Dr. Tom Tomasi
CAR 306; 836-5169
E-mail:  tomtomasi@missouristate.edu

Fall 2


Welcome to BIO 794, Scientific Writing. In this class, we will investigate how the scientific process works, how studies are designed and conducted, and how to present scientific ideas/results. During the semester, you will identify a research project of interest to you, and write a proposal to conduct that project. This project does not have to become your thesis research, but in many cases, it will. In some cases, you may be able to use a modified version to apply for grant funds. Before actually starting this proposal, we will spend the first week becoming acquainted with the faculty who are potential major advisors or thesis committee members.

BOOKS: The books for this course are:
            Writing about Biology (Jan Pechenik) (required)
            On Becoming A Biologist (John Janovy) (required)

FORMAT: The format for Monday class will consist primarily of open discussions, in which it would behoove you to participate. On Fridays, we will attend the departmental seminars when they occur. For five seminars (your choice: you can also use seminars in other departments), you must write a synopsis on their content (1 pg max: 1 pt each). These are due within 10 days of the seminar, but no later than October 18th. In addition to listening to these seminars for content, take note of the styles used. Since we will discuss oral scientific communication later in the semester, you should make lists of things you liked and disliked about the presentation style, but do not include this in your synopses. Most of the writing assignments will be leading up to the completion of a "thesis proposal", but you will also write a story in layman terms for the annual Biology Dept newsletter (or other dept). Extra credit (5 points) is available for anyone wishing to do additional work on this newsletter.

TECHNOLOGY:  The class website address is listed above.  In addition, class “documents” and grades can be accessed in Blackboard.   You will use Turnitin.com to check the drafts of your thesis proposal, and a couple other assignments.  See separate handout on how to do this if you prefer to access Turnitin.com directly rather than through Blackboard.

GRADING: This course will be 20% subjective, based on participation, attendance, etc. Just attending but not participating in the discussion will earn you a C for the day: answering questions directed to you, B: asking and responding to open questions, A. More than two unexcused absences, and you will not pass the class. The other 80% will be based on evaluation of written assignments (40% final research proposal: 35% proposal preliminary misc.: 5% seminar synopses).

Grades will be calculated on the basis of overall percentage of points: 90%=A, 80%=B, 70%=C, 60%=D. Borderline totals may receive +/- grades.  In addition, your final score can be adjusted by up to +5 percentage points based on a subjective evaluation of your performance. For most students, no adjustment is made: this is reserved primarily for extenuating circumstances or extra-ordinary conduct. Any student participating in academic dishonesty will be subject to sanctions as described in the Student Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures (http://www.missouristate.edu/academicintegrity/70990.htm), including an XF for the course.

A tentative weekly schedule is on the next page, but may be modified as the semester progresses. For several weeks, there are written assignments due; these must be completed before class so that they can (in some cases) be discussed in that class. HINT: Bring one copy to use in class, and one that is turned in. You will also need a folder, in which all written work is kept, and which is turned in when each assignment is due.


Week of

Topic for Discussion

Assignment Due


Aug 23

INTRO/ Faculty parade




Scientific Questions

Experimental Design

Testable Hypotheses

Schedule 3 professor conferences


Sept   6





Library Resources (at Library)
Writing References

9 potential projects (3/professor) and

9 "landmark" citations (1/project:




Identify Project
Project Designs (PowerPoint)

30 more citations for 1(?) project
(in the style of your model journal),

plus a sample article (2010) from journal



Project Designs (PowerPoint)

Project summary for thesis funding application (200-300 words)


Oct   4

Project Designs (PowerPoint)




Project Designs (PowerPoint)

Experimental design & data presentation



Writing Introductions & Methods

Outline of Introduction and Methods

Deadline: 5th seminar synopsis




Peer review

Draft for peer review (intro, methods, references)


 Nov 1

Granting organizations  (KEM 207)
Thesis formatting

Rough draft (intro, methods, ref, "ideal" budget) & sample from model journal



Proposal Q & A                       Writing Results & Discussions

3 granting agencies



Figure Preparation
Slide making

Final draft (w/ "ideal" budget and Dept. budget)



 Oral presentations




Research Ethics

Biology Dept news article - rough draft
(200-250 words)


Dec   6

Academic Integrity Scenarios

Academic Integrity tutorial



FINAL: Mon 12/13 at 5:45

Dept news article - final draft (digital)


This class is taught with the affirmative action/equal opportunity philosophy. Inquires or concerns should be directed to the Jana Long, Affirmative Action officer (836-4252), the instructor, or the instructor’s department head.  The MSU non-discrimination policy can be found at http://www.missouristate.edu/human/eoaa.htm

Anyone with a handicap which might affect their performance or participation in this class should contact the instructor and/or Katheryne Staeger-Wilson at Disability Services (836-4129 or www.missouristate.edu/disability )