How to write a paper

How to approach the bachelor’s or master’s thesis? How to write my thesis in the right style? Write scientifically, yet in a lively, entertaining, and engaging way – how can that be done?? If you are asking yourself these and similar questions, then you will find the right tools for creative scientific writing here.

By Turid Muller

A pencil rests on a checkered sheet with clouds and wings on it

Taking the heaviness out of technical terms is a possible step towards being understood more easily.


1. Short + sweet

In communication psychology, one writes of the four comprehension factors:

1. Short and concise sentences

2. Simplicity of the text

3. A proper structure and order

4. Additional suggestion for the reader:in.

The next time you read a text, try to focus on what is going through your mind while reading it. Here’s how you develop a better feel, what your writing will trigger in readers.

There are some mistakes, which you should avoid at all costs. Use less filler in your texts, this makes it easier for readers to get to the core. Avoid too many abbreviations, it disturbs the text and especially the reading flow. Writing in an indecisive and general way, dithering around your points, will make it difficult for your readers to follow.

A scientific text does not aim to be particularly creative. There are not many disciplines in which A creative writing style is appropriate. It is also important to know who your text is aimed at. If you are explaining a complex topic to a lay audience, creativity is far more appropriate than in a text aimed at an expert audience.

2. What is scientific writing?

The research question precedes everything, from which an outline of an investigation can be derived, which finally leads to a conclusion – most of us probably have a more or less large idea of what needs to be done.

Still, scientific writing is hard enough when you have to dig into the forest of guidelines. But still: It is taught at the universities. Handouts and guides show us the way through citation rules and guidelines.

But still: It is possible that all requirements are fulfilled and in the end the result is an unreadable text. Because there’s a common misconception in the field: writing scientifically doesn’t mean producing emotionless nonfiction that sounds like it could have been spit out by a computer.

On the contrary, in scientific writing, feelings only cause problems if they are ignored. Emotions are an essential ingredient – in the writing process but also in reading. Only when both hemispheres of the brain and the subconscious are allowed to play a part, will you realize your full potential in writing, and really reach the readership. This is true for prose texts and at least as true for scientific writing.

Communicating complex issues to non-specialists needs a higher degree of clarity than a shallow novel. Because it is not so easy to keep them in line and to present complicated contexts in such a way that they are explained.

3. How to achieve comprehensibility?

Communication psychologists around Friedemann Schulz von Thun, have done research on this question. Your answer – the four intelligibles:

I would like to outline two of these here as worst-case scenarios, and two as models:

Brevity and conciseness explain themselves. A fact does not become clearer if you circle around it in rambling and sprawling tapeworm sentences, as well as endless repetitions, and still don’t really get to the point. But if you use more filler words or the like until no one knows what the paragraph was supposed to be about, you should be reminded of a classic rule: "Brevity is the spice of life!"

Simplicity is a challenge especially for the German professional world, which tends to an exorbitant and inflationary use of technical terms such as foreign words, to convoluted sentences and stilted formulations, which serve to demonstrate the cognitive superiority of the text creator but not the learning process of the reader.


If you give a lecture on biodiversity, you can of course illustrate this topic with pictures – and give the audience a vivid impression.

Outline / Order is a tool that causes..
… that the content is structured.
… that the process is comprehensible.
… that the structure is logical.
… that we can follow the flow of thoughts well.

Additional stimulation provides another channel that complements the text and allows a different approach to the content. This can be a graphic, for example.

How do I put myself in the reader’s shoes??

Try it the next time you read an article or reference book! Observe your feelings as you follow the lines!

Getting to know yourself better as a reader provides important information for you as an author. Ask yourself when reading but also when writing:
Where do I drift off? Where do I get off? Where do I start to get bored?? Which passage reads laboriously? What sentence did I write only at the 3. Reading understood?

If you examine the reason for your reaction, you’ll find techniques that make reading easier.

4. What should you avoid when writing? ❌

There are a few simple tricks to make life easier for readers:

Less filler Would possibly mean that the reader, when reading the book in front of him or her, would have to get more directly to the intended message of the text, with fewer annoying filler words to get around. Because it saves the head calculation time to say it succinctly: the less filler, the easier it is to understand.

The guiding questions are: How can I make it more concise? Which words can I do without? And what words carry the sense? Like a good comedian, you drag your sentences until they are to the point. Comedy only arises when things really go bang. Comprehension works in a very similar way: point to it and the penny drops immediately!

to avoid abbreviations, facilitates the reading flow. Because when I z.B. in a sentence i.d.R. Always several abbreviations etc. the reader needs z.T. m.E. much more computational time in translating the short forms, etc. into the meaning behind them. This makes reading sluggish and tedious. The danger of difficult comprehension looms – and with it the risk that our book will be put away.

Undecided and general To dabble in the unspecific makes it hard to follow. It is very important to be specific so that the reader can get an idea of the content. If you remain general, fewer pictures arise in the head. That’s why examples and stories help. Storytelling is a high art, which is slowly gaining respect again nowadays – also in a factual context.

Now we know a few don`ts – now for the dos!

5. How do I captivate the reader? ✅

A text can grab me when it touches me, when it creates images in me, appeals to my senses or awakens memories. Here again, feelings play a role. This, too, is not witchcraft. Below I present a few simple methods from creative writing.

Verbs instead of adjectives:
Many have the habit of overloading a text with adjectives when they want it to be expressive. But this calculation does not always work. A few adjectives have the ability to stimulate our senses; they can actually make a text more expressive. These are mostly adjectives that directly appeal to our senses: Red or Cold for example, I can see or feel. My body reacts to these words.

However, most adjectives are rather abstract. This makes them look like labels on a glass. Students of nutrition know it, as do psychology students who study the connection between the sense of smell and emotion: reading "strawberry jam" on the lid is a less intense experience than sticking my nose inside the jar and taking a deep pull of the scent.

I immediately remember my grandmother: the apron in front of her stomach, the big spoon in her hand. And I am seven again and may let the still steaming mass melt in my mouth, which she has just filled into the old preserving jars.

Jealous, arrogant, important – most adjectives are too heady to reach our feelings. That’s why it’s more advisable to use verbs to make a text more experiential. Or at least adjective verbs (for example: a laughing person is less likely to get sick).

Verbs are very expressive. They show us an action, that is in their nature. And thus they are the button that turns on our head cinema. – Especially when we dare to deviate from the usual suspects and dare to use more unusual words: when the author of a paper swings her pen instead of writing, when an immune system blows a counterattack instead of being responsible for defense, or when a reader devours the lines with his eyes instead of reading, then the images in the scientific treatise start to live.

Appealing to the senses:
Pat Pattison has presented many creative techniques for lyricists in his books. Among them, many that are also helpful in academic writing. The focus is on the senses. A good text has the power to stimulate the senses of the reader. And all the senses!

Because often we can’t think of anything after our eyes, our most used sensory organ. The other senses provide a much more direct access to memory, to one’s own experience, to the soul: the ears, the nose, the sense of smell and taste. The sense of touch and the sense of movement – also inside us.

Whenever the topic of a text allows it, we should make our formulations as sensual as possible, even if only in the form of linguistic images: If a hypothesis Scientists headaches or Stomach rumbling, it’s more sensual than being doubtful or skeptical.

Use of metaphors:
Metaphors are particularly suitable for complicated contexts. They dress up the unfamiliar subject matter in a familiar garment. This makes it easier to understand. It doesn’t take a spontaneous inspiration to come up with appropriate parallels. There is a technique for this as well: Pattison’s metaphor machine. Let’s say we wanted to explain the immune system and are looking for the appropriate metaphor: 1. Step: Identify the characteristics of the subject

2. Step: to what else do these idiosyncrasies apply??

A policeman, a bodyguard, a condom, an umbrella protects.

A doctor, a shaman, a pastor, a psychologist heals.

An army, a guerrilla force, a leader wolf, a sensitive teenager defends.

3. Step: Bringing the subject together with its relative

The white blood cells are the policemen of the body.

The body has its own doctors.

In the case of intolerances, the immune system acts like a sensitive teenager: you only mean well and reap the most violent reactions.

4. Step: Selecting the best images

The special art is to find metaphors that are unconsumed. After all, we don’t want loud snoring to be the only response to our efforts! But with a fresh analogy, we spice up dry contexts and, if desired, even provide a smirk. In the row above, I find the teenager most original.

5. Step: Fine-tuning the formulation

Finally we grind the phrases until they pop. It is particularly effective, for example, if the most important or wittiest word is the last word in the sentence. Then the tension is maintained throughout the sentence and the punch line ignites at the end. Shortening is also often the means of choice here.
For example: His lactose intolerance was an angry teenager – one misstep and the mood is fucked up.

6. How much creativity is appropriate?

But can I really compare a lactose intolerance with a bitchy teenager in a scientific paper? Hardly! At least not in the vast majority of subjects. And so it becomes clear: creativity is not always and everywhere coherent to an unlimited extent. Not all subjects are equally open to it.

But basically, the dose makes the poison! Type and amount vary depending on the lecturer, the subject, the taste of the reader, the context of the paper and also depending on personal style. The more non-specialist readers I want to inspire, the more colorful it is worthwhile to become. The more sensitive the subject matter, the more carefully I should choose my words.

It is possible to write very vividly and at the same time very sensitively. This is shown, for example, in the famous three volumes "Talking to each other" by Schulz von Thun. Their entertaining nature and simplicity while being circumspect with the topics is certainly an explanation for their international success. In doing so, the so-called communication pope masters the challenge of never using creativity at the expense of objectivity and unambiguity.

When weighing up how and how much creativity is appropriate in each case, the context also plays a role, among other things. If I want to explain the workings of intolerance to a layperson in my paper, perhaps the somewhat provocative sentence about the teenager could be a hook for a more sophisticated explanation that follows:

"You can think of lactose intolerance like an angry teenager: One misstep and the mood is – to put it in good German – in the ass. Even tiny amounts of well-intentioned healthy food can result in immediate violent reactions: The digestive system is hypersensitive to specific stimuli. "

This keeps me reading and allows me to slowly find my way into the unfamiliar content via familiar images.

Portrait by Turid Muller

Turid Muller – Actress and psychology graduate – works at the intersection of communication and creativity. Among other things, as a leader of creativity& Presentation training.

And as a "part-time rebel" in the field of chanson/musical cabaret:

7. Science and creativity – do they even go together??

Creativity itself is viewed and evaluated very differently in the university context; not only in terms of publications, but also, for example, in scientific work. Of course, the creative process plays a central role in many groundbreaking new discoveries, numerous renowned luminaries describe (Cf.: "Creativity" by Csikszentmihalyi). But creativity is also often viewed critically. The concern: that creative methods can produce unorthodox findings and deviate too much from the mainstream. (Cf.: Scientific creativity).

Would it be a truism to write that everyone has to find their own way here? Yes, it would be. But nevertheless it is true.

However, if creative expression is in the service of science, to make the knowledge gained more accessible to others, it is hardly a danger, but much more an enrichment. And I think we all know how it feels when a textbook is written in such an incomprehensible and highbrow way, as if it serves solely the self-promotion of the authors and not the transfer of knowledge.

An essential part of research is to establish working links with those who will benefit from the research results. This article would like to be a first suggestion to learn the necessary tools for this purpose. Because knowledge that only a select few in the ivory tower understand and know cannot transform the world.

To conclude:
6 points you should keep in mind during the writing process&

If it’s not fun, something is probably wrong. It is important to find out why this is so. Here the writing ambulance of the university offers help.

For example, we can be stressed by the great biographical significance that the treatise has for us. If it feels like your professional future hangs on every single letter, ideas won’t exactly bubble up. But that is only one of the many reasons that can lead to writer’s block. It is necessary to get to the bottom of this!.

Writing a scientific paper involves many different complex processes: research, sifting through material, investigations, structuring, pre-formulating, correcting, and so on. No wonder, if you get tangled up there! It can help to decompartmentalize the individual processes and do one thing at a time. For example: Write first, work later on better readability.

Many difficulties result from wrong assumptions. Widespread is the idea that I can only write what I have already thought through to the end. It’s clear that I can’t get anything down on paper for a long time! But the opposite is true: As with speaking, just write – that can quickly loosen the knot. As I write it, I think through the issue, find clarity, and can finally flesh it out.

The less we are concerned with the technical side, the more creative we can become. Here you can get support in the rule jungle of scientific writing.

If you have too high expectations of yourself, you can simply cheat the perfectionist: How about writing a particularly bad text for a change?? What can happen? At worst, a few letters may have made it onto the page at the end of the day!

For further reading

At Studis Online:

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Book tips:

Book tip (advertising) The books have been editorially selected. If a purchase is made via one of the following affiliate links to Amazon, we receive a commission.

Beltz Juventa Paperbacks, 2014
Kindle: 15.99 euros; TB: 10.00 euros

Book tip (advertising) The books were selected editorially. If a purchase is made via one of the following affiliate links to Amazon, we will receive a commission.

author house publishing house GmbH, 2008
TB: 22,99 Euro.

Book tip (advertising) The books were selected editorially. If a purchase is made via one of the following affiliate links to Amazon, we receive a commission.

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