Don’t write about your scientific paper, just write it

Scientific writing is obsessed with other scientific writing1 and itself.

Phrases like ‘this paper‘ and ‘this study‘ are everywhere in scientific writing2—which is not a problem per se. Used well, these phrases concisely differentiate the current study from others. Used poorly, these phrases fill the word count without adding value to the reader.

Never, for example, start a Conclusion with ‘In this paper, we showed . . .’ or ‘The main conclusions of this paper are  . . .“. The first few words of a Conclusion (any section, in fact) are precious. Don’t waste them reminding me that I’m reading a paper in which you’ve shown or concluded something. Tell me something profound—something about your science.

In this paper, we showed . . .” is a signpost (aka metadiscourse). It’s writing about the writing. And it’s a main reason that so much of science writing, like any academic writing, is so boring.

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