Writing is a form of communication that becomes a “permanent” record of your ideas. Writing is permanent because unlike spoken words, written ones stay on the page and give other people access to your brain without your head being in the room. Unfortunately, this also means that you won’t be there to clarify confusing or incomplete statements, so it is important to get it right before handing the paper over.
In addition to being able to hand someone your thoughts, I have also found that the process of writing is an important learning tool. Writing about something forces you to place new or unfamiliar information within the context of things you already know. This is a reflective process requiring you to evaluate, synthesize, and integrate information. These actions are important higher-level thinking skills that allow you to be competent at drawing your own conclusions and making independent decisions. So when you write, you are not only trying to convey information, you are also constructing relevance so that other people will see that your point of view is important and valid. As a result, they will hopefully support the decisions or conclusion that you make.
Below are resources that I hope will help you become better at writing. Some Deal only with the mechanics of writing, while others try to explain the characteristics of good writing.
|Traits of Scientific Writing||Describes the four characteristics that define good writing.|
|Evaluating the Traits||A short version summarizing the “Traits of Scientific Writing” document. This version includes a rubric and method for evaluating someone’s writing with the intent to help you improve your writing skills.|
|Student Examples||These are three samples of student writing you can use to practice evaluating for the writing traits. My comments and trait evaluations are found in a table at the end of each document.
Example 1— Detoxification of substances by the liver
Example 2— Soil ammonium determination lab essay.
Example 3— Porphyrias: metabolic disorders of heme synthesis.
|Citing References||Explains what information in a paper needs to be cited, how it is cited, and examples of how to format specific citations in the bibliography.|
|Writing a Lab Report||Here I analyze excerpts from a published journal article to describe what goes into writing a formal lab report.|
|The Lab Notebook||A brief description of things you should consider when keeping a lab notebook. With a few illustrative examples of famous notebooks|
|Lab Write||An NSF-sponsored project that literally walks you through the process of writing a lab report. This method for constructing a lab report is very complete and is applicable to a wide range of lab experiences. While I haven’t yet used this method with students, it seems like it may serve some function if you are the type of person that has a hard time getting organized or started on lab write-ups.|
|Science of Scientific Writing||This is a American Scientist article by G. Gopen and J. Swan that explains what a reader expects and how you as an author can better communicate by meeting those expectations. It is somewhat long but provides excellent examples of how readers interpret written information.|