Introduction to Scientific Communication

FISH 290


This class is designed to teach undergraduate students in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and other areas of biology to 1) gather published and unpublished sources of information and bring them to bear on scientific questions, 2) critically read scientific writing, 3) access electronic sources of information, including but not limited to internet searches, library databases, and public information and data, 4) learn the structure and functions of different components of scientific papers to effectively communicate scientific findings, 5) learn techniques for effective communication of scientific information in papers, oral and poster presentations, 6) understand the ethical boundaries associated with scientific communication.


The class emphasizes fundamental principles of communication, presented in lecture format, and reinforced by 1) examination of writing published by professionals, 2) in-class editing of “mock” examples of papers, 3) frequent small assignments, 4) in-class discussions, 5) completion of a paper based on sampling designed and carried out by each student, 5) an oral presentation, and 6) a poster presentation.


The class is built around two parallel assignments, both based on a scientific study chosen by each student. One will be the selection and careful examination of a paper published in a professional journal, and the other will be an original research project designed and carried out by the student.


The grades for this class are determined largely on the basis of three major projects: a paper, an oral presentation, and a poster. The paper and oral presentation are based on simple but sound questions posed by each student, refined into a testable hypothesis, and then pursued with appropriate collection of data. The study will be described in a paper in scientific format, and in an oral presentation to the class at a mini-symposium at the end of the course. In addition, each student selects a paper published in a scientific journal that will be dissected and examined closely throughout the course, and presented to the class at the end of the course as a poster, as might be made for a scientific meeting.


Class Lecture Schedule and Assignments

Week 1: Tuesday: The purpose of communication in science, goals of the class, expectations.

Week 1: Thursday: The scientific method

Week 2: Tuesday: Getting the headline right: titles of journals and articles

Week 2 Thursday: Structure of a scientific paper: how to read one and how to write one.

Week 3 Tuesday: Developing an Introduction

Week 3 Thursday: Objectives and hypotheses

Week 4 Tuesday: Describing our methods

Week 4 Thursday: Describing results: Focus on text

Week 5 Tuesday: Results: Focus on figures and tables

Week 5 Thursday: Results: hypothesis testing, statistical notation, etc.

Week 6 Tuesday: Discussing results

Week 6 Thursday: Writing, editing, and posters

Week 7 Tuesday: Posters

Week 7 Thursday: References and ethics in writing

Week 8 Tuesday: Putting it all together

Week 8 Thursday: Writing an abstract

Week 9 Tuesday: Putting it all together

Week 9 Thursday: Developing skills for an oral presentation

Week 10 Tuesday and Thursday: Oral presentations by students