Statistical Writing in an Academic Setting

By: Angelo Sisante

Generally, there are two types of people in college: those good with numbers and those good with words. Left brained or right brained, it doesn’t matter. When the time comes for you to do some statistical writing, you will need to be good at both. I will assist you with helpful tools and hints in approaching this task. Most of this information can be applied to any statistical paper; however, I will be mentioning how to use a Document Element, which is specific to Microsoft Word. Despite that, these tools can be used across any writing platform.

Word Choice

Word Choice is critical in statistical writing. You’ve done the work, crunched the numbers, and now you have to explain your analysis.  Remember, your word choice should be conclusive. For example:

“The data set specifies that [insert academic conclusion]”

a1 indicates that regression is growing at a constant rate”

Statistical writing should be both professional and academic. Avoid using a casual tone in your analysis. For example:

“The data set shows that [insert academic conclusion]”

Also, avoid terms such as illustrates or expresses because a statistical paper is not trying to paint a picture, it is trying to conclusively prove a point.

Equations

Equations in a paper are not difficult, however, consistency and presentation make the analysis a lot easier to read and understand. You probably already know the traditional hotkeys for superscripts/subscripts such as: a1 or a1. [Hint: For PC, its CTRL+SHIFT+(=) and CTRL+(=). For Mac, it’s CMD+SHIFT+(=) and CMD+(=), respectively]. However, there may be a time where more complex mathematical notation is needed, such as a sigma (Σ) or integral (∫). Word has a great function to do this, available to both PC and Mac users. From your homepage, if you look at the Ribbon, you should be able to find the Document Elements Tab. Sisante 1(1)Document Elements is highlighted above. From this tab, we should be able to find the Math Equations function on the far right with the Pi symbol.Sisante 1(2)This function allows you either to select an already programmed function through the down arrow, such as Area of a Circle, or to create your own function by clicking on the Pi sign. An example of this is:

(1)                                                                     a + b = c

If you want to input a super/sub-script, simply select the available “Script” function. This is a way to clearly define your equation so that it’s separate from the rest of your essay.

Finally, when mentioning a specific variable in a sentence, make sure you use the Math Element Function in order to recreate that variable in the same manner as the equation itself.  An italicized variable is not the same as a math element variable. It is important to use the same tools that are seen throughout your paper.

Formatting

Depending on whom you are writing for, formats such as MLA, APA, or Chicago may be required. I will be speaking generally about how to format, such as referencing and formatting equations, along with how to format a sentence that has an equation embedded in it. When you refer to an equation, note that it is a part of your sentence and does not mark the end of an incomplete sentence. For example:

“Regressing variable x on variable y, the linear model

(2)                                                                        zx + c = y,

Is formed.”

Notice how the equation continues beyond the equation, includes a comma, and completes the sentence. There are ways to “word” your sentence in a manner where it is a complete sentence ending with an equation, but if that is not your intention, remember that that your sentence continues.

Referencing equations will help clean up your paper and remove clutter. Notice how both of the arbitrary equations that I made have the references (1) and (2) left aligned before the equation itself. This is done so that you don’t have to re-write the equation when you want to mention it later on in your paper. For example:

“Equations (1) and (2) are aligned in the center for clarity. This center alignment is consistent throughout the paper.”

And

“The arbitrary linear model (2) specifies that c is a constant and that is growing at a constant rate of z.”

Ending Notes

Trying to explain your mathematical analysis in a paper can seem daunting, but using these tools and hints will help any reader understand what you’re saying. Word choice and consistency are essential tools in helping you make your point. As long as you remember to do that, any paper relating to numbers will be a lot easier to write and a lot easier to understand.

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