Scientific Writing Tips

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Referencing or citing your sources is an important part of academic writing. It lets you acknowledge the ideas or words of others if you use them in your work and helps avoid plagiarism. Referencing also demonstrates that you are using the scholarly record and that you can provide authority for statements you make in your assignments or term paper.

The use of direct quotes is rare in scientific articles and are only used for highly memorable words, witticisims or when confirmation of a certain conclusion is in doubt.

Natural and applied scientists use paraphrasing since their attention tends to be directed towards facts and data that do not need to be expressed precisely in the words selected by the original author.

The two most popular systems of in-text citation used in scientific writing are:

  • Citation-sequence: the use of numbers within the text to refer to the end references (in order of appearance).
  • Name-year: the use of an author's surname and year of publication, enclosed in parentheses.

Placement of in-text references:

  • to avoid ambiguity about what is being referenced, an in-text reference should immediately follow the title, word or phrase to which it is directly relevant
  • do not put all references at the end of the sentence
  • when there are 3 or more authors, use the 'et al.' convention (Solomon et al. 2007)

Writing Tips:

  • the purpose of your paper should be clearly stated in the introduction
  • begin paragraphs with a conclusion statement and then support it - each paragraph should have:
    • purpose - core statement
    • context of the statement
    • evidence
    • examples
    • references
  • organize tables and figures to facilitate comparisons; group related data together
  • make tables and figures clear without reference to your text

When to cite references:

  • facts that are not easily found
  • statement of opinion
  • statistical sources
  • research findings and examples
  • graphs, tables, charts, illustrations, figures

Sources used to prepare this web page are as follows and can be found in the library's collection:


Content last updated: January 9, 2020