Tiju Thomas

Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Madras
Sardar Patel Road, Chennai 600036, Tamil Nadu, India


ph. no: +91 8056456442
email id: tt332@cornell.edu or tijuthomas@iitm.ac.in

Our Research Group

Applied Nanostructures Engineering and Nanochemistry (ANEN) Research Group

ID6020 Panel Discussion notes (28 Sep., 2017)

Essentials of technical/scientific writing

If you are a practising scientist or engineer, you will need to write technical reports, proposals, journal articles, patents, conference proceedings, teaching/training manuals several times during your career. If you bear a few basic things in mind, you will ensure wider readership.

Here are a few suggestions to help you write well. The tips given here are not meant to be a substitute for a full course in technical/scientific writing. However it is hoped that advise provided here will benefit people who have never had formal training in professional writing.

1. Organize your "story" well.
2. The introductory section of your article is very essential, and prepares your reader for appreciating the content to follow. An effective, focussed and comprehensiveintroduction is always helpful.
3. Think about arranging your story in the form of simple "cause-effect" sequences, so that your reader finds it easy to understand you.
4. Substantiate your statements and inferences by referring to carefully constructed graphs, charts, and tables.
5. Avoid repetitions. Repetitive sentences and words can make your text confusing (besides adding to the redundancy).
6. Please get rid of every single grammar and spelling error. A carefully constructed, and well written document shows the reader that you are serious about your work.
7. Cite sources as and when needed. Statements you make that is due to the scholarly work of others has to be suitably cited. This is a rule of conduct that is never to be violated.
8. The title, abstract, conclusions and figures must come together in a manner that the basic thesis is abundantly clear. Key words are extremely crucial, since they are the "access points" your readers will use to reach your work.
9. Quality of figures is extremely important. Choose high quality figure formats (say tiff, eps, svg etc). As a quality check, shrink your figure to 40% its original size and see if you can still read it. If you can't, improve the fonts, thickness of lines etc.
10. Avoid using fancy colors or fonts in scientific documents. Very often plain old black and white suffices.
11. Switching between many font types is best avoided.
12. If you are reporting your own research, ensure that you are clear to the point wherein people are able to easily reproduce your results. Once again, figures, flowcharts etc may be effectively used.
13. Engineers and scientists like numbers. When making statements, use numbers to substantiate your claims.
14. Ensure coherence and simplicity. Having a single thesis and being very clear about it is better than talking about 100 things and not being able to substantiate any.

As I sign off let me assure you; professional writing is a skill that can be developed if we work towards it. You can do it, so can I!