Written communication has been the standard for disseminating scientific achievements and new knowledge for centuries. Developing good scientific writing skills is thus a critical component of this course. You will be required to fulfill a number of writing assignments, culminating in a final paper (~15 pages) that describes your own research. During the semester you will complete several intermediate writing assignments, described below, most of which focus on a specific portion of your final paper.

  1. Mini-review: This paper (~5 pages) will explain the background of your research project and will be guided by your reading of the relevant literature (~6-10 articles, of which only one or two may be review articles).
  2. Introduction: This section (~3 pages) covers the background and significance of your research area, as well as a clear description of the goals and purpose of your research. Portions of your introduction may be derived from your mini-review.

Guidelines for writing the introduction to your paper (PDF)

  1. Materials and Methods: This section describes the procedural details of the experiments discussed in the paper.
  2. Results (including Figures and Figure Legends): This section describes the experiments carried out and the data collected.
  3. Discussion and Abstract: The final written section will be an insightful discussion, in which you interpret your data, formulate models to explain your observations, and relate your own work to that of other researchers in the broader scientific community. You will also prepare a short abstract (150 words or less) summarizing your results and conclusions.

Guidelines for writing the results, discussion, and abstract, and for designing and labeling figures (PDF)

Final Paper

You must submit a paper by the end of the term, describing the progress and results of your experiments in this course. This paper should demonstrate a strong level of understanding of the topic researched during the semester, and should be based upon experimental data. It is neither the quantity of results that counts in this paper nor their efficiency with which you advance the project, but rather, how well you articulate your understanding of what you actually did throughout the term. Your paper need not be an exhaustive description of everything that was done or attempted during the semester. It will be up to you to select your results that make for the most coherent story.

The final paper is worth 20% of your grade for the class. Grades will be based on your demonstration of a firm understanding of the subject in question, the clarity of the writing, and the mechanics of the presentation itself (use of figures, writing style, reference to published research, etc).

Policy on collaboration in preparing written reports: Although we encourage collaboration on experiments and discussion of data among partners and lab mates, your final papers are your own. Identical tables of results and copies of graphs are all right, but identical presentation of the results and word-by-word identity in the conclusions are not. Clearly in most cases the interpretations of your results will be the same as your partners, however, each of you must express these ideas in your own words.