Publications are the lifeblood of scientific and technical organizations. If written content is rambling or unclear, the greatest breakthroughs will be overlooked, grants will be unfunded, and projects will be shuttered.
At Hurley Write, we teach scientists and technical experts how to create workable content. Often, the first step is learning exactly what makes a document effective: It produces the desired or intended result and a favorable impression.
Know your audience
A necessary part, then, of creating easily understood documents is having a specific, desired purpose in mind. By extension, you must know the audience. Here are four audience research questions to consider before you write your document to help you understand your audience:
- Who are your readers? (Are they technical experts or laypersons? Associates or clients? Familiar or unfamiliar with the subject matter?)
- Why are they reading? (To gain knowledge? To make a decision?)
- What do they hope to gain — and what do you hope that they gain? (Are you trying to convince them to take a certain action?)
- How will they use the document? (Will the abstract be posted online? Will the paper be read once, or used as a reference?)
After you determine your audience and what you want your readers to accomplish, it’s time to plan how to write content that will accomplish your goal.
As a scientific or technical expert, you know how to think critically to problem-solve. Fortunately, critical thinking is the most important skill for producing high-quality written documents.
It’s simple: Writing is problem solving.
Apply your existing skills
Several common problems are associated with ineffective writing in scientific and technical fields.
- Content that is boring or confusing
- Documents that take too broad a focus
- Text that uses too many technical terms, acronyms, or jargon
Can those problems be overcome? Yes! Use your critical-thinking skills to logically apply word choice, paragraph and sentence structure, and other rhetorical techniques that create amazingly effective content.