Scientific and technical reading is quite different from reading that you will do in other areas.
For a Special Audience
The material is written for a special audience, and the more advanced the writing becomes the more sophisticated the audience is expected to be. Part of this sophistication is knowledge of special terms and vocabulary, the ability to read charts, tables, diagrams and graphs and the ability to follow scientific reasoning.
Differences in Scientific Writing
Scientific writing is much denser than other types of writing and must be treated differently. Reading in scientific and technical areas must be done in small amounts on a daily basis. The materials should be studied before the lecture, lab or quiz section in which they are to be used or discussed. Since this type of work is cumulative, you must understand the current material before you will be able to advance to the next level. If you do not understand a principle or follow a proof, see your instructor.
When you are ready to begin the chapter or article, go to the summary or conclusion first. Try to answer the question, “What is the author’s purpose?” Now examine briefly main headings, charts and tables.
Organization of Scientific Writing
Scientific writing is organized in a limited number of ways; begin by determining the type of organization the author has used to present the material.
- Has he or she classified and then listed items? Pay attention to the definition of the class. If you understand the basis of classification, you will find it easier to remember the items that follow.
- Is his or her purpose to establish cause and effect? Look for words like “as a result”, or “consequently.”
- Is he or she, illustrating contrast, establishing differences? Look for words like “however”, and “despite.”
Special Study Program
Begin careful reading of the material; plan to work about thirty minutes doing this – then take a rest! Work the problems and examples offered in the text yourself; keep the scrap paper by your text for this purpose. Do not skip things; when you do not understand something after careful study, get help.
Accept the fact that the study of scientific and technical material is difficult. If it is an area in which you do not have a natural talent, plan accordingly. As you advance in the field and master the vocabulary, the formulas or theorems required will become less difficult. Scientific reading will always go more slowly than the other types of reading you do. When you are expected to go from text to formulas to illustration and then back to text, your reading speed is reduced. In most scientific writing, especially lab directions – every word is important. Scientific reading will take time and a high level of concentration.