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Racha Salha ENGH 121 29/01/13 Structural and Linguistic Patterns in Scientific Writing There are different kinds of academic

writing. Some of them may be scientific, and the author would be trying to demonstrate this or that experiment. Others may be historical, and the author would be rather telling a sort of story. Thus, every kind of writing is based on specific patterns, structurally and linguistically. For example, one of the most important characteristics of scientific writing is clarity. Indeed, in order to convey his message, the author has to be as clear as he can, by using simple sentences for example, and by organizing his writing. This means that he has to put titles in between each paragraph, in addition to an indented introduction, body, and conclusion. Otherwise, the reader may get confused about what the author is trying to explain to him, and by being confused, he will get bored. And that is actually what usually happens, when students have to read an article about a new invention for instance, with a series of numerical values that may not make any sense to an inexperienced person. In that example, a graph would be helpful, and simple sentences would be really appreciated in order to make the reading less complicated! Also, a scientific article has to be completely neutral, and that is because if the author gives his opinion, then the reader may doubt his words. Indeed, science is supposed to be objective, so when a scientist wants to demonstrate a study, it should be more about proving it than persuading the reader to believe it. Thus, the more neutral the article sounds, the more credible it will be. The scientific article I am analyzing is called Associations Between Media Use and Health in US Children and it is about the impact of media use on US children's health and how it affects them mentally and physically. This article is written by several persons from the UCLA, all experts on the subject: the educational psychologist Dr. Todd Michael Franke, the medicine professor

Dr. Neal Halfon, the Dr. Kandyce Larson, and the Dr. Shirley Russ who is an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics. Two main points will be discussed throughout this essay: first, the structural patterns of a scientific article, then the language that is generally used by the author. The first thing we notice in the article is that it starts with a summary, which is a typical scientific article's pattern. This summary contains a quick review of what will follow. It briefly introduces what is the path that has been taken by the leaders of the study, their objectives, the methods they used, and the results they finally obtained. It also gives the key words of the article. This way, it is enough to read this part to briefly know what the article will be about. This summary is one of the main structural scientific article's patterns. Indeed, it's part of the article's clarity since it concisely gives all the information about it, or at least the main things to keep in mind. It prepares the reader of what is coming up. On the other hand, it makes the article look organized since the authors state from the beginning what the conclusion they will lead to is. Thus, the writers seem to perfectly know what they are going to talk about, and this very organized knowledge makes the reader more likely to believe what he reads, and the article immediately becomes more credible. It also helps getting the reader's attention, or at least keeping it as long as possible. It may be a way to whet his curiosity, because now that the reader knows the results, he may want to know how the writers got those results. If we move on to the general structure of the article, we notice that it is also very organized, with a title for every different paragraph (Methods, Results, and so on). Those specific titles combined with an indentation - that re-marks every different part of the article, makes it airy as a whole, and so much more pleasant to read - at the beginning of each paragraph, and sometimes even in between each different part of the same paragraph, gives the article a very concise organization, and makes it clearer and predictable. The reader starts


to know when the authors move from one part to another, and he expects that change. On the other hand, if we look to the references of the article, they are at the very end of the text, as they always are in scientific articles. By putting the references at the end of the writing instead of at the bottom of each page, the author pushes the reader to only focus on the study led in the article, instead of losing attention in between every page because of the references list, as in a historical article for instance. Another characteristic of a scientific writing is the use of supporting material, like tables for example. This helps the author to "illustrate" the results, and it is also a way to clarify the information, since by using a descriptive table for instance, the author writes the final results down, making them "seeable" for the reader. It is also a way to recapitulate all that has been said previously, before moving to the next point. Thus, in case the reader has lost the thread, he may easily catch up, but he also has the opportunity to stop reading for a moment and focus on the table, or the graph, or whatever the author offers. So it is a sort of "break" for the reader. Furthermore, the fact that the tables are not always the same, and that the writers use several "illustrations" also prevents the reader from getting bored and keeps it intrigued by the "flexibility" that the article shows. If we look at the three main parts of the article, the introduction, the body, and the conclusion, we notice that the body is far longer than the two others. In fact, the body is divided in many parts, and each one is very specific. It starts with the methods, then the results, and finally the discussion that sort of gathers all the information up, and allows the authors to finally "discuss" the study they led. The conclusion comes after that, and it is pretty short compared to the rest. Again, this structure is a source of clarity and credibility because it shows that before discussing the subject, the authors took the trouble to prove that they made various researches, and so that they are experts on it. Moreover, by specifically stating every step they take, the writers reinforce the organization and the authority of the article, in


addition to the fact that they appear even more credible. They also make it easier for the reader to follow and to understand what is going on. It's like when we use a recipe to cook for instance: we can't immediately start at the 3th step! It is much more to follow it step by step, until the end, and that way we make sure that we don't ruin the dish. The reader feels the same when reading the different steps taken by scientist writers: the only way to get to understanding the results is to be aware of how the authors got to them. Concerning the linguistic, it seems very simple at first sight. Indeed, if we look at the four first sentences of the introduction, they are all simple sentences. There is no opinion, and everything the authors say is neutral. After analyzing 12 paragraphs of the writing, we notice many details that characterize scientific articles. First of all, it immediately appears that all the paragraphs in the writing have 5 sentences maximum, it means that the authors are trying to make their article as simple as possible. This is comprehensible; knowing that when reading endless articles, readers are more likely to get bored, and they sometimes even may skip paragraphs. Long articles are usually full of repetitions, and long sentences are always more difficult to understand, while the shorter a sentence - or a paragraph - is, the more interesting and pleasant to read it may look. The idea expressed is crisp and clear, and it shows that the authors go straight to the point they want to prove. The reader may feel even more admiration for that professionalism. The authors are so sure of their point that they don't need to hide any doubt behind interminable sentences, as some other writers may do. When looking deeper, and focusing on every single sentence's composition, it appears that most of them are composed of independent clauses; some of the paragraphs even consist totally in independent clauses. This is a characteristic of a scientific article, and it has the same impact on the reader than short sentences do. It shows how seriously the authors take their work, and how experts they are on the subject, to the point where they bothered writing simple sentences only - or mostly- when it's much easier to use dependent clauses. On the


other hand, this simplicity may be due to the fact that science is complicated enough by itself, and the least an author can do to make a scientific article readable for all is to avoid writing too much. In the same way, complex sentences are rare in the article, going from 1 to a maximum of 4 from one paragraph to the other. Once again, the fact that everything is made to simplify the writing as much as possible is obvious. Moreover, unlike historical or philosophical articles which are more considered as literary writings, scientific articles - and science in general- is pretty "centered." For instance, when thinking about math, an equation is or is not right. It never is betwixt and between, it exists or it definitely doesn't. That is why an author can't go in circles when writing an article about science, or related to it. This is confirmed by the fact that complex and complex-compound sentences are almost inexistent all along the article, but also that every paragraph goes from 100 to 150 words at most, and never extends that number. It is like if the authors were trying to summarize every different idea they introduce, and even if their study surely has been long and hard, they pick the essential from it and add nothing else. This is not only a characteristic of scientific articles, but it also plays a big role on how the reader is going to feel while reading the article. In fact, it may make him deny that common idea that most people may have about scientific articles, and which describes that kind of writing just as an interminable series of numerical values or incomprehensible sentences. Another important point that is reflected by the article's linguistics’ analysis is the total inexistence of any direct quote, and even indirect quotes. This is completely different from a historical or philosophical article where the author has to support his argument by other experts' arguments. This is actually the only way to make a literary text credible: to give as much reliable sources as possible. However, it is completely different when it comes to a scientific article, where the author must think about proving his point by using experiments'


results, by adding numbers, and tables, and graphs, and by making as much experiments as he can. Beside some scientific general ideas, he can't really use an outside support: he has to personally demonstrate his own point. That may be the reason why there are no indirect quotes in the article, nor - and even less- direct quotes. A scientific article would loose all credibility if it was all about repeating others' ideas, and citing them. The reader would quickly loose interest, and wouldn't even read the whole article. Furthermore, if science was all about the same points, there would be no progress. The more unique a scientific article is, the more relevant, inspiring, and so revolutionary it becomes. To conclude, every kind of articles has its own characteristics, and those characteristics are the key to recognize those different writing. That difference is reflected in the article itself, and the way it is written and presented by the author. The structure, the references, the number of words, and the composition of the sentences: all these are characteristic signs of economic, scientific, historical and so on articles. Taking note of these signs is important because we don't read a scientific article in the same way we do for a philosophical article for instance. A literary article appears more like a story, and it may be comfortably read in the evening, as we would read a pleasant book before bedtime, while a scientific article demands much more concentration, and an active and intrigued reader.

[Don’t forget to add the reference for the article you analyzed. And if you use any quotes in the essay in your revision, remember to include the page number/citation]