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Writing in Science

froggies315's picture

In high school, I didn’t have to write that much or that well.  I knew that the transition from high school to college-level writing would be hard and my fear about  the switch pushed me toward the natural sciences.  The first few science classes I took in college were happily writing free, but now that I’ve moved into higher level courses, I’ve had to learn the rules for writing in science.  

Writing for biology is formulaic.  I think the idea is to distance the scientist from the science so that the results of an experiment can be pure and True. I enjoy writing like this because the rules are clear and easy to follow.  When I turn in a lab report, I don’t feel like I will be judged by my word choice or sentence structure but rather my ability to explain and interpret an experiment and its data.  My comfort with writing for science classes is derived from access to online databases that store science papers.  I cannot imagine having to write a lab report without instant access to the entirety of biological research.  When I’m confused about a term or protocol that I have to explain in a lab report, I can just look up another paper that explains it.  The databases make the logical and incremental nature of biology research readily apparent and I feel safe writing for such a structured discipline.  I imagine that the regimented writing style that science disciplines demand squelches creativity (and to some extent progress) within the discipline, but the structure makes the writing process much more pleasant for me.


froggies315's picture

It's intersting that you

It's intersting that you picked up on the one word in my response that I wasn't sure about.  I thought for awhile about how to describe how I feel about writing for science classes and I don't think that "safe" is exactly the right word, but I couldn't think of a better one.  I certainly feel stress sometimes when I have to turn something in and I don't have enough time to make as polished as I can, but I feel safe in that I trust the amount of time I spend researching/writing a lab report will be directly related to its clarity and coherence.  In other disciplines, I can spend a couple of hours writing about something, have a new idea pop into my head, and then decide to restart my paper from the beginning.  This is incredibly frustrating.  Maybe a better way to desribe the "safe" I wrote about at first is that when I write for science I rarely feel like I'm wasting my time.  Everything is logical, so if I miss something, or have a revalation, the new idea can fit into whatever I have already worked out. 

I think the databases are just extrapoltions of the individual papers we write.  Everything in the database has a neat and clear spot.  If you type in the right words inthe search box, you can find the answers to your questions.  Science is beautiful.

Ayla's picture

feeling safe

There are clearly a lot of similarities to writing in Biology and writing in Chemistry, which is my forte!  I paused when reading your post at the idea of "feeling safe" when writing.  This implies, I would think, that you are a certain kind of student - a kind of student that probably resonates with mine.  Personally, I feel much more comfortable writing a scientific paper rather than an essay on a novel or idea for the same reasons that you mentioned; I am more so writing about what happened or interpreting data than delving into the subtext of a novel.  However, I am usually very stressed when writing my lab report.  I need to research extensively to cover the key aspects of my paper and I need to include all information (that may seem obvious to me) in order for the reader to understand my experiment.  So, I never feel safe when writing a scientific paper - I don't feel safe writing anything really.  I think a lot of this has to do with the transformation of a database as a genre; how can I include everything when there is so much?