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A Guide to Writing
in the Biological Sciences
The Scientific Paper: Examples of Student Papers
|First page||Introduction||Abstract||Methods||Results||Discussion||Literature Cited||Examples|
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The examples below are from student papers from BIOL 307. The authors graciously granted us permission to use them here.
This abstract is a first draft. The author included an in-text citation, which you should never use in the abstract. Note that the language should be more precise and scientific. The scientific names of organisms should be used, instead of using only the common name (here, white clover).
This second abstract is an excellent, polished example. The title is shown as well, since it is appropriate and concise. Note that this abstract is detailed and thorough, but without containing too much information.
This excerpt from an Introduction section is a first draft. It needs work: the language is too colloquial and not scientific enough. When information is presented, it is not properly cited. The section should start with general information and proceed to more specific details. This example does that, just not in the correct style.
This passage from a different Introduction section properly proceeds from the general to the specific. It cites authors in the text as is customary. The language is direct, and the content is accurate. The author clearly understands the information she is presenting.
This part of a Methods section is an excellent description of the study's experimental design. It is thorough without being too descriptive or wordy. The author includes detailed information but not things that typical scientists would find unnecessary.
This paragraph from a Methods section describes the data collection and statistical analysis phase of the experiment. It is included here as an example to remind you that this section is not limited to the experimental design.
This portion of a Results section is included because it shows you how to describe results and reference a table in the text. Notice also that the table shown has a good legend and summarizes the raw data well, with mean ▒ standard deviation.
The good features of Table 1 are: (i) it is numbered, (ii) the legend explains key details of the experiment, (iii) it is clear that the error term is standard deviation, and (iv) it explains the meaning of unusual abbreviations.
This table needs a little work: it does a good job by summarizing the raw data and the results of statistics, but it does not provide enough information on what statistical test and significance level were used.
This figure is useful because the reader gains additional information from seeing the data in a graphic display. That is one main requirement for presenting your results in a figure instead of a table. Note also that the legend appears below the figure and that the legend describes the important points of the figure.
Both of these excerpts from Discussion sections (Example one and Example two) illustrate the kinds of statements that can be made to explain the results. Note that the authors limit their conclusions to this experiment, without generalizing about all Rhizobium-legume relationships. The authors describe possible scientific explanations for their results.
This example of a Literature Cited section shows some common errors, including not following the format of the journal Ecology as required. In addition, the comments by the reviewer point out that all authors cited in the text must be referenced here; conversely all authors listed in the Literature Cited section must actually be referenced in the text.
|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|
The Scientific Paper
|Examples of student papers|
References and Credits
|General Ecology||The Writing Center|