If you haven’t written
it, you haven’t done it.
The positive approach
I have just been part of adventure in science
and I have a contribution to make.
In this article, I am going to help you, the
reader, share the adventure and recognise my
The negative approach
• Science is the art of investigating a field and finding out information
that didn’t exist before.
• You, the reader, are a scientist.
• I’ve written down some details.
• Use your skills as a scientist to see if you can work out what is my new
• You give them a reason as soon as possible in the article to want to
• And you retain their interest until the last full stop
• The odd reader will read to the last full stop.
• Most will not.
• Your job is to make sure that whatever they do read will expose them to the
most important information and that they will retain it.
• Logic (ideas in their proper sequence)
• Readability (style)
• Economy (no red herrings!)
The good news about Scientific writing
•If you ensure that you are precise, clear and
brief, you have little else to worry about
•There are no hidden agendas — the most
acceptable scientific style is plain simple
•Write to inform not to impress
Basic rules about getting started
• Never start to write anything before you work out how it
• Reduce the work in front of you to a size that you can
• Write in the style that you would use in a conversation with
a friend…..fix it later.
• Get something—anything—down and build up your
confidence…..fix it later
• Summary/ abstract
• Materials and Methods
• It must contain two elements…..
• The hypothesis
• The reason(s) why the hypothesis was the most sensible statement of the
phenomenon that you were testing— when you began the experiment
• …. and nothing else
Q. What is so important about the
A. If there is no hypothesis—there
is no structure
What is the difference between an
objective and an hypothesis?
• The objective states what you intend to do but not why you
intend to do it
• The objective does not need or invite justification
• The objective is easy to formulate; the hypothesis is much
• The formulation of the hypothesis is a major intellectual
• But, if well formulated, it makes it comparatively easy to
write the rest of the article
The “feelgood” introduction attempts to:
• Provide a review of the literature for people new
to the field of study
• Start broadly and gradually narrow down to the
subject of the experiment
• State the aim or the objective but not the
The “logical” introduction attempts to:
• Predict the results of the experiment based on the
information available before the experiment was
• Justify this prediction through a logical series of
statements (inductive or deductive)
• Maybe state the aim or objective but always state
The advantage of the “Logical” cf the “Feelgood”
• It is usually much shorter
• It gives very clear criteria about who and what to
cite from the literature
• It develops the readers’ expectations and
encourages them to ask questions that will be
answered later in the article
• It acts as a guide for the writing of every other part
of the article
Materials and methods
•The most ‘skimmed’ section of your article
•Help the reader to read quickly by providing meaningful subtitles
•Give your Methods before the Materials
•Consider carefully whether the information you are including is
•Where a methodology or technique has been described by
someone else, don’t repeat it but use the appropriate reference
• The Results section must contain
• all the results and
• nothing but the results
• It must be objective and express no opinion or bias
• A Results and Discussion section is not allowed by most journals for
these reasons. It is also more difficult to write well.
• The results section usually contains both text, and tables
• It may contain only text but never only tables or figures
• Tables (or figures) and text should both “stand alone”.
• Use tables to be precise.
• Use text to be clear.
Results—finding the right emphasis
• Sort out what is important and give it prominence.
• Sort out what is unimportant and throw it out (or, if
you must include it, make sure that it has little impact)
• During this exercise you may discover more about
your results than you first thought!
How do I know what result is important?
• 1. It illustrates something substantial about the hypothesis,
• 2. It illustrates something that is relevant but less
convincing about the hypothesis,
• 3. It shows something substantial but not about the
• 4. It is not convincing and not about the hypothesis.
How do I use this information?
• Do not use any of the results you have classified as (4)
• As much as possible, present the results in the order (1)
before (2) before (3)
• Use the text to emphasise the important results in the
tables or graphs.
• The reader will then get the same impression as you
about their importance
• When thinking and reading about the experiment and when writing,
make notes as the thoughts come to you about what you could
• Now, from these notes, give priority to what arguments you should
use in the discussion
Priorities for Arguments
lst order arguments:
Relevant to the original hypothesis and allow you to make a positive
statement of acceptance or rejection.
2nd order arguments:
Relevant to the original hypothesis but are equivocal or may need
further experimentation or clarification before acceptance or
3rd order arguments:
Not relevant to the original hypothesis but sufficiently new or
interesting to warrant discussing
4th order arguments:
Not relevant to the hypothesis and of marginal interest.
• Take what is important (priority 1)and give it prominence.
• Take what is unimportant (priority 4) and throw it out —or, if
you insist, make sure that you do not emphasise it.
• Use paragraphs for each complete argument in the the
• Use the best first!
• Make sure that the least important arguments do not use
more writing space than the more important ones
• The topic sentence (This is what this paragraph is going
to tell you)
• The logical reasoning (this is how I interpret my results)
• The concluding sentence (this is what it means)
The three sections of a paragraph
• “Discussion” means discussion of YOUR results not
those of others.
• Discuss YOUR results in relation to:
• those of others
• the “real world” (practical application, or contribution to
• Your arguments should lead to conclusions. You should
not need a separate “Conclusions” section even if the
journal allows it. It is just repetition
• Now go back to your Results and readjust the
placement and emphasis of your material in both the
Results and the Discussion to ensure that they are
consistent and that they reinforce one another
• Why? (your hypothesis)
• How? (Brief Methods—not Materials)
• Main Results(Category 1 items only)
• Main Discussion points (Category 1 items only)
The easy bit!
• The most read part of your article (by about 100x)
• It should contain all of the key words
• It should hint at the main results, or conclusions, or both
In other words
Make sure that your title blurts out as much
as possible of the scientific news that your
article is going to talk about
Design an experiment to be carried out in Dumbleyung to compare the plot yields
) of a pasture sub-clover grown at two different seed rates. The generally
recommended seed rate is 6 kg/hectare, though farmers have historically used 10
• What is a plausible hypothesis?
• What is the dependent variable?
•What is the independent variable?
Design an experiment to be carried out using 36 pigs (12 from each of 3 litters). The
experiment is looking at post-weaning growth rates in response to 3 different diets
(control, control diet + 100 g/crushed lupins/day, control diet + 200 g/crushed
• Can you suggest a possible hypothesis?
• What is the dependent variable?
• What is the independent variable?
What do we need to consider when allocating our pigs into treatments?
Design an experiment to study the growth of two strains of Barramundi under
farmed conditions. One strain has been isolated from estuaries, and the other from
an inland river system. You are interested in comparing two different water
temperatures (20C & 25C) in the ponds, and two different salt concentrations in the
ponds (250 PPB & 500 PPB). You have 8 ponds. The two strains look very similar so
you have to keep them separate as you can’t afford genetic profiling.
• Can you suggest possible hypotheses?
• What is the dependent variable?
• What is/are the independent variable(s)?
How would we go about allocating fish to treatments and
treatments to tanks?
Design an experiment to study the growth of Merino lambs under feedlot conditions.
Lambs are from 16 industry recognised genetic lines with a range of breeding values
including clean fleece weight. You are interested in how lamb production responds
to different levels of intake. You have 4 pens.
• Can you suggest possible hypotheses?
• What are the dependent variables?
• What are the independent variables?
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