Scientific Writing

What is scientific writing

Scientific writing is an essential part of science with the documentation of ideas and demonstrable evidence of findings from qualitative and quantitative studies. How we gather, process and then communicate information is changing at the same time as technology is evolving, providing more platforms for scientific knowledge to be shared. This information needs to be delivered in a manner that is appropriate for its audience, thus, enabling its distribution and interpretation accordingly.

Styles of scientific writing

Scientific writing may be in a technical format, for example, the reporting of scientific observations and findings as a result of a study or notes in a lab book including methodology, research ideas and results. Conversely, scientific writing may include conveying information in a non-technical manner for a wider audience, for example, those that do not work in the science industry

Technical scientific writing

This is an example from a paper I published, written specifically for a scientific audience:

Non-technical scientific writing

Delivering complex scientific information to a non-scientific audience can be a difficult task and requires the breaking down of the information into bite-size and understandable chunks. Taking an extract from the example above, it has been re-written for a non-scientific audience:

Abstract:

‘Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative dementia, where an accumulation of aggregated fibrillar alpha-synuclein in neurons of limbic and forebrain regions of the brain leads to visual hallucination, cognitive impairment of a fluctuating nature and extrapyramidal motor disturbances. Beta-synuclein counteracts aggregation of alpha-synuclein in vitro and in animal models; however, it is not clear whether this effect occurs in human Lewy body dementia (LBD) diseases.’

Re-written:

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is a common form of dementia caused by gradual loss of brain cells. The cells affected are in the cortex and regions involved in memory. DLB sees protein aggregates formed from the sticking together of proteins into clumps inside the cells; the loss of these brain cells leads to the changes that characterise dementia such as memory loss, behavioural and personality changes. Beta synuclein and alpha-synuclein are proteins in the brain; alpha-synuclein is found in the protein aggregates – called Lewy bodies and beta-synuclein is a similar protein that can prevent the aggregation of alpha-synuclein. It is not known whether this effect is seen in humans also.’

Essentially, the pitch of the writing will be appropriate to those that will be reading it; however, it is imperative, when conveying such information that the information is interpreted correctly before disseminating.

Tracey Evans Writing Services

To conclude, be aware of the audience and write the piece accordingly. Scientific writing can be fun and light-hearted, journalistic or formal. If you would like some help with scientific writing please contact me.

Looking to start a PhD?

Are you a student looking to take your studies to the next level and start a PhD? If so, the key to finding a suitable PhD is being pro-active in advance and networking. Here are a few tips from someone who has been there and done that!

Speak to other PhD students

It is important to establish what you are letting yourself in for. A PhD is tough, and supervisors will expect 100% prod can be hard work. Some are nice, and others are not so nice, you need to be resilient and prepared. If you are interested in a particular group, talk to other members of that group. Ask questions and be sure to establish how well the group works together.

Lecturers and course leaders

Speak to course leaders or lecturers of the modules that you are interested in. Ask about their current group research projects; areas of interest and whether any opportunities are coming up. There may be grant applications in progress, if the grant is awarded get your foot in the door and note your interest.

Reach out to other Universities

When you are networking, ask about other research group leaders from other universities that may be of interest. Make contact with them, if you are not sure about contact details you can usually find email addresses on university portals. Email and ask whether it would be possible to meet with them and discuss their research and any future opportunities. Before you go, read some of their papers and make sure you are familiar with their field of research.

Leave your details

Leave your email and contact details with whomever you speak. When I was still undertaking my Master’s degree, I contacted the Professional Investigator at a hospital; they collaborated with the University of Bristol. I expressed an interest in their research, and they agreed to meet with me. Some six months later, I received an email asking why I had not yet applied for their current vacancy for a PhD student. As it was, I had already accepted a PhD position, but it goes to show, networking does work!

Universities will advertise positions themselves, but I also found findaphd.com very useful. In the meantime, please visit Tracey Evans Writing Services should you require help with your PhD covering letter or CV.

I wish you every success!

Dr Tracey Evans

Science and Spirituality

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

Science has a very important place in understanding the human race, the world and the universe. It is based on both intellectual and practical activities producing systematic studies and observations through testable explanations, predictions and experiments. Collectively, these form scientific theories regarding the behaviour of the physical and natural world and the universe.

The earliest scientific roots can be traced back to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, circa 3500 to 3000 BCE. Some argue that the universal knowledge and understanding of our early ancestors, far exceeds that of our present understanding – you only have to consider the pyramids to appreciate that sentiment. Science does not have all of the answers of the universe and potentially never will – or as Albert Einstein said ‘the more I learn, the more I realise I do not know’.

 I believe that sometimes, we only need to look as far as our own heart and mind to experience the ‘unknowable’. Of course, personal experiences are subjective however, does that make them any less feasible?

I take great comfort in meditation and doing so with an intention – looking for guidance or support. For example, when I experience discontentment with a choice I have made, I will meditate over it. Sometimes, but not always, the way forward appears very clear and I have the answers I need to move forward. The question is, is this because of divine or other-worldly intervention or is it because I took the time to relax, clear my mind of clutter and focus on my intention?

In medical science there is something known as the placebo effect, which has been proven. In essence what this refers to is when trialling a new drug for a particular condition or disease, some will receive what looks like the drug when in fact it nothing more than a sweet. BUT they still see an improvement in their condition much like those taking the actual drug may. So, my point here is – if it works, does it really matter how? Should you question it too harshly?

As a scientist, my brain is conditioned to theorise and then prove or disprove the theory. But even then, there are often still more questions than answers and more theories to be tested. In my mind – we are still evolving, learning and understanding in all aspects of life. Just because we do not understand, does not mean something can not be correct. It is OK to believe in what others consider unbelievable; it is OK to accept that you do not know how something worked – it just did. If we stop asking so many questions, we may have more time to listen to the answers.

To finish, I have just purchased a book on spiritual science, I am interested in reading the thoughts of others in relation to the marriage of science and spirituality. I may change my viewpoints or have fresh ideas and if so, I look forward to sharing them with you.

Namaste

Tracey

Fading memories

My memories may be fading

they are no longer clear to me

be assured they are only hiding

warm and safe you just can’t see.

***

For they are tucked up safely in my heart

a treasure trove so precious

each hold a special place

with beauty that leaves me breathless.

***

My eyes may no longer sparkle

but please be sure to know

these eyes watched in wonder

as I nurtured and saw you grow.

***

Now don’t be sad my darling

my heart still holds you close

this shell is just the wrapping

of a life filled with those I love the most.

Social media and reality

I recently read an article in the Independent regarding a survey that Nuffield Health performed. They report that a third of 18-35-year olds lacked the confidence to join a gym and that social media contributed to this self-consciousness. So, is social media insightful and helpful for those wanting to join a gym? or does it produce a layer of expectation that a certain physical appearance is necessary? I began thinking about this and when, in my past life, I was a fitness manager.

When I worked in the health and fitness industry, I would see people of all different shapes and sizes coming into the gym or to classes. Some would come with full make-up and not produce a bead of sweat – putting me who is very much a sweaty Betty to shame. Others would come in wearing super modern kit compared to maybe an old pair of shorts and once-white t-shirt. Some users would appear with huge baggy T-shirts, whilst others would be wearing a thong over skimpy shorts – yes in the late 90s that was a thing.

BUT the important consideration, regardless of appearance, is that each person has their own reasons for going to a gym. Whilst it is very easy to judge, I was fortunate enough to interact with many of our members and very often I would get to know their story. I learnt very quickly that appearances are very deceptive.

Surprisingly to many, when talking to a few of the ‘skinny’ girls, I would learn that she was wanting to lose weight because when she looked in the mirror, she saw a fat body. This is the very real pain of living with an eating disorder (for males and females). These particular users had to be managed very carefully as their energy expenditure far exceeded their calorific intake leading to potential fainting fits and subsequent injury. Additionally, I would learn that other members, ate, vomited and exercised (not necessarily in that order) – a vicious cycle of distress.

I would talk to friends and colleagues outside of work, they wanted to lose weight before joining the gym – yes, this is very common and many will associate with this concept that you need to lose weight before joining a gym. Of course, the truth be told, the gym will accelerate this progress and provide so many more benefits at the same time. The most difficult step, is that very first step into the gym.

Often sessions would be cancelled, this may be because on a particular day the gym user did not feel comfortable in their own skin, whilst others would spend much time doing their hair and make-up before a session. I would hear comments about people wearing make up to the gym, what is the point?  well there any many people that do this to improve their confidence – or as I think of it, put their public mask on.

Of course, then we have the body builders – yes, they should celebrate their bodies but they are mighty intimidating for the users that are not confident with weights. The cacophony of grunts and snorts as they push themselves to max! This is an important component of training for some, I know a guy that is a power lifter and in order to succeed in his competitions, he doesn’t care how much anyone else is lifting, he is breaking his own body limits today! Weight lifting generally is an essential component of general health and fitness but not everyone needs to max out on the weights, it depends on personal preference. So, to the person that wants to have a go but has been putting it off, approach a gym member and ask them to show you the correct technique. Just pick a few exercises to start with and then add a few more as your confidence builds.

I personally have been the user that got off the treadmill feeling hopeless and went home because I felt so slow next to the user next to me. I completely get it, but I also know that the sprinter was probably focusing on his breathing, desperate to complete this scheduled and gruelling training run – the 4th of the week. I reflect on how I let my own assumptions that I was a rubbish runner, make me throw the towel in that day!  Walk, jog, run – it is OK just move and get that heart pumping.

Some users would just come in, get their head down and power through a session so they could get home again, whilst others came in for the social element and a good catch up alongside a workout. All in all there are very many reasons for people to gym – including but not limited to: goal-specific training, general health and wellbeing, weight loss/maintenance/gain, mental health management (definitely me!), injury rehabilitation, recovery from a heart attack or management of other health conditions such as diabetes, to pass a military fitness test, improve flexibility, socialising, to stick two fingers up at the ex – always loved to work with those users – and of course, just for fun. Whatever the reason, embrace it and go for it because trust me – with time your self-confidence will improve!

So, personally I believe that if someone is feeling confident enough to put up a post on social media – applaud them and help them celebrate their achievement. Like the post, tell them how great they are doing, ask them about their routine. Their post is by no means a reflection of you so, how you let their post make you feel about yourself is your own responsibility. If it makes you feel bad, do something positive and regain control of your confidence. You may not be that amazing person in the picture – but you are you AND you are amazing too!