"Writing skills will prepare students for a career in the sciences, where they will encounter the obligatory format of concise and specific word usage demanded by scientific writing."
~Sally Shepardson, Biology Department
Biologists study phenomena in the natural world in an effort to understand the diverse processes of life. While this information has important inherent value, it can also be used to advance thinking about remediation of a wide range of social concerns such as environmental issues and medical problems.
Biologists use the scientific method as the basis of their inquiries. This set of steps is the only pathway that leads to truly scientific information. The final step is to submit a study's basis, procedures, data and conclusions in writing to the scientific community via an accepted journal for evaluation and validation. If the scientific work is not communicated in this manner so that it can be challenged by colleagues, the work cannot be considered as scientific and will not be accepted as scientifically valid.
The value of writing in the biological disciplines is therefore easily stated. If a person cannot write concisely and coherently, the work will never be evaluated by scientific peers. In the absence of peer review, the results of the study will not contribute to the basic understanding of life processes or the resolution of important societal problems, as it does not carry the level of validity required.
Most biology courses contain a writing element. The purpose of many of these assignments is to expose the students to the technical writing used in scientific disciplines. They provide an opportunity for students to learn how to write in this style as well as how to comprehend the information contained in scientific articles. These skills will prepare students for a career in the sciences where they will encounter the obligatory format of concise and specific word usage demanded by scientific writing. Writing in the technical style also encourages students to organize their thoughts in a logical series and improve their ability to think their way through a complicated set of information. This is a skill that is valuable in any discipline.
Writing assignments include papers from student research projects that are in the form of journal articles, laboratory exercise reports, individual scientific study, position papers, critical analyses of existing scientific works, and essays on exams. In some courses, students are required to transfer their written assignments to a PowerPoint presentation or a poster as it would be presented at a scientific meeting.
In scientific writing, conciseness and precise use of vocabulary are paramount. Logical organization of information and reasoning are required. Supportive background evidence from previous or the current work must accompany all statements and interpretations. Appropriate sentence structure and paragraphing must also be evident in the work.
The primary literature (published works in accepted peer-reviewed scientific journals) is the most robust source for references in scientific writing. Some projects also allow the use of secondary, tertiary, and quaternary sources, that is, reviewed articles from peer-reviewed scientific journals, text books and appropriate web sites.
In scientific writing, the citation format is typically established by the editor of a journal. Therefore, in classroom assignments, the professor will clarify the details of the format to be followed.
See Writing in Your Major @ www.gvsu.edu/wc
See "Handouts - Writing in Your Major":
- Scientific Manuscript