In the Perspectives on Science Writing workshop, four speakers from different backgrounds gave outstanding advice about the mysterious field of science writing. Randall Engle, Maryanne Garry, Morton Ann Gernsbacher, and Paul Silvia all offered unique perspectives based on years of writing experience, but all of them focused on the same basic messages. Their primary stress was: just write. Write a lot, whenever you can. Set yourself a goal, don’t make excuses, and minimize distractions. Close your Internet browser, for example, and stop reading blogs when you should be working on your thesis! The panel also agreed that you should keep things simple. There’s no need to overcomplicate your writing; don’t pull out a thesaurus and find arcane words and convoluted phrases to express straightforward concepts. As Garry, said, write as if your grandmother were your ideal reader.
Another key focus was the structure of the article. The panel agreed that it’s best to open with a hook: Give the reader some interesting example of behavior that they can relate to or a story that leads into the primary research question. However, don’t ramble about the things you did before you came up with the research you’re reporting: Focus on the essentials. As Engle observed, the goal should not be just to get published, but to interest people in reading your work. Writing is a skill that can be learned, but like everything valuable in life, doing it well requires constant use and practice.