Keep the paper as short as possible. Every word must count. As you edit, ask yourself “Can I make the same point in less space?” and “Do I really have to say this?” Don’t repeat. If you’ve said it once, you don’t have to say it again.

Strive for precision 

Document your work. A fellow graduate student must be able to sit down with your paper and reproduce every number in it from the instructions given, including any print or web appendices. Don't repeat! Remember:

  • Be precise
  • Document your work
  • Simple is best 

Writing tips

The most important thing in writing is to keep track of what your reader knows and doesn’t know. Think about who are your intended readers? Consider their knowledge level. Keep in mind what you have explained and what you have not. Don't make assumptions. 

There is a move towards using active verbs, not passive, in journals and technical literature. There are no hard and fast rules on this. For example: “it is assumed that x = 3” becomes "we assume that x=3". Search for “is” and “are” in the document to identify every passive sentence. Take responsibility for what you are writing. Remember:

  • Audience is king
  • Assume nothing
  • Check whether active or passive verbs are specified
  • Take responsibility 

Use normal sentence structure: subject, verb, object. Not: 

“The insurance mechanisms that agents utilize to smooth consumption in the face of transitory earnings fluctuations are diverse” Instead: 
“People use a variety of insurance mechanisms to smooth consumption.” 

Avoid technical jargon wherever possible. Remember:

  • Present tense (be consistent)
  • Subject, verb, object
  • Limit jargon (if possible)
  • Concrete examples 

Be a writer! Research papers are essays. Spend at least half of any project on writing. Pay attention to the writing in papers you read. Notice the style adopted by authors you admire. Most of all, learn to write. How? Read everything and write anything. 

Creative Commons Licence
SMILE Technical writing by Marion Kelt, GCU, Vince Ricci, CIEE, Joe Schall, PennState University and Glynis Perkin, Loughborough University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International LicenseDetails on our credits page.