Journal-Style Scientific Writing Training

The core biology laboratory curriculum is inquiry-based, and is the setting in which we do our basic training with hands-on skills development and intensive training in journal-style scientific writing.

Technical Writing Assistant Caroline Barr '11 (C) provides feedback to a lab group on a draft of their paper.

Technical Writing Assistant Caroline Barr ’11 (C) provides feedback to a lab group on a draft of their paper.

The Biology core laboratory curriculum has been driven by collaborative, inquiry-based lab experiences since the early 1990’s.  Student groups work collaboratively to learn new skills, carry out experiments involving some level of self-design, and communicate their findings in formal, peer reviewed research papers. In Bio 190 (Organismal Biology), students carry out one major experiment, analyze the data using statistical analysis, and then report their results by writing the Methods and Results sections of a journal-style research paper.

In our W2 courses, Bio 242 (Cellular and Molecular Biology) and Bio 270 (Ecology and Evolution), the lab work follows a pedagogical model, originally conceived by Pam Baker, that facilitates ongoing training in journal-style scientific writing. Under this model, two or more laboratory experiences in each course involve multi-week, collaborative investigations that give our students practice in the process of conducting a scientific investigation and then communicating those results in a formal paper. The system is modeled on the collaborative nature of modern scientific investigations, and incorporates intensive training in laboratory and field skills development, experimental design, data analysis, and journal-style scientific writing including anonymous peer review.

Student work is supported by frequent interaction with the course faculty and staff, laboratory Teaching Assistants (TA’s), and meetings with Technical Writing Assistants (TWA’s). Additional critical training in scientific writing and peer review is provided by the Scientific Writing Specialist in the Writing at Bates program. Support for quantitative reasoning skills development is provided by the Math and Statistics Workshop. Students who complete the biology core sequence consistently report that they are very well prepared for independent work when they go on to internships, thesis, and graduate programs.

Students in Bio 270 (Ecology and Evolution) studying intertidal ecology on the coast of Maine.