Skip to main content

Writing in Sciences & Engineering

For the Writer's Block Series, taught in conjunction with the Effective Writing Program

At the End of This Session You Should Be Able To:

  1. Use the Workshop on the Information Search Process for Research (WISPR) to integrate the research and writing process.
  2. Identify different types of publications.
  3. Find journal articles on your research topic using an appropriate General Science database or search engine.
  4. Use the Library Catalogue effectively to locate books, journals and selected conference proceedings.
  5. Name a variety of citation styles.

Scholarly, Professional, or Popular?

Scholarly Professional Popular
Focus

To disseminate scientific information to other academics.

Reports on original research, experiments, measurements, theories or findings. Presents others' academic research to an academic audience.

To discuss the applications or work of engineering or science.
Educate/inform/entertain
Audience Academic: students, researchers/professors*
Practitioners: engineers or researchers/scientists* General public, non-subject specialists
Structure

Original research often has headings/sections similar to: abstract, methods/materials or calculations, observations or listings of data collected, conclusion/discussion (sometimes identifying areas of further research), literature cited section.

Presentation of others' academic research often has an abstract, section headings, conclusion/discussion (sometimes identifying areas of further research), substantial literature cited section.

There may be headings, may or may not be a literature cited section.

Graphics may not necessarily be explained in text; graphics for embellishment.

No specific structure

Short or non-existent literature cited section.

Graphics may not necessarily be explained in text; graphics for embellishment.

Writing

Scholarly, technical tone

Jargon

Technical, professional tone

Possibly: entertaining tone, personal tone; discussion of social/technical/practical issues rather than the science

Jargon

Non-scientific, non-technical, entertaining tone

Jargon-free

Possibly more frequent grammar or spelling errors (especially Web resources)

Authority

Literature cited section: for verifying facts. Literature cited will be other scholarly works.

Authors: affilation or credentials are evident

Publication: is reputable. This can be verified by the presence of an editorial board or peer-review process

If there is a literature cited section: verifies facts

Authors: affiliation may be mentioned; authors not necessarily experts in the area of question but may practice in the area

Publication: often reputable - most are published by professional societies (e.g. IEEE)

If there is a literature cited section: verifies facts. The literature cited may not be scholarly (e.g. newspapers, Web pages, other magazines, etc.)

Authors: affiliation may not be mentioned; are not always experts in the area of question; may not even be stated

Publication: there may not be an editorial or peer-review process

* researchers/professors/practitioners will often use or read both scholarly and professional publications

Find Articles using General Science Online Resources

These Online Resources have articles in them, link to articles, or provide information to find an article. Articles may be from journals, conference proceedings, magazines...etc.

Online Resources can be found on the Library Home Page -> Online Resources -> Select the appropriate subject discipline

  • To access the Research Databases from off-campus you will need to use the ID and PIN numbers found on your Student Card (e.g. of ID/PIN Numbers)

 

Research Databases or Search Engines that are useful for conducting general research in the Sciences include the following:

Google Scholar Start here first! This will give quickly connect you with research articles.
Scopus One of the most comprehensive database of peer-reviewed journals.
Web of Science All articles indexed by this database are scholarly or peer reviewed.
Academic Search Complete General database covering all academic disciplines, includes scholarly and popular material.

 

Tips:

  • "AND" narrows your search (Finds articles containing all of the search terms)
  • "OR" broadens your search (Finds articles containing any of the search terms)
  • Truncation and Wildcard symbols:
    In most databases use the asterisk * to find plurals or variant spellings and the question mark ?for only one character.
    • Examples: Electric* finds Electrical, Electrician, Electricity
      Example: Robotic? finds Robotic or Robotics
  • Get full text or the Find It UofC links connect through to articles or electronic content. These work very well for journal articles. For conference papers, book chapters and other types of material, you may have search the catalogue (below.)

Find Books, Journals and Conference Proceedings Using the Catalogue

To find books, journals (not journal articles), conference proceedings (not articles from conferences), use the Library Catalogue from the Library Home Page, or on the left hand side of this guide. The catalogue also contains videos, microfiche and a variety of other formats.

Most science books are held in the Taylor Family Digital Library (6th floor) and have Call Numbers or location codes between Q1 - TN999

Examples:

  • Electrical Engineering: Principles and Applications, 4th ed.
    Call Number: TK146. H22 2008  -- this would be held on 6 TFDL
  • J & P Transformer Book (Electronic Resource), 13th ed.
    Call Number: TK2792 Internet Resource -- this would be an online book

Tip:

  • Remember, if the Find It SFX or the Find It UofC links don't work, search the catalogue for the journal title, conference title or book title.
  • The dollar sign $ is the truncation symbol.
  • "Books" include: encyclopedias, textbooks, handbooks, dictionaries, novels & literature, ... .

Citing Your Literature

Plagiarism

Plagiarism refers to using someone else's words or ideas in a written or oral presentation as if they were your own. If you are charged with plagiarism "you can fail an assignment, fail a course, or be suspended from the University".

Contact a Subject Librarian

Contact any of the science librarians for:

  • library web pages on your discipline
  • suggestions on defining your research topic, and expressing it in search terms
  • suggestions on research databases for a topic
  • help finding specific items (articles, books, ...)
  • other library questions

Contact a non-science subject librarian