Whether or not you’re a student or already in your chosen profession, writing is a necessary fact of life. Communicating through writing is an essential skill, and this applies especially to students of science.
The primary reasons for writing in the biological sciences are communication and convincing others of the validity of the presented claims. Persuading others is extremely important; otherwise, what’s the point of making a claim?
Types of Scientific Writing
There are many forms of scientific writing. As an undergraduate biological science major, students are asked to write summaries of journal articles, draft lab reports, answer essay questions, and sometimes to do literature surveys on certain topics of interest.
Upperclassmen may have further writing duties, such as writing in-depth research proposals and sometimes even proposing a master’s thesis (if grad school is a goal, anyway).
How is Writing in Biological Sciences Different?
One of the primary differences between scientific writing and, for instance, literary writing is that scientific writing’s purpose is to inform. The reader is usually a fellow scientist to some degree who plans on using this information to either learn more or to improve his or her own research.
Another difference is style. Conciseness and strict grammar usage is extremely important in scientific writing in order to guarantee consistency. Flowery language with lots of unnecessary “word fluff” is not welcome, nor is the stream-of-consciousness style of writing. Structure is of paramount importance.
Formatting a Science Research Paper
Basically, science papers are a demonstration of how the scientific method has been carried out to study a particular problem. The format is pretty standard and can be applied to most types of scientific writing. Most of these papers are formatted by the following guidelines:
Don’t get too creative here. Conciseness is key. Make the title informative and descriptive of the content of the paper.
List of the Contributing Authors
Here, only include the people who took direct part in the designing of the experiment, executing it, and the analysis/writing.
An abstract is the summary of the entire paper in 250 words or less. A good abstract should contain a brief intro with the scope and purpose of the paper, short description of method, the results, and a conclusion. Again, conciseness is very important here.
State what motivated the research and experiment and how it fits into the existing knowledge. A good intro will have two main parts: background information on the topic and a statement of the study goals.
Materials and Methods
This section is for describing how the experiment was carried out. What this promises is that another scientist will be able to repeat the experiment. As usual, being extremely thorough and concise is paramount.
Summarize the findings of the experiment. Text takes up most of this section, though a good results section has a visual aid of some kind to display the findings. This helps the reader comprehend the results more quickly.
This is where the results are interpreted. Results are summarized and related to the existing body of knowledge. This is also where inconsistencies should be discussed, as well as where possible errors could have come from