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Writing in Chemistry

For a printable version of the WaLC's Guide to Writing in Chemistry, click here.


Tips for writing in Chemistry:

 By Dr. Cynthia Atterholt

  • Writing is communicating and communicating is important in science. Scientists are constantly passing knowledge on to one another in the written form. Writing helps all parties stay updated on their findings. Work in the industry also involves a lot of writing. Written reports explain findings, and in many instances, reports are circulated to everyone employed at the facility, even the supervisors.

  • The most important aspect of writing in science is being clear and concise. Occasionally students ramble and do not state their point clearly. A clear and concise paper helps the reader understand the information the writer is trying to express.

  • When I review work from my classes, I am always pleased when students state their case clearly and concisely and follow up with examples and explanations.

  • In the best papers, the student follows all directions. However, students occasionally write an introduction but forget their analysis. In this case, their grade would be reduced. As for a lab report, a well-written one includes an explanation of what and how the student came to his or her conclusion. Even the nonprofessional should understand these papers if effectively written.

  • Students not doing their assignments results in them receiving poor grades. Many students who do not finish their work never really got started and therefore had nowhere to go with their writing.

  • Writing in my classes varies according to the year of the students. As class rank increases, so does the expectation for more writing. Early classes have very little writing, focusing on only a few short lab reports. Mid-level courses involve such tasks as a poster (with little writing) and an oral report with a written summary. Advanced classes, however, need to complete numerous research papers, extensive reports, essays, and a position paper. Communication, both oral and written, is crucial at all levels, and I try to stress its importance.

  • Many careers in chemistry require writing, which is why I stress its importance. In the industry, a chemist will write technical reports. In addition, monthly reports must be completed and sent off to the supervisor. These reports circulate around the company and document the research that has been done. Another job that requires monthly reports is a lab technician, who—like the chemist—must document his or her work.. In addition, pharmaceutical salespersons write sales reports. In addition, chemists write a number of journal articles for scientific journals.

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