Joe Kurtz Presents Final Installment of Library Lecture Series
September 24, 2010
Emmanuel's Associate Professor of Biology Joe Kurtz presented the final installment of the Cardinal Cushing Library lecture series focused on writing across the curriculum on September 20th. Kurtz's presentation focused on writing in the physical sciences and "why scientists make such wonderful/horrible writers."
The lecture series was made possible by a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant. Each year, Massachusetts receives several million dollars in federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. A portion of these funds is then awarded as competitive direct grants to libraries of all types, including Emmanuel's Cardinal Cushing Library.
Kurtz began his lecture by explaining the differences in writing in the sciences as compared to all other types of writing. Writing in the sciences is a world all its own, where scientists must figure out a way to make sense of the complexities of the work they are doing for others.
"When I was asked to speak about writing it brought up many different feelings," he said. "In scientific writing there are huge differences in techniques, skills, goals and outcomes. As scientists, we just think differently."
Kurtz explained the intricacies of writing in the physical sciences. He said that the major goals are to be sure to keep it informative, descriptive, objective and persuasive and to stay away from assumptions. Assuming that the audience knows medical jargon and that they want every detail of the research can lead to trouble in scientific writing.
Kurtz closed his lecture with some final thoughts on the importance of writing in the sciences. He acknowledged that writing is not always at the top of a scientist's skill set, but that it is important to be aware of it and work to improve.
"It is your responsibility to write as a scientist," he said. "There is no ideal way to write, just find what works for you. Tell your audience exactly what they are looking for. Avoid personal commentary or assumption making. Follow all directions. And my final piece of advice is to read what you write out loud to yourself, it is the best way to figure out if what you wrote made any sense at all."