Sunday, October 31, 2010

Notes from the Headmistress of the School for the Literally Minded

A friend of mine once said: "There are some things that do not need to be said, but are better said than not said." Along those same lines, here are some notes on technical writing that I recently found occasion to pass along to some graduate students in behavior analysis.

1. What does 2.6 years mean? It probably means 2.5 years – 2 years, 6 months.

2. An AV is not the same thing as an SD.

3. The use of an AV is sometimes inadvisable because it may, in fact, become an SD; e.g., tact and textual responding programs.

4. Learn Units may be used as a Dependent Variable, but when used to change behavior, then they are likely to be an Independent Variable.

5. A “directive” and a “direction” are not exactly the same things.

6. Prompts and error corrections are not exactly the same things.

7. Beware partial-echoic or phonetic prompts.

8. Meeting criterion for a short term objective is not exactly the same as achieving MASTERY.

9. Good titles contain an IV and a DV and would be helpful for somebody looking for your article if they searched for it in JABA.

10. For short papers, the Review of Literature is best when it is short and sweet.

11. Method sections should differentiate between procedures for data collection and the research design, which is a set of procedures for data evaluation.

12. When reporting data in percent, also report the number of items in the sets from which percents were derived.

13. The verb “look” is not usually correct when discussing research methods, unless one has employed a magnifying glass, a microscope, or some other means of direct observation.

14. Avoid the “implied future” tense (Will+Verb) unless implicating the future is what is desirable (e.g., within a goal statement).

15. “Punctuation,” she said, “generally goes inside quotes.”

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