Presentation on theme: "Writing a Scientific Essay. Why write an essay? Because you have been told to… To synthesise and bring together a lot of literature on a particular topic."— Presentation transcript:
Writing a Scientific Essay
Why write an essay?
Because you have been told to… To synthesise and bring together a lot of literature on a particular topic To express an opinion on a topic
Synthesis of ideas Called a ‘review’ article Most research articles (in journals) are VERY specific –For example, the effects of a chemical on expression of a particular gene in a liver cell –Effect of male hormones on grooming behaviour to remove fleas in chimpanzees –A method to analyse neural spike trains to predict the cues needed to make locusts jump
Reviews All these are part of a bigger picture –Jumping behaviour of locusts –Neural control of behaviour –Predator escape in ‘cognitively simple’ animals Reviews bring together relevant literature - perhaps on one of these topics Provide an ‘easy’ starting point to get to grips with a new topic
Opinion articles Where there is controversy in a topic –e.g. The role of natural selection in the extinction of dinosaurs Opinion articles argue for one point Again a synthesis of literature, but with a personal point of view “I think natural selection was important” BUT Must still be backed up with scientific literature - AND - should not exclude literature that disagrees, but should confront this literature
Review type articles are easier unless you know a lot about a topic. In your first year - and for this essay - I suggest you stick to a review
Structuring Think of an essay (or a lab report, or a paper) like an egg timer in shape… Start with broad introduction Narrow to focus on YOUR title or question How do these findings apply more broadly
Example A title: –Behaviours for escaping predation in locusts avoiding predation is vital (why?) Many behaviours in many animals for avoiding behaviour (such as?) Behaviours in locusts. Jumping - how and why. Flight - how and why. Swarming - how and why Many of these are ‘reflex’ type behaviours - and innate behaviours Escape behaviours are often innate - evolutionary important
Style It is negatively scintillating if one utilises obtuse lexicon.
Style It is negatively scintillating if one utilises obtuse lexicon. It’s not clever to use big words. Keep language simple and as easy to understand as possible Clarity is the most important part of scientific writing
Examples Measurements were takes to ascertain the temperature of the water at regular intervals of 2 h in duration
Examples Measurements were takes to ascertain the temperature of the water at regular intervals of 2 h in duration We took the water temperature every 2 h The water temperature was taken every 2 h Word limits… This is why we say a MAXIMUM of the word limit. Keep it SHORT.
Simple, but specific We took the water temperature every 2 h Compare with… We took measurements from the water What, when, (how and why)?
Referencing Normally – Harvard system Includes author’s surname and year of publication For 2 authors, both surnames For 3+ authors use first name then et al.
Referencing examples Jones et al. (2002) demonstrated that the growth of onions was higher when nitrates were applied to the soil. When nitrates were applied to the soil, the growth of onions increased (Jones and Smith, 2004)
Referencing examples Referencing a review article (for a general topic): Numerous studies have shown that nitrates increase plant growth (reviewed by Smith, 1987). Referencing the originals – or when there is more than one reference… Numerous studies have shown that nitrates increase plant growth (Greaves, 1889; Jones and Smith, 1928; Davis et al., 1943; reviewed by Smith, 1987).
Reference lists and bibliography Only include things that you have referenced in the text List alphabetically, then chronologically –Smith 1988 will come before Smith 1990 Single authors first (when alphabetically identical) Put in order: Aardvark and Smith, 1998; Smith and Jones, 2000; Smith, 2008.
Information to include Surnames of all authors and initials –Order within a reference is as per the paper Date of publication Title of the article (if appropriate) Title of the journal or book Volume of the journal Page numbers of the article
What is needed from this article?
From University Guide (via learning centre website) A (non-edited) book
From University Guide (via learning centre website) An edited book – where you cite a chapter
Journals.. The university guide is WRONG!!! It makes no difference if you get a journal from a website (such as science direct) or from a print archive Correct format is…
Journals Author’s Surname, Initials. (Year) Full title of article, Full Title of Journal, volume, page numbers of whole article. e.g. Stafford, R., Santer, R.D. & Rind, F.C. (2007) The role of behavioural ecology in the design of bio-inspired technology. Animal Behaviour. 74: 1813 – 1819.
A final note on referencing All scientific journals have their own system – but all are basically the same Lots of pedantic points with regard to the use of commas, italics, bold fonts etc Most important – Be consistant
Oxford system of referencing We don’t normally use this, but is used by journals such as Science and Nature Useful for posters
Oxford system of referencing In reference list – order by number but use same information as previously Sometimes the article titles are excluded