The Science Of Scientific Writing    Set A      Intro to Paragraphs   Features of Maps  Examples of Maps   Exercise 1 Quiz     Diverse Organising Principles    Example Exercise for Exercises 2-4     Exercise 2    Exercise 3    Exercise 4  Adding Non-core Content   Exercise 5     Exercise 6     Exercise 7    *Exercise 8*    Final Page.

Course Home

OVERVIEW: The way to well-written science

How to do the Course


PART I: Paragraphs and Sentences

SET A: Paragraphs: The Maps Behind Them

SET B: Paragraphs: Using Maps to Meet Readers' Expectations

SET C: Paragraph Coherence and Cohesion

SET D: Sentences

SET E: Scientific Sections (including Methods)

SET F: Scientific Sections: The Discussion

SET G : Scientific Sections: The Introduction

SET H : The Paper as a Whole

Set A: Introduction to paragraphs

As well as being important in their own right, paragraphs offer a wonderful model system for learning how to write. The principles of paragraph composition (in the context of a scientific paper) are largely the same as those that apply to composing a section of a paper, or organising the paper as a whole. They even overlap strongly with the principles of sentence construction.

As was discussed in the Course Introduction lecture, we will breakdown the composition of paragraphs (and other levels of text) into three stages. You will:

(a) learn how to compose a diagrammatic map of content, suitable for conversion into a paragraph in a paper

(b) consider how readers expect paragraphs to be structured; and

(c) learn how to convert maps of type (a) into paragraphs that meet the expectations considered in (b).

In terms of the metaphors used in the Course Introduction, a map basically corresponds to the content of what we have to say (our blueprint). We then package the content as a paragraph, using the reader's expectations of paragraph structure as our guide to quality control.

This is probably the first time you have ever been asked to present your ideas in the form of a map. It might seem a little unnatural at first, but map-making won't take long to master. The strategies you learn while working with the paragraph will carry over to map-making for sections and the paper as a whole.

In this set, Set A, we will focus only on (a) - map composition.


Important instructions for those doing these exercises in a classroom context

1. Do all the exercises on the central workspace of Rationale; do "file saves" from time to time; and email the saved file to your instructor at the appropriate time. Save the file with a name of this format: yourname_SetA

2. Rationale provides an inline browser. Access it by opening the "Text Panel" (tab, lower right) then click on the "Web" button. At some points in the exercises you must use this browser. You will need to use it when you see an instruction like the one below, or any other instruction that involves dragging an image from the browser window onto the Rationale workspace

"Drag the image of the sentences below onto the Rationale Workspace, and then rearrange the individual sentences into a nested diagram."

Which browser to use at other times is up to you. If your computer has a small screen you may find it too cramped for using the inline browser with those pages where it is not essential. Note that you can change the width of the inline browser panel by pulling on the tab on its left edge.

Also: these web pages are designed are best read using the "Arial" font. The font setting for the inline browser can be set via the font setting for your computer's main version of Internet Explorer (in IE: go to "Tools", "Internet Options", "General", "Fonts", "Webpage Font" ). You can refresh the content of any inline browser page via the mouse right-click options.

3. When composing maps of the Description/Report type use the "Grouping" style of boxes (drag them from the appropriate part of the "Building Panel" (left-hand side), or insert them via the mouse right-click options) .

4. Use a single sentence in each box in the map. Avoid phrases, single word and, at the other extreme, multiple-sentence entries.

5. If you do a quiz, please tell me the score you got (in a Note box on the workspace).

6. Never rush! Writing is a slow business, largely because (in this part of the course) it depends heavily on playing with concepts, sorting and sifting them in your mind until a sensible structure comes into focus. The emphasis in this course is always squarely on quality of work, not quantity.