BISC220/S13:Guidelines for writing a lab report in the form of a scientific paper

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Guide for Scientific Writing

Papers for this course will be done in scientific writing style, which is the way most scientific work is published. This is the style used in professional journals; however, it varies somewhat according to the publication. This format has been developed to make all parts of scientific studies (e.g., hypotheses, background and pertinent literature, methods, implications of results) readily accessible to the reader. Thus using the appropriate format is a very important part of scientific writing. Arbitrary modifications of the format by "creative" writers can only confuse readers and lessen the clarity and impact of the results. The best way to learn this type of writing is to read papers in journals and to practice writing. This handout is best viewed as the Word file: Media:Guide_to_Science_Writing219.doc‎

You should pay close attention to the style and format requirements of your instructor. Each instructor will have different requirements for style and form, just as editors of different journals do. Follow the guidelines of your instructor. Do not simply take an old lab report and substitute your data. This is unacceptable. The format is the same, but each report will vary, depending on the experiments and the data. You should try to develop a style of writing that can adapt to any situation.

Probably one of the most important things to keep in mind while you are writing the paper is your audience. Even though this is a lab exercise, you should keep in mind that you are writing this paper to communicate your data and conclusions to someone who has not done the lab. You should assume that your reader is a BISC220 student who is not taking the lab portion of the course. Your reader will therefore know about the topics covered in lecture but will not know the experimental details of what you did. If you are going to communicate effectively to your reader, it is essential that you clearly explain what you did.

The Journal Cell has a specific reference format. This is the one we will be using for our scientific papers. From the Cell instructions for authors page:

"References should include only articles that are published or in press. For references to in press articles, please confirm with the cited journal that the article is in fact accepted and in press and include a DOI number and as much other information as possible at the time of final submission. Unpublished data, submitted manuscripts, abstracts, and personal communications should be cited within the text only. Personal communication should be documented by a letter of permission. Submitted articles should be cited as unpublished data, data not shown, or personal communication. Note: "et al." should only be used after ten authors. Please use the following style for references:"

  1. Article in a periodical: Sondheimer, N., and Lindquist, S. (2000). Rnq1: an epigenetic modifier of protein function in yeast. Mol. Cell 5, 163–172.
  2. Article in a book: King, S.M. (2003). Dynein motors: Structure, mechanochemistry and regulation. In Molecular Motors, M. Schliwa, ed. (Weinheim, Germany: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH), pp. 45–78.
  3. An entire book: Cowan, W.M., Jessell, T.M., and Zipursky, S.L. (1997). Molecular and Cellular Approaches to Neural Development (New York: Oxford University Press).

Direct copying of text from other sources, even if cited, is considered plagiarism. For more information about what constitutes plagiarism, please check the Wellesley College General Judiciary web site.