In some degree programs (such as English Teaching) it is quite normal to write scientific papers in English. This is not the case in degree programs that are not concerned with the study of language itself. Due to internationalization, students in these courses of study must also increasingly deal with the lingua franca, ie with the language of science. This is a big problem for one or the other. Below you will find useful hints on how to draft English in a scientific paper or explain what you need to be aware of.
Motivate the reader to read on
A scientific paper – whether in English, in German or in another language – “lives” on its relevance. Meaning, start by explaining to the reader why your topic or your research question is important. So you generate tension with the reader and encourage him to read on.
Similarities of German and English scientific language
Compared to German language, the English scientific language has some peculiarities. Which of these are you will find out below. First of all, you need to be aware of whether you write your thesis in American English or British English. Also, if the language and the style of speech in English from German, there are of course some similarities. These include the following aspects:
- You should always choose a simple layout
- Long sentences are to be avoided and should be split into shorter ones
- Hence the basic rule: just one thought per sentence.
- You can also find several hints here
Verbs vs. noun
To get a feel for the English scientific language, it is very helpful to read other scientific papers in English. So you not only learn individual technical terms, but you get an insight into the overall structure, the style of speech and the expression. As you will notice when reading, the English differs from the German scientific language in that the verb constructions predominate. Unlike the German language, the English language does not express facts in the nominal style. This makes the text more dynamic and easier to read.
Active vs. passive
The language style also differs in terms of the use of the passive and the active. For example, in English one does not write: “In this essay the subject xxx is treated”, but: “This paper analyzes …” or “This study aims to …”. The text represents, so to speak, a acting actor.
KISS – Keep It Short and Simple
In English scientific language: KISS – Keep It Short and Simple. This principle is relevant to both science and humanities.
Guidelines for the abstract
The abstract is a summary of the work. What this summary should include can be counted on one hand:
- Which topic is covered and why is this topic important?
- Which aspect of the topic is the focus and which research question arises from this focus?
- Which theories are used to work on the topic or which methods are used?
- What are the main results of the scientific work?
- What conclusions can be derived from these results?
That should be avoided in a scientific text
Unlike school-learned, abbreviations like “does not” have nothing to do with a scientific text. In addition, sentences in the English scientific language never begin with “and,” “but,” or “so.” Alternatives for these expressions are:
- “And”: thus, more, in addition, moreover, further
- “But”: in contrast, nevertheless, instead, however
- “So”: as a result, hence, therefore, consequently
It is also recommended to avoid “so”, “though”, “yet” and similar terms at the end of the sentence.
Other no-go’s in the English scientific language
Instead of using vague phrases like “a little”, “a bit” or “a lot”, you should use words like “certain”, “numerous” and “considerable”. Furthermore, you should avoid negative language. Formulate terms like “not”, “no”, “nothing” or “never” rather in their positive contrasts.
Write gender neutral
A very important aspect in the scientific language – meanwhile also in German – is the gender specificity. Always choose the gender-neutral language for your scientific work. Especially the plural helps here – this is usually gender neutral in the English language. In addition, phrases such as “chairman” or “mankind” have to be replaced by phrases such as “chairperson” or “humanity”.
Also in citation, in the inscription of illustrations and in the bibliography there are some peculiarities in the English scientific language or are there English counterparts to the German terms. You will learn a lot more about the language here.
That’s how it’s quoted right
Unlike German, citation of other works does not use abbreviations such as “s.” Or “cf.” But instead writes “according to” or “referring to”. The citation way over footnotes can be maintained.
The labeling of tables, diagrams and other pictures
While the inscription of an illustration in the German i.d.R. In the English scientific language it is customary to combine the reference and the caption directly under the figure or as a reference in a footnote. An example: “Figure No. – Title. Source: Author, Short Title Year, Page “. For self-created diagrams, tables and other illustrations, the source is completely omitted.
Differences in the bibliography
In the bibliography there is a major difference (German-English) in the fact that articles from anthologies and journal articles are not provided with the page “S.”, but with “pp.”. The year of the journal is replaced by the abbreviation “Vol.”. The translation for “Hrsg.”, Ie editor is editor. Accordingly, the abbreviation “ed.” Appears and in the case of several editors the form “eds.” Is used.
If an article does not have a year, it will be marked “o.J.” in German. The English counterpart is “n.d.”, which means “no date”. An unknown place of publication uses the abbreviation “n.p.p.” (no publishing place) and anonymous texts are marked “a.u.” (author unknown).