Get Into Mood to Write Scientific Writing

7 July 2009

Writing is a way to communicate and tell anyone in the world about the work that you’ve done and significant contribution you’ve made. And writing scientific paper is also a way for people to comment and give suggestion, or may tell if the work you’ve done in bloody teary way is worthed or not. In research area, a journal or refereed conference paper is a prove of your work, besides theses as final documentation.

No wonder scientific writing is very hard, especially for english as second-languange people like me. I experienced a painful, hard, and takes time to get conference paper done. But it’s not finished yet, it’s just beginning. Is research world, the world that I might be, or really likely to be there, writing paper in english is the way for to keep me survive and get into the career pathway.

I wrote two paper in the last 12 months, the EMC and Chemeca paper. It made me realise several things. First, with writing, you will aware that you’re not perfect, and even you know ALL inside your work and your study, if you can’t find the right word to express what you’ve done, it is just gonna be worthless. Second, it is really painful to get criticism, but that’s life, or in PhD life, you just need to be have a big heart to accept that critique. It is not that you are all wrong, or you are stupid, but it is a new way to learn. When I was in undergraduate, I used to deny and blame any critiques from my lecture because of the  he/she gave the critique like they are the cleverest in the world and I’m the stupid one. Now, that feeling just hould be ignored. Luckily, my supervisors are very friendly, they did get upset if they see my writing still far from perfect, but while they try to give me where’s the wrong ones, they telling me to say that writing is painful but it is worthed to learn. After few days or few weeks of my supervisor’s correction, I read it again.. and yes, it’s make sense. About unprecised languange, unclear paragraph, etc.

Now I’m in the middle revising my first draft of  journal paper submission. No wonder I feel a bit scary to experienced the painful process again, but I have to do it of course. Then, just think the positive of doing it. First, a good scientific paper comes from a really thorough and hard work of writing. Second, it;s a learning process. Third, this process can make you a better person, especially to lower your ego and accept other’s comment. Fourth, dream about you paper will be in top-class journal in the world, and you will be a part of history in magnesium production.. what a great feeling.

I just read a book by Michael Allen titled The Craft of Scientific Writing, and the Section 7, there are some tips to get scientific writing done. I might think I need to refresh my mind about how to write paper, so I’ll gonna share it here. Some handy tips that might work to start writings are:

1. Clear your mind.

Put aside personal problems such as thinking about home, bills, money, or cooking. Now that you are at office and you wan to write, then set aside the other problems.

2. A block of free time.

We have to allocate some time to write. No e-mail, no facebook, no reading online newspaper, no chatting with friends. Sometimes it works to me. I set 30 minutes arriving office to check my mail, check any updates, read detik or kompas or sending photos to my home in bandung. Then, turn-off the browser, open the folder and word as well as the thermodynamic program.  

3. Prepare yourself mentally for the task ahead.

Choose the journal, or read the good papers, see the structure, try to write it. Make outline first, and the fill the outline with the details.

Now about the revision. In scientific and engineering, the first draft is unlikely gonna be prefect. A few steps more are required to get good scientific paper. Obtain some distance, may be a week or more to do another work. Then when you want to revise your writing, you have to change your personality. Don’t be the writer, but be a good reader that can identify the weakness and the successful part of your writing. It’s hard, but we can practice. In my research group, we used to give our own writing to other and give feedback. You can learn the good and the bad from your friend’s writing.

Some techniques suggested in the book about revising:

  1. One thing to do is change the look of your document when you revise.
  2. Try to work through the large chucks in each sitting, thus you will make your paper smooth
  3. Get some distance between each revision to refresh your mind
  4. Finally, solicit critism of your writing. 

I am writing this section in my blog  just to motivate myself to be a good english writer, but hopefully anyone, especially reseach student who read this might find some ideas and the important of writing as well as the hardest journey. Good luck.

-Winny-

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