In my previous post I tried to allay some possible concerns about "writing to recipes", and one of my main points was that sticking to a schema can lead to clearer writing. In this post I want to tackle another "fear of the formula", one that seems the most paradoxical of all: an aversion to the very clarity that we were previously (and naively?) assuming to be a desirable feature of science reporting.
In my role as a writing advisor to young scientists, I'm a big supporter of using schemas (or templates) to help organise a research paper. A schema provides a layout into which the writer introduces the details relevant to their own report. The one scientists are most familiar with is the "IMRAD" system of partitioning the paper (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion), and its widespread use alone indicates it has been a useful aid to scientific communication. But teachers of academic writing like myself also suggest the use of schemas for the individual sections of a paper and even for paragraphs.