A Few Writing Hints
For a fortunate few of us, writing isn’t too difficult. For most of us, though, writing is challenging. Writing is about communicating your thoughts clearly and unambiguously, and this is often a challenging task. How you present your thoughts through the written word is important, especially when communicating about a specialized discipline like GISystem design. You have to understand the discipline in which you are working, and you also have to communicate that knowledge to the reader.
The goal of the writing assignments in this course is simple: demonstrate to the instructor that you understand the specific design process for each lesson and how that process is implemented. You likely spent many hours learning the material, refining the design, developing the wire-frame, and performing prototyping. You probably feel pretty good about reaching this stage of the process. But don’t stop yet! The hard part is to communicate what you did and what you discovered during the design process so that your readers will understand it, too.
Remember that though you have a form of intimacy with the system design process, your reader – not even your instructor – does not. When you write these assignments, you should keep in mind that you are not writing to someone with your level of intimacy. Rather, you need to explain everything, justify why you did what you did, how you did it, and do so using clear and concise language.
As part of your grade with every written assignment, I will assess the clarity, organization, and formatting of your work. What follows is an overview of some commonsense approaches to clear and concise writing for GISystem analysis and design.
The EMS Writer-in-Residence and several colleagues here at Penn State recently compiled a comprehensive guide to Science Communication in Earth and Mineral Sciences. You will find a range of useful suggestions and guidance there that will help with your term project and other writing for the course. The Guide includes some Discipline-Specific material as well; check out the "Geography" link there.
There are quite a few online guides available on how to write about, design, and include figures and tables in your paper. These are some of the most approachable.
- Penn State offers a rather comprehensive outline of topics related to writing in general.
- Common Errors in Student Research Papers by Rice University. This site has many spot-on examples of common errors and ways to prevent them from creeping into your paper. A short site, but worth the read.
- Here is a special section on including figures and tables.
- Purdue Online Writing Lab.
- Examples of how to cite figures in your paper (i.e., using a figure that you did not create).