Writing for Your Peers: The Primary Journal Paper

Writing for Your Peers: The Primary Journal Paper

Writing for Your Peers: The Primary Journal Paper

Writing for Your Peers: The Primary Journal Paper


Foreword Preface The Journal Paper The Introduction Theoretical Material Experimental Material Openings and Closings Taking and Giving Credit Appendixes Notes Index


When you invent, struggle with sorting out raw ideas, you talk to yourself. For many people, including myself, this lonely period is nonverbal: mental images are floating around in your head, and at some point, if you are lucky enough, the pieces come together.

Take another situation and observe a team while developing something which has never been. Their conversations sound incomprehensible to you, yet they understand each other through signs, strange images on the blackboard, the jargon they created during their many creative sessions. It takes a long while until all this stops, and every team member agrees that the job is complete.

Unfortunately the job is far from being complete. Sy Carter's book is about the even harder work which follows scientific discovery or engineering innovation, a period which needs another kind of creativity, the one necessary to tell outsiders about results. and this is the period in which most scientists and engineers are rather helpless: the symbols, the jargon, the vague signs so useful during the technical work become meaningless, and may even draw criticism for being incomprehensible, indeed confusing.

There is obviously no need to explain here why communicating scientific and technical progress must go beyond the small group involved with its creation. What is not so well understood is, however, that this communication must help efficient reading and comprehending by colleagues who are outside the creator's subculture.

Carter's approach to increasing efficiency consists of two parts: first, the overall efficiency, the agreement on the structure, an almost-standard way of organizing material. Clearly, if all journal papers have the same structure, the reader has a much easier time to find a piece of information, or to jump from one part to another, in the process of understanding the entire material. the second is the efficiency with which the different sections of the paper can be understood by the reader, down to the level of symbols used and notations applied.

I wish I had had this book on my desk over the decades while struggling with the articulation of new ideas which appeared so clear to me and, after having put them down, sounded so confusingly presented and fuzzy to others. At that time, I had a friend instead, the editor of a journal, the gentle guide, who patiently helped put the material in clear text, which finally al-

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