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A Student Handbook for Writing in Biology

learning to write according to the conventions in biology. The first chapter introduces the scientific method and experimental design. Because the scientific method relies on the work of other scientists, Chapter 2 provides instructions for finding primary literature using article databases and scholarly search engines. Journal articles have a well-defined structure, but are typically hard to read because they are written for specialists. To help students read and comprehend the technical literature, Chapter 3 describes scientific paper tone and format, provides strategies for reading technical material, emphasizes the importance of paraphrasing when taking notes, and gives examples of how to present and cite information to avoid plagiarism. Using the standards of journal publication as a model, students are then given specific instructions for writing their own laboratory reports with accepted format and content, self-evaluating drafts, and using peer and instructor feedback to refine their writing. Besides writing about it, scientists communicate scientific knowledge through posters and oral presentations. How these presentation forms differ from papers in terms of purpose, content, and delivery is the subject of the last two chapters of the book.

Scientific communication requires more than excellent writing skillsit requires technical competence on the computer. Most first-year students have had little experience producing Greek letters and mathematical symbols, sub- and superscripted characters, graphs, tables, drawings, and equations. Yet these are characteristics of scientific papers that require a familiarity with the computer beyond basic keyboarding skills. For exactly this reason, almost half of the book is devoted to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint features that enable scientists to produce professional quality papers, graphs, posters, and oral presentations effectively and efficiently.

In the Third Edition, the appendices have been updated for Microsoft Office 2007 and include instructions for making bar graphs and pie charts and adding error bars in Excel 2007. The sections on designing an experiment and recording and summarizing data in Chapter 1 have been reorganized for clarity. The focus of Chapter 2 has been shifted from finding primary references to developing a literature search strategy: criteria for choosing a database or search engine to find scholarly information; strategies for defining effective keywords; ways to expand or limit a search; tips on evaluating hits and finding related articles; options for retrieving full-text articles; and an introduction to RefWorks as an example of references management software that reduces the tediousness of formatting citations and end references in scientific papers. The section on plagiarism in Chapter 3 has been expanded to help students recognize what kinds of information must be acknowledged and how to do so appropriately. In Chapter 4, more guidance is provided on selecting and preparing graphs based on the types of variables and the purpose of the figure. In addition, the section on citing Internet sources has been updated to include examples of online journal articles, databases, and websites. As in the Second Edition, there are numerous examples of faulty writing (along with revisions) to alert students to pitfalls when writing different sections of a scientific paper. The guidelines for preparing effective posters in Chapter 7 are augmented by examples of posters on the Sinauer Associates Web page. Each poster is accompanied by a short evaluation of the positive and negative aspects of the layout and content. Throughout, the Third Edition reflects Council of Science Editors (CSE) updates.

While some users of this book may enjoy reading it cover-to-cover, the majority will use it primarily as a look-up reference. Most of the sections are designed to stand alone so that readers can look up a topic in the index and find the answer to their question. Those who want to learn more about the topic have the option of reading related sections or entire chapters.

The book is augmented by ancillary materials available on the Sinauer Associates Web page. A biology lab report template in Microsoft Word provides prompts that help students get used to scientific paper format and content. The Biology Lab Report Checklist can be printed out to help students self-evaluate or peer review lab reports. Both instructors and students may find the Laboratory Report Mistakes table handy for use in both the revision and feedback stages. The Evaluation Form for Oral Presentations enables listeners to provide feedback to the speaker on things that he/she is doing well as well as areas that need improvement. Similarly, the Evaluation Form for Poster Presentations can be used as a checklist for the presenter and an evaluation tool for visitors during the actual poster session. All of the above documents are available for downloading from the download page for A Student Handbook for Writing in Biology, Third Edition.

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Table of Contents
1. The Scientific Method

An Introduction to the Scientific Method

2. Developing a Literature Search Strategy

Databases and Search Engines for Scientific Information
Database Search Strategies
Evaluating Search Results
Managing References (Citations)

3. Reading and Writing Scientific Papers

Types of Scientific Writing
Hallmarks of Scientific Writing
Scientific Paper Format
Styles for Documenting References
Strategies for Reading Journal Articles
Strategies for Reading your Textbook
Study Groups
The Benefits of Learning to Write Scientific Papers
Credibility and Reputation
Model Papers

4. Step-by-Step Instructions for Preparing a Laboratory Report or Scientific Paper

Getting Started
Start with the Materials and Methods Section
Do the Results Section Next
Make Connections
Effective Advertising
Documenting Sources
5. Revision

Getting Ready to Revise
Revise Again
The Biology Lab Report Checklist

6. A Good Sample Student Laboratory Report

Laboratory Report Mistakes

7. Poster Presentations

Why Posters?
Poster Format
Making a Poster in Microsoft PowerPoint 2007
Poster Content
Presenting Your Poster
Evaluation Form for Poster Presentations

8. Oral Presentations

Plan Ahead
Write the Text
Prepare the Visuals

Appendix 1. Word Processing in Microsoft Word 2007

Good Houskeeping
Increasing your Word Processing Efficiency
Commands in Word
Unfurling the Ribbon
Proofreading your Documents

Appendix 2. Making Graphs in Microsoft Excel 2007

Commands in Excel 2007
Formulas in Excel 2007
Unfurling the Ribbon
Other Ribbon Tabs
Excel Terminology
Goodbye Chart Wizard, Hello Insert Charts
Plotting XY Graphs (Scatter Charts)
Adding Data after Graph has been Made
Multiple Lines on an XY Graph
Plotting Bar Graphs
Pie Graphs
Error Bars and Variability

Appendix 3. Preparing Oral Presentations with Microsoft PowerPoint 2007

Views for Organizing and Writing your Presentation
Designs for New Presentations
Slide Layouts
Formatting Text
Sample Presentation
Navigating Among Slides in Normal View
Saving and Printing Presentations
Revising and Polishing Presentations
Delivering Presentations

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