Scientific writing is a particular form of writing

When we think of writing, we might think of an unstructured, creative process. For example, if we write fiction or poetry, we can use language to try to express any idea that we can think of, constrained only by our vocabulary and our imagination! To make an analogy to a physical process, we can think of writing as taking an un-structured lump of words, and sculpting it into something beautiful, or strong, or useful, or all of these things:

However, scientific writing has some very important differences from other forms of writing like creative, narrative, or descriptive writing. As we have seen, scientific communication is a subset of "persuasive" or "argumentative" writing. Being "argumentative" means that scientific writing seeks to convince readers to come to a particular CONCLUSION. Therefore, scientific writing has a particular purpose: to sculpt beautiful and strong arguments that lead to useful conclusions

Scientific writing has another important difference from other forms of writing. Instead of being able to convince readers using any means necessary (including a wide variety of rhetorical devices), scientific writing is constructed from just a few types of discrete building blocks. The process of scientific writing is therefore analogous to building with plastic blocks like "Legos." Instead of having the freedom to sculpt any shape that we desire, we must assemble the blocks that we have, guided by reason, into arguments that are strong enough to stand:

We can still construct beautiful arguments! However, the process that we use for creating our arguments is different than what we might be used to from our experiences with other types of writing.

So, what are the basic building blocks of scientific writing? The building blocks of scientific writing are called "premises," and there are only a few types of premises that we use to construct our scientific arguments.

Premises are the units of information for reasoned arguments.

DEFINITION: In the context of empirical science, a premise (or "proposition") is a unit of information in an argument (Layman, 2005).

Practically, a premise is often expressed as a sentence that conveys ONE piece of information. Sometimes, additional sentences clarify the main statement of a premise. 

What is a unit of "information?" The two primary types of information that scientists use as premises to structure arguments are ASSUMPTIONS and FACTS.

Clarifications can support both assumptions and facts. Clarifications are not strictly necessary for strong reasoned arguments, and therefore are not as important as facts (or assumptions). However, clarifications may be helpful for explaining premises to the audience.


In summary, scientific arguments are constructed from premises that support conclusions. There are two main types of premises: facts and assumptions. Clarifications can contain important information, but must support facts and cannot contribute to arguments by themselves. 

Both facts and clarifications most often require REFERENCES to data: either to data that you have collected yourself, or to conclusions based on data that others have collected. 

Scientific arguments seek to minimize the number of assumptions used for support, because assumptions are unsupported by data and thus weak

Therefore, in a strong scientific argument, ALMOST ALL STATEMENTS CONTAIN REFERENCES, which are clearest if expressed in PARENTHESES at the END of sentences. 


Constructing scientific arguments is consequently simpler than many other types of writing, because scientific writing is composed of only very few types of information (primarily FACTS and CONCLUSIONS). There is no need for clever prose, convoluted structure, sagacious pontification, fancy vocabulary, personal opinions, or other authorial indulgences. The objective is to construct strong arguments that reasonably support clear conclusions using as many facts and few assumptions as possible.