotting the regression line on the graph, and by giving
the equation of the regression and its statistical significance in the
legend or body of the figure;
- the range of each axis has been
carefully selected to maximize the spread of the points and to minimize
wasted blank space where no points fall. For instance, the X axis is
truncated below 50 g because no plants smaller than 52 g were measured.
The ranges selected also result in labeled ticks that are easy to read
(50, 100, 150…, rather than 48, 96, 144…)
X,Y Line Graph.
Line graphs plot a series of related values that depict a change in Y
as a function of X.
Notice here that:
- this time the dots ARE connected
dot-to-dot within each treatment, because cumulative percent germination
was measured within the same set of seeds each day, and thus is
dependent on the measurements of the prior days;
- a different symbol is used for each
treatment, and symbols are large enough (and connecting lines fine
enough) so that all can be easily read at the final graph size;
- in addition to the key to symbols, two
other kinds of helpful information are supplied in the body of the
figure: the values of the highest and lowest final cumulative percents,
and a dashed line (baseline) showing the lowest cumulative % germination
achieved. This baseline is defined in the legend.
Top of Page
Short declarative sentences are the easiest to write and the easiest to
read, and they are usually clear. However, too many short sentences in a
row can sound abrupt or monotonous. To add sentence variety, it is better
to start with simple declarative sentences and then combine some of them
than to start with long rambling sentences and then try to shorten them.
You and your colleagues probably have been discussing the project for
months, so the words seem familiar, common, and clear to you. However, the
readers will not have been part of these discussions. That is where copy
editors can help. Their job is to make sure that readers understand the
material you are presenting.
By all means, write in your own personal style, but keep in mind that
scientific writing is not literary writing. Scientific writing serves a
purpose completely different from that of literary writing, and it must
therefore be precise and unambiguous.
If English is not your first language, ask an English-speaking
colleague--if possible, a native English speaker--for help with grammar
Choosing the Correct Word or Phrase
► Use words
in their primary meanings; do not use a word to express a thought if such
usage is uncommon, informal, or primarily literary. Examples are using
“since” when you mean “because”, and “while” when you mean “although”.
Many words are clear when you are speaking because you can amplify your
meaning with gestures, expressions, and vocal inflections--but when these
same words are written, they may be clear only to you.
appropriate verb tenses.
- Simple past tense is correct for stating what was done, either by
others or by you: “The solutions were heated to boiling.” “The spectra
were recorded.” “Jones reviewed the literature and gathered much of this
information.” “We recently found that relativistic effects enhance the
bond strength.” “The structures were determined by neutron diffraction
- Present tense is correct for statements of fact: “Absolute rate
constants for a wide variety of reactions are available.” “Hyperbranched
compounds are macromolecular compounds that contain a branching point in
each structural repeat unit.”
- Present and simple past tenses may both be correct for results,
discussion, and conclusions: “The characteristics of the voltammetric
wave indicate that electron transfer and breaking of the carbon-iodine
bond are concerted.” “The absence of substitution was confirmed by
preparative-scale electrolysis at a potential located at the foot of the
voltammetric wave.” “IR spectroscopy shows that nitrates are adsorbed
and are not removed by washing with distilled water.”
► Use the
active voice when it is less wordy and more direct than the passive.
Poor: The fact that such processes are under strict
stereoelectronic control is demonstrated by our work in this area.
Better: Our work in this area demonstrates that such
processes are under strict stereoelectronic control.
► Use first
person when it helps to keep your meaning clear and to express a purpose
or a decision.
Jones reported xyz, but I (or we) found . . .
I (or we) present here a detailed study . . .
My (or our) recent work demonstrated . . .
To determine the effects of structure on photophysics, I (or we) . . .
However, avoid phrases such as “we believe”, “we feel”, “we concluded”,
and “we can see”, as well as personal opinions.
► Use an
affirmative sentence rather than a double negative.
|This reaction is not uncommon
|This reaction is common
This reaction is rare
This reaction occurs about 40% of the time
|This transition was not unexpected
||This transition was expected
We knew that such transitions were possible
|This strategy is not infrequently used
||This strategy is frequently used
This strategy is occasionally used
|This result is not unlikely to occur
||This result is likely to occur
This result is possible
► Watch the
placement of the word “only”. It has different meanings in different
places in the sentence.
Only the largest group was injected with the test compound. (Meaning:
and no other group)
The largest group was only injected with the test compound. (Meaning:
and not given the compound in any other way)
The largest group was injected with only the test compound. (Meaning:
and no other compounds)
The largest group was injected with the only test compound. (Meaning:
there were no other test compounds)
► Be sure
that the antecedents of the pronouns “this” and “that” are clear. If there
is a chance of ambiguity, use a noun to clarify your meaning.
Ambiguous: The photochemistry of transition-metal
carbonyl complexes has been the focus of many investigations. This is
due to the central role that metal carbonyl complexes play in various
Unambiguous: The photochemistry of transition-metal
carbonyl complexes has been the focus of many investigations. This
interest is due to the central role that metal carbonyl complexes play
in various reactions.
► Use the
proper subordinating conjunctions. “While” and “since” have strong
connotations of time. Do not use them where you mean “although”,
“because”, or “whereas”.
Poor: Since solvent reorganization is a potential
contributor, the selection of data is very important.
Better: Because solvent reorganization is a potential
contributor, the selection of data is very important.
Poor: While the reactions of the anion were
solvent-dependent, the corresponding reactions of the substituted
derivatives were not.
Better: Although the reactions of the anion were
solvent-dependent, the corresponding reactions of the substituted
derivatives were not.
Also: The reactions of the anion were
solvent-dependent, but (or whereas) the corresponding reactions of the
substituted derivatives were not.
“respectively” to relate two or more sequences in the same sentence.
The excitation and emission were measured at 360 and 440 nm,
respectively. (That is, the excitation was measured at 360 nm and the
emission was measured at 440 nm.)
► Use the
more accurate terms “greater than” or “more than” rather than the
imprecise “over” or “in excess of”.
greater than 50%, not in excess of 50%
more than 100 samples, not over 100 samples
more than 25 mg, not in excess of 25 mg, not over 25 mg
“fewer” to refer to number; use “less” to refer to quantity.
fewer than 50 animals
fewer than 100 samples
use “less” with number and unit of measure combinations because they are
regarded as singular.
less than 5 mg
less than 3 days
“between” with two named objects; use “among” with three or more named or
Communication between scientists and the public is essential.
Communication among scientists, educators, and the public is essential.
Communication among scientists is essential.
“assure”, “ensure”, and “insure” depending on your meaning. To assure is
to affirm; to ensure is to make certain; to insure is to indemnify for
He assured me that the work had been completed.
The procedure ensures that clear guidelines have been established.
You cannot get a mortgage unless you insure your home.
“affect”, “effect”, and “impact” depending on your meaning. “Affect” is a
verb meaning to influence, modify, or change. “Effect” as a verb means to
bring about, but as a noun it means consequence, outcome, or result.
“Impact” is a noun meaning a significant effect.
The increased use of pesticides affects agricultural productivity.
The use of polychlorinated benzenes has an effect on the cancer rate.
The effect of the added acid was negligible.
The new procedure effected a 50% increase in yield.
The impact of pesticide use on health is felt throughout the world.
The acid did not have a great impact on the reaction rate.
► It is
acceptable to use split infinitives to avoid awkwardness or ambiguity.
Awkward: The program is designed to assist financially
the student who is considering a career in chemistry.
Better: The program is designed to financially assist the
student who is considering a career in chemistry.
Ambiguous: The bonded phases allowed us to investigate
fully permanent gases.
Better: The bonded phases allowed us to fully investigate
“whether” to introduce at least two alternatives, either stated or
I am not sure whether I should repeat the experiment.
I am not sure whether I should repeat the experiment or use a different
I am going to repeat the experiment whether the results are positive or
“whether or not” to mean “regardless of whether”.
Incorrect: I am not sure whether or not to repeat the
Correct: I am not sure whether to repeat the experiment.
Also correct: Whether or not the results are positive, I
will repeat the experiment.
Also correct: Whether or not I repeat the experiment, I
will probably leave the laboratory late tonight.
► Use “to
comprise” to mean “to contain” or “to consist of”; it is not a synonym for
“to compose”. The whole comprises the parts, or the whole is composed of
the parts, but the whole is not comprised of the parts. Never use “is
Incorrect: A book is comprised of chapters.
Correct: A book comprises chapters.
Also correct: A book is composed of chapters.
Incorrect: Our research was comprised of three stages.
Correct: Our research comprised three stages.
the articles “a” and “an” according to the pronunciation of the words or
abbreviations they precede.
a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer
an NMR spectrometer
► Use “a”
before an aspirated “h”; use “an” before the vowel sounds of a, e, i, o,
“soft” u, and y.
an yttrium compound
the proper article to precede B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., and Ph.D., according
to pronunciation of the first letter.
a B.S. degree
an M.S. degree
phrases that imply comparisons should refer to the subject of the sentence
and be followed by a comma.
Incorrect: Unlike alkali-metal or alkaline-earth-metal
cations, hydrolysis of trivalent lanthanides proceeds significantly at
Correct: Unlike that of alkali-metal or
alkaline-earth-metal cations, hydrolysis of trivalent lanthanides
proceeds significantly at this pH.
Also correct: Unlike alkali-metal or alkaline-earth-metal
cations, trivalent lanthanides hydrolyze significantly at this pH.
Incorrect: In contrast to bromide anion, there is
strong distortion of the free fluoride anion on the vibrational
spectroscopy time scale.
Correct: In contrast to bromide anion, the free fluoride
anion is strongly distorted on the vibrational spectroscopy time scale.
► Use the
verb “compare” followed by the preposition “to” when similarities are
being noted. Use “compare” followed by the preposition “with” when
differences are being noted. Only things of the same class should be
Compared to compound 3, compound 4 shows an NMR
spectrum with corresponding peaks.
Compared with compound 3, compound 4 shows a more complex
► Do not
omit words needed to complete comparisons, and do not use confusing word
order. The subordinating conjunction “than” is often used to introduce the
second element in a comparison, following an adjective or adverb in the
Incorrect: The alkyne stretching bands for the
complexes are all lower than the uncoordinated alkyne ligands.
Correct: The alkyne stretching bands for the complexes are
all lower than those for the uncoordinated alkyne ligands.
Also correct: The alkyne stretching bands are all lower
for the complexes than for the uncoordinated alkyne ligands.
Incorrect: The decrease in isomer shift for compound
1 is greater in a given pressure increment than for compound 2.
Correct: The decrease in isomer shift for compound 1
is greater in a given pressure increment than that for compound 2.
Also correct: The decrease in isomer shift in a given
pressure increment is greater for compound 1 than for compound
often used in comparisons are “different from”, “similar to”, “identical
to”, and “identical with”. Generally these idioms should not be split.
Incorrect: The complex shows a significantly different
NMR resonance from that of compound 1.
Correct: The complex shows an NMR resonance significantly
different from that of compound 1.
Incorrect: Compound 5 does not catalyze
hydrogenation under similar conditions to compound 6.
Correct: Compound 5 does not catalyze hydrogenation
under conditions similar to those for compound 6.
Exception: These idioms can be split if an intervening
prepositional phrase modifies the first word in the idiom.
The single crystals are all similar in structure to the crystals of
Solution A is identical in appearance with solution B.
such as “relative to”, “as compared to”, and “as compared with” and words
such as “versus” are also used to introduce the second element in a
comparison. The things being compared must be in parallel structure (that
is, grammatically equal).
The greater acidity of nitric acid relative to nitrous acid is due to
the initial-state charge distribution in the molecules.
The lowering of the vibronic coupling constants for Ni as compared with
Cu is due to configuration interaction.
This behavior is analogous to the reduced Wittig-like reactivity in
thiolate versus phenoxide complexes.
coordinating conjunctions (“and”, “but”, “or”, “nor”, “yet”, “for”, and
sometimes “so”), correlative conjunctions (“either, or”; “neither, nor”;
“both, and”; “not only, but also”; “not, but”), and correlative
constructions (“as well as”; e.g., “as well as”) to connect words or
groups of words of equal grammatical rank.
Incorrect: Compound 12 was prepared analogously
and by Lee's method (5).
Correct: Compound 12 was prepared in an analogous
manner and by Lee's method (5).
Incorrect: It is best to use alternative methods both
because of the condensation reaction and because the amount of water in
the solvent increases with time.
Correct: It is best to use alternative methods both
because of the condensation reaction and because of the increase in the
amount of water in the solvent with time.
Incorrect: The product was washed either with alcohol
Correct: The product was washed with either alcohol or
Also correct: The product was washed either with alcohol
or with acetone.
Incorrect: Not only was the NiH functionality active
toward the C-donor derivatives but also toward the N donors.
Correct: The NiH functionality was active not only toward
the C-donor derivatives but also toward the N donors.
Also correct: The NiH functionality was not only active
toward the C-donor derivatives but also active toward the N donors.
Also correct: Not only was the NiH functionality active
toward the C-donor derivatives, but it was also active toward the N
parallel constructions in series and lists, including section headings and
subheadings in text and tables and listings in figure captions.
► Do not
try to use parallel construction around the word “but” when it is not used
as a coordinating conjunction.
Increasing the number of fluorine atoms on the adjacent boron atom
decreases the chemical shift, but only by a small amount.
The reaction proceeded readily, but with some decomposition of the
Words and Phrases To Avoid
slang and jargon.
► If you
have already presented your results at a symposium or other meeting and
are now writing the paper for publication in a book or journal, delete all
references to the meeting or symposium such as “Good afternoon, ladies and
gentlemen”, “This morning we heard”, “in this symposium”, “at this
meeting”, and “I am pleased to be here”. Such phrases would be appropriate
only if you were asked to provide an exact transcript of a speech.
► Be brief.
Wordiness obscures your message, annoys the reader, and displeases the
publisher because the resulting lengthy paper is more expensive to produce
and to print.
- Omit phrases such as
As already stated
It has been found that
It has long been known that
It is interesting to note that
It is worth mentioning at this point
It may be said that
It was demonstrated that
- Omit excess words.
|It is a procedure that is often used.
||This procedure is often used.
|There are seven steps that must be completed.
||Seven steps must be completed.
|This is a problem that is...
||This problem is...
|These results are preliminary in nature.
||These results are preliminary.
- Use single words instead of phrases.
|a number of
|a small number of
|are in agreement
|are found to be
|are known to be
|at the present time
|based on the fact that
|by means of
|despite the fact that
|due to the fact that
|during that time
|fewer in number
|for the reason that
|has been shown to be
|if it is assumed that
|in color, e.g., red in color
||just state the color, e.g., red
|in consequence of this fact
|in order to
|in shape, e.g., round in shape
||just state the shape, e.g., round
|in size, e.g., small in size
||just state the size, e.g., small
|in spite of the fact that
|in the case of...
|in the near future
|in view of the fact that
|is known to be
|it appears that
|it is clear that
|it is likely that
|it is possible that
|it would appear that
|of great importance
|on the order of
|owing to the fact that
|reported in the literature
► Do not
use contractions in scientific papers.
Incorrect: The identification wasn't confirmed by mass
Correct: The identification was not confirmed by mass
► Do not
use the word “plus” or the plus sign as a synonym for “and”.
Incorrect: Two bacterial enzymes were used in a
linked-enzyme assay for heroin plus metabolites.
Correct: Two bacterial enzymes were used in a
linked-enzyme assay for heroin and its metabolites.
► Do not
use “respectively” when you mean “separately” or “independently”.
Incorrect: The electrochemical oxidations of chromium
and tungsten tricarbonyl complexes, respectively, were studied.
Correct: The electrochemical oxidations of chromium and
tungsten tricarbonyl complexes were studied separately.
misuse of prepositional phrases introduced by “with”.
Poor: Nine deaths from leukemia occurred, with six
Better: Nine deaths from leukemia occurred, and six had
Poor: Of the 20 compounds tested, 12 gave positive
reactions, with three being greater than 75%.
Better: Of the 20 compounds tested, 12 gave positive
reactions; three of these were greater than 75%.
Poor: Two weeks later, six more animals died, with the
total rising to 25.
Better: Two weeks later, six more animals died, and the
total was then 25.
► Do not
use a slash to mean “and” or “or”.
Incorrect: Hot/cold extremes will damage the samples.
Correct: Hot and cold extremes will damage the samples.
“and/or” with either “and” or “or”, depending on your meaning.
Incorrect: Our goal was to confirm the presence of the
alkaloid in the leaves and/or roots.
Correct: Our goal was to confirm the presence of the
alkaloid in the leaves and roots.
Also correct: Our goal was to confirm the presence of the
alkaloid in either the leaves or the roots.
Also correct: Our goal was to confirm the presence of the
alkaloid in the leaves, the roots, or both.
The U.S. government and many publishers have gone to great effort to
encourage the use of gender-neutral language in their publications.
Gender-neutral language is also a goal of many chemists. Recent style
guides and writing guides urge copy editors and writers to choose terms
that do not reinforce outdated sex roles. Gender-neutral language can be
accurate and unbiased and not necessarily awkward.
The most problematic words are the noun “man” and the pronouns “he” and
“his”, but there are usually several satisfactory gender-neutral
alternatives for these words. Choose an alternative carefully and keep it
consistent with the context.
of “man”, use “people”, “humans”, “human beings”, or “human species”,
depending on your meaning.
Outdated: The effects of compounds I-X were
studied in rats and man.
Gender-neutral: The effects of compounds I-X were
studied in rats and humans.
Outdated: Men working in hazardous environments are
often unaware of their rights and responsibilities.
Gender-neutral: People working in hazardous environments
are often unaware of their rights and responsibilities.
Outdated: Man's search for beauty and truth has
resulted in some of his greatest accomplishments.
Gender-neutral: The search for beauty and truth has
resulted in some of our greatest accomplishments.
of “manpower”, use “workers”, “staff”, “work force”, “labor”, “crew”,
“employees”, or “personnel”, depending on your meaning.
of “manmade”, use “synthetic”, “artificial”, “built”, “constructed”,
“manufactured”, or even “factory-made”.
of “he” and “his”, change the construction to a plural form (“they” and
“theirs”) or first person (“we”, “us”, and “ours”). Alternatively, delete
“his” and replace it with “a”, “the”, or nothing at all. “His or her”, if
not overused, is not terribly unpleasant.
Outdated: The principal investigator should place an
asterisk after his name.
Gender-neutral: Principal investigators should place
asterisks after their names.
Gender-neutral: If you are the principal investigator,
place an asterisk after your name.
Gender-neutral: The name of the principal investigator
should be followed by an asterisk.
However, do not use a plural pronoun with a singular antecedent.
Incorrect: The principal investigator should place an
asterisk after their name.
of “wife”, use “family” or “spouse” where appropriate.
Outdated: The work of professionals such as chemists
and doctors is often so time-consuming that their wives are neglected.
Gender-neutral: The work of professionals such as chemists
and doctors is often so time-consuming that their families are
Outdated: the society member and his wife
Gender-neutral: the society member and spouse
(This section was mainly
based on: "Giving a Talk - Guidelines for Presentation and Presentation of
Technical Seminars" by F.R. Kschischang, Department of Electrical and
Computer Engineering, University of Toronto (On-line
including the PDF version)
``Studies show that fear of public speaking ranks
higher than the fear of dying. I guess this means that most people at a
funeral would rather be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy...''
Top of Page
Often in your
career you will be faced with the prospect of ``giving a talk,'' that is,
making an oral presentation before an audience. These notes are a
collection of a few simple guidelines for preparing and delivering a
``talk.'' The basic principles are applicable in defense of your thesis,
at conferences, in giving research progress reports and the like.
- Course presentations
- Thesis defence
Define your message.
If you have nothing to say, you cannot give an effective talk.
Assuming that you do have something to say, it is important to
identify at the outset just what it is that you are trying to communicate.
Write down a short list of important points that you want to make (no more
than 3 or 4). These points are often called the ``take-away message,''
that is, the message that the audience should be receiving if your
presentation is to be effective. Your entire presentation should focus on
presenting the take-away message in a clear and convincing way. Guard
against making your take-away message overly complex, as this will only
overwhelm the audience.
know what you have to say:
- write a list of (3-4) important points (take-away
- focus on these messages only
- be clear, precise
- avoid being overly complex
Know your Audience.
To be effective, your talk must be delivered at a level that is
appropriate for your audience. You must analyze the background and
expectations of the audience to deliver the take-away message in the most
effective manner. This may mean modifying the take-away message, if the
concepts involved are beyond the level of your audience.
Knowing your audience, you can begin to decide how much background
material is needed to deliver your take-away message effectively. Your
audience will influence your choice of vocabulary (technical jargon) and
may even influence how you dress!
- deliver at a level that is appropriate for your
audience (background, expectations)
- language + dress
Prepare well. The
best way to give the impression that you know what you are talking about,
is really to know what you are talking about. This means that you
should understand your subject well, and be able to answer related
questions. On the other hand, it is impossible for any one speaker to be
able to answer all questions that might be asked. There is no
shame in answering ``I don't know'' to a question that is askedin
fact, this answer is preferable to an incorrect or misleading reply, or a
``stab in the dark.''
Of course you must know when and where your presentation is to be held,
and, if necessary, what specialized audio-visual equipment (slide
projectors, videocassette recorders, etc.) is available. You can usually
count on the availability of the ubiquitous (overhead) viewgraph
projector. Discover that your pens are dried out before your presentation!
Technical presentations invariably rely on some sort of visual aid,
usually slides or viewgraphs. (Whatever they are, they will be called
slides in these notes.) More will be said about preparing these later.
You should find out how long you are required to speak, and aim to have
your presentation fit within the allotted time. One good way to judge the
presentation time is to rehearse your presentation ahead of time. Another
method is to count slides; if you know your average rate of going through
the slides, this can work quite well. The author uses the ``one simple
slide per minute'' rule of thumb; most people use fewer. Experiment to
determine your own rate. If, for some reason, you find yourself running
out of time, don't be afraid to skip slides.
It is a good idea to keep your slides well organized in a folder, binder,
or notebook during your presentation. This allows for easy
retrieval during the question period, when, almost inevitably, somebody
will ask you to put up a slide from your presentation.
You may want to prepare three or so back up slides for anticipated
questions. Such slides could present interesting details that are
peripheral to the main chain of reasoning, for example. It is also handy
to have a couple of blank slides around, so that you have something to
write on when have to explain something not covered in your other slides.
You might want to practice your presentation at least once before a
friendly (or simulated unfriendly) audience a couple of days before your
presentation. Talking to a mirror can also help, but even better is a tape
recorder, since you can play it back and hear yourself as others will hear
Best impression: you know what you are talking about
- understand your subject
- easy reply to questions (there is no shame "I don't
- when and where is the presentation? What tools you nee
for presentation? Are all OK?
- purpose and length of presentation should match
(rehersals + counting the slides and your rate per minute- usually 1
slide/min or less)
- organize slides for easy retrieval
- prepare extra slides for anticipated questions
- prepare blank slides or another tool for answering
questions by writing
- practice at least once with a friendly audience days
- Practice in front of a mirror, or using a tape
recorder may help
Delivering Your Presentation
Top of Page
Tell them what
you're going say... An effective way to
emphasize the take-away message is to repeat it several times during your
seeming repetitious, of course. This can be accomplished by presenting an
outline of your talk at the beginning. After presenting the arguments that
support your take-away message, you can recap these points at the end of
A typical outline for a talk looks like
- Point 1
- Point 2
- Point 3
where points 1-3 represent the take-away
message. Some speakers like to return to the outline slide after each
point is covered, to show the logical progression through the talk.
The outline almost invariably contains some type of introduction as the
first point. Whether the audience is a group of experts in the field or a
group of novices, all audiences require some type of introduction
to your topic. Such an introduction will attempt to place the subject of
the talk into a wider context; it will also sometimes review some of the
background material (e.g., history, terminology, and notation) needed to
understand the talk. For an audience of non-specialists, the introduction
may take up as much as half the time of the talk. Always start with what
you know the audience knows, to make them comfortable at the beginning.
The points of the outline should be organized in logical fashion, so that
point 2 follows logically from point 1, point 3 from point 2, and so
forth. Try to plan the talk with an easy-to-follow storyline. To catch
audience attention, you can feed them interesting tidbits to be explained
later in the talk.
Avoid trying to dazzle your audience with impressive looking equations or
complicated lines of reasoning. Your aim should be to educate, not to
impress. Even the most seasoned expert in the field will not be impressed
by an unintelligible, overly detailed presentation.
For emphasis: repeat the take away messages (in different
forms) several times. You can do it at different sections of the talk:
- Point 1
- Point 2
- Point 3
Outline - a type of
Supply a background. For a
nonspecialized audience, introduction may take up half of your talk
Start with what audience
knows to make them comfortable
Follow a logical order in
organizing the discussion of different topics
Avoid "impressive looking
equations" or "complicated lines"
Your purpose: to educate the
audience not to impress. (this is the best way of impressing others)
Once you have placed the subject of your talk into the proper context and
have reviewed the necessary background material, it is time to convey the
essence of each of the points in your take-away message in an effective
manner. This is where you will spend most time, but it may not be the part
that the audience will remember most.
Follow your outline.
Present, in the simplest way possible, the arguments that support each
point in your outline. A useful rule of thumb is to use a new slide for
the presentation of each new idea, or argument. More on this later.
convey the essence of each take-away message in an effective
Follow the outline.
The rule of thumb: a new slide for the presentation of
each new idea.
Tell them what you
have said.. At the end of your presentation, it is a good idea
to recap the take-away message. The usual way to do this is to provide a
summary slide, with the take-away message shown in point form. This
summary will usually conclude your presentation, except in the case of
thesis presentations, where it is typical to provide some suggestions for
further work. If appropriate, you can invite the audience to ask questions
at this point.
Recap the take-away messages at the end of the talk
Provide a summary slide for this purpose
Provide some further suggestions for future work
Invite the audience to ask questions if appropriate.
Top of Page
One slide, one simple
idea. As already stated, each slide shown in your presentation
should have a simple message. It is important not to crowd too many ideas
onto a slide as this inhibits understanding. Text is best presented in
point form. Try for the maximum impact with the fewest wordslike
newspaper headlines. If you write complete sentences, you will invariably
simply recite them to the audience word for word, tuning your audience out
completely. Using point form on your slides, you can elaborate verbally
without distracting your audience from your main message.
Avoid overcrowded ``eye exam'' slides.
And show the whole slide at once! Covering up parts of your slide with
opaque paper is no helpthe
audience will just get curious about what's hiding underneath, and lose
track of your message.
Try summarizing each slide on a single line, e.g., in a box at the bottom
of the slide, or by posing a simple question at the top of each slide.
This will allow audience members with wandering attention spans to
``recalibrate'' themselves with your presentation.
one slide = one simple message
maximum impact with fewest words (like newspaper headlines)
No need for complete sentences (you may lose your
audience) but point text form.
Avoid overcrowded (eye-exam) slides
Show the whole slide at once, not by parts
Try summarizing each slide on a single line.
Use lots of pictures, few equations.
Pictures are worth thousands of wordsthe
more pictures you have, the better. My colleague Glenn Gulak suggests the
following rule of thumb: never, without good reason, use more than two
slides in a row with no pictures.
Don't make your diagrams too complicated. Use simple block diagrams; each
simple block can be expanded upon in later slides if necessary.
Graphs are the most useful way to present relationships between variables.
Briefly show an equation, if you must, but spend the most time presenting
graphs obtained from the equation. Similarly, graph numerical data rather
than presenting numbers in tables. Always label the axes of a
graph, and always explain the physical meaning of the variables
being plotted, at least the first time that a graph of this particular
type is shown. Try to keep the same scale and size on graphs of a similar
type; this will allow for easy comparison. Avoid graphs with many
different curves. Include enough curves to make your general pointyou
can always claim that other curves are similar to the ones you show. Use
contrasting colors to separate curves, even if it means coloring a
computer-generated slide by hand.
Pictures = thousands of words
simple diagrams. Details can be given in later slides.
Graphs are very effective for presentation of
Use minimum time for equations, more time for graphs:
- prefer graphs to tables
- label the axes properly
- explain the variables
- use the same scale and size for all graphs of similar
- avoid graphs with many different curves (enough to
explain your point)
- use contrasting colors to separate curves (not dashed
etc, as in journal articles)
The mechanics of
Slide Preparation. Many
effective presentations can be made with hand-printed slides. The
advantages of hand-printed slides are that they can be prepared fairly
quickly, and without specialized equipment (i.e., you can write them on an
airplane, or in your hotel room the night before your presentation). You
can also easily introduce color into your presentation. The main
disadvantage is that you have to be extremely neat. If you cannot print
neatly, then this method is not for you. Another disadvantage of the
hand-printing method is that you might give your audience the impression
that you did not have time to prepare adequately, i.e., that you wrote
them on the airplane, or in your hotel room the night before the
Most computer-generated slides are prepared by photocopying printer output
directly onto transparencies. Slides can be prepared using your
favorite word-processing packagejust
remember to use a large font (point-size 14 or more). Avoid too many font
changes; use simple, easy to read fonts (Helvetica or another sans serif
font) for headings and labels. If you use LaTeX, you may want to use the
document class, a version of LaTeX specialized for slide production. Watch
for unwanted hyphenation; generally, text on slides should not be
Figures can be hand-printed, or computer generated, whichever looks best
(or is most convenient). Many of the computer drawing packages can be used
to create both the text and pictures for each slide. Finally, don't forget
that you can always ``cut-and-paste'' the different elements of a slide,
each of which can be generated in the most convenient way.
Many ways of slide preparation:
- Hand-printed slides (easy to prepare and add colour,
difficult to be neat)
- Photographic slides (effective but impossible to do
last minute changes and difficult to print)
- Computer projection slides (perfect impression, easy
editting and last minute changes, easy organization, requires skills to
use the software!)
Other Useful Tips
Top of Page
Try not to be nervous or intimidated by your audience. Give the appearance
of calm confidence, and focus all your energy and concentration on the
message in your presentation. If you are focused on your talk and not
your nervousness, so will your audience be.
Some inexperienced speakers will attempt to memorize their talk, or read
it from a prepared text. One word of advice: don't! If you need to refer
to a set of notes, put them in point form, not in complete sentences, or
you will find yourself reading them out. The best method is to use your
viewgraphs or slides as visual cues as to the points you would like to
make. If you keep each slide simpleone
idea to a slidenothing
will be forgotten.
At the start, determine the best place to stand so that you are not
blocking the projection or somebody's view. When placing a slide on the
projector, make sure that you look back at the screen to see that all is
visible, and adjust the slide if necessary. It is best to point at the
screen, if possible, rather than at the projector. The projector moves if
you get too friendly with it. If you must point at the projector (if the
screen is too far away, for example) be sure to keep the pointer steady.
Also, don't fiddle with your pointer, as telescoping it in and out really
detracts from what you are saying. Don't fumble with your slides. Throw
away ``tissue paper'' separators before your presentation.
Remember to focus on your audience, not on the projector. Aim to speak
slowly and with enough volume to reach the person in the audience who is
farthest away. Look around, they won't bite, and you can see whether your
points are sinking in. Interact with the audience. Ask them if they are
following you, or ask them simple questions to see if they are. Liven them
up a bit.
Take control of the questions, during or after the talk. Try to steer the
topic back on track, otherwise audience participation can drive things far
away from the main points of the talk. Take discussions off-line if they
are consuming too much time or will not readily be resolved. Feel free to
interrupt debates among audience members; after all, it's your
Humor can make a big difference, especially in dry technical talks. Try
to lighten it up a bit; especially after some particularly heavy going.
Cartoons can be an effective way to draw parallels with points you are
trying to make. Even short verbal asides, rhetorical questions, or
anecdotes can go a long way to keeping up audience interest.
- give the appearance of calm confidence
- focus on your talk not on your nervousness
- never memorize your talk or read from the text. Put
your notes in point form not complete sentences.
- "one iea to slide" rule prevents forgetting
- stand in the best place in the room (do not block
projection or others' view)
- Control each slide (correct focus, correct vision)
- Focus on your audience, not the projector)
- speak slowly and with enough volume
- interact with the audience
- have eye-contact evenly with everybody
- Take control of the questions.
- Audience questions may divert the topic. Feel free to
interrupt debates or stop talking or questioning irrelevant topics
- Add some humor (carttons, short verbal asides,
Learn by observation.
In university, you are in a particularly good position to
observe others giving presentations. Take the opportunity to learn from
the mistakes that others make, and borrow (steal) techniques that you find
effective. Watch carefully for methods used by your lecturers that improve
your understanding. Be careful, though, that you don't pay so much
attention to the medium that you lose the message.
observes others' merits and mistakes in their presentations.
DISCUSSION MANNER (ETHIQUETTE)
(Based on "Discussion
Ethiquette" by Jannan Sherman, Department of History, University of
Top of Page
Learning to participate as an effective
listener and contributor during discussions isn't easy. At times, we all
may have difficulty listening well to others and contributing our own
ideas. Finding meaningful things to say about what they've read, as well
as participating as an active member of the discussion, requires skills
that many students have not yet developed.
Discussions done well take a good deal of
work--and working together-- in order to accomplish our goal of learning
The point of this class--of all
learning-- is to employ the materials in an open-minded way, eager for new
ideas and new ways of thinking, engaging with others' interpretations,
both from the material and from other students who have absorbed this set
of materials and processed them differently. We all bring ideas and
opinions and accepted wisdom about many of these topics. That's fine.
There is no truly "objective" observer of history. But learning also
involves--indeed, primarily involves--interrupting accepted wisdom,
pre-conceived notions and already-arrived-at conclusions. It involves
considering other points of view carefully and examining the evidence used
to arrive at those points of view before accepting or dismissing
them--instead of simply debating our own positions against one another.
My point here is not to squelch
discussion or disagreement. On the contrary, I want to encourage broader
participation, more engagement--to explore together.
To that end, a few suggestions:
Being an active member of the discussion requires
skills and time
discussion: working together for learning together
never convert discussions to debates
be open-minded, eager for new ideas and new ways of
thinking, engaging with others' opinions
Being objective is not easy:
- considering other points of view carefully
- examining the evidence used to arrive those points of
view before accepting or dismissing
Discussion leaders: Consider
yourself as a guide leading us through the complexities of the readings.
Design questions that solicit information about major themes and ideas,
seeming contradictions, differing conclusions etc. to help us make
connections. Ask questions that invite discussion, that cannot be answered
yes or no. Ask a question, then stop and wait for a response. This is not
the place to share what you have learned from this process, but to
encourage the group to do those things. This is one discussion during
which you will say little, if anything, about your own positions and
conclusions. Your goal is to keep the discussion on task and encourage
Try to avoid "how do you feel about..."
and "what do you think about..." questions. What students think will come
out as we discuss the material. Asking that kind of question directly
solicits personal opinions and conclusions. Those can and will enter the
discussion but not until we are all on the same wavelength and have
explored what the material says about the topic. This should be pursued
before we decide what we think it means.
Finally, learn to tolerate a bit of
silence. Ask your question and then wait. Give people a chance to process
what you have asked. If students need clarification about what you mean,
let them ask you.
- goal: keepng the discussion on task and encourage broad
- act as a guide
- ask questions that invite discussion
- do not dominate the discussion
Participants: Respond with
references to the readings and what thoughts they stimulated for you, and
perhaps add a question of your own. Try to avoid setting up a conversation
with me that shuts out the rest of the group. Let me also encourage those
of you who are more articulate--who love to debate the finer points, who
are confident that you have the answer--to please hesitate, provide a bit
of space and silence now and then for more reticent students to gather
their thoughts and join in the conversation without having to shout their
way into it. Please remember that class participation means not only the
ability to talk, but also the ability to listen. To those who have
difficulty participating: watch for those spaces, use them to discuss not
only your conclusions but your uncertainties. Ask questions, ask for
clarification, ask what if or how come.
My vision of this class is as a forum
that helps us to learn about America since 1945 from primary sources,
secondary sources, and each other. Let's all work together to open the
deliberation to everyone.
The following table has been
How to Discuss,
(primary school students!) and lists
the elements of a good discussion manner as a participant:
|Eyes on speaker
Mind is focused
|Speaker's voice only
One voice at a time
(respond to ideas and share feelings)
|Eyes on speaker
Hands to yourself
Talking one at a time
Follow off others' ideas
|Positive, nice questions
Off Others' Ideas
|Positive, nice talking
Wait for people to finish
No put downs
(body posture and eye contact)
|Eyes on speaker
Mind is focused
|Speaker's voice only
|One person talking
Attention on the speaker
|Prompt people to share
Ask probing questions