Tag Archives: writing

More than one way to write a dissertation


Black headed gull by Siddie Nam, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

In this post, Pat Thomson discusses an important thing to bear in mind when reading the posts on this blog and the ones I link to. There is no one way to write your research report—no one way to do it and no one way for it to look. Everyone is different and has a different best way of doing things. And every report is different and the material has a different best way to be written about.

So what is the point of sharing techniques and ways to structure writing on this blog? As Pat points out, having a repertoire of ways to do things helps you select the best way for the situation.

You can read more about Pat’s ideas here




morale booster by cactusbeetroot, Attribution-NonCommercial License

Not long ago I posted about Hedging—where we qualify what we say or use cautious language that sometimes is so cautious and qualified that it doesn’t really make a point. In this article Pat Thomson talks about using boosters—words that give a sense of authority and strength to what you are saying.


Productive writing


Sit by Linda Stanley, Attribution License

At one time or another, most of us find it hard to get the writing we are supposed to be doing done. There can be days when all that seems to come out of a whole days work is 500 words! Other times we procrastinate about even starting writing. Lets face it – writing is difficult.

Helen Sword, from The University of Auckland, has written several great books about writing. In this short article she summarises some key points for writing productively. If you read the article you will notice that one point “write every day” appears three times because it is so important. Writing only happens if you sit on a chair and write. Check out Helen’s article for more tips.

Helen Sword (2010) Becoming a more productive writer, MAI Review, 2,

Revising by chopping up


Chops by Megg, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Your first draft is just that – a first draft. Everyone always has to revise it so don’t be surprised that you will need to as well. Revisions often need to be whole scale structural rearrangement. In this post Pat Thomson talks about a method for doing this by physically cutting your work up with scissors. You can also do similar things electronically using the navigation pane as I have explained before in my post on Rearranging sections of work in Word.


Compound adjectives


Cookie Pug in Red by Moro Fenrir, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

Sometimes when we use more than one word as an adjective we need to join those words with a hyphen to show they belong together and make our meaning clear.

For example if we say “man-eating tiger” the hyphen helps us to know that the tiger eats people. If we leave it out—”man eating tiger”—it could mean completely the opposite. 

It’s not always the case that the meaning changes so dramatically if you leave out the hyphen, but including hyphens in the right places does help the reader and improves clarity. Examples include “virus-associated clinical signs”, “antigen-stimulated cytokine release”, “domestic short-haired cat”. And if you are talking about the dog pictured above, you may want to talk about a short dog wearing a coat—”a short, coated dog”—or a dog wearing a short coat—”a short-coated dog”.

It can be hard to know when you need a hyphen and when you don’t. This short video by Uncle Mike from soisitjustme gives some good examples and a quick trick to help tell.

Counter argument


Springbok argument by Yathin, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

This blog post by Gordon Harvey from the Harvard College Writing Center is about counter argument in essays but the principles also apply in science writing. An important part of making your argument is acknowledging and discussing counter arguments. As Harvey says: “It allows you to anticipate doubts and pre-empt objections that a skeptical reader might have; it presents you as the kind of person who weighs alternatives before arguing for one, who confronts difficulties instead of sweeping them under the rug, who is more interested in discovering the truth than winning a point.”




Procrastination canine (Notting Hill), by Anne LANDOIS-FAVRET, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

This post on the APA Style Blog is by Paul J. Silvia who wrote a very useful book called “How to write a lot”. It’s a short book that is fun to read and definitely worth it, but its basic advice is simple. This post will give you the idea.


What goes where in a research report?


Milly by ☞Ћę ®ə◗ ℘∀ℕĐ▲☜,Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

This is a very useful guide for what each of the sections in your research report should contain and it also identifies common mistakes to watch out for.

Guide to science writing: Research manuscripts and review articles, UCLA Undergraduate Science Journal

Chickens and eggs: clear thinking and clear writing


Mendi and Chick 3 by Alisha Vargas, Attribution License

This posting from Marvin H. Swift in the Harvard Business Review, walks you through revising a short piece of text. He talks of the thinking process behind the revisions and I think it is useful to see how he questions each aspect and what it really means. In the end the text completely changes, partly as a process of making the words more clearly say what he wants to say, but partly because the structured thinking makes him see the problem differently and he changes his mind about what to say.

You too can use your writing as a way to structure your thinking. The idea is to get something down and then actually think about what you have written and what it really says. Look to see if you have explained your meaning. Look to see if you have made your argument. It is often a good idea to put it aside and come back to it later as often you will see things you did not see the first time.

Marvin H. Swift (1973) Clear Writing Means Clear Thinking Means… Harvard Business review