Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Writing in the Biology Department

One goal of the curriculum in the Department of Biology is for you to become a better writer. You will be asked to prepare a variety of assignments in your biology courses which demand that you use and improve your writing and library research skills. The College has a writing requirement that must be fulfilled before graduation. Part of this requirement is satisfied by freshmen and sophomores as part of their general education; part is satisfied with their major department.

The Writing Center

The Writing Center provides workshops and counseling to improve students' writing. It is located in Keiper Liberal Arts. You may make appointments to see writing tutors there. The Writing Center has available instructional materials. In particular, the Biology Department makes use of "Abbreviations and Marks Commonly Used in Marking Papers" and "What is Plagiarism?" Plagiarism is using someone else's ideas or words as your own and it is a very serious offense.

The Biology Department's Commitment to Writing

The Biology Department understands that writing is an integral part of a biologist's professional work, especially research. We believe that writing is a way of learning.

The Biology Department provides its majors with extended practice in writing appropriate to the discipline. A Biology elective course with a writing component provides students with models of professional writing, practice with the requirements of writing in the discipline, and experience in writing in depth on a significant topic. Many Biology electives satisfy the department writing requirement. Students in these courses prepare several kinds of documents--review papers based on library research, papers based on field or laboratory research, extended laboratory reports, and summaries of papers in the primary literature. Students in these courses gain experience in writing in depth on a significant topic when they write substantial papers based on library and laboratory and field research. These courses also provide models of professional writing--research proposals, papers in the primary literature, review papers, theses--and they give students practice with the format and requirement of writing in biology.

From: Writing in the Biology Department: A Proposal for Meeting the Writing Requirement. Richard Fluck, September, 1988.

The Biology Department expects all students to purchase a style manual: A Short Guide to Writing About Biology by Jan A. Pechenik. This manual is on sale in the Bookstore. It details the style and format requirements of a paper submitted to the Department.

The Biology Department strives to instruct majors in various scientific writing skills. These include:

Writing a Research Proposal
Experimental Design and Data Analysis
Tables and Figures
Abstract/Summary
Writing the Report

Instructors in writing intensive courses often ask students to revise and resubmit their written work. We feel that this ability to respond to criticism is an integral part of the writing process.

How to Satisfy the Writing Requirement

Each student major must take at least one elective course that satisfies the writing requirement. These are writing intensive courses. The electives that currently satisfy this requirement are listed in the course catalog.

Typically, students in these courses do an independent project that culminates in a written report (see above).