8 Tips for Successful Scientific Writing from Wheaton College Science Professors Compiled by Safia Livingston ‘15


  1. Engage with previous research. Research in the sciences is built on the work of others. Be able to read and synthesize past research in order to support your arguments.

  2. Don’t be afraid to enter scientific conversation. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific study you are reading, and then interact with it. The scholars and graduate students who publish in the sciences are also in the constant process of learning and refining; thus, you should engage with their thoughts and add your own. What do you think the researchers could have done differently in their study? How do you anticipate their results would have changed if they had adjusted their methods?

  3. Link your ideas. Each sentence should advance the logical progression of your argument. For example, in any given paragraph, each sentence should build upon the previous one.

  4. Use specific language.When choosing your words, seek to use the scientific meanings rather than colloquial ones. For example, the words “work” and “mass” can have different meanings in the sciences than they do in daily conversation. Use the appropriate word for a scientific discourse community.

  5. Titles and captions for tables and graphs are critical. It is essential to write meaningful captions that are distinct from the title. Make graphs and tables an integral part of the results and findings rather than a required afterthought.

  6. Check the citation style required for the assignment. Often, professors have preferences for which citation style would be best for their assignment, given their particular discipline.

  7. Revision is a gift. A healthy, professional work environment involves productive criticism of your work. When your work is reviewed, it is refined and made into something even better. Having a professor, a colleague, or Writing Center consultant collaborate with you on your work takes time and energy, but it is a gift.

  8. The process of writing is thinking! As you write, you clarify your thoughts and come to understand what you know and don’t know. This is, in part, why writing is so important in the sciences.





Townsend, Dana. Interview. By Safia Livingston. July 2018.

Hunt, Brian. Interview. By Safia Livingston. July 2018.

Page, Kristen. Interview. By Safia Livingston. July 2018.

Burden, Lisa. Interview. By Safia Livingston. July 2018.

Whitney, Heather. Interview. By Safia Livingston. July 2018.