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Organizing Scientific Writing

This page authored by Barry Bickmore, Brigham Young University.
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Summary

In a number of my classes for geology majors I give writing assignments along with some explicit instructions about how to organize their writing. They write initial drafts, which are subjected to peer review according to a standard rubric. They then go over another draft with me in my office, and then submit the final draft.

Learning Goals

Students should learn how to implement a writing strategy when approaching a scientific writing project. To accomplish this, they need to understand what readers expect to find, and where they expect to find it.

Improving scientific writing is a goal of this exercise.

Context for Use

This can be used in any upper-division or graduate-level science course.

Description and Teaching Materials

In a number of my classes for geology majors I give writing assignments along with some explicit instructions about how to organize their writing. They write initial drafts, which are subjected to peer review according to a standard rubric. They then go over another draft with me in my office, and then submit the final draft. I have included two essays they have to read and a rubric (see references and resources section).

Teaching Notes and Tips

The thing to keep in mind is that students need to learn to THINK about scientific writing–not just to follow some canned format. Many students think of their writing too much as putting their thoughts on paper and too little as communicating with other human beings.

Assessment

See the attached rubric.

References and Resources

How To Organize a Paragraph (Microsoft Word 43kB Jun2 09)
How To Organize a Scientific Paper (Microsoft Word 52kB Jun2 09)
Rubric (Microsoft Word 37kB Jun2 09)

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