Writing in Biology

Effective writing and reading skills are integral to becoming a successful biologist. As a student entering the Biology program, you are expected to read and understand simple lab instructions and textbook/online information, follow the examples of scientific writing, and begin to learn how to write professionally. During your coursework, we will expand upon these writing skills, so that by the time you graduate, you should be able to write clear and concise technical documentation according to a prescribed style guide. Common types of documentation include lab reports, research papers, analyses of peer-reviewed literature, and grant proposals. We also expect that you will be able to present clear and concise technical information via posters and PowerPoint presentations. Graduate students are expected to have these skills upon entering the MS Biotech Program, and to complete them at a professional level upon graduation.

Genres/Assignments

As a student in the Biology Program, you will find the following kinds of writing are expected:

  • Lab reports
  • Summary and analysis of peer-reviewed literature
  • Short-answer and essay homework assignments, exams, and quizzes
  • Project reports and research papers
  • Grant proposals
  • Posters
  • Presentations

Recommended Processes

The biology faculty strongly recommends the following practices so that students can become more proficient at writing in biology:

  • Attend symposia and poster presentations.
  • Read peer reviewed literature (research articles) on a regular basis.
  • Write more than is required, to practice and develop your skills.
  • Take courses in the English program for the technical writing certificate.
  • Use the University Writing Center for general writing help and the Graduate Writing Studio for help with culminating projects.
  • Use peer editors and/or professional editors for your writing.
  • Ask instructors to provide writing guidelines and feedback on your written assignments.
  • Use technical writing guidelines on format, style, language, reference citing, and professionalism.
  • Revise your returned, graded work to correct any problems.

Formats

In Biology, the American Psychological Association (APA) is the most common format requested by professors and used in scientific literature.

You can access the complete APA manual here.

You can also get helpful style guide sheets in the University Writing Center, on the OWL Purdue site or on our library website.