Battle of the Subjects: Literary Analysis vs Scientific Writing

I’ve been a humanities person my entire high school career. I loved art, music, English… Oh, AP Lang and AP Lit. While some of my classmates struggled with literary analysis and essays, I swung through them breezily. It was easy! Forget guidelines and rubrics the teachers handed out. I didn’t need any of them.

For analyzing literature, all you had to do was follow the Rule of Thumb:

  1. Find the main point of the passage/story
  2. Write about it
  3. Quote necessary sentences from the passage/story as supporting evidence
  4. Make up facts and feelings. Lots and lots of dreamlike logic. “This paragraph provokes a sense of  gratitude as the reader sees Hamlet stepping boldly forward to reclaim his rightful place. It appeals to the reader’s pathos, for a lost identity is not something easily given…”

Now, introducing: science.

Technical writing.

I never took an AP science course in high school (unless you count AP Physics B, which is not really science. I mean, okay, physics is science, but I view it as math. Before anyone argues, math and science are completely different. Yes. Yes? Good.)

Yet first year of college, in the middle of walking back from the library, I had an epiphany: I want to go pre-med.

Honestly, I never saw myself as a doctor. The only chemistry course I’ve taken was the one in tenth grade, and afterwards–hasta la vista, barium. But somehow, I began to find science interesting. Analyzing literature? Not so much.

Scientific writing is very different from the writing I am used to. No more quoting. Instead, you should paraphrase. No fruity adjectives to fluff the sentence. No stretching the point.

Oh, and you know how in literary analysis, teachers (and professors) want you to surprise the reader and keep the reader hanging? (A good technique in English writing, because honestly, who else is going to give a crap about your subjective views on the anarchism of Shakespeare? *ahem* Anyways…)

Well, none of that. In science writing, this is the formula:
  1. Brief introduction and results in the shortest amount of words possible but still exceptionally clear so the reader understands.
  2. Go progressively from generalized ideas to specific.
  3. Recap the general idea.
  4. Why? What? How?
  5. Provide succinct evidence from other research papers.
  6. Recap the general idea.

Needless to say, I’m having a hard time seeing 5 word sentences on my paper. And not adding something like, “The variation of  photosynthesis rate reminds us of the many wonderful plants in our world, each contributing a unique factor to the ecosystem in the circle of life much like the honeybee in the sunflower field.”

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