You are on page 1of 2

How to Write Backwards

Author(s): William E. Magnusson
Source: Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, Vol. 77, No. 2 (Apr., 1996), p. 88
Published by: Ecological Society of America
Stable URL:
Accessed: 04/08/2009 10:41
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless
you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you
may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.
Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at
Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed
page of such transmission.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the
scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that
promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

Ecological Society of America is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Bulletin
of the Ecological Society of America.

years of experience to get out of a hope less tangle of observations and infer tific writing.-Ed. tember 1995 ers need ANOVAs. criminant portance and Canonical Dis the im Analysis. Statistics training given through statistics de focuses on numerical partments . Rule 1: Write the conclusions to your paper. Many papers of these appear relate to form. " This time. 4: Write Rule the discussion. This avoids having to unlearn all the techniques acquired during the making of the nal work so they do not need modifi ers such as "however" and "that is. stepwise various nonpara metric methods. K. Despite of statistics. Even a large paper or the sis chapter will not have more than five or six substantial conclusions. and as such may make them more accessible to beginning writers. After I'm sure many of us will want to contact Dr. which should present only additional information that (e. 1995. the student learning to write a thesis and publish at the same time. Principle Compo nents Analysis. and have also helped more experienced writers. After the thesis defense. Rule 2:Write to make essary only the results nec the conclusions you presented. Acknowledgments I thank all my students who. such as those pointed out by Lertzman (1995)." Ecologists are statistics junkies. in a decade of teaching sci However. reading of Eco of America a good working of statistics. elTors. it is relatively easy to correct cially the draft for style using a text such as Lertzman' s. HOW TOWRITE BACKWARDS Lertzman (1995) presented many for writing useful suggestions and theses. when all else failed." thesis so that he/she can start to learn to be a researcher and publish. multiple journals knowledge to fully un in the Sep derstand all of the articles assuming intervals. too much for the beginner trying to punch out his/her first draft. to read evaluate Q test. William Rule 5: Write the introduction. sections. espe if English is not his/her mother tongue. Streever an article in our September You may authored 1995 is sue entitled "Ecology for liberal arts students. P values. Dr.g. Rule 3: Write only the methods how these re to understand sults were obtained. or appendices. The vast majority E.Our second E. not based on your re sults.-Ed. article is by William Coordinator of Eco logical Research with the National Institute of Research of Amazonia. with a dozen are grammatical suggestions. in teaching scien and reports on an inter esting and effective method for teach ing students to communicate ecology inwriting. 88 special such as myself. entific communication. the story is told. Ecological Ecological methods and and report results in a form at least a basic understand ing of statistical methods. in Brazil. Dr. If the writer gets the content right. which will have only the minimum to present the information necessary CoordenaCdo Ecologia Instituto Nacional to which questions the conclusions are the answers. The conclusions as written here will not enter into the fi thrown out and the rest sent off for publication. and occupy one sentence and less than two lines. If your major pro fessor requires that you include other things such as reviews of the litera ture about the species/ecosystem. but experienced ers will mately to writ realize that most are inti related to function. adopted these rules and made their theses coherent. Magnusson de Pesquisas em issue of Ecology. Our third article is by Bill Streever. remember that Dr. literature) necessary extends.. these can be speculations Each conclusion must be succinct. and regression Some articles solely on statistical meth ods. abound. discuss confidence Critical Society requires in Ecol da Brazil logical Monographs coefficients concentrate de Pesquisas Amazonia Caixa Postal 478 69011-970 Manaus AM Ecologists. confirms. the ability Ryan's regression. Australia. and in June 1993 Ecology pub lished a special feature entitled "Sta An Upgrade for tistical Methods: Bulletin of theEcological Society of America for example. Magnusson. ESA Bulletin ing papers 76:86-90. The paper summarized many ideas interesting that are to be found in how-to-write books. Literature cited Lertzman. You can go over it for stylistic STATISTICS FOR ECOLOGYAND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE STUDENTS of articles ogy. I have found that even five pages of text. When you have this. New South Wales. Notes on writ and theses. Magnusson has many The following five simple rules have helped many inexperienced writers to get started. Streever has clarified tics most misused) reading some of the basics often used in ecology this article. University of Newcastle. Streever with some statistics questions related to our own teaching/research ties.. of statis (and sometimes courses. put them in separate chap ters. The process is direct. or con the tradicts conclusions based on your results. instructors of classes undergraduate grate statistical methods or environmental inte seldom with ecology science. modifies. Applications. etc. or for a more experi enced writer to indicate the flaws. ences.