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A Guide to Writing
in the Biological Sciences
Professors' Perspectives on Student Writing
Several professors in the Biology Department contributed their views on student writing. Below, they address student writing in general and their approaches to grading the specific writing tasks in their courses.
When asked about student writing, professors often comment on many of the same aspects. They agree that the first step is to have a solid understanding of the science. Therefore, reading comprehension is one key factor in effective writing.
Proofreading for spelling and grammar errors is another factor that professors look for in student writing. The list of practical tips in scientific writing is a compilation of their pet peeves and advice.
All the professors in the Biology Department, whether or not they contributed directly to this section of the Writing Guide, would certainly urge students to visit the Writing Center in person or online.
Dr. Laura Adamkewicz of the Biology Department uses poster presentations in her Genetics classes. She has students evaluate posters based on five criteria: visual attractiveness, quality of information, relevance, originality, and the balance of text, graphics, and illustrations.
Prof. Hillary Cressey recommends that her students in Animal Behavior proofread their scientific papers carefully. She looks for many of the common mistakes listed in practical tips when she evaluates the papers. Prof. Cressey requires that the papers be essentially perfect before she accepts them for a grade, so students must revise their papers, paying close attention to the style and structure of a formal scientific paper, before their work is complete.
Dr. James Lawrey in the Biology Department finds that summarizing a scientific paper is useful in his Evolution class. Students learn to pick out the meaning of an article and convey the main points in non-technical terms. Dr. Lawrey's primary concern in grading these papers is whether you understood the paper and communicated its essence effectively. He finds that it is obvious when students do not understand what they are writing about, and their grades suffer as a result. Here is some advice: read and re-read the paper you will summarize. Consult a textbook or another reference to help you resolve any aspects of the paper you do not understand before you start writing.
Dr. Larry Rockwood urges his General Ecology students to pay attention to the structure of the scientific paper. Keep your results in the Results section, and only draw conclusions from them in the Discussion section. He suggests that students refer to the lab manual, the practical tips listed on this site, and published journal articles for guidance on the format and style of scientific papers.
|An introduction to writing in Biology|
|Practical tips for scientific writing|
|Professors' perspectives on student writing|
|Specific Information for Writing Assignments|
|Short answers for tests|
|Summary of a scientific article|
|The poster session|
|Writing a scientific paper|
References and Credits
|General Ecology||The Writing Center|