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Writing in Biology


For a printable version of the WaLC's Guide to Writing in Biology, click here.



Tips for writing in Biology:

 By Dr. Jim Costa

  • Jim CostaWriting is important in biology because in many ways, it is the most important aspect of the scientific enterprise. Any new information generated through scientific research must be communicated, or all the work has been for nothing.

  • Professional scientific research requires considerable skill at technical writing, both for grants and original research publications. Science journalism requires a completely different style, for a very different goal. There, complex information is being “translated” for a broader audience, often of non-specialists.

  • Scientific writing varies according to its setting and its purpose. Conciseness and brevity are emphasized, as are the structure for bibliographic formats and writing in general. I focus less on these areas in my classes, but our Independent Research or Senior Thesis students are expected to produce a scientific paper adhering to these guidelines.

  • In my classrooms, writing takes on various roles to meet the needs of my students. Written essays are an important part of my First Year Seminar, and term papers are central to my upper-level classes.

  • Students who make As in Biology writing create pieces that flow, almost conventionally. They have a good command of the language and use effective organization and transitions. Focusing the discussion on its central topic is also important.

  • Students who make Bs write papers with generally efficient structure, but the work may be sloppy in places (typos, grammatical errors, etc.).

  • Students making lower grades than Bs may not have adequately addressed the question or stated thesis. Specific offenses include plagiarism (see Avoiding Plagiarism for more information), inadequate citations of relevant literature, and gross grammatical or spelling errors. Rambling, dissembling papers that fail to lead the reader down a logically laid-out path are destined for a D or worse.

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