Revisit: Science Writing: Structure Will Set You Free

By Jasleena Grewal

ScientificResearch Most of us have used UW Bothell’s library database to find research articles, and we have experienced the jargon-filled discourse of so-and-so’s evaluation of the umpteenth law of the bla-dee-bla. As we progress in IAS programs, an inevitable and intimidating task falls upon us: composing and presenting research within a scientific framework. Whether you’re writing coffee-shop ethnography or detailing the mathematical machinery of a coding gene, understanding the structure of a scientific research paper helps to organize your ideas.

The scientific structure is useful because it breaks a study into sections that guide the reader to follow the purpose, process, outcome, and future outlook of the writer’s research. In other words, the scientific framework guarantees and directs the paper’s organization. Doug Zongker, a researcher at UW Seattle, presents us with an educational parody of the scientific paper. His research paper, “Chicken Chicken Chicken: Chicken Chicken,” isolates the scientific structure with a straightforward, albeit playful attitude. His topic, better yet, motif of choice, is the word “chicken.”

Zongker purposefully utilizes a handful of “Chickens” in his title, because the title of a scientifically structured article should be long enough to clearly sum up the main idea of your research, but concise enough to keep it under a sentence or two. Underneath the title, there is a brief section dubbed “Chicken” (surprise), which serves as the abstract of the paper. In the abstract, there are roughly 50-150 “chickens,” serving as a short summary describing the purpose, design, and outcome of the research.

Moving on to the introduction, or “1 Chicken,” Zongker throws in some stats, “95% chicken;” some in-text citations, “chicken [4];” and a figure with a nicely formatted caption. In the introduction, it is useful to reference, or cite, literature in order to provide some background into the motivation of your research. This section allows for a longer explanation of why the study was done, so anything you can add to help the reader’s understanding is useful. Including flow-charts and figures may help a visual learner process and organize information.

Next, we have the methods section, denoted by “2 Chicken.” Here, the experimental design is discussed as thoroughly as possible, with some figures thrown in for clarification. Remember to include concise and descriptive captions for every figure, with the proper formatting.

Note that as Zongker moves on to the results and analysis section, or “3 Chicken,” he relies heavily on figures and graphs, but there’s also plenty of chicken for clarification. This is the researcher’s opportunity to present the meat (or in this case, the poultry) of their paper: experimental data, tables, and graphs which represent the study’s results, and an interpretation of what all the numbers and pictures mean. Depending on the amount of results and explanation needed, this section varies in length, but it is important to accompany visual data with an explanation in words. Now, the discussion, or “4 Chicken,” is where the researcher shares the implications, limits, and future outlook of their research, so it is primarily a word explanation, without any figures.

And don’t forget the bibliography! Zongker provides the cherry on top by providing a full list of his chicken-y sources, cited in CSE format, the universal citation style for scientific research papers.

So there you have it. The structure of science-writing has been demystified, thanks to our dearest Doug Zongker and his chickens. Using the scientific structure as a guide not only helps when writing a research paper, but also when you read it. Don’t want to bother with a long-winded methods section? It’s probably concisely outlined in the abstract. Wondering what the whole point of the study is? The abstract and introduction will tell you. Or do you need immediate results? Flip to the results and analysis section. The organization of a scientifically structured paper makes it easy for the reader to jump around as they wish. Structure can set you free so that you are able to effectively read (and write) within a scientific canon.

*Doug Zongker’s article can be accessed here: http://isotropic.org/papers/chicken.pdf

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