The following guidelines were prepared by Professor Ron Smith, Biological Sciences, UCC, for his Cell Physiology - Biology 352 students. The directions for writing a biology paper reflect disciplinary attitudes expressed in Dr. Smith's interview.
Guidelines for Your Research Paper
You will write a research paper in Cell Physiology; it is due October 17. Marks will be deducted if the paper is not complete and submitted by its due date. Once graded, the paper may be revised and resubmitted to improve your grade as many times as you wish up until December 12. In order that your assignment is easily revised and legible, I strongly recommend that you use a word processor.
Your research paper may be on any physiological topic at the cellular level that you wish to write about. You should cite many papers, one of which must be a recent original research article (published between September, 98 and December, 99). Note, as well, that you will be asked to critique a recent original research article of your choice on the final exam. With regard to organization, your papers should be subdivided into 4 major sections as follows:
- Body of Paper
- Literature Cited
In order to enhance the readability of the paper, the major sections should be further subdivided into subsections. Figures or Tables present in your paper should include a title, a legend and a citation; Figures and Tables should stand alone. For further guidelines regarding the style or organization of your paper refer to a recent scientific review article, J.A. Pechenik's book entitled A Short Guide to Writing About Biology or use the writing guide in Norton-Connect. If you have any questions regarding this assignment do not hesitate to see me.
Excerpt from the Biochemistry Lab Manual
Following completion of each experiment, students will prepare a laboratory report. Please prepare your reports using a word processor.
Doing a thorough job on a lab report does not mean that it has to be long and full of irrelevant information. Be clear, concise and well organized. Reports will be returned for rewrite if they are not of acceptable quality, so having your report on disc will make editing easier for you. The reports for Labs 1-5 may be re-submitted for re-grading within one week of being returned to you. The report for Lab 6 can only be submitted once.
Each report should be written in paragraph form and consist of:
- Title page listing the course number, your name, your lab partner's name, the number and title of the experiment, and the contribution (in %) that you made in the collection and analysis of the data;
- Abstract providing a summary of your report. Generally, your abstracts will consist of a sentence of Introduction, Methods, Results and Conclusion. Although it appears first, you will most likely find it easier to write your Abstract last;
- Introduction listing the objectives of the experiment and any background information that you consider appropriate, including principles behind the techniques being used;
- Methods section outlining the procedures you followed in the experiments that were performed. Do not just rewrite the instructions from the lab manual (note, that you may end up altering the procedures given in the lab manual). Try and keep your Methods section brief and to the point. Note, however, that your peers should be able to replicate your experiments based on the information provided in your Methods section;
- Results section, which clearly presents the results and observations of the experiment in written form and, where appropriate, Tables or Figures. Note, any set of data should only be presented in a Table or a Figure, do not include the same data in both (choose the format that best "shows off" the point that you wish to make from your data). Refer to your tables and figures (i.e. Table I, Figure 2) in the appropriate text portion of your Results section. Tables and figures should follow after their text references. Label all figures and tables clearly with a number and a title. If you wish, copies of the appropriate pages from your lab notebook, showing any calculations and raw data, may be provided in an Appendix;
- Discussion section, which restates and analyzes the data and compares your results to those expected, if possible, from published data, class results etc. If your results deviate from those expected, try to provide an explanation. Address any questions posed in the lab and make recommendations about changing the experiment in future years. In some cases you may wish to combine your Results and Discussion sections into a Results and Discussion section;
- Literature Cited section, giving the actual citations of the references cited in the Introduction, Methods and Discussion sections of your report.
Recommended writing guide for all Biology courses
A Short Guide to Writing About Biology, 2nd Edition, Pechenik JA (1993) Harper Collins College Publishers, New York.
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