A Few Tips Page: 1 of 9 5/8/2010 A FEW TIPS FOR PREPARING MANUSCRIPTS Style Book Get a book on writing style, read over it and then keep it handy for reference. The book by Strunk and White is good. I also have a book from the government printing office that has a lot of good details about technical writing. Read good writing The best way to improve your writing skills is to practice writing, but reading material that has been written well is also helpful. You absorb the style you read, at least a little bit. The subject is unimportant, so you can read whatever you want, but you better pick something where the writing is good—you want to avoid absorbing a style that is lousy. Format There are many correct ways to format the headings and references in a document. Adopt the formatting from an important hydro journal, such as WRR or Ground Water, for your paper. The one exception is that your paper should be have only one column and it should use double, or 1.5 line spacing—WRR uses two columns and is single spaced. Develop a template in Word that implements the formatting that you want to use in your manuscript. Embed figures in the text, along with a caption. You can include large figures on pages that are separate from text if you want. It looks better and is fairly easy to embed figures in the text. Manuscripts that you submit to a journal will have the figures together in the back, but this is inconvenient for the reader, so you should be your figures in the ext slightly after the first place they are cited. Organization Manuscripts should be tightly organized with general statements leading to specific details. The first sentence is the most important. Notice how all good books have interesting first sentences. This is done so the reader wants to continue. Make the first sentence an overview of the paper that points out something interesting or relevant to the entire paper. The first sentence under each heading and the topic sentence in each paragraph are also important introductions to what is to follow. This means, of course, that you must organize sections and paragraphs so they are faithful to the introductory paragraphs. Sections The paper should be organized into sections with headings that serve as landmarks so the reader can keep their bearings. Learn how to use Style sheets in WORD to make outlines and maintain a consistent structure to your headings. Avoid having one section heading under another heading. In this case, you should have text under the first heading to explain what is contained in the following section. If a section contains subsections, defined by subheadings, then you should have at least two subheadings in that section. If you only have one subheading in a section then you should either elevate the subheading to the same level as the section (make a new section) or delete the subheading. Abstract The Abstract should be a summary of the paper, not an advertisement for it. The Abstract should include the important points of the paper—what is the problem, how was the work done, what are the important finding, etc--so if the reader only gets through the Abstract A Few Tips Page: 2 of 9 5/8/2010 they will have read something of value. Some people write abstracts that describe what can be found in the full paper, without actually giving any details. This wastes the reader’s time and should be avoided. Sentence structure Use a sentence structure that is clear. Most sentences should have this simple structure: subject-verb-object. Add a clause or two at the end if you want. Avoid starting sentences with clauses that are set off with a comma from the SVO part of the sentence. Particularly avoid this type of sentence as a topic sentence in a paragraph. Avoid: To determine the drawdown in the aquifer at any time, the method of images is used. This is cleaner: The method of images is used to determine the drawdown in the aquifer at any time. Save the sentences with exotic structures for your next novel. Observe and interpret Separate observations or descriptions from interpretations. Mixing descriptions and interpretations in the same sentence or paragraph will compromise the integrity of both. You can make the separation at the scale of the entire document, with one section containing descriptions and another containing interpretations. In some cases you will want to include interpretations that are in the same section. This can be OK, but at least keep description and interpretation in separate paragraphs. Do not describe it this way. Avoid describing things using negative terms. Change vocabulary so that you say what something is, and avoid describing it by saying what it is not. Unclear: The hydrograph is not greatly affected by ET. Better: ET has a negligible effect on the hydrograph. The first sentence only implies what you want to say, but “not greatly” avoids really saying what you mean, which is “negligible”. Judgement: Avoid describing something using judgemental terms: The drilling technique produced a good well. What does good really mean here? The flow in the stream was very low. What is the difference between low and very low in this case? It is a judgement call. It is OK to use “very” when it has been defined. “very-fine grained sand” is clearly different than “fine- grained sand” when using a grain size scale that defines these sizes. Equations. Equations should be centered by themselves on a line. Equations should be numbered consecutively, with the number along the right margin. Write equations using the equation editor in WORD. Refer to equations in the text like this “according to eq(3)”, or sometimes you can omit the “eq”, like this “according to (3). When an equation appears in the text you should treat it as if it was part of the sentence, like this: “Al Einstein reports that energy is E mc 2 (1) where m is mass, and c is the speed of light.” Be sure to define variables the first time they appear in an equation, but avoid repeating the definition later in the text. You may want to include a glossary of variables at the back of the manuscript. Hyphenation: When one adjective modifies another adjective, use a hyphen between them. Coarse-grained sediment; a 50-ft deep well. When one adverb modifies another adverb a hyphen is unnecessary (adverbs commonly end in “ly”): poorly sorted sand. Look up hyphenation in your style book. A Few Tips Page: 3 of 9 5/8/2010 Whereas and while: Use “while” when describing or comparing things that are contemporaneous, otherwise use “whereas.” Whereas is used instead of while in most description. Mathematical variables Use italics in the text when mathematical variables are letters. This is done because the variable means something much different than a simple letter. Not OK: A test was conducted to determine a. OK: A test was conducted to determine a. Citations. You will often need to include the work of others in your writing, and you should be sure to accurately cite the previous work in both your text and figure captions. Most applications are best served by maintaining a focus on the technical issue, and including the citation after the statement that needs support. This is OK in a hydrogeology paper: “Drawdown during a well test is affected by recharge [Jones, 1985].” This diverts attentions away from the hydrogeology: “In the paper published by Jones , he clearly states in no uncertain terms that, of course, drawdown during a well test is affected by recharge.” Only do this sort of thing if you really need to divert attention away from the technical issue. This approach could call attention to the paper without shifting technical focus: “Drawdown during a well test is affected by recharge, according to Jones .” List of References. Your paper should contain a list of all the references you cite, and all the papers in the list of references should be cited in the paper. There are many styles for composing a list of references, and all the references should be listed in the same style. Use the style in Water Resources Research. EndNote is a software program designed to store and manage references. I recommend that you put your references in an EndNote database. This will simplify making a List of References for your paper, and it will simplify preparing similar lists in the future. Quotation You should always try to understand the concepts described in a paper and then rephrase the concept in your own words while citing the original work. This allows you to include and acknowledge existing knowledge in your work. In rare cases, you may want to quote another paper. Do this only when the words you are quoting are particularly appropriate or insightful. Literature review Sometimes your writing will be based solely on the work of others, such as when you write a review of previous work for your thesis or for a term paper. The most interesting way to do this is to maintain your focus on the technical topic and cite the previous work to support your statements. Avoid making the published papers the subject of the review. Never review previous work by summarizing one paper after the next, like a catalog, because this is boring for the reader and may fail to point out the important technical aspects. Header Use a header to show the title, author, date, page number. Right justify, reduce font size. Figures and text Your text should stand alone, independently from Figures. Describe the important points in the text and cite figures to support the text. Avoid referring to a figure as the sole approach to making your point. You have no control over what the reader may interpret A Few Tips Page: 4 of 9 5/8/2010 from a figure, so you must be certain to describe the important information in the text. Only rarely should you directly describe a figure in the text. Avoid this: “Figure 7 shows cross-beds that are 10m high in the Navajo sandstone.” This is better: “Cross-beds as high as 10m are common in the Navajo sandstone (Fig. 7). The first statement reads like a caption and gives info about the Figure, the second one gives information about the Navajo sandstone, which is where you want to keep the focus. Captions Always include captions describing the contents of a figure or table. Keep in mind that the caption should describe the contents, rather than the figure itself. For example, the caption for a photograph of cross-beds exposed in an outcrop of the Navajo sandstone might be “Cross-beds in the Navajo sandstone near Shiprock, New Mexico. Avoid this caption “Photograph of cross- beds…” because it should be obvious that it is a photograph. The same holds for “Geology of the Inner Piedmont” rather than “Map of the geology of the Inner Piedmont”. Cite sources for the figures in the caption. Plots Plots should be easily to read and graphically pleasing. You should be able to easily read everything on the plot when it is several feet away. Size the axes of graphs to eliminate as much white space as possible. Do this so that the data cover as much of plot as possible—white space on a graph is wasted space. Use heavier lines, larger fonts, and larger symbols than typical defaults in EXCEL. Use 5 to 9 labeled major tics per axis. Always include minor tics. It is best to use a matching set of tics on both ends, or the top and bottom of a graph. This feature is not supported by EXCEL, but it is supported by graphing packages like SIGMAPLOT. Tics on both sides of the graph allow someone to determine the values of the points on the graph with enough accuracy to reliably reproduce the graph if needed. For manuscripts: Make the graphs clear in black and white— avoid relying on colors to distinguish lines. Use a white background—avoid the gray default. OK to shade symbols or bar graphs. For slides: Make lines thicker, fonts bigger, and symbols bigger than in manuscript. OK to use colors. In all cases, be sure to make the information on the graph as easy to understand as possible—the easier it is for your audience to understand, the more convincing the graph will be. A Few Tips Page: 5 of 9 5/8/2010 Example Here is a graph formatted using defaults in EXCEL. It shows discrete data represented as points and a continuous function represented as a line. Try to pick the format of the plot (points, line, line with points) so it represents the type of data you are displaying, as this graph does. This graph looks awful. It is shown fairly large because the lines are thin and the fonts are small enough so that they are difficult to read when the graph is reduced much. The grey background cuts the contrast with the lines and reduces readability. 1.5 1 0.5 Series1 Poly. (Series1) 0 0 5 10 15 -0.5 -1 Here are some ways this graph can be improved. Only use a white background, get rid of the grey. Reduce the range of the axes so you get rid of the wasted space. Thicken the axes, enlarge the fonts. Difficult to see Move the x-axis to the bottom Remove the border. This is clutter Increase the size of the symbols. Fill the inside of the symbols with white to avoid big, black blobs. A Few Tips Page: 6 of 9 5/8/2010 Label the axes with readable font. Be sure to include units I would remove the grid lines, although they could stay Legend needs better definition, or remove it and put that info in the caption. Include minor tics. Point the tics inward to give a sharp outer border. You may need to point tics outward when data are close to the axis and would interfere with the tics. Reduce the size. This amount of information could comfortably be displayed in half this space The graph shown below is as good as I can do in EXCEL. I put the graph in a text box in WORD. This allows the graph to be moved around, and it allows a caption to be attached. It is about a half page wide, so a column of text can be wrapped around it. Do this by clicking on the text box and going to Layout. The graph below could still be improved, in my opinion, by doing these things: Concentration (mg/L) 1 Thicken line defining symbols 0.5 Thicken regression line 0 Add tics on the top and -0.5 right—it is much easier to determine correct -1 numerical values for data 3 5 7 9 11 points when the scale is included on both sides of t (days) the graph. Thicken axes a little. Enlarge tics a little. The major tics are thicker than the minor ones. x-axis range is set so first and last symbol are included in the graph, but the numbering starts at an integer. I noticed that there are slight differences in fonts sizes between the upper and lower graphs, but they are unintentional. A Few Tips Page: 7 of 9 5/8/2010 This graph was made using the software program SigmaPlot. The formatting is better than the one Concentration (mg/L) above. 1.0 0.5 This graph is embedded in the text, and I encourage you to do this for 0.0 your paper. The best way to do this is to create a table with one column and -0.5 two rows. Put the graphics in one row and the caption in the lower row, and -1.0 then go to Table Properties and select 4 6 8 10 12 “Around” to wrap the text. t (days) One way to test readability is Figure 1. Concentration as a function of time to reduce the size of the figure. Often during the field experiment (triangles), figures are published at much smaller and third-order polynomial fit (line). sizes than originally drafted. Notice how the ability to read the revised figure and the original one from Excel differ markedly after they have been reduced. 1.5 1 Concentration (mg/L) 1.0 0.5 0.5 0 Series1 Poly. (Series1) 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 0.0 -0.5 -0.5 -1 -1.0 4 6 8 10 12 t (days) The line is visible, but not much else. This figure still works at this size, although the tics could be a bit larger A Few Tips Page: 8 of 9 5/8/2010 SPECIAL C APABILITIES IN WORD WORD has many capabilities that facilitate preparing a manuscript beyond functioning as a correcting typewriter. You should know how to use these capabilities. Style sheets or templates You attach a style sheet or a template when you first open a document. The style sheet has categories for the font, paragraph, and tab settings for different parts of the document. You can see what the style sheet does by highlighting a piece of text and making a selection from the style box on the formatting toolbar (make sure you are viewing this the Formatting toolbar). When you open the style box you should see the current selection of available styles. Select one of these styles and notice how the formatting changes. The formatting is associated with the style you selected. You can modify the styles in the style sheet by going to Format-Style, then select the style you want and click Modify. Make changes in the formatting the same way you would change the formatting of an individual selection. The difference is that this style is recorded in the style sheet so you use it again. This will allow you to use a consistent style for equivalent parts of the manuscript. The style sheet is particularly helpful for section headings. You don’t need to remember the style that you use for each level of heading because it is recorded in the style sheet. Moreover, if you change the formatting of a particular style name in the style sheet, then the formatting of all the elements in the document that are designated with that name will change. This is particularly helpful if you want to change the formatting of a document to meet particular criteria that differ from the original formatting that you used at the time of writing. Outline View Using the style sheet to identify the style of section headings will identify the headings to WORD. You need to make sure that the correct Outline Level (in the Paragraph Formatting Box) is associated with the section heading style. This gives you two helpful capabilities. You can display the document in Outline View. This allows you to collapse the document and see whatever level of sections heading you want. You can move headings around in outline view and the text and subheadings will move along with it. This allows you to easily check and modify the structure of a document. Also, WORD will automatically make a table of contents using sections that are designated at different levels—it will identify the sections and determine the pages where they occur and put this info in a table. This can save a lot of time with a big document, like a thesis. WORD can also make tables of figures. Drawing Go to View-Toolbars and make sure you are viewing the drawing toolbar. The drawing capabilities in WORD are good enough to make nice, fairly simple drawings, or to modify drawings that are imported. Learn how to draw using the different lines, change line thickness and make arrows, insert rectangles or ellipses, fill polygons, move A Few Tips Page: 9 of 9 5/8/2010 to front or back, rotate and flip,insert text. Set Autoshape Defaults allows you to set the default styles used by the drawing functions Equations The equation editor in WORD can do a nice job of formatting most of the equations you will need to type. To insert an equation and open the equation editor, click Insert-Object and select Microsoft Equation. Some versions of WORD will have a button on the toolbar to insert an equation. It looks like , which I typed with the equation editor. Experiment with the capabilities in the equation editor. Try writing this equation. y y i 2 i 2 d (1) i 1 g r2 s t Equations should be centered on the page and numbered consecutively. Equation numbers are right justified and contained in parentheses. Do the centering and right justification with tabs. Make a style in the template to format equations.
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