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Elsevier Science
Writing for Science and Engineering: Papers, Presentations and Reports / Edition 1

Writing for Science and Engineering: Papers, Presentations and Reports / Edition 1

by Heather Silyn-Roberts, Silyn-Roberts


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780750646369
Publisher: Elsevier Science
Publication date: 12/31/2002
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 281
Product dimensions: 0.62(w) x 6.14(h) x 9.21(d)

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Writing for Science and Engineering

Papers, Presentations and Reports
By Heather Silyn-Roberts


Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-08-098286-1

Chapter One

Structuring a Document: Using the Headings Skeleton

This chapter covers:

TAIMRAD: the classic structure of an experimental report.

• When TAIMRAD isn't an appropriate structure for your document.

• The basic skeleton of section headings.

• Building an extended skeleton of section headings.

• Using the Outline mode of Microsoft Word® to help organise your document.

• The importance of overview information: building a navigational route through your document.

• Deliberate repetition of information in the basic skeleton.

The Basic Skeleton of Section Headings for a Technical Document

This section covers:

• The classic TAIMRAD structure for an experimental report.

• When TAIMRAD isn't suitable: choosing section headings.

• The basic set of headings forming the skeleton of a document, whatever its topic or length.

TAIMRAD: The classic structure of an experimental report

The classic, traditional structure for an experimental report, particularly a journal paper, is the TAIMRAD structure: Title, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion.

When TAIMRAD Isn't an appropriate structure for your document

The classic TAIMRAD structure may not be suitable if you are reporting on:

• Experimental work but the structure needs to be expanded from the restrictive TAIMRAD form or

• Work that is not of an experimental nature.

In this case, you will need to construct your own set of headings.

There is no single structure that can be applied to all reports. The following sections give guidelines for this.

Choosing a set of main headings

The basic skeleton of all professional technical documents is made up of a set of main headings. The headings don't depend on the topic or length of the report, or whether it presents experimental or investigational work that you've done, or material that you've researched only from the literature (e.g. a generalised project report).

Documents tend to start and end with the same sections; the middle part will depend on the subject matter of your document. To show this, Table 1.1 compares the basic format for a generalised short and a long document.

Choosing Section Headings: Building an Extended Skeleton

This section describes how to:

• Build up the general skeleton into an appropriate extended skeleton of sections for your document. This covers every type of document that is not of a strictly TAIMRAD structure.

• Use the standard sections frequently used in longer documents.

Steps to take

Step 1: Working from the basic skeleton, plan an enlarged skeleton for your document. Use Table 1.2 for help: it does the following:

• It lists many standard sections used in postgraduate science and technological documents in the approximate order in which they would occur in the document.

• It gives the purpose of each section.

• It cross-refers you to the pages of this book that give guidelines on how to write each section described in Table 1.2.

Step 2: Work out your own headings for the central part of the document. Think about what the reader needs.

• Ask yourself: What does the reader need to be able to assess my material most readily? How can I best tell this story for the reader?

• Don't ask: How do I want to present this material? This is quite different; it is looking at it from your point of view, not the reader's. Documents that are written from the writer's point of view run the risk of being difficult for a reader to readily understand.

The Outline Mode of Microsoft Word®: Organizing a Document

This section very briefly describes the Outline mode of Microsoft Word®. This mode helps organise a document, revise it, and produce a professional-looking document.

The Outline mode of Microsoft Word® will:

1. Help organise a set of headings and subheadings of various levels.

This is useful for the first stage of organising a document. You decide on your headings, the sub-headings and their divisions, and then assign them to their various levels (level 1 for a main heading, level 2 for a sub-heading and so on). They can be easily reassigned to different levels at any time in the writing process.

The text is then inserted under the headings to produce the full document.

2. Collapse the document to display only selected levels of headings.

This gives an overview of the whole document. You can select the level of overview. By collapsing the document and selecting to display only the level 1 headings, you can check the overall structure of the document in terms of only its main headings. By progressively displaying greater levels of sub-headings, you can obtain an increasingly more detailed view of the structure of the document.

This also helps in revising the first draft of the document.

3. Enable a heading to be dragged and dropped to a different place in the document or to a different level.

This helps to organise and revise the document. When a heading is dragged and dropped, the corresponding text is also moved.

4. Automatically produce a Table of Contents with the corresponding page numbers.

The Importance of Overview Information

This section describes how to help readers to navigate their way through your document. In this way, they will understand and assess the information much more readily.

This is done by using the basic skeleton and section summaries to provide overview information.

Even though technical documents have side-headings, they are very often difficult to assess and extract information from. This can be because the readers can't see a route through it, i.e. something to help them to navigate their way.

You can construct a navigational guide through your document by using the basic skeleton and building on it. Your readers should then be able to use this – probably unconsciously – to gain a much readier understanding of your material.

Building a roadmap by giving overview information throughout

Psychological studies have shown that our brains need initial overviews to better assess the full information that follows.

To use this concept, think of structuring information in the shape of a diamond (Figure 1.1).

1. First, think of the whole document as being diamond shaped. At the narrow ends, the information is brief, focused and concise.

– The Summary or Abstract at the beginning and the Conclusions at the end each give overview information.

– The Summary prepares the reader for the whole document; the Conclusions confirms the findings and their significance.

2. Next, think of each section of a long document as also being diamond shaped. It will have a title; It will also help the readers if it has a very brief summary immediately under the section's title.

This structure does two things:

1. It helps the expert reader get an undetailed understanding of the key information in a document. The formula for this is as follows: Read only the Title, Summary/Abstract/ Executive Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations.

These sections – together with the section summaries – should form a road map that orientates the readers and guides them through the document. They also give the non-expert reader a means of obtaining an undetailed overview. (For an explanation of the varying levels of detail delivered by certain sections, see Table 1.3.)

2. It lets non-expert readers obtain an overview of the document by reading these particular sections, while avoiding the detail.

How a reader with less expertise than you would probably read a document structured in this way:

Suggested wording (placed immediately before or after the main Summary):

For overview information about this document, please read the Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations together with the section summaries at the beginning of each section.

Deliberate Repetition of Information in a Document

This section describes how information is deliberately repeated in the various sections of the basic skeleton.

People are sometimes concerned because they see information repeated throughout a report. Remember, however, that this repetition is deliberate and controlled – the basic skeleton calls for it. The repeated information forms part of the navigational route described previously and guides the reader through the document. Table 1.4 shows the information that is repeated and the sections where it occurs.

This deliberate restatement of undetailed information in the basic skeleton is a feature of a professional document. But information that is repeated because the document has been sloppily assembled is another matter.

Specific Types of Documents: Using This Book

This section describes how to use this book if you are writing a specific type of document.

Specific types of documents are dealt with in Chapters 3–14. Each of these chapters gives extra material relevant to the type of document (including a suggested structure) and is cross-referred to the material in Chapter 2 – The Core Chapter: Sections and Elements of a Document. Table 1.5 lists the various specific types of documents covered in these chapters and additional appendix material that may be helpful.

Checklist for the structuring of a document

Are you using the necessary headings of the basic skeleton?

Are the headings of your expanded skeleton appropriate to your topic?

Are your headings in a logical order?

Have you built a navigational route for the reader by giving overview information throughout your document: an Abstract or Summary or Executive Summary, Recommendations and Conclusions, and in a long report, section summaries?

Have you deliberately controlled the repetition of information throughout the document?

Chapter Two

The Core Chapter: Sections and Elements of a Document

This chapter covers the requirements for each of the sections and elements required in the various types of documents you may have to prepare as a postgraduate. Any one document will not need all of the sections described in this chapter.

Many sections are described under most or all of the following headings:



How to Write It

Common Mistakes

The Tense of the Verb


For a specific type of document, use the relevant chapter for that document type in combination with this chapter.

The sections are listed in the approximate order in which they are usually found in a document.

The following sections and elements of a document are covered in this chapter. Some elements are cross-referenced to other chapters that give a detailed treatment of that element.

Many of these sections are described under most or all of the following headings:

1. Purpose or the aim of each of the sections.

2. Difficulties when writing the section.

3. How to write the section.

4. Common mistakes to avoid.

5. The tense of the verb to use.

See Appendix 2 for guidelines for using tense in technical documents, as well as definitions and examples of the various tenses of the verb.

6. Checklist.

Letter of Transmittal, Covering letter

Letters that accompany a document. See Chapter 10: Formal Letters (Hardcopy or Online), pages 32.


Excerpted from Writing for Science and Engineering by Heather Silyn-Roberts Copyright © 2013 by Elsevier Ltd. . Excerpted by permission of ELSEVIER. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Section 1: Document structure. The requirements for each section. Section 2: Specific types of documents. Section 3: Referencing, editorial conventions, revising, proof reading. Section 4: Writing style. Section 5: Presenting your work orally. Appendices.

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