The Science Of Scientific Writing    Set D  Introduction   Multi-part Sentences   The End of the Sentence  Exercise 1   The Start of the Sentence  The Middle of the Sentence   Sentence, Paragraph compared   Mapping Multi-part Sentences   Exercise 2   Types of Sentence Part   Exercise X   Advanced Sentence Stories   Final Page   .

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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

Sentence Strategy #3: once you know who or what is the main character in the story of your sentence, make it the grammatical subject of the sentence's first independent clause

When we were discussing how readers decide who or what is the main character of the story of a sentence, we saw that they look to the subjects of any verbs in the sentence. But in a multi-part sentence with several verbs, each may have a different subject, e.g.

Even though his dog shows signs of being beaten, Kumar insists he is a nice guy.

Will readers consider that the main character of the sentence is Kumar, or his dog? In this case the answer is Kumar, because "his" clause is independent, while his dog's clause is dependent. Research shows that a reader gives more interpretative importance (with respect to the sentence's story) to the first independent clause that they encounter.

In a paragraph, judicious deployment of your sentences' main characters can have a cumulative impact on global coherence

In Set C we looked at one factor that can make a paragraph feel globally integrated or coherent: it should have a single obvious purpose (e.g. explanation, argument, description). There is another important contributor to global coherence that you are now ready to understand. A paragraph will feel integrated if the majority of the "main characters" of its sentences feel like they belong to a set of related items.

Consider the paragraph below in which the subject of the first independent clause of each sentence is shown in bold:

The platypus was first reported outside of Australia in 1798 when specimens sent back to England caused scientists to puzzle over the animal's combination of mammalian and avo-reptilian features. Today, despite truly sharing some features with the birds and reptiles, several other characteristics of the platypus have resulted in it being grouped with the mammals. Firstly, it has fur which, when examined in detail, is structurally similar to that of non-egg-laying mammals. These features of the hair were most fully described by Leon Hausman (died 1966), the pre-eminent mammalian hair expert of the twentieth century. Hausman showed that the hair scales of the shaft of the platypus exhibit the typical mammalian shift in shape between the base and the tip. Secondly, the platypus also suckles its newborns by secreting (from pores on its ventral abdominal skin) an iron-rich milk. The platypus's hold on the scientific imagination has been a long one and is deserving of a study in itself, but today, all scientists concur that the presence of hair and suckling of the young are sufficient to definitively place this animal in class Mammalia.

Note how all but one of the bolded subjects refer either to the platypus itself or one of its characteristics. This gives the paragraph a strong sense of global coherence.