ESCI 325: Fundamentals of Ecology                                                Fall Term, 2023

During this course, you will be asked to complete four short writing assignments. Each assignment is intended to familiarize you with a different type of scientific writing task.

First Homework Assignment

Title: Writing an abstract

Topic: Kettlewell, H.B.D.. 1955. Selection Experiments on Industrial Melanism in the Lepidoptera. Heredity 9:323-342. (see link on the syllabus)

Another good source of guidance: See Chapter 6 in: How to write and publish a scientific paper by Robert Day. This is a classic guide with a separate chapter devoted to each part of a scientific paper. The entire book is great. Chapter 5 deals with the Abstract. This single chapter is available here  And here is a link to the entire book (newer edition) here. There are also hard copied of the entire book in the library.

Purpose: To familiarize you with the structure of a scientific paper and to have you summarize the content of a paper efficiently.

Audience: Other scientists

Process: Read the paper carefully. You might find it helpful to discuss the paper with other students to make sure you understand the key points. Break the paper down into the four main sections (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion). Summarize the key points in each section. Initially, you might do this as an outline without being concerned about format. When you are sure you have all the important points down, transform your notes into a coherent document. Revise it again and again and again. Then revise it again. Strive for efficiency and clarity. Reading your paper OUT LOUD is often helpful. Reading your paper OUT LOUD to a dog, especially a retriever of some sort (Golden or Labrador), is often particularly helpful. They provide great feedback at this point. I've never found cats to be at all helpful for this.  Then again, I’ve never found cats to useful for much of anything.

Format: Formatting issues are always a pain. I am much more interested in content, organization and clarity (see below). Nevertheless, failure to pay attention to formatting details can interfere with comprehension. It also tends to make me surly. When you leave here and get a job – this happens – a report full of typos, grammatical errors and misspelled words tells your boss that you are sloppy and lazy. Is this really the message you want to convey with your documents? Get used to paying attention to these details.

Pay attention to the spell-checking and grammar suggestions that your word processor provides.

Evaluation: Abstracts are short. Shoot for about 250-300 words.

Organization (25 pts.) An abstract should be organized just like a scientific paper. The abstract should not be broken up into discrete sections with headings but there should be a recognizable Introduction (with a statement of the hypothesis to be tested), Methods, Results and Discussion sections.

Completeness (50 pts.) Do each of these sections tell me what I need to know?

Clarity (25 pts.) Is each section clear and concise?

Assignment due: Friday, 10/13 at noon. 5%/day penalty for late assignments. Email your paper to: our TA, Chloe Cason In the subject line for the email, Include “ESCI325 Homework #1

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