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Fairview High School IB Biology Boulder, Colorado EXPLANATION Most scientific disciplines have a standard format for reporting research results. If you don't read technical scientific journals you may never see this format in use, but being aware of its existence is important because it is a good model of the way scientists organize their thoughts. At several points during a science course you may be asked to report your findings in standard scientific format. This guide explains the procedure to use. Contrary to what many people believe, scientific writing is not fundamentally different from other kinds of formal writing. A superbly written scientific paper is logical, clear, and makes a cogent point. It is also readable, provocative, and even exciting. A person who is an outstanding writer in other contexts does not lay those skills aside when writing a scientific paper. The major goal of a scientific paper, however, is to report descriptive or experimental observations that relate to a particular question. Because of this priority, some conventions have evolved that most scientific writers follow. When you first try these you may feel confined and awkward, in somewhat the same way as in writing a first haiku or sonnet. Challenge yourself to stay within the confines of these conventions while still writing as well as you possibly can. THE SCIENTIFIC STYLE OF WRITING Be brief. Say as much as you need to say to be clear, but after you write, check over your text to cut out needless or repetitious phrases. Be precise. Use exactly the right term for what you mean, even if this means repeating the term several times in a paragraph. (You may have been taught to vary your expressions and use synonyms, but in scientific writing precision has a higher priority.) Use scientific citation format in the text instead of footnotes. This is usually APA, but it varies from one scientific journal to the next. This general format is described below under literature cited . Use scientific names correctly (see box). Use metric measurements. Some word usage is counter intuitive. For example, "data" is a plural noun (singular is datum). Write "These data are. .." rather than "This data is. .." In biology, the word "species" is used both as singular and plural ("These species are. .." and "This species is. .."). Formerly, scientific reporting was usually written in the passive voice, but editors and writers now prefer active voice if it is clearer and more readable. For example, you should say, "We predicted a shift in allele frequency." rather than "It was predicted that a shift in allele frequency would occur." Of course, follow all the standard rules of good English for grammar, subject verb agreement, sentence structure, and use of pronouns. 1
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This note was uploaded on 04/21/2011 for the course BIO 105 taught by Professor Staff during the Winter '08 term at Grand Valley State University.

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