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Access to key subscription databases, WorldCat catalog, and open access repositories in the Biology discipline

Types of Biology Writing

Conventions in Writing

Tips for writing in Biology:

  • Citations: No particular society or organization dictates the standards of writing in biology. Follow the citation requirements of your professor or the journal. When none is specified, use CSE.
  • Formatting: Read the "Guide to Authors" when submitting research papers for publication - this is particularly important with interdisciplinary journals.
  • Writing styles:
    • Biologists typically writing in third person
    • Do not use contractions
    • Differences in subdisciplines of biology:
      • Ecologists often use metaphors and use an active voice when writing (e.g., the snail moved)
      • Cell and molecular biologists follow standards of technical writing and typically use passive voice (e.g. the solution was mixed)
      • Use quotes sparingly in writing and typically paraphrase content and provide the proper citation.
    • Because vs Since: In many disciplines, these can be used interchangeably. In biology, "since" implies time; "because" gives a reason.
  • Latin Names: This varies based on subdiscipline:
    • In ecology, genus and species of any organism is always in italics of underlined. Genus is capitalized; species is not.
    • In molecular biology, follow the format for the species of interest for genes and their products
  • Chemical formulas: use subscripts:  not CO2.
  • Units of measure: All units should be in metric or SI (international system).

*Compiled from Southwestern University's Guide for Writing in Biology found here: 

*Photo used under Creative Commons license.


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