Important Writing Tips
- PROOF READ and then have your friends PROOF READ your report before submitting it for assessment.
- Be concise! Avoid boring the reader with verbiage (wordiness).
- Avoid subjective judgements and argue only on the basis of results of your study or those of others.
- When in doubt, find an example in a recent journal.
- Keep the paper formal; what may seem amusing to you at the time of writing probably won’t be amusing to the reader.
- Make sure that you are using the correct form of words. When in doubt, use a dictionary, thesaurus, or other source. The English language is rich in words. There is likely a single word to describe the idea.
- Proper report formatting accounts for a large part of the mark of a paper. Formatting marks are easy to receive; just follow the instructions!
- Incorrect spelling results in the loss of marks. Spell check is not enough! PROOF READ! e.g. then ≠ than, preformed ≠ performed
- Poor grammar results in the loss of marks. PROOF READ!
- Do not assume every unexpected result is a sampling error without considering other possibilities.
- Do not ramble on about unrelated or irrelevant topics; stick to the primary aim(s) and objective(s) of the study
- Try not to end sentences with prepositions (e.g. instead of “Which department is he in?” use “He is in which department?”, or “In which department is he?”)
- Put yourself in the position of the person reading and marking your report!
- Many students make the mistake of putting too many ideas and issues in one paragraph; a good rule is “one idea or issue, one paragraph”, with paragraphs structured in a logical sequence
- Generally, a paragraph contains more than one sentence!
- Restrict sentences to just one idea and keep sentences short.
- Logically connect each section, paragraph, phrase, etc., and don’t repeat information.
- www.dictionary.com (includes a thesaurus)
- Zeroes placed before other digits are not significant; 0.046 has two significant digits.
- Zeroes placed between other digits are always significant; 4009 kg has four significant digits.
- Zeroes placed after other digits but behind a decimal point are significant; 7.90 has three significant digits.
- Zeroes at the end of a number are significant only if they are behind a decimal point as in (c). Otherwise, it is impossible to tell if they are significant. For example, in the number 8200, it is not clear if the zeroes are significant or not. The number of significant digits in 8200 is at least two, but could be three or four. To avoid uncertainty, use scientific notation to place significant zeroes behind a decimal point: 8.200 x 103 has four significant digits, 8.20 x 103 has three significant digits, and 8.2 x 103 has two significant digits.
With the advent of ‘track changes’ and ‘insert comment’ in word processors, editorial notation has become less used in some courses. However, when marking printed reports, each faculty member will employ some abbreviations for editorial comments.
When dissecting specimens and making observations on dissected and intact specimens, there are common terms that will help you to describe the various parts in their respective and relational positions. Any reference to the right or left refers to the specimen’s right or left, not your own.
Table 4. Directional and positional terms used in Biology
|the forward-moving or head end of a bilaterally symmetrical animal, or toward that end
|the tail end or toward the tail end
|head or front end
|tail or back end
|upper side or back
|under side or belly
|on or toward one side
|on, near or toward the midline
|nearer to the place of attachment; toward the central part of the body away from the place of attachment; toward the periphery or extremities of the body
|region on or near the surface
|toward the outside
|a line extending down the centre of the body from head to tail
|toward the head end of a bipedal organism (i.e., a human)
|toward the end of a bipedal organism (i.e., a human)
|a plane cutting vertically across the body at right angles to the longitudinal axis
|a vertical longitudinal plane through the body, this plane runs from the dorsal to the ventral side and extends forward and backward parallel to the long axis
frontal section, horizontal section,
|a horizontal longitudinal plane through the body