Scientific Writing Exercise: Summary of Background Information

Jodee Hunt, Biology

Introduction: A major objective of this laboratory is to help you master scientific (technical) writing, a fundamental, but complex, suite of skills. You will use these skills in upper-division biology courses, and you will rely on them in your profession. One important aspect of scientific writing is finding and using information from scientific journals (primary literature) and other sources. This exercise is a first step in mastering the "search-digest-utilize" sequence common to using scientific literature.

Assignment: (a) Find 4-5 sources of background information about temperate deciduous forests in seasonal climates, such as those found in Michigan. Your sources must include at least one web site and one journal article. (b) Learn about the following as they pertain to temperate deciduous forests: community composition (the types of species found) and structure (strata), and responses of tree species to seasonal climates. (c) Summarize what you've learned in 1-2 paragraphs (about a page, double-spaced). Use language that a bright 18-year-old would understand, but include and define important terms you encounter (e.g., canopy, succession). (d) Provide citations for the sources you've used; follow the format in the journal Ecology.

Suggestions: Use your textbook as a source, and read the section on temperate deciduous forests before going to the library. As you read, note potential key words to use in on-line searches of primary literature, secondary literature, and internet sites. Find primary sources (journal articles) and secondary sources (review articles, magazine articles, books) using FirstSearch in the GVSU library. Library staff can help you learn how to use FirstSearch (they also have an on-line tutorial). Network with your classmates to find good internet sites. Remember that a lot of "junk" lurks in cyberspace; select sites carefully!

Remember: Plagiarism is a big no-no. You must summarize the information you find in your sources; don't simply quote or paraphrase. Ask if this distinction is unclear to you!!

Due: Your summary (word-processed, double-spaced) is due in lab the week of Sept. 10. It is worth 10 points. Late summaries will not be accepted- just do it!

NOTE: For all writing assignments this semester, I will assign an "R" if the assignment is poorly edited. Such an assignment will be returned ungraded for rewriting; an "R" assessment yields an automatic loss of 20% of the grade. Proofread your papers!!

Page last modified October 30, 2017