Scientific writing (sometimes called expository writing) is very different that creative writing. The goal is to explain

1)  Scientific writing (sometimes called expository writing) is very different that creative writing.  The goal is to explain. As such, you want to be very careful with your language.  You want to be VERY precise with the words you use.

Let me give you just one example:  The word “everybody”. 

People often use the word in “everybody” in conversation as a synonym for a lot of people (“Have you seen that new show on Netflix?  Everybody is talking about it!”)  Obviously, everybody is NOT talking about it.  Many people who have Netflix probably don’t watch the show, and even more don’t subscribe to Netflex at all.  This is fine in creative writing, but gets more problematic in scientific writing.

In scientific writing, your goal is to explain something, often in detail.  So statements like “Everybody in the United States owns a cell phone.” or “Everybody knows that cigarette smoking is bad for you.” or “Everybody has been in a car accident at least once in their lifetimes.” should be avoided whenever possible.  Not everybody in the United States own cell phones which are illegal in prison, for example.  Not everybody knows that cigarette smoking is bad for you.  There are children who have not learned that fact and people with severe Down’s Syndrome who may not know that or even understand it if you told it to them.  And how could everyone be in a car accident if some people have never been in a car?

2)  The vast majority of paragraphs in scientific writing use the following structure:

Statement:  The paragraph starts of with a general statement about the scientific research IN YOUR OWN WORDS, based on your knowledge of the subject area.  

Evidence:  You then provides cited research, taken from other scientists swork, supporting the opening statement.

Transition:  The paragraph ends with a transition sentence, which logically summarizes the preceding paragraph and ties it to the next paragraph

Here is an example of that format from an article on the topic of Facebook depression:

Feinstein, B. A., Hershenberg, R., Bhatia, V., Latack, J. A., Meuwly, N., & Davila, J. (2013). Negative social comparison on Facebook and depressive symptoms: Rumination as a mechanism. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 2(3), 161.

As Facebook use becomes virtually ubiquitous, it is important to continue to identify the specific behaviors and processes that may be “risky.” Previous research on Facebook use has garnered a great deal of media attention, particularly a clinical report claiming that researchers had documented a phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” or depression that results from spending too much time on Facebook (O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011). In fact, no research supports this claim, and, although scholars have attempted to clarify this (Davila, 2011; Magid, 2011), such false claims emphasize the importance of testing hypothesis-driven research questions that shed light on specific mechanisms that may lead to poorer well-being in the context of social networking. As noted, Davila et al. (2012) suggest that it is the quality rather than the frequency of social networking experiences that predicts negative mental health outcomes, but it remains unclear what specifically takes place on social networking sites beyond poor quality interactions that may be pathogenic.

  • In the opening sentence, the authors summarize a trend in the research,  IN THEIR OWN WORDS (note the lack of citation), regarding Facebook use and mental health
  • In the next three sentences, the authors cite and summarize that both supports (O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011) and refutes (Davila, 2011; Magid, 2011) the opening statement.
  • In the last sentence, the authors offer a possible explanation for this discrepancy (quality vs quantity of social interactions), setting you up for the next paragraph as to what might specifically take place on Facebook that might cause mental health issues.
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