can definitely be a rewarding venture for those driven and passionate about discovering new things. Even with a small amount of research the results can be substantial to the field and the practical world. Considering those benefits, its well worth it to surpass any perceived obstacles developed about writing scientifically. Since astronomy is science-all that needs to be done is to take a simple look at the key elements of scientific writing.
One of the first things presented on the cover of any scientific document, is the abstract. Though small in size and form, this handful of words is extremely powerful and should be a major focus in forming a research paper
Focus on your abstract
Why focus on the abstract? Its simple-your abstract is one of the first things the prospective reader will land their eyes on. You want it to be clear and specific as well let them know exactly why they should continue reading your work. In conducting your own research you've likely ran across many abstracts. Think about whether or not you decided to proceed to the author's paper or not-this is a good thing to keep in mind when formulating your own abstract. *Also depending on your preference you may decide to write the abstract before or after you finalize your paper (but taking into account its difficulty, it may be better to get it out of the way early on).
Below are a few 'goodies' to assist you in constructing your abstract.
- briefly state your hypothesis and major findings
- explain what was studied and the scope of your research
- detail whether your hypothesis was supported or not
- keep your writing brief, under 300 words
- make sure that it is a stand alone document; not needing any additional documentation
- save all the details regarding your methods and discussions for your actual paper
- explain the significance of your findings and research
Organize yourself with an outline
If you feel the least bit flustered in trying to write up your findings, attempting to do so without a decent outline is almost catastrophic. Outlines are extremely helpful and serve several purposes, including; categorizing information and ideas, providing a logical order to the paper, and helping to ensure that all relevant points are covered within the paper. A brief review of the descriptions of each section, even if already familiar, should help jumpstart an initial draft.
Review the key points of the abstract previously discussed as they also should be included in the introduction. To recap-explain what was studied, how it was measured, what was learned, and why it is important or meaningful
Provide a brief overview of what has already been studied in your astronomical area. For example, if you're studying Wolf-rayet stars then you need to be familiar with the earlier authors that researched them as well and any significant discoveries that were made.
- do investigate the history of your star or planet
- do write about the pioneers who laid the groundwork for current discoveries
- do show that you've read the current research that has been conducted on your topic
*NASA has a collection of astronomy papers that may be searched for these purposes.
Observations & Results
This section should be fairly easy to complete as you are simply relaying information and not engaging in any type of discussion or interpretation of the results. A few simple things to remember when relaying your results are;
- center on the most important result out of all the things that you discovered and observed
- include the other results you encountered in a logical manner (you can decide on an organizational structure-for example, most complicated to least complicated or vice versa)
- share specific information that is relevant to the study such as dates, times, weather conditions
- use clear and precise language; try to avoid any shortcuts in speech and use words that state exactly what you mean
Methods & Reductions
In general cientific papers
contain a separate section for listing materials used as well as explaining the research or methodological process administered. This step is very important because it allows for fellow students or researchers to accurately replicate your research procedures. And with astronomy this section may also be fused with your data reductions. Be careful to explain the precise methods used in obtaining your findings and the process of reducing your data. After your data is reduced you can then interpret those results in the analysis section.
In your analysis section you will be interpreting your data and should include several figures and diagrams to help the reader better understand your results. A great deal of writing should also be involved in this section but generally physical representations, along with words, allow people to better grasp information that is shown to them. Some things to adhere to in the analysis section are;
- discuss any systematic errors that occurred
- provide sufficient details of each figure and diagram-more than just a caption
- work to pull out any significant information from your findings
- relate any connections to relevant theories on the subject
The discussion section
should work to unify your paper by connecting your original hypothesis to your findings and significant interpretations that were previously made. Likewise, in this section students should connect their work to that of other authors by discussing any new or recurring challenges that they came across (as compared to the other author's works). And most importantly, the discussion should link the student's work to practicality and expound on the meanings of the research, why it matters for astronomy, and why it matters for the world.
Conclusions are sometimes as difficult to write as introductions. Overall they will reflect similar information as is seen in the abstract and introduction with regards to recalling the hypothesis, research question, and major findings. The principal additions of the conclusion are; looking back on your work in a reflective manner, providing the real 'big picture', and leaving the reader with a sound, final statement on the topic (this statement may end up being a quote or some considerations for further studies)
*In addition to the sections mentioned above, your paper should also include a reference section and any necessary appendices.
Along with creating a comprehensive outline to follow, students should also strive to excel in their grammar and word usage in writing-two areas that may be neglected in scientific papers. For this common pitfall, the most relevant issues to consider are (a) the use of active and passive voice (b) point of view (c) tense and (d) definite and concise wording.