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Scientific Communication

Fall Biology

Table of contents
  1. Successful Scientific Writing
  2. Locating Appropriate References
  3. Plagiarism
  4. Writing a Scientific Paper
  5. Oral and Poster Presentations

  • For scientific enterprise to be successful, scientists must clearly communicate their work.
  • Process. Each step of the way requires communication.
    1. Present preliminary results for comments from collaborators.
    2. Report results in a presentation at scientific meeting.
    3. Final report prepared in scientific paper format and submitted to publication.
  • Components of a scientific paper
    • Title - statement of question or problem
    • Abstract - short summary and preview of paper
    • Materials and Methods - exactly waht you did
    • Results - presenting the data
    • Discussion - interpret and discuss the results
    • References Cited - books and articles used
    • Acknowledgements - in recognition of any assistance used

Successful Scientific Writing

  • Writing should be clear and concise.
    • Avoid overly descriptive and flowery language.
  • Write in short and logical sentences.
    • Avoid long introductions and run-on sentences.
  • Write for your audience.
    • Think about your audience’s skill level and goals.
  • Support writing with evidence.
  • Locate sources related to work early.
    • Spend time to rephrase sections in your own words.
  • Avoid using quotations.
  • Do not plagiarize.
  • Use past tense in the Abstract, Materials & Methods, and Results sections. Use past tense in Introduction and Discussion when discussing your work; use present tense when relating background information.
  • Use the active voice when possible.
  • When referring to scientific name, italicize or underline the genus and species.
  • Pay attention to rules for numbers (0.153, not .153)
  • Include a heading for each section in a scientific paper.

Locating Appropriate References

  • Primary sources - reports of original research. Conference papers, dissertations, technical reports, etc.
  • Secondary references - textbooks, review articles, provide an interpretation of research.
    • Reference section can be used to find primary sources.
  • Effective search strategies with online databases, indexes, adn search engines.
    • PubMed, Google Scholar, Biosis Previews, Science Direct, JSTOR, Science Citation Index, Web of Science
  • Stop after each section of reading a paper and summarize essential points in your own words.


  • Plagiarism is the use of someone else’s words or ideas without acknowledging the source or author.
  • All sources of information need to be acknowledged (even if content is paraphrased).

Writing a Scientific Paper

  • Title Page and Title
    • Must include name, course title, lab section, instructor name, due date.
    • Title page specifically formatted.
  • Abstract
    • Summarizes information being investigated, methods used, results, and conclusions.
    • <= 250 words, if possible.
    • Composed after the paper is completed.
  • Introduction
    • Dual purpose:
      • Provide context for investigation.
      • To state the question and hypothesis tested.
    • Provide background information.
  • Materials and Methods
    • Describe your experiment such that it is replicable.
    • Describe what to include and what not to include.
    • Be as specific as possible, but do not try to justify procedures or include troubleshooting.
  • Results
    • Most central and important part of a scientific paper.
    • Four components:
      1. 1 or 2 sentences reminding reader about nature of research.
      2. = 1 paragraphs describing results.

      3. Figures (graphs, diagrams, pictures)
      4. Tables.
    • Draw the attention to important results.
  • Discussion
    • Analyze and interpret results of the experiment.
    • Restating the results is not an interpretation.
    • Provide context for understanding the significance of results.
    • Results do not prove a hypothesis, it confirms or negates it.
  • References Cited/References
    • Inclusive list of all references used in paper.

Oral and Poster Presentations

  • Include components of a scientific paper
  • Briefly describe the experimental design and only essential procedures.
  • Emphasize results in bold and clearly label figrues and tables.
    • Discuss and interpret results.
  • State conclusions.
  • Be prepared to answer questions.

Suggestions for delivering effective presentations

  • Slides should have a small number of bullets (<= 6).
  • Use a simple and consistent template or theme.
  • Do not simply read the slides; describe the points.
  • The objective is to clearly communicate your ideas.

Suggestions for presenting a poster

  • Use minimal text and maximal visual impact.
  • Include sections of a scientific paper.
  • Use large font for headings and content in abbreviated format.
  • Use simple, bold, clearly labeled figures and tables.
  • Consider use of fonts, color, and images.
  • Be prepared to answer qeustions and discuss your work.