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-2The Art of Creating a Model to Help You Write

Models for writing science today cannot be found in grammar textbooks, most of which were published too long ago. Nor are they taught by English teachers who were educated some years ago by teachers educated before them and using texts written even earlier. None of these formerly good sources are helpful for writing scientific articles in today's rapidly changing, dynamic English. Actually, few, if any, of us received English instruction specifically designed for writing science. Those of us who know how to write for science journals taught ourselves, slowly, and usually after several failures. In school we were taught how to use correct grammar and to write traditional, formal, English narratives. Our teachers taught us how to use allusions, metaphors, creative adjectives, and graceful expressions. We labored to produce lengthy, flowing language to delight our English teacher's heart. Unfortunately this is not the type of language that delights the hearts of science editors. 11

The Art of Creating a Model to Help You Write

Editors of science journals today want all ideas in language that is directly to-the-point, straightforward, and in as few words as possible. They want everything expressed with such clarity the science will be clear to all their readers. When your work is published, people all over the world will be reading your article. You not only want the meaning to be clear to them, but you want to represent your country well. Today's science journals receive many articles reporting good scientific research but written in poor English. If the English is poor enough, the article is rejected; if the English is good enough, editors will decide whether or not the research is worth publishing. If the research seems worth publishing despite the poor English, the journal will sometimes have the article edited to make it acceptable, but this is becoming less common. The most common response of editors is to reject the paper.

Science editors grieve over their lack of time and people to edit the English in their journals, because it is vital to them that their language standards are high. However, even with their continuous effort to publish only good English, the pressure to publish new research developments as rapidly as
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Chapter 2 possible permits some poor language to appear in even the best science journals. This is tragic for two reasons: First, everyone wants the articles in widely-read journals to be understood clearly by readers all over the world, and second, no one wants new research to remain unpublished because editors simply did not understand the English in which it was written. Currently it is possible for good scientists in some countries or institutions to acquire an unwanted reputation for writing poor English. Don't let this happen to your country or institution. You are going to teach yourself to write so well that future editors will respond in joy when they see an article written by someone from your country. Now, you ask, where can you find a model to help you write? Fortunately this is easy to answer.

FINDING DATA FOR YOUR MODEL
The very international journals in which you desire to be published contain the data for your model. Although the editors of such journals are seldom willing to edit any of the English sent to them, you can use their expertise if you are clever. The recent research articles in their journals have passed their standards and await your analysis. All you need to do is to find articles written by native English speakers and published in recent international journals. In these articles you will find gold mines of excellent information about contemporary scientific English: In them you can find excellent, up-to-date teachers who can be found nowhere else. Each issue in every well-known, international, English-speaking journal contains several research articles written by authors at 13

The Art of Creating a Model to Help You Write least one of whom is a native English speaker. Each of these presents excellent information to use in your own writing. They lie before you, waiting for you to turn on your analytical skills. The friendly, personal model for contemporary scientific writing that can be created using this information would be of help both to scientists who are not native speakers of English and unpublished scientists who are native speakers. Your goal will be to get help from the language, not the science, in the articles. The first trick will be to insure that you have chosen excellent articles. The science of every article in a reputable, well-known international journal is sound, but the language may not be. So how will you know if you have found articles which will help you create a good model?

Characteristics of the Articles You Want to Find
In order to be worth the time you are going to put in analyzing them, articles you choose must have three basic characteristics: Each must be published in well-known international journals. Good examples of journals you might consider include:

Science, Nature, Biochemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie, International
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Edition in English, Physical Review, Scientific American, and other highly-respected international journals specific to your field. Each must have been published within the last 3-5 years, no longer ago, sorry. Remember scientific language is in a rapid change process. Each must have at least one author who is a native speaker of English. This is particularly important. Usually the first author's name listed is the author most responsible for the writing, but not always. If one of the authors is a native speaker of English, probably that person has at least edited the writing. If none of the authors appear to be native speakers of English, the information about the data you draw from the structure of language in the article may easily be misleading.
All three of these characteristics are necessary so that the articles you choose will give you good data on the use and style of language. Surprisingly enough, you do not need to be concerned with the actual scientific content of the articles. Although the closer the article is to the science you do, the more specific language help it may yield about the language for specific procedures and results, this is not a vital characteristic of the articles you choose. You are searching for excellent material from which to create a good model.

CREATING YOUR MODEL
You are about to learn how to create your own system for analyzing the language used today in successful articles. Luckily, you are the type of person who can do this because you are 15

The Art of Creating a Model to Help You Write a scientist, and scientists analyze well. First of all, by using a keen eye as you begin to study the language structure of current articles in international science journals, you will discover new things you may not have noticed before. You will realize: 9 Science calls for a sudden narrative. 9 Successful articles are dramatic stories told in as few words as possible. 9 Above all, in the voice of science, clarity is crucial. Your first step is to photocopy 1-3 articles all of which have the three characteristics mentioned earlier. Next you are going to design spreadsheets, either on paper or in your computer, on which to put the data you collect from the articles. Typically the kinds of information these spreadsheets contain include data on: 9 Length and variety of sentence structure, including frequency of prepositional phrases. 9 Use of transitions, direct and implied. 9 Appropriate choice of verbs. 9 Verb tenses. 9 How articles begin and end. 9 How and when to give credit to other researchers. The actual topics you use for your spreadsheets, and the number of spreadsheets you make, will depend on the type of help you need and upon how sophisticated your English is. Someone else's spreadsheets would probably be of little or no value to you. However, here is an explanation of the type of data found on some typical spreadsheets:
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Spreadsheet #1
This spreadsheet may contain notes on the lengths of sentences in the articles and on the variety of sentence structures. For example, check how frequently sentences start with the subject. Make notes about what words or structures sentences start with when they do not start with the subject. Write down particular structures that catch your eye as effective. Notice how infrequently prepositional phrases are used and when they are used. You may want to eliminate a number of irrelevant ones you find in your manuscript.

Spreadsheet #2
This spreadsheet may list and explain the transitions you find in your articles. Good use of transitions is vital to a well-written article, but good writers only use transitions appropriately. Make notes on when the transitions are used and notice how the meaning of the transition fits the meaning of the sentence. Check how frequently transitions are used and if the same one is used repeatedly or consecutively. [Table 3.1 displays some common transitions]

Spreadsheet #3
This spreadsheet may contain a list of appropriate varieties of the verbs you find along with notes about the situations in which they were used. Finding correct, varied, and interesting verbs to use in sentences about research procedures is one the most difficult writing problems a scientist encounters. The accuracy of the meaning of your sentences and paragraphs 17

The Art of Creating a Model to Help You Write will be driven by the choice you make of verbs. This list will be valuable to you. Use it and keep adding to it.

Spreadsheet #4
This spreadsheet may be a valuable tabulation of the verb tenses used in today's journals. Keep notes on how commonly the simple present tense occurs and also of any exceptions when the simple present tense is not the tense of choice. You will need this data especially after you finish writing your paper and are ready to edit it. Accomplished writers usually check the consistency of their verb tenses as the last step in polishing their manuscripts for publication. Remember not to pay attention to other language problems at the same time you check for tense consistency because, if you do, it will distract you from doing a thorough job.

Spreadsheet #5
This spreadsheet may contain helpful notes about the ways the articles you photocopied begin and how they end. Early and last sentences in articles are important. Check how these are written. When you finish writing your paper, turn to this spreadsheet again. You will compose a much b e t t e r - a simpler and more d i r e c t - beginning after

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Chapter 2 you have finished writing your paper than you will at any earlier point. Endings must be sensitively written for it is here that some authors make greater claims than their data support. Avoid doing this.

Spreadsheet #6
This spreadsheet has valuable information about giving credit to other research and other researchers. Study your articles carefully to see how, where, and when this is done. Your professional reputation in science may depend on the accuracy with which you give credit to others.

USING YOUR SPREADSHEETS
The spreadsheets are your model. Begin to use them by organizing the information on the spreadsheets in such a way that you can refer to them easily. Then as you begin writing you will keep an ongoing sheet of particular words or phrases about which you need more information. Perhaps you will make further spreadsheets, which will extend and complete your model for writing a successful scientific paper. Keep the spreadsheets. Use them. Modify them by adding new information and discarding data you find you no longer need. Anytime you have a question about the written presentation of a certain idea, your spreadsheets should help you. If your spreadsheets are not sufficient help, a careful scan of a relevant published article written by a native speaker of English should provide what you need. Even writers who do not keep spreadsheets usually have their own personal lists of

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The Art of Creating a Model to Help You Write appealing words and phrases with notes of where they were found and how each was used.

YOUR FIRST DRAFT
The first draft can be written partially or completely in whatever language is easiest for you. It does not need to be written in English because the purpose of a first draft is to establish the skeleton, the bones, of your article. Your goal at this point is to get all your ideas down and, especially, to establish the sequence of ideas. While you are writing the first draft, whether it is in another language, partly in English, or completely in English, you should mark it with a private code which will help you write your next draft.

A Private Code
A private code involves putting personal annotations on the text as you write. Some writers do this by: 9 Underlining words, phrases, and sentences. 9 Using bold font. 9 Leaving blank areas in the middle of sentences, or a series of symbols such as stars. 9 Using symbols or words in another language.

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Chapter 2 A private code is a sort of map of the thinking you do as you compose the first draft. It is your way of talking to yourself about what needs help without forcing you to slow down and fix it then. A private code permits you to continue writing down ideas even when you are aware the language is still incomplete. Good writers have learned that pausing to look up words or checking data while they are writing slows their cognitive flow down and inhibits getting a clear sequence of ideas on paper. Further, good writers have found that when they write without marking a manuscript with a private code, they often mislead themselves into later thinking a piece of poor language is fine, and then they embarrass themselves by inadvertently carrying it on into a final draft. Whatever code you invent, your intention is to mark places so that you can return to them easily when you write a second draft. Design a code that covers positives as well as negatives. The positives will mark places you felt confident about in your first draft, and knowledge of what you thought was good is as important as knowledge of places which need more work. Usually a private code is applied in computer symbols or fonts that are easily recognized later, but some writers print the draft first and then apply a private code in pencil or ink. Either way works as long as a map of the writer's thinking is provided which will aid the writer in the rewriting process. So, invent your own private code. Keep it simple. Modify it a bit when you first use it but then stick with it. Memorize it. Write it down so you can't forget it between papers. Avoid changing your code drastically or changing your system between manuscripts. Changes may then cause your private code to end up confusing you more than helping you. :)1

The Art of Creating a Model to Help You Write

Organizing the Sequence of Your Ideas
The sequence in which you present your ideas is basic to the success of your paper. Attempt to get the sequence established before you begin the actual writing of the paper. This sounds easier than it is. Organizing a clear, lucid sequence can be difficult because in scientific research a number of things appear to need to be told simultaneously. Since they cannot be told simultaneously, this is beyond doubt the most difficult part of writing a first draft and one that needs to be solved before you start to write. If you do not get it solved, you may commit the worst possible crime in writing a research report which you hope to get published, namely your paper may contain repetition. In order to accomplish a sequence which is clean, precise, and without repetition, you might consider using a pre-writing technique called 'story board' often used by newspaper reporters and detectives. In this technique, each idea is written separately on an index card, a piece of paper, or a post-it. Index cards are the most versatile: They can be arranged and rearranged in sequences as you search for the most logical order. They can be carried in a pocket and the logic be reevaluated until you can commit to a solid enough sequence to begin a first draft. When pieces of paper or post-its are used, they can be posted on a wall where you or you and a colleague or two can agree on a good sequence. At that point the cards or paper are numbered, and keywords can be written on them to help with the writing. You might even put each idea into a rudimentary sentence, but getting the sequence into sentences is not important yet. What is important is to organize a sound sequence in which ideas do not repeat and each event is in a logical order.

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Completing a First Draft
In the first draft you should put little effort into details such as getting vocabulary right, guarding against repeated language, checking tenses, evaluating transitions. Instead, whenever you fear you may not be making a good choice, use your private code to mark the place, and move on. At this point you should not be interested in polished language. You have now completed a first draft. It is far from a finished manuscript but it is an accomplishment of which you should be proud. Take a break of several hours or overnight before beginning a second draft. You need to give your mind a rest and chance to gain perspective, yet not give yourself so long that you will have forgotten the thinking you did during your first draft. Four problems in manuscripts have caused innumerable papers to be rejected. Before you go beyond your first draft, check your plans against these deadly sins: 9 The scope of the manuscript is too broad; this material should be divided into 2-3 papers and resubmitted. 9 The claim of this manuscript goes beyond the given data. 9 The manuscript is too lengthy, includes unnecessary details such as an overly long review of history, or redundancy. 9 The authors have failed to give appropriate credit to others.

THE NEXT DRAFTS
In your first draft you established the sequence of ideas and events. Now, determine where you should use paragraphing to help the reader understand the divisions of your sequence.

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The Art of Creating a Model to Help You Write Next, check all the places in your first draft where you used your private code. Replace all non-English words and refine the problems. Begin to turn to your spreadsheets for help. Work with them in whatever order you prefer, checking carefully through your manuscript with each spreadsheet and rewriting as you go.

Even a highly skilled writer, who is a native speaker of English, does not write a successful paper in a single draft. All successful articles undergo a number of drafts before they are ready to be sent to journals. In each draft you will continue looking back at the information you have on your spreadsheets, checking, rechecking, and rewriting. Possibly your spreadsheets will not contain enough information and you will need to turn back to the articles you photocopied for further help. In all these next drafts, most of your attention will be on transposing your entire first draft into simple, straightforward, English sentences. Keep sentences short and direct. A wise Australian journal editor once said a complicated sentence is like a stressed molecule. So, resist all temptation to try for long or beautiful sentences: You can lengthen sentences later; you can add grace later; you can combine ideas and add transitions to smooth out the meaning later. It is vital to keep your ideas direct and simple. Remember scientists all over the world are eager to be able to understand what you report; help them out. Speak to them simply and directly, scientist to scientist.
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Chapter 2 Do not worry at this point that what you have written may sound simplistic. On one level, you want your writing to be simplistic because being simplistic means being clear and you want everyone to be able to understand what you have written. As you continue on to the intensive editing in your final draft you will get variety in the choices of vocabulary, transitions, and sentence structure so that your article sounds smoother and more interesting. Your main goal will be to ensure that the ideas in each sentence: 9 would be clear to any other scientist in your field, 9 are referenced properly wherever credit should be given to others, 9 do not bore the reader with historic or other types of details that are not directly related to the topic of your article, and 9 do not insult the intelligence of your readers by overexplaining the obvious.

YOUR FINAL DRAFT
Now, at last it is time to create the final draft in which you edit your manuscript, to make it as good as you have dreamed it could be. You are ready to practice the art of editing.

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