GO 326/ES 767



The following example illustrates the style your Scientific American article summaries should follow. All students should submit your summary via e-mail. Only plain (ascii) "txt" and rich text format "rft" file types are accepted. WordPad is a good way to accomplish this. Do not send word-processed files, such as Word or WordPerfect documents. Do not embed images in your text files.

Your Name
GO 326/ES 767

A Review of:
(Author, date)

The length of your article summary should be not less than two pages nor longer than three pages—about 5-8 KB as a txt or rtf file. You may use quotations to emphasize important or controversial points, but most of the article should be written in your own words. Use short paragraphs and simple sentence structure for clear expression.

Give a straightforward, factual review of article. Summarize major points of article—background, new data or studies, interpretations, and conclusions. Do not attempt to criticize the article's content or conclusions; this is not a critique. Proofread what you have written, or better yet have a friend read your summary. Then make revisions and corrections. You are responsible for what you turn in to be graded!

Principles for good scientific writing

It may seem obvious that a scientific document is incomplete without the interpretation of the writer; it may not be so obvious that the document cannot function without proper interpretation by each reader. Based on Gopen and Swan (American Scientist 78, p. 550-558, 1990).

Note: Automatic spelling and grammar functions should be turned off. Spell check often produces erroneous results for technical writing. Consider the geological term diapir, which refers to intrusive structures that pierce through overlying strata, for example salt and clay diapirs. Spell check will change this word to diaper.

Additional guidelines for technical scientific writing

  1. Always use metric units of measurement for length, volume, mass, etc. Abbreviate numbers and metric units of measurement, for example: 0.8 cm, 5.7 mm, 110 km², 1050 m³, etc. Large or small numbers can be given in scientific notation: 3.7 x 109, 0.7 x 10-6. Large or small numbers also may be spelled out, for example: 126 million, 4.6 billion, 3.2 microns, etc.

    English units of measurement may be given in parentheses and are generally spelled out (3.5 inches, 1200 feet, 630 miles, 40 gallons, etc.). Note: English units are commonly utilized in American engineering, but not for science.

  2. Never use contractions (don't, isn't, etc.).

  3. Capitalize only proper names of people, places, and institutions. For example, the Earth as a planet is a proper name, the earth as soil or ground is a common name. Biological names are usually given in italics: Homo sapiens.

  4. Phrases to avoid—there is (are), you have (get), like this (that), too much (little), etc. Never write "you" constructions. The word "very" should never appear in professional writing.

  5. Verbs to avoid—get, go, be. These verbs are so general in meaning that they have almost no meaning. Use more specific or descriptive verbs to express the meaning you intend.

  6. Grammar counts. Every sentence must have a subject and verb, and most usually have an object. Pay attention to subject-verb agreement and to verb tense useage. Long, complicated sentences are alright, as long as they read smoothly. If in doubt, break the long sentence into a couple of shorter ones. Proofread carefully for spelling and punctuation.

  7. Avoid excessive use of parenthetical (...) statements. Material that is worth including should be written into regular sentences.

  8. Footnotes and endnotes are rarely, if ever, used in scientific writing.

  9. Use quotations sparingly in order to emphasize key or controversial points. Excessive quotation, however, distracts from your writing. Always identify quotations with "marks" or italics.

  10. Acronyms are increasingly common. They are acceptable, as long as the whole title is spelled out the first time the acronym is used, for example: GLORIA (Geological LOng Range Inclined Asdic). Acronyms are usually written in all capitals.

  11. Accent marks and special letters from other languages should be preserved in English text for people's names (Åmark, Hsü) and geographic place names (Ærø, Denmark; Ostrzeszów, Poland). This is also true for Greek letters and mathematical symbols: ß, µ, ± °, ¼, ½, ¾, ‰. Many special symbols are available in extended ASCII character sets of word processors and in HTML script.

Preview of article summaries

Your instructor will be glad to preview article summaries and make suggestions for their improvement. Preview summaries must be submitted at least one week before the final summary is due.

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GO 326/ES 767 © J.S. Aber (2017).