Scientific writing

Scientific writing is not meant to be creative, it is meant to be brief, clear and succinct. Today I heard this in lecture with Professor Landon Myer and he also told us how he felt when he first began writing this way . To him research was supposed to be an amazing, grandiose thing and for the writing to be just “cookie cutter” was a let down.

He said the best way for us to get better at this would be read articles, find the ones that we like – an indication of easy and accessible write up – and copy their structure. So here is what he said we should do – copy their structure, not their words (that would be plagiarism). And this is what leaves me in a bit of a quandary.

I had to produce a short protocol where circumcision and its effects on how much of risk men took in sex was the research question. In the process, I read a paper where the authors stated:

“Evidence from three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) has established that male circumcision reduces the risk of acquisition of HIV infection through heterosexual intercourse by 50–60%” (they cite the three trials).

I then wrote up my own sentence for the introduction where I said:

“Later the seminal papers from three randomized controlled trials established that circumcision affords men a 60% reduction in relative risk of HIV-1 acquisition during vaginal sex”(Bailey et al., 2007; Gray et al., 2007; Auvert et al., 2005).

The two sentences are similar in structure, yet they are clearly distinct. I would not call what I did plagiarism. I just followed the cookie cutter principle.


About writinghealth

Wannabe Epidemiologist? Wannabe med anthro person? I guess. Christian, scientist (not Christian scientist), i mean like I studied molecular biology and I part of the RC Church. I also completed a Masters of Public Health, at the University of Cape Town, in Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
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