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Chapter 8. Solving Problems Through Trip... > Fundamentals of Scientific Writing

Fundamentals of Scientific Writing

Scientific reports, including lab reports, fall into the category of professional writing that we call science writing or scientific writing. There are many fine texts devoted solely to science writing, for example, Michael Alley's The Craft of Scientific Writing. Although the rhetorical choices the author has to make are the same as those in other types of professional writing, the conventions are very different. Scientific reports are dictated almost entirely by convention. Beyond any obvious advice for writing lab reports, such as to use precise information and provide all the data requested, there is not much general advice we can give. To explain the format-driven nature of lab reports, we will consider the evolution of science writing and its place in the field of professional writing.

Evolution of Scientific Writing

In the early days of scientific writing, the scientists told each other about their work through stories, little narratives that described the experiment chronologically. In the early volumes of The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Sir Isaac Newton tells the story of his research on Opticks. He says, in effect, “I took me a prism and set it up in such and such a place to get such and such an angle of light.”


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