Skills Earth Sciences

Definition and necessity

Learning outcomes

At the end of this chapter you will be able to understand:

  • What defines scientific writing
  • Why scientific writing is important

Scientific writing is a tool to share the results, concepts, methods, and ideas of scientific research1, 2. It differs from other writing in that it targets a different audience, requires different language use, and in that it is structured and organized in a specific way1. Such organization and structure conventions are in some respects flexible and adaptable, but it is common to use a widely accepted framework to structure your work and communicate in an accessible, quick and easy manner. This chapter focuses on introducing the concept of scientific writing, its organization and structure, and it highlights some important aspects to consider in your own writing. Becoming aware of the conventions of scientific writing is important to help develop confidence in your own writing and to improve your skills in the extensive process of planning, executing research, structuring, drafting, and revising that is the base of scientific writing1.

The main goal of scientific writing is to communicate your research findings. It is however not sufficient to only write about the results of your research, but it is essential to integrate these with studied literature on previous research and a solid interpretation and synthesis of your data3.

Good scientific writing is clear, concise, analytical, and precise. A clear structure is essential. Scientific writing also needs to be objective, cautious, and evidence-based2, 4. Scientific writing is all about informing and helping your audience to understand your research, rather than trying to impress them with complicated theory or words3, 4. Instead, scientific texts need to be highly readable and helpful in order to be understood and should be used and cited by other scientists2. Therefore, scientific writing is not complex: long sentences and complicated words only decrease the readability. Nevertheless, scientific writing is formal in language and style4.

Scientific writing is one of the most common ways of communicating science. By communicating research outcomes in (peer reviewed journal) papers, scientists build upon the work and research of others. Scientific journal papers have high quality standards and therefore offer a source of valuable, lasting references for other scientists2. Besides communicating within the scientific community through journal papers and research proposals, written communication is also important to share your research with the general public5, for example through essays, (popular) science communication (‘sci-comm’), and newspaper articles. The following chapters will mainly focus on writing for the scientific community, but some advice will be offered for writing with a different audience and purpose in mind.