Scientific writing is a technical form of writing that is designed to communicate scientific information to other scientists. Depending on the specific scientific genre—a journal article, a scientific poster, or a research proposal, for example—some aspects of the writing may change, such as its purpose, audience, or organization. Many aspects of scientific writing, however, vary little across these writing genres. Important hallmarks of all scientific writing are summarized below. Genre-specific information is located here and under the “By Genre” tab at the top of the page.



What are some important hallmarks of professional scientific writing?


1. Its primary audience is other scientists. Because of its intended audience, student-oriented or general-audience details, definitions, and explanations — which are often necessary in lab manuals or reports — are not terribly useful. Explaining general-knowledge concepts or how routine procedures were performed actually tends to obstruct clarity, make the writing wordy, and detract from its professional tone.

2. It is concise and precise. A goal of scientific writing is to communicate scientific information clearly and concisely. Flowery, ambiguous, wordy, and redundant language run counter to the purpose of the writing.

3. It must be set within the context of other published work. Because science builds on and corrects itself over time, scientific writing must be situated in and reference the findings of previous work. This context serves variously as motivation for new work being proposed or the paper being written, as points of departure or congruence for new findings and interpretations, and as evidence of the authors’ knowledge and expertise in the field.


All of the information under “The Essentials” tab is intended to help you to build your knowledge and skills as a scientific writer regardless of the scientific discipline you are studying or the specific assignment you might be working on. In addition to discussions of audience and purpose, professional conventions like conciseness and specificity, and how to find and use literature references appropriately, we also provide guidelines for how to organize your writing and how to avoid some common mechanical errors.


If you’re new to this site or to professional scientific writing, we recommend navigating the sub-sections under “The Essentials” tab in the order they’re provided. Once you’ve covered these essentials, you might find information on genre- or discipline-specific writing useful.