ChemEng590B writing tips

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Last Updated: --Shelly Peyton 15:42, 21 February 2013 (EST)

== some "writing tips" after I've graded prior exams and grants ==

  • don't cite review papers. Use review papers to get the actual experimental papers, and cite those.
  • when i suggest a length - do your best to hit it. that is the length i think you need to be convincing.
  • use commas. In general, as a class, you all use about 50% of the commas you need to use. when in doubt, add one.
  • proofread! write well! Spend time on the writing. just because you are an engineer doesn't mean you don't have to know how to write. communication of your ideas is the 2nd most important part of being a scientist.
  • you need probably 3+ references for any writing assignment I give you in an exam. if it were me, i would use more like 10. but at least 3 per question… think about how many times you need to repeat experiments - same with fact checking/referencing!
  • you have to put the references in the document, where you use them (a number or last name). didn't take off for this in Exam 1, but I will in Exam 2!
  • break up your paragraphs. 4-5 sentences per paragraph is a good rule of thumb, but anytime you start a new thought, that's a new paragraph.
  • be clear!!! If I can't tell what you're saying, too late. have a friend read it, or just read it over yourself. my strategy with my own writing is to print it out and read it, because i catch things that way, which i would otherwise miss.
  • make it impersonal. things i caught that aren't appropriate are: "comes to mind" "in my opinion" "I believe/hope" "my research", etc. Unless, of course, i specifically ask for your opinion. Then, ideally, say, "i hypothesize"… something like that instead.
  • no 2nd person either. "You would want to use", etc. Typically, keep it in third person.
  • The best writing comes from third person, but no passive voice. This is tough, and something I still struggle with! But that type of writing is the easiest and most fun to read.
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