Writing a paper, materials and methods – day 3: semicolons and colons, and phrases for methods

Writing a paper, materials and methods – day 3: semicolons and colons, and phrases for methods

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Punctuation: the semicolon and colon

Today’s Digest will look at more punctuation and will cover the use of the semicolon and colon. Look back at last week to see full stop and comma.

Semicolon

The semicolon, like a comma, is used to break up the text and help the reader to understand the meaning. However, it is stronger than a comma – and weaker than a full stop. As it breaks the flow of text it is used less frequently than a comma.

For example:

This paper has not been well written; I recommend a major revision.

The gathered all of the samples for preparation; first they were cleaned to remove all unwanted items; second, they were heated to a temperature of 180 degrees Celcius.

in the ocean, turtles have been affected by climate change; the rise in sea temperatures means that…

The semicolon can also be used for dividing up a more complex list of items where a comma is not strong enough or the text is too complicated, for example:

More specifically, the sample design and the stratification were based on the following variables: (1) age (7 age groups: 16–17, 18–24, 25–34, 35–44, 45–54, 55–64: 65 +); (2) gender; (3) geographical breakdown (all Italian regions and size of the residential community, 7 classes); and (4) education (2 classes: graduates and non-graduates).

Colon

The colon is a break in the text that is used to introduce something that comes next, normally that is an explanation, a list or a quoted sentence. It can also be used in subtitles and appears heavily when creating lists of references, to introduce page numbers. It is normally followed by a lower case letter, but that will depend on what is coming next.

For example:

Listed by descending area these are the: South Pacific, North Pacific, Indian, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Southern, and Arctic Oceans.

The aim of this study is simple: to evaluate the effect of climate change on…

Our analyisis can be viewed through the following definition:

PLOS Clim 1(2): e0000007.

More phrases for methods

Read through the extract below. You will see that this work is written n the passive form. In the last sentence in the first paragraph you will also see how the authors needed to use semicolons.

Methods

Sample characteristics

In this work, we focused on young adults (16–24) and adults (25+) so as to proceed with a self-administered questionnaire that was completed by the sampled respondents (younger individuals would have needed the direct assistance of their parents, making the filling in of the questionnaire very cumbersome). The final sample was composed of 6692 Italian individuals, representative of the Italian population in terms of age, gender, and geographical area. More specifically, the sample design and the stratification were based on the following variables: (1) age (7 age groups: 16–17, 18–24, 25–34, 35–44, 45–54, 55–64: 65 +); (2) gender; (3) geographical breakdown (all Italian regions and size of the residential community, 7 classes); and (4) education (2 classes: graduates and non-graduates).

Measures

To evaluate the effect of the pandemic on mood and feelings of the Italian population a psychometric approach was adopted. Due to the special nature of the period which prevented to conduct experimental studies meeting participants face-to-face, a psychometric self-reporting methodology was chosen. We adopted the SMFQ14 which includes 13 items indicating how much individuals have felt mentally distressed during the last few weeks……

Procedure

The field data collection was conducted in June 2020 (from the 4th of June to the 19th of June) with a mixed technique CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing) and CAWI, (Computer Assisted Web Interviewing) as to limit any risks in terms of sample’s distortion and self-selection. Both types of questionnaires were headed by a detailed description (either by phone from the interviewer or via the web before the start of the questions) of the research aims and objectives. In this context, the interviewees were informed that all their personal data would be acquired anonymously and in full compliance with privacy laws.

All methods were carried out in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The experiment was approved by the Ethics Committee of Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni. Informed consent was obtained from all participants and from a parent and/or legal guardian for participants under 18.

This extract is taken from: Delmastro, M., Zamariola, G. Depressive symptoms in response to COVID-19 and lockdown: a cross-sectional study on the Italian population. Sci Rep 10, 22457 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-79850-6

In this work, we focused on…: this phrase introduces the study.

The final sample was composed of,…… representative of: describing the sample – in this case how people were chosen.

More specifically, the sample design and … were based on the following… : this phrase describes how the study was designed.

To evaluate the effect of the pandemic on mood … a psychometric approach was adopted: the evaluation is the key aspect of the study.

Alternative: assess

…..methodology was chosen. We adopted : The words ‘chosen’ and ‘adopted’ are useful for describing what methods you used. You may need to describe why they were adopted/chosen.

The field data collection was conducted in ….. with a mixed technique: This phrase is used to describe what happened in the study.

All methods were carried out in accordance with: useful phrase to describe how research was conducted.

The experiment was approved by: For researchers in health this phrase is used commonly as most research needs to be approved by an ethical committee.

Due to the….. and In this context…. : These two phrases can be used as linking words to introduce the next sentence.

Further study for this week

Try using the advice that comes with the Journal this week to write up a materials and methods section from a recent piece of research you have been involved with.

Take today’s short quiz.

Lesson tags: colons, English for scientists, materials and methods, semicolons, writing a paper
Back to: English for Scientists 2022