Mechanics Goals:

This set of goals focuses on the “nuts and bolts” of writing. We expect that students at the novice level will spend the most time working on these goals, but as students progress through the curriculum, should spend less and less effort here as they acquire advanced status and the mechanics of writing become more innate. 

 
Skill Novice level intermediate level advanced level
Source citation

Avoiding plagiarism

Citing papers in text

Avoiding direct quotation

Including all essential bibliographic elements

Understanding the conventions of citation in Biology (e.g., very little reliance on direct quotation) 

Appropriately citing sources Appropriately citing sources
Data representation Creating graphs, figures, or tables that have all the essential elements: captions, labels, and axes Choosing the best representation for conveying data Appropriately following the rules of data representation
Composition and writing basics

Appropriate grammar, punctuation and spelling; knowing where to seek help on campus

Crafting sentences and paragraphs with topic sentences and transitions

Knowing whether to use the active or passive voice, the 1st or 3rd person 

Appropriately following the rules of grammar, punctuation and spelling

Appropriately structuring paragraphs

Appropriately following the rules of grammar, punctuation and spelling

Appropriately structuring paragraphs

 


Rhetoric Goals:

In these goals, we emphasize the craft and strategy of writing. Novice writers will be introduced to these topics, but we expect that more advanced students will spend more time working towards these goals, rather than dealing with “nuts and bolts” issues as in the Mechanics Goals. 

 
Skill novice level intermediate level advanced level
Data representation

Including graphical/tabular/pictorial data

Incorporating written analysis of graphical/tabular/pictorial data in text with reference to figures

Selecting the appropriate data to support your argument (not 'cherry-picking')

Striking the right balance between representing data in text and in graphical/tabular/pictorial format

Effectively using data of a variety of forms to support your thesis and develop your narrative

Incorporating the scientific literature

Recognizing that your work builds on the work of others and therefore must be cited

Recognizing the differences between different geners (primary literature, review articles, policy and news)

Appropriately incorporating diverse sources Calling on the best sources and making bridges between your work and earlier work
Awareness of audience and genre Recognizing that the audience shapes the style, tone, and conventions of communication

Selecting right genre for your audience

Introducing skills of changing style to suit the genre and the audience 

Refining the skills of aligning audience to genre and style

Building a nuanced appreciation of attributes of different audiences

Building a narrative arc

Recognizing that all communication tells a story

Making the thesis statement identifiable

Recognizing that scientific writing requires precision in word choice

Recognizing different parts of scientific communication serve different purpose (methods vs. results) 

Organizing your argument to tell the most compelling story

Supporting thesis statement with cogent arguments and appropriate evidence

Refining precision of language usage

Incorporating different aspects of your argument appropriately in different parts of your writing 

Developing one’s own personal scientific voice to tell a story in a cogent and compelling manner

 


Process Goals:

These goals deal with the misperception by novice students that it is possible to write one draft and turn it in the next day. We expect that students will need extensive and explicit training as novices and then continue to work at and develop these skills throughout the curriculum. 

 
skill novice level intermediate level advanced level 
Reading and evaluating the scientific literature

Typically, students will begin to share in the responsibility to choose scientific literature

Refining skills of finding scientific literature (more advanced searches)

Refining skills of reading scientific literature: knowing where to look in a paper to find what you need, knowing how to skip sections

Introducing skills of evaluating the scientific literature 

Introducing skills 

Typically, students will begin to share in the responsibility to choose scientific literature

Refining skills of finding scientific literature (more advanced searches)

Refining skills of reading scientific literature: knowing where to look in a paper to find what you need, knowing how to skip sections

Introducing skills of evaluating the scientific literature 

Typically, scientific literature will be chosen by students at this level

Mastering skills of finding and reading scientific literature

Refining skills of evaluating the scientific literature (e.g. different publications, peer reviewed)

Managing personal reference library

Develop habits for planning, framing, outlining 

Typically, planning will be set by faculty at this level

Get in the habit of creating an outline/flow chart/concept map/story board to plan your writing 

Typically, students will begin to share in the responsibility for planning and budget time appropriately

Recognize and utilize the type of planning strategies that work best for you 

Typically, planning will be set by students at this level

Capturing what may have been a nonlinear process in a finished linear product that tells a story

Revising

Proofreading for errors

Editing for clarity at the sentence and paragraph level

Use feedback from both peers and faculty for purposes of revision

Recognizing that the act of peer review improves one’s own writing 

Recognizing the need for multiple versions of the paper—knowing there might be alternative ways to tell the story

Recognizing that papers often get shorter through revision

Hone peer review skills, and hence own revising skills 

Revising without fear of abandoning past versions

Independently seek feedback from both peers and faculty for purposes of revision

Metacognitive Understanding that the writing process is an indispensable part of the scientific process Understanding that science doesn’t expand our knowledge until it can be communicated Understanding the impact your communications – content, style and tone – have on the audience - -