Compiled by Debbie Yeh '94 and modified by the RSI2002 staff
These are general guidelines. See your tutor for information relevant to your particular research.

Overall Style & Tone
Defining Your Terms
Results and Discussion
Figures, Charts, and Headings
Space: The Final Frontier
Helpful Books to Read


Avoid the First Person singular. You discover the cosmic schmutz in your petri dish not because you happen to be the researcher, but because the schmutz simply exists in your petri dish as a phenomenon of Truth. Moreover, if you say "I", it makes your work sound like a "My summer camp project was . . .".

Write to the audience. Target your paper towards someone in your field, but not the specific sub-discipline. Explain abbreviations and technical terms, but use the technical terms in the paper (don't use simplistic substitutes).

Beware the weak transition. The most critical thing in any paper you ever write will be your ability to give smooth transitions from each paragraph to the next. Without clear transitions from each paragraph to the next, even the best of paragraphs are but mere oases in a desert of forsaken meaning. (It just breaks your heart, doesn't it?) One of the more common examples of this is:

X is really important because blah blah blah. Therefore, X was studied to blah. Y is really important because blah blah blah. Therefore, Y was studied to blah.

Instead, you might want to try:

X is really important because blah blah blah. Therefore X was studied to blah. It was also critical to study Y, as previous studies have shown that blah blah blah.


X is really important because blah blah blah. Integrally related to this blah, is Y, which blahs. Therefore, this study measured both X and Y, while Zing across a really big blah.

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"The Elements of Style", William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

A classic. Very helpful tips for improving your writing. Not aimed at technical writing, but certainly the tips suggested are universal. There is a companion book "The Elements of Grammar" by Margaret Shertzer, but at 168 pages it's maybe a little too dense to be all that useful except as a reference book.

"Writing Mathematics Well", Leonard Gillman (Mathematical Association of America (c) 1987, 64 pages)

An excellent guide for writing mathematics. Plus, the author has a good sense of humor, so it's fun to read, and at only 64 pages, not very time-consuming. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to find this book at your local bookstore; it is available through the MAA for $10 ($8 for MAA members) at (800) 331-1622.

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