My Experience: Improving Writing Skills In Biology Science
The field of science always had caught my eye. I can remember taking an introductory class and always looking forward to learning about the study of life, biology. Biology is an extraordinarily important field in science, it helps us to understand how the world works, how all of the different species function, and helps in making crucial advancements to our quality of life. I felt that was so important, so heading into college I knew that I wanted to enroll in a long list of biology courses. Choosing this pathway would give me options down the road and time to decide what I wanted to pursue. Now that I’m taking these classes, I figured out that along with memorization and microscopes, writing is also a fundamental aspect of biology.
During my first year as a biology major, it did not take long to realize that I needed to improve my writing. In high school, biology only dealt with the terms from a book and attending lab once a week, but in college I expected it to be different. While I was correct about it being different, I was wrong about the content of the classes. Initially, my understanding was that the only writing my major would only involve, would be typing up a couple of post lab reports and depending on the class, a research paper. I had heard the writing assignments would be simple, and straight to the point, but they involved more, nonetheless. While my initial impressions of writing had some truth, my research helped to show me that there was more to it than I had originally thought. After reading through the textbook, Building Bridges through Writing, I was amazed about how much truly goes into writing in biology.
In the major of biology, the different types of writing assignments include research papers, lab reports, review papers, and presentations (Smith, Smith, & Hamby, 2014, p. 272-275). All of these vary in length, content, and style. Research papers are a method of reporting data and findings (Smith, et al., 2014, p. 273). The paper includes an abstract in the beginning, which is just a summary of the paper (Smith, et al., 2014, p.273). This is the least important part of these assignments. The rest of the paper includes an introduction, materials, results and discussion, and references (Smith, et al., 2014, p. 273). From personal experience, the discussion section can without a doubt make or break a research paper. This is where the results are interpreted and where the thesis may be referenced to help state what has been concluded from the research (Smith, et al., 2014, p. 274). The layout of a research paper is nearly identical to a lab report. Based on personal experience, lab reports have been the most common form of writing I have done thus far. In one of my labs this semester, there is a total of 9 lab reports (Kondam, 2021). This accounts for nearly my entire grade in the class excluding the final. For the most part, a lab report is a shortened research paper, where the discussion is used to explain what was found, what occurred, and why (Smith, et al., 2014, p. 274). Completing a lab report relies heavily on the application of research and the ability to perform the lab well (CLAS, 2012). It is also important to work on critical thinking, how to use the scientific method, and to be able to communicate properly (CLAS, 2012). Due to research papers and lab reports being the bulk of writing, it provides even more of a reason to master these genres. In another one of my classes, we are required to write an annotated bibliography (Koop, 2021). The annotated bibliography requires my classmates and I to read 4 different articles, gather important data, and from there try to comprehend the information (Koop, 2021). This assignment is similar to the research paper and lab report assignments I just described. To achieve success, knowing who the audience is, the purpose, and what questions should be addressed are (Smith, et al., 2014, p. 278-280). The bridges book was where I truly figured this out, but it was when I looked through my syllabi and the bibliography assignment that confirmed how important this was. Another source I used to learn more about writing was a video from “iBiology”. It had advice and knowledge, but it did not get into the same detail as the book.
The video deals more with people getting into the field of writing in sciences, but the content was still helpful for people writing in the major of biology. The first and only section of advice I found important was to always think about the bigger picture; who your group of readers or how in depth the writing should be (Tachibana, 2011). Even though this was my only takeaway from the video, I definitely would recommend this for anyone in the biology field or for those preparing to enter. In addition to the video, the book also made some references to the audience and how important it is to know who your writing for (Smith, et al., 2014, p. 278). Even though knowing the audience is important for successful writing in this discipline, my second piece of advice for any other student deals with writing lab reports. Before my first semester of a lab, I had never written true lab report. Answering pre and post lab question had been my only experience with lab reports, so starting from scratch was foreign to me. My biggest learning experience from that first semester of writing lab reports was that the writing for a procedure section is completely different from a results and discussion section. Procedures in a lab report should not have extra detail and should be straight to the point, but the results and discussion section should explain what went on. At first, I was losing points for my procedure sections for adding too many details and not being straight to the point. Knowing your audience and the difference between the various sections of a paper or lab report is pivotal to succeeding within this discipline’s writing. As you continue to do these types of writing assignments throughout your time as a biology student, they may seem difficult at first, but with practice comes perfection. I am still getting better at writing every day but know that I have definitely improved. With help from instructors and peers each assignment gets easier and grades should increase. In the end, success is not as important as improvement and with attention to detail, practice, and time, writing in biology should become easier with each day.