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English in the Fields of Science and Research


People study English online for many reasons. One growing reason is to develop a career in the field of science and research. English is the language of the science world, and a good understanding of the language, especially in the context in which it is used for science and research purposes, is crucial for those seeking to achieve highly in the field.

In this article we will look at some of the basics of writing a scientific report and bringing our research to a wide audience through good presentation. We will look at science terms, science vocabulary and technology terms needed as we write research reports.

Science Vocabulary

Courses, such as the one offered by English Live, will provide a much deeper understanding of the important science vocabulary we need to use than is possible in a short article such as this. But to give a flavour of the sort of terms that might be learned, here are some examples of key scientific terms:

  • Audit In the scientific sense, an audit is the formal review that takes place of all research records, policies and activities in a specific piece of research.

  • Author The person, or people, who produce the scientific research paper.

  • Beneficence The ethical obligation of a scientist to do good and avoid harm.

  • Bias Subjective opinions in a piece of experimentation, research or report.  For example, a scientist may feel pressure to find results sympathetic to the views of a funding body.

  • Clinical Trial This is an experiment to test the safety or effectiveness of a particular therapy, process or drug.

  • Data this is the information recorded which will test theories or hypotheses.

  • Hypothesis A theory or idea which will be tested in a scientific way.

  • Intellectual Property  This is the product of intellectual activity, which is legally recognised as belonging to the creator.

  • Negligence In a scientific sense, this is research that is poor, sloppy or not conducted under proper scientific conditions.

  • Objectivity Finding research results that are free from bias.

  • Peer Review The evaluation of findings by someone with similar or equal qualifications to the researcher.

  • Placebo Often used in scientific experiments, a non-effective treatment used to test the effectiveness, in contrast, of the drug or treatment in question.

  • Plagiarism Presenting another’s ideas as one’s own.

Technological Vocabulary

There is a cross over between some scientific terms and some technological vocabulary.  However, here are some of the more commonly used words and phrases:

  • Attachment A document sent as a part of a text or email.

  • Cybersecurity The measures taken to protect data online and on hardware.

  • Encryption Protecting data by making it unreadable without a key.

  • SEO (search engine optimisation) Adapting data, reports and website so that they are picked up by search engines such as Google and Bing.

Idioms Often Used In Science and Research

A big challenge to students new to English is understanding idioms. That is, when words or phrases are used in a specific way that is often unrelated to their actual, normal meanings.

Here are some examples of idiom used in Science and Research fields. We have included a sentence to help to understand their context.

  • Cog in the machine A part of any process which is small but essential. ‘The man who warms up the computer system each day is a vital cog in the machine.’

  • Cutting Edge Something that is at the forefront of best practice or current thinking. ‘The new discovery places us at the cutting edge of scientific research in our field.’

  • Light Years Ahead Well ahead of the competition. ‘The success of our experiment places us light years ahead of our rivals.’

  • On the same wavelength Thinking in similar ways, which is crucial in a team when working towards a scientific goal. ‘My research team and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to priorities for these experiments.’

  • Not rocket science  Simple. ‘Mixing these chemicals is not rocket science.’

Writing A Research Report – Structure

When presenting a research report, it is conventional to present the piece using a certain style and structure.

The writing should be formal. In other words, it should use precise vocabulary and avoid slang or colloquial phrases. The meaning should be as clear as possible, using short sentences and writing unambiguously.

The report should begin with the title, which should be clearly written to describe the work. For example: ‘A Study to test the effectiveness of Massage in alleviating the pain of a Migraine.’ Next should be the aim of the piece, which should relate to the title.

‘Aim – To identify which forms of massage help migraine sufferers.’

The third element will be the hypothesis, or the idea which is being considered in the report. ‘Hypothesis – All Forms of Massage Provide Some Relief to Migraine Sufferers.’

Next comes the materials or resources used in the experiment on which the report is based. These should be presented in a simple list. If a risk assessment was used, that should be included next.

The report is now ready to get to the main parts. Firstly, using the past tense, the method of any research is reported. Next, a table, diagram or graph will show the results. Finally, the conclusion will be written, which will include a statement regarding the extent of the accuracy of the hypothesis.

The Language of Report Writing

When writing reports, there are many phrases which can be used to connect various sections of the piece. These will help the flow of the writing, and also ensure that it remains formal in style.  Such phrases can include:

  • On the other hand means in contrast. For example: ‘Our results largely indicated that massage gave temporary relief. On the other hand, these results were not found in 20% of cases.

  • In conclusion – this phrase is used at the end of a section. ‘In conclusion, our results demonstrate that massage should be considered as a means of treatment by specialists.’

  • However – this can be used in the same way as ‘on the other hand.’ ‘The massage was successful initially, however, we discovered that the benefits lessened in time.

  • It should be noted that – A formal way of stressing a point. ‘While our hypothesis was largely proved to be correct, it should be noted that our sample included very few 18-30-year olds, who could react differently.’

We have only been able to touch the surface of this huge aspect of English language use. Scientific terms and technological terminology are a vast field to explore. Those wishing to learn more can visit the English Live website for more details.

Similar article: Using English for Legal and Insurance Matters.