Switching from Scientific Writing to Writing in the Humanities

By: Madison Bosque

One of the most difficult things I’ve encountered as a student and writer is transitioning from scientific papers, which make up the majority of my academic writing, to humanities papers, which are sprinkled into my coursework every semester. There are major differences between each kind of writing, and I often write my humanities papers like a science paper should be written—cold, hard facts with no hook or transitions.

A big difference between science papers and humanities papers is the stage of prewriting and organization. In biology, chemistry, and other science classes, prewriting is often unnecessary and does not help with the final paper. You are often given an experiment to complete before dumping all the collected information into a paper and organizing it into clear, defined sections. These defined sections often don’t have transitions between them, and this structure can become habitual in your humanities papers as well.

Because science papers have clear and defined sections to put your information and facts in, often there is no need for transitions between sections or a “hook” to draw the reader in. These are extremely important in humanities papers, however, and can be overlooked by science majors.

A helpful tip to switch between science and humanities papers is the prewriting process. Laying out your ideas and organizing your thoughts into an outline, flowchart, cluster, etc., makes it a lot easier to give the paper cohesion throughout, while still keeping the paper organized. Also, with humanities papers, it’s important to grab the reader’s attention to make them want to read the paper. While this is somewhat true with science papers, any hooks are not as obvious and might actually “muddy” the paper up. It’s important to focus on why the reader would want to read your academic writing. Humanities papers are more creative than scientific papers, so try brainstorming hooks for your paper that draw the attention in and make the audience want to read your paper.

Another tip is to transition between the different types of papers is to focus on theses. Remember that the thesis in a humanities paper is similar to the hypothesis of a science paper; it’s something that you believe to be true and that you use facts, quotes, and information in order to prove, support, or argue. Hypotheses, as with theses, can be argued and disputed. It’s important in both kinds of papers to have concrete facts and information in order to make your claim as strong as possible.

The transition between scientific writing and humanities writing can be difficult to manage, especially for science majors, but if you focus on the elements of humanities papers like the hook, thesis, and transitions, it’s easy to make the switch and strengthen your academic writing across all areas of study.

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