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Chapter 3

PSYC02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3: Scientific Writing, Personal Pronoun, Jargon

Course Code
Jessica Dere

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PSYC02: Ch. 3 Writing Clearly and Concisely
Before beginning to write, consider the best length and structure for the findings you wish to
Ordering your thoughts logically will strengthen the impact of your writing.
3.01 Length:
The optimal length of a manuscript is the number of pages needed to effectively communicate
the primary ideas of the study, review, or theoretical analysis
Rule “less is more”.
Discursive writing obscures an author’s main points, and condensing long manuscripts often
improves them.
If a paper is too long, shorten it by stating points clearly and directly, confining the discussion to
the specific problem under investigation, deleting or combining data displays, eliminating
repetition across sections, and writing in the active voice.
Journals differ in average length of articles published.
3.02 Organizing a Manuscript with Headings:
Sound organizational structure is the key to clear, precise, and logical communication this
includes the use of headings to effectively organize ideas within a study and seriation to highlight
important items within sections.
Concise headings help the reader anticipate key points and track the development of your
Levels of heading establish the hierarchy of sections via format or appearance.
All topics of equal importance have the same level of heading throughout a manuscript (i.e.,
experiment 1 should have the same level as the headings in experiment 2).
Use at least two subsection headings within any given sections, or use none.
3.03 Levels of Heading:
The heading style recommended by APA consists of five possible formatting arrangements,
according to the number of levels of subordinations.
Each heading level is numbered (1 to 5).
Regardless of the number of levels of subheading within a section, the heading structure for all
sections follows the same top-down progression.
o Each section starts with the highest level of heading, even if one section may have fewer
levels of subheading than another section.
Q: Ex. the Method and Results sections may each have two levels of subheading,
and the Discussion section may only have one level of subheading thus, there
would be three levels of heading for the paper overall: the section headings
(Methods, Results, Discussion) and the two levels of subheading, as follow: (pp.
The introduction to a manuscript does not carry a heading that labels it as the introduction (the
first part of a manuscript is assumed to be the introduction).
Do not label headings with numbers or letter
The number of levels of heading needed for your article will depend on its length and complexity
o If only one level of heading is needed, use Level 1; for a paper with two levels of
headings, use Level 1 & 2.
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3.04 Seriation:
Like how the header structure alerts readers to the order of ideas within the paper, seriation helps
the reader understand the organization of key points within sections, paragraphs, and sentences.
In any series, all items should be syntactically and conceptually parallel.
Separate paragraphs in a series, such as itemized conclusions or steps in a procedure, are
identified by an Arabic numeral followed by a period but not enclosed in or followed by
o Separate sentences in a series are also identified by an Arabic numeral followed by a
period; the first word is capitalized, and the sentence ends with a period or correct
punctuation (pp. 64).
The use of “numbered lists” may connote an unwanted or unwarranted ordinal position (e.g.,
chronology, importance, priority) among the items.
o If you wish to achieve the same effect without the implication of ordinality, items in the
series should be identified by bullets (i.e., symbols, like squares or circles).
o Bullet notation will be changed to the style used by the journal that the article is accepted.
Within a paragraph or sentence, identify elements in a series by lowercase letters in parentheses
o Ex. The participant’s three choices were (a) working with a friend, (b) working with a
group, and (c) working alone.
Within a sentence, use commas to separate three or more elements that do not have internal
commas; use semicolons to separate three or more elements that have internal commas.
o We tested three groups: (a) low scores, who scored <20 points; (b) moderate scores, who
scored between 20-50; and (c) high scorers, who scored >50.
Also use bulleted lists within a sentence to separate three or more elements capitalize &
punctuated the list as if it were a complete sentence.
o In accordance with this
equity, social justice, and equal opportunity;
sensitivity to individual differences; and
promotion of universal participation (Lerner & Banik, 2005, p. 45).
Writing Style
The prime objective of scientific reporting is clear communication.
3.05 Continuity in Presentation of Ideas:
Researchers will better understand your ideas if you aim for continuity in words, concepts, and
thematic development from the opening statement to the conclusion.
Continuity can be achieved in many ways.
o Punctuation marks contribute to continuity by showing relationships between ideas they
cue the reader to the pauses, inflections, subordination, and pace normally.
Never overuse nor underuse one type of punctuation, such as commas or dashes
use punctuation to support meaning.
o Use of transitional words these words help maintain the flow of thought, especially
when the material is complex or abstract.
A pronoun that refers to a noun in the preceding sentence serves as a transition but
also avoids repetition.
Other transition devices are time links (then, next, after, while), cause-effect links
(therefore, as a result), addition links (in addition, moreover) and contrast links
(but, nevertheless, however).
3.06 Smoothness of Expression:
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Scientific prose and creative writing serve different purposes
o Devices that are often found in creative writings can confuse or disturb readers of
scientific prose, thus avoid devices and aim for clear and logical communication.
Since you are close to your material, you may not see certain problems a reading by a
colleague may uncover such problems OR reading a paper out loud can make flaws more
If you find your writing is abrupt, introducing more transitional devices may be helpful.
o Abruptness may result from sudden, unnecessary shifts in verb tense within the same
paragraph or in adjacent paragraphs.
By using verb tenses consistently, you can help ensure smooth expression.
o Past tense or present perfect tense is appropriate for the literature review and the
descriptions of the procedures if the discussion is of past events.
Stay within the chosen tense
o Use past tense to describe the results.
o Use present tense to discuss implications of the results and to present the conclusions
By reporting conclusions in the present tense, you allow readers to join you in
deliberating the matter at hand.
Noun strings, meaning several nouns used one after another to modify a final noun, create
another form of abruptness.
o Best approach is to untangle the string one approach to untangling noun strings is to
move the last word to the beginning of the string and fill in with verbs and prepositions.
Ex. early childhood thought disorder misdiagnosis might be rearranged to read
misdiagnosis of thought disorders in early childhood.
Many writers strive to achieve smooth expression by using synonyms or near-synonyms to avoid
repeating a term.
o By using synonyms, you may unintentionally suggest a subtle difference.
o Discreet use of pronouns can often relieve the monotonous repetition of a term without
introducing ambiguity.
3.07 Tone:
In describing your research, present the ideas and findings directly but aim for an interesting and
compelling style and a tone that reflects your involvement with the problem.
Scientific writing often contrasts the positions of different researchers
o Differences should be presented in a professional, non-combative manner
One effective way to achieve the right tone is to imagine a specific reader you are intending to
reach and to write in a way that will educate and persuade that individual (i.e., not use specific
3.08 Economy of Expression:
The author who is frugal with words not only writes a more readable manuscript but also
increases the chances that the manuscript will be accepted for publication.
The number of pages a journal can publish is limited, and editors therefore often request that
authors shorten submitted papers.
o You can tighten long papers by eliminating redundancy, wordiness, jargon, evasiveness,
overuse of the passive voice, circumlocution, and clumsy prose.
o Weed out overly detailed descriptions of apparatus, participants, or procedures;
elaborations of the obvious; and irrelevant observations.
Short words and shorter sentences are easier to comprehend than are long ones.
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