Writing in Biology

Writing for scientific purposes can be challenging and usually requires both discipline-specific study and lots of practice. Here you will find models of scientific writing, suggestions for how to read and review primary literature, and explanations of several conventions of scientific writing.

Instructor Resources

245WLongPaperGuide: Powerpoint on Writing a Long Paper: This powerpoint provides information on topic choice, organizing/understanding sources, finding connections across sources or building a thesis/argument for the paper and conventions of scientific writing.

Gopen & Swann paper: A classic paper on distinguishing between clear and confused writing in science that highlights some common mistakes and problems. May be useful for providing students with ideas on common pitfalls in science writing.

Sand-Jensen paper: A recent work that humorously illustrates problems with scientific writing (biological focus) and some ways to remedy them.

Peer Review Template: This is a form intended to guide the peer review process if instructors choose to experiment with this approach. Peer review is used extensively in the non-scientific fields and can be an extremely useful way to encourage students to take ownership of the redrafting and editing process. Feel free to adapt the format to your course/assignment specifications.

The “Says/Does” Approach to Reading Primary Literature: This handout is intended to guide students in the identification of the informative versus persuasive aspects of the primary literature in biology. It can be used to instigate thoughtful reading of the primary literature.