Writing for Science and Engineering

Writing for Science and Engineering, 2nd Edition

Papers, Presentations and Reports

Writing for Science and Engineering, 2nd Edition,Heather Silyn-Roberts,ISBN9780080982854






229 X 152

Specifically written for engineering and science students, this second edition book clearly explains all you need to know to succeed at writing.

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Key Features

  • Written in modular format, so you only need to access the relevant chapter
  • Covers a wide range of document and presentation types
  • Includes easy-to-understand rules to improve writing


Learning how to write clearly and concisely is an integral part of furthering your research career; however, doing so is not always easy. In this second edition, fully updated and revised, Dr. Silyn-Roberts explains in plain English the steps to writing abstracts, theses, journal papers, funding bids, literature reviews, and more. The book also examines preparing seminar and conference presentations. Written in a practical and easy to follow style specifically for postgraduate students in Engineering and Sciences, this book is essential in learning how to create powerful documents.

Writing for Science and Engineering will prove invaluable in all areas of research and writing due its clear, concise style. The practical advice contained within the pages alongside numerous examples to aid learning will make the preparation of documentation much easier for all students.


All science, engineering and technology postgraduates will find this useful, as well as research and development workers who are expected to write reports and make presentations.

Heather Silyn-Roberts

Affiliations and Expertise

University of Auckland

Writing for Science and Engineering, 2nd Edition

Introduction: How to Use This Book

Added for the Second Edition

The Basic Structure of the Book

How to Use This Book

Section 1: Document Structure. The Requirements for each Section

1. Structuring a Document: Using the Headings Skeleton

The Basic Skeleton of Section Headings for a Technical Document

Choosing Section Headings: Building an Extended Skeleton

The Outline Mode of Microsoft Word®: Organizing a Document

The Importance of Overview Information

Deliberate Repetition of Information in a Document

Specific Types of Documents: Using This Book

2. The Core Chapter: Sections and Elements of a Document

Letter of Transmittal, Covering letter

The Title

Running Title

A Conference Poster Title

The Title Page

Authorship and Affiliation (Particularly in a Journal Paper)

Abstract (can also be called a Summary)



Table of Contents (or Contents Page)

List of Illustrations

Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations (or List of Symbols, when dealing with only mathematical symbols)





Purpose Statement, Scoping Statement (or Scope), Procedure Statement, Problem Statement

Literature Review

A Section Covering Your Planning of Tasks

Allocation of Responsibilities




Materials and Methods (can also be called Methods or Procedure)


Structuring of Corresponding Headings for Materials and Methods and Results Sections

Results and Discussion




Suggestions for Future Research

List of References or References

List of Personal Communications





Designing Tables

Section 2: Specific Types of Documents

3. An Abstract, a Summary, an Executive Summary

Purpose of an Abstract/Summary/Executive Summary

Definitions: Abstract/Summary/Executive Summary


How to Write It: General Information for All Types of Abstract or Summary

Aiming for an Informative Abstract/Summary

A Conference Abstract

An Executive Summary

4. A Literature Review

What is a Literature Review?

When you are Likely to Have to Write a Literature Review

Purpose of a Literature Review

Common Difficulties

What Makes a Good Literature Review?

General Guidelines

A Possible Structure for a Self-Standing Literature Review (i.e. not part of a thesis)

Why Your Initial Literature Review Won’t Be Good Enough for a Thesis

Supplementary Tabulated Presentation for a Thesis

Common Mistakes

5. A Research Proposal

Types and Purpose of Proposals

How to Write It

A Proposal to a Funding Body or to a Commercial Organisation

6. A Journal Paper

The General Structure of a Journal Paper

How to Start Writing a Journal Paper

Guidelines: Writing the Various Elements of a Journal Paper

Journal Paper Title

Authorship and Affiliation



Journal Paper Introduction

Journal Paper Introduction: Tense of the Verb

Methods (also called Materials and Methods or Procedure)


Journal Paper Discussion

Results and Discussion



Figures for a Journal Paper: General Guidelines

The Process of Publishing a Paper

Collected Checklists for a Journal Paper

Planning a Journal Paper: Question Sheet

7. Progress Reports

A Progress Report to the Funding Body or Organisation

Possible Structure

A Project Team’s Progress Reports

8. Consulting/Management Report and Recommendation Report

A Consulting or Management Report

A Recommendation Report

9. Engineering Design Report

Purpose of a Design Report


General Characteristics of Design Documentation

The Workbook

Suggested Structure of Design Documentation

The Summary

Development of a Model

Design Calculations

10. A Formal Letter (Hardcopy or Online)

The Parts of a Formal Letter

Overall Layout

Structure of the Information

Style of Writing

Types of Formal Letters

11. Emails and Faxes

Formal Emails to Communicate Work Matters

Formal Faxes

12. A Procedure or a Set of Instructions



How to Write it

Possible Structure for a Procedure

Guidelines for the Wording of the Instructions

Common Mistakes

13. Thesis

Purpose of a Thesis

Difficulties of Writing a Thesis

How to Write it: Writing Up as a Process to Be Managed

Structure of a Thesis

Checklists for the Sections of a Thesis

14. A Conference Poster

Attending a Conference and Presenting a Poster: The Basics

Purpose of a Conference Poster

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Poster

What Conference Participants Dislike in a Poster

Planning the Poster

Design of the Layout

Figures and Tables

Section 3: Referencing, Editorial Conventions, Revising, Proofreading

15. Referencing: Text Citations and the List of References

General Guidelines

The Basics of Referencing

How to Compile the List of References Section

Example (Both Systems): Text and Corresponding List of References

16. Conventions Used in Scientific and Technical Writing

Where to Place the Titles of Tables and Figures

Using Numbers

Equations: Formatting in the Text

Written Style for Headings

Use of SI Units

Genus and Species Names

17. Revising

Before You Revise

Aspects to Check: Organisation, Style, Formatting, Document Integrity

Section 4: Writing Style

18. Problems of Style: Recognising and Correcting Them



Verbs and Vivid Language

Recognising and Correcting Incomplete Sentences

When English Is an Additional Language

Section 5: Presenting Your Work Orally

19. A Seminar or Conference Presentation

The Constraining Factors of a Presentation

Strategies for Beginners

The Time Sequence of Activities in a Science Presentation

Structuring Your Presentation

Designing Your Slides (PowerPoint or Other Presentation Software)

Delivering Your Presentation

Running Out of Time

Answering Questions

Checklist for a Presentation

20. A Presentation to a Small Group

Occasions When You Might Present to a Small Panel


Basic Principles for Preparation

A Ph.D. Oral Examination

A Presentation to a Review Panel

Checklist for a Presentation to a Small Panel

Appendix 1: SI Units and Their Abbreviations

SI Base Units and Symbols

Other Units Used with SI

Examples of SI Derived Units

Standard Prefixes Used with SI Units

Appendix 2: The Parts of Speech; Tenses and Forms of the Verb

Parts of Speech

Tenses and Forms of the Verb

Appendix 3: Recommended Scientific Style Manuals

Quotes and reviews

"Silyn-Roberts…presents this technical manual for writing in the sciences, intended to help students build technical competency. The basic structure of a scientific document and how to work from a skeleton of headings is covered, followed by considerations for specific types of documents. Advice on references, conventions, revising and editing is given. A small section on style is included, and the book ends by treating oral presentations."--Reference & Research Book News, December 2013
'Practical advice contained within the pages alongside numerous examples to aid learning will make the preparation of documentation much easier for all students'.--Engineering Designer, March 2001
"Writing for Science and Engineering will prove invaluable in all areas of research and writing due to its clear, concise style".--The Engineers Journal, October 2000
"Excellent text"--Professor Doug Probert, School of Mechanical Engineering, Cranfield University
'This book could serve as a practical guide to all aspects of documentation in Engineering, Science and Technology areas.'--Chemical Industry Digest, Feb. 2001

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