Development of Scientific Writing Skills Through Activities Embedded into Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Laboratory Courses

Kathryn Fay Tonissen, Susan E. Lee, Kyra J. Woods, Simone A. Osborne


Scientific writing skills are important for a career in science and need to be developed. Rather than design courses solely focused on writing, we embedded writing activities into two bioscience laboratory courses at third year undergraduate level, where students wrote about their own data. Students completed writing exercises during breaks in experimental procedures and received feedback during the session. These activities focused on data presentation, data analysis and writing results and discussion paragraphs. These exercises provided a model to assist students in writing the remainder of the report. We probed student opinions regarding scientific writing and the exercises by anonymous pre- and post-course surveys using both closed and open questions. Confidence towards scientific writing and performing simple writing tasks significantly improved after experiencing the writing activities in the first course. Students related that undertaking writing activities in more than one class helped to further improve their writing skills. Independent assessors, with no knowledge of when the reports were written, evaluated reports that originated from the same course held in years before and after writing activities were incorporated. There was a significant improvement in scientific writing quality that correlated with the increase in students’ self-efficacy towards performing various writing tasks.

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