Hinweise zum Erstellen von BSc- und Masterarbeiten
Although technical writing is considered to be a challenging task (which it certainly is) and often even as a pain, it can be simplified by certain recipies. Some general and compacts hints on how to write an English article are given in Strunk & White, The Elements of Style. It is an American English writing style guide. It is one of the most influential and best-known prescriptive treatments of English grammar and usage in the United States. It originally detailed eight elementary rules of usage, ten elementary principles of composition, "a few matters of form," and a list of commonly misused words and expressions.
Strunk& White is a general style guide and in the following I will provide some hints and links which are particular for technical writing.
Structure of Document
The structure of a technical document is always like this:
- Data - Method - Methodology - Theory etc.
- Conclusions (and Outlook if any)
The ABSTRACT is THE most important part of a technical paper. Please look at E. Landes Scrutiny of the Abstract to learn about the art of abstracting a technical work. Mahrer's brilliant article (K.D. Mahrer: Some considerations when abstracting, Geophysics, 58, 10-11, 1994) is reproduced below and certainly worth to look at. At least, please, follow his advice that "the abstract should have at most one or two sentences on each of the four foundation points of your work. These are:
- principal objectives and scopes of the work,
- results, and
The INTRODUCTION is the second most important part of the paper. Please read Jon Clearbout's Scrutiny of the Introduction to learn about writing a good introduction. I would like to add to Jon Clearbout's list of content for the introduction, i.e., review, claim, agenda, one further item: The MOTIVATION for the study, because the reader likes to know, why you considered the work to be significant and what has driven you to carry out the work you are writing about. The motivation should come first in the introduction followed by the other items, i.e., motivation, review, claim, agenda). It is also possible to put the motivation second if it is derived directly out of the review when previous work did not cover a certain aspect of the subject.
What is the technique for a good readability of a technical paper? First, of course, good language and style and, second, a logic and consecutive order of the material. In order not to have a collection of material, i.e., isolated non connected items, it is important to have transitions between chapters and paragraphs. Sometimes this is just a single sentence at the end of a chapter or a paragraph, which introduces the next item of the material. In this way breaks in the flow of the text are avoided and a "roter Faden" is obtained. Please also look into my Kleiner Führer für mündliche Präsentationen (in German) because many aspects of this guide particularly the ones concerning illustrations also apply to technical writing.
Structuring means separating, combining and connecting the material
Do not Forget "Acknowledgements"
Please don't forget to mention in the Acknowlegements the financial support (BMBF, DFG, GIF, WIT etc., including project number) and other support you have received in the course of your work.
Mahrer's "Some considerations when abstracting"
This two page instructive articles on abstracting are available in the BSc module GSEM.
D. Gajewski, Dec 1st, 2009.