Improving the Short Paper

View reports not as an attack on you but as a criticism of the writing.
Extract benefit from the comments.
Assume confused comments mean the reader was confused by your words.

  1. Abstract. It is not an introduction but a brief and accurate summary of what the reader can expect in the paper. Example and revision below.

    This paper will explain the simple theory of the hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell. It also touches on the pros and cons of the fuel cell for energy production as compared to conventional sources of energy.

    This paper simply explains the hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell. With respect to energy production, it also touches on the pros and cons of the fuel cell compared to conventional sources.

    Reversible chemical reactions allow the hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell to both generate energy and be recharged. With respect to conventional sources, the fuel cell suffers in comparison only in its lower energy density and much more limited development.

  2. Topic sentences.
    Try really hard to put a clear concise topic sentence up the near the front of the paragraph. Start a new paragraph with a new topic sentence when that first topic is explained.
  3. Consistency of subjects in paragraphs. See examples. Many paragraphs tend to bounce around from one subject to another and thus seem unfocused
  4. Emphasis should be at the end of sentences. See examples.
  5. Read paragraphs out loud. If you hesitate or stumble, consider revising.

Improving the Abstract -- Examples

El Nino is part of the periodic oceanic weather phenomenon known as the Southern Oscillation. An understanding of El Nino is important for two reasons: (1) it is a useful model for predicting both long and short term climatic changes; (2) El Nino impacts global economics and ecologies.

El Nino refers to a warm, southward ocean current along the Peruvian coast that every few years replaces the normally cool, northward current. First documented in 1525, El Nino is now recognized as part of the large-scale Southern Oscillation that affects the whole South Pacific and beyond. While models can give some insight into these phenomena, they raise many, as yet, unanswered questions.

The design of the helium-neon laser is not complex by modern standards. They consist of only three essential components and operate by the processes of stimulated emission and light amplification. Because of their many advantages over other types of laser, helium-neon lasers are used for many applications in research and industry.

The simplicity of the helium-neon serves to illustrate laser principles. Atoms excited by a discharge tube spontaneously emit an electromagnetic wave which in turn stimulated atoms to emit light in phase (in step) with the stimulating wave. This new emission amplifies the passing wave, and mirrors can enhance the process to produce an intense, coherent beam of light.

Lightning is a spectacular show of electrical charge transfer that defies a complete understanding. With the new addition of red sprites, blue jets, and elves the challenge of understanding lightning has prompted new research.

Lightning involves the buildup and discharge of alternately charged layers either within clouds or between clouds and the earth. Recent research has turned up new phenomena -- red sprites, blue jets, and elves -- which further challenges our understanding of lightning.

Improving Sentences and Paragraphs

Bohr further postulated that electrons going through transitions from higher to a lower energy level lost the extra energy in the form of spectral radiation. When electricity passes through a sample of hydrogen gas, the gas emits light. If a prism separates this light into its various components, a spectrum of lines form. Each of these lines corresponds to light of a given wavelength and energy. When Bohr calculated the change in energy between various transitions of the hydrogen electron, he correctly predicted the wavelengths of all the known lines in the spectrum, which the Rutherford model could not do.

Bohr further postulated that an electron in a higher level could make a transition to a lower level, emitting the energy difference as light. This idea he connected to experiments in which hydrogen atoms, excited by an electric discharge, emitted light. A prism separated this light into a series of lines, the Balmer spectrum of the hydrogen atom. With his model, Bohr could calculate the frequencies of the lines. In contrast to the Rutherford model which predicted a continuous range of radiation, he predicted lines that matched completely the observed spectrum.

New lightning phenomena are still being discovered today. [4,5] After many large ground strikes, above a storm cloud's 13 km height limit, "red sprites" flash blood red and spread out in a cone, to heights of 100 km. If the storm is large enough for a strike towards the ionosphere, a blue jet streams out in a pillar for heights up to 50 km. The rarest and most puzzling discoveries are elves of 100 km wide that are donut shaped bursts at altitudes of 70-100 km. The surprise with elves is a cascading effect that gives the appearance of traveling faster than light. All of these new phenomena are of low light intensities and last only around one-thousandth of a second.

New research capable of looking for short-lived and low-intensity effects have turned up three puzzlers. For storm clouds at 13 km or higher, a series of many large strikes from the cloud to ground may be followed by a blood-red cone flashing upwards to 100 kms, a "red sprite." For storms so large that there are strikes upward to the ionosphere, a subsequent short-lived pillar rising to 50 km is named the "blue jet." Rarest and most puzzling are events not clearly correlated with the nature of the storm: 400-km wide doughnut- shaped bursts at altitudes of 70 to 100 km. Some unknown correlated motion in these "elves" cause the burst to appear to be traveling faster than light.

Introductory paragraph

There are certain reasons a pitcher can throw a curve ball and fatty deposits can increase blood pressure. These and many other effects are the cause of Bernoulli's principle. The fundamental principles sprout from an equation derived by Daniel Bernoulli which relates the velocity and pressure of a medium. Basically, as the velocity of a medium increases, the pressure decreases. The principle is most commonly involved with fluid dynamics, but the medium can also include gases such as air. This principle gives rise to many features of everyday light.

Phenomena as diverse as a pitcher throwing a curveball or fatty deposits increasing the blood pressure can be understood from a principle due to Daniel Bernoulli. Often the precise mathematical formulation of the principle can be replaced by this qualitative description: if the velocity of a fluid increases, the pressure decreases and vice versa. Since fluids include both liquids and gases, the examples presented below range from a submarine to an automobile carburetor.


Research has shown that in this cooling of the ferrous-based metal, two mechanisms take place: (1) the metal's molecular structure changes transforming austenite to martensite; (2) the formation of small carbide particles within the material.

For cryogenic-tempered ferrous metals, microscopic examination revealed two processes at work: (1) a structural transformation from austenite to martensite, and (2) the wide spread dispersal of small carbide particles.

Last sentence of a paragraph pointing to the next paragraph.

This convection cell, which he called the Walker circulation, usually operates under conditions of strong trade winds and a temperature gradient.

According to Bjernes [introduced once at beginning of paragraph] the conditions of strong trade winds and a temperature gradient produce a convection pattern he called the Walker circulation.

Examples of leads and first subsequent paragraphs

In first example, note repetition of `when.'

  1. When a beaker of water is put is a freezer, it solidifies to form ice. When a bar of hot iron is refrigerated, it may be magnetically polarized. When samples of certain metals, such as aluminum are cooled, they become superconducting, losing all resistance to the follow of electric current. When certain homogeneous mixtures of liquids are cooled, they become immiscible, dividing to form two distinct liquids separated by a boundary called a meniscus.

    These phenomena are examples of phase transitions. A sample of matter is said to be in a certain phase (such as the solid phase or the superconducting phase) when it has a certain well-defined set of macroscopically observed properties (such as hardness or lack of resistivity). The phase of a sample is really an indication of the degree of order or disorder inherent in the molecules or atoms of which the sample is composed. ...

  2. Scientist and administrators of Yellowstone park have embarked on a new policy of "Laissez-faire" management of animal populations based on the results of research by National Park Service biologist Douglas B. Houston on elks in Yellowstone National Park. Houston's work shows that most of the range deterioration his predecessors saw was traceable not to elk but to men and, ironically, their high-minded effort to fight forest fires. From now on, they are going to let nature takes its course.
  3. This was one of the most terrific and fantastic explosions in the sky that humans had ever witnessed ever since the dawn of history itself. It must have been terrifying, wild and magnificent. [or]

    Suddenly, a speck of light appeared in that quadrant of the night sky where no light had appeared before, just to the west of Orion's belt. It was a small red star. But what extraterrestrial haze had cleared to suddenly make it visible? No haze at all. Rather, we were witnessing the birth of a supernovae, a brief, searing light signaling at the same time the birth of a new stellar beast and the extinction of an older, anonymous one. Then, just as the naked eye became adjusted to this new light and the brain accustomed to its presence, the supernovae started to change colors and grow. The light pooled now, shifted from red to blue, unfolding from its own center, rippling outward in a slowly developing burst. Although it was silent, it was impossible not to imagine a sound as space-time ripped with the explosion of this tempest.