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Lessons on scientific writing

Jorhat, Nov. 25: More than 40 researchers were today given lessons on how to write a “scientific story” instead of presenting a “sterile list of information” while submitting their reports for publication by David Lindsay, professor emeritus, University of Western Australia.

Organised by the department of biotechnology of Assam Agricultural University Centre here, Lindsay, who is an expert in scientific writing, will conduct the programme for four days in which he will teach the students, researchers and assistant professors how good science translates into good writing and what the correct way of thinking is while writing for top-rated journals.

In the inaugural session, Lindsay said in the past few years, realisation of the need for good scientific writing had grown and here the university was in the forefront to learn this way of writing.

Lindsay said writing is very simple, something that all of us had learnt to do when in school. But there was no use in writing if the readers did not take to it, especially now when writing was for a population of readers who did not know the author at all.

The participants were given lessons on how to give a fetching title, to plan a chronological way of writing, to avoid trying to achieve too many goals at once, the key role of the introduction as the powerhouse and the essential ingredient — the hypothesis, and how to get the materials and method right without taking 15 pages to do it.

Lindsay taught them the principles of sound and focused presentation of the Results section, presenting a discussion that makes conclusions without waffling fixing up the style of the article editing to make the article easy to read and understand.

He also went beyond this and gave them tips on how to deal with editors and referees.

In the next three days, there will be a special session with eight participants, who will be taught point by point how to make up a report with the research data available with them.

During the inaugural session, G.N. Hazarika, director of research, emphasised that brilliance of the research would be lost in the pages of technical writing if the presentation is not proper.

“It should not be just easy to understand but not difficult to misunderstand,” he exhorted the participants.

D.K. Borah, dean, faculty of agriculture, said many scientists here were not being able to publish their papers in good journals despite doing very good work because of poor presentation.

Bidyut Sarma, director of the centre, said poor writing skills had become a barrier which limited the entry into renowned international journals.

He said importance of correct writing went beyond the need to communicate — it is a valuable tool to shape the thinking and doing science.

Lindsay is the author of Scientific Writing: Thinking in Words and A Guide to Scientific Writing among others.

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