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Simple rules from experience 15/01/2013 01:13 #38


Man has learned to write following a great idea dictated by practical needs of stable and accurate communication, typically for accounting, trade or signing of agreements. The writing has evolved by accumulating practical experience and sharing it with younger generations. So we moved from Prehistory to History.

Such a spirit leads me to share with you the experience I have accumulated over the years, not from books but in practice making mistakes and improving my skills. I share my experience by communicating the simple rules that I developed for myself.

Treaty of alliance between the Mesopotamian King Naram-sin and a prince,
Cuneiform writing on clay, about 2250 BC, Louvre Museum.

Image Wikipedia


1. Define the level of knowledge of the persons to whom you speak, so as to define the level of the language

2. Do not write anything: walk, ride a bike, do what you like thinking about what you want to say, the why and the how

3. Defined the structure of the report, bearing in mind that it normally consists of
- Summary
- Introduction: state of the art, motivation and purpose of the research
- Methodology
- How are the data was obtained and its analysis
- Results
- Conclusions: summary of the work done, relevance of the results and open questions

4. Briefly outline the contents of the various chapters

5. Start writing. Introduction and Summary require an overall view and should be written last.

6. Re-read the text at least one day later: you cleared your brain thinking about other things, it is almost as if it is read by another person.

7. Let read the report by:
- an expert, to examine critically its structure and contents
- a person such as those to which the report is addressed: to understand where it is poorly unclear.

8. Amend and re-read the report


The same as above, plus

1. In the preparation of the slides:
- it doesn't matter what is written, it matters only what the public can absorb while the slide is projected
- do not just show what you know: you must let the public understand
- let's admit it: we always find it difficult to understand, then care about the simplicity of language
- simple and concise sentences
- Large fonts: from the end of the room it's always very difficult to read
- Beauty and elegance of the graphics

2. For the oral presentation:
- never learn by heart, don't behave like communicating a telephone directory : just a little trouble and you are lost
- have well in mind the logical sequence: the words will spontaneously come, you will involve the audience also emotionally
- presentation is communication: seek the contact with the public as a whole and with individuals, be actors and scientists at the same time, transmit scientific interest and passion

3. Tranquility: you have worked hard, if there are questions to which you do not know how to answer keep in mind that in Science one never knows everything.


1. Define the topic and its limits

2. Study the issue and understand its essence

3. Define to whom you address and accordingly choose the level of the language

4. Write as if you were speaking: the speech is more direct and simple

5. Present orally someone or yourself the article’s content: you will realize where you have been unnecessarily complicated or unclear

Paolo Strolin
Professore Emerito di Fisica Sperimentale
Università di Napoli "Federico II"
Complesso Univ. Monte S. Angelo
Via Cintia - 80126 Napoli - Italy

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