Happy Holidays, and Successful Essay Writing to all!
Happy Christmas everyone!
This time of year, there is always so much joy and laughter and love, it seems like there are no worries, and most people actually get along! And in the spirit of this joyous time, and the fact that today is Christmas, I’m going to give all of you science students out there some helpful tips when writing a scientific essay! (as well as how to go about getting resources when you’re home overseas, for all of the international students out there like me.)
While this gift may not be the new phone or play station (or Xbox) you asked for this Christmas, I can assure you that when it comes time to write your first, or second, or third scientific essay, you will definitely be happy to know some of these tips.
So, without further a due, let’s dive right in!
Firstly, it’s important to understand what a scientific essay at a university level is. At the word essay, many people, including myself originally, tend to think English. PEEL paragraphs, a solid structure, very fancy words, the whole deal. However, in my view, “Scientific Paper” may be a more appropriate way to call these essays, seeing as they are very different from any essays you may have written in school.
A scientific essay always has these main things:
– Abstract. This is an excerpt that goes at the beginning of your essay and summarises what you’re going to talk about in more detail throughout the document.
– Introduction. This is largely what it sounds like. Here you normally give a bit of background information on the topic you will be covering and try to get a feel for how the rest of the essay is going to go.
– INFORMATION. While this may seem obvious, the information in your essay will need to be reliable, and very factual. Scientists are all about FACTS.
– Diagrams. This is probably where scientific essays diverge from English one’s the most, since it is very good to back up the information you are saying with a visual representation, such as a drawing or a table or graph.
– References. References are crucial in any scientific work. In order for your paper to be reliable, its important o cite any external sources you used for information. Not only does this show that you got your information from an actual source, but it also gives credit to said source, so there is no plagiarism on your part.
I find that when putting the essay together, the best way to start is by making a bullet point outline of the order in which I will discuss what in my essay. Once I know what I’m wiring about and what order I’m writing in, I start researching the topics, in order, referencing as I go. It is much easier to cite as you go, so that when it comes time to actually writing the essay, making citations in the body text is painless. I tend to organise my notes by topic, and by reference. I take these notes by hand, scribbling down any relevant information from each source, compiling a huge but condensed list of facts to use in my writing.
Now as I’ve mentioned, I’m an international student, and that meant going home overseas for the Holiday. Since home for me is lovely Spain, I don’t have an English library with textbooks and resources available to me like I do at Warwick, so I have needed to use online resources for all of my information on this essay. The internet has quite a few good places to find reliable sources of information on almost any topic, but it’s also very good at sneaking in seemingly harmless, but very misleading and unreliable websites into the search results, which can easily take marks away from you, simply because your information isn’t supported.
So here are a few of the best sites to use for finding resources:
1. Google Scholar – Think of this as the finely tuned nerdy brother of Google. When you search up a topic in Google Scholar, you will get loads of scholarly articles, Journals, textbooks, and reliable websites hosting relevant information. Goodbye Wikipedia!
2. Nature.com – this site will often come up in Google Scholar searches, but it also has a search function of its own that allows you to find numerous papers and journals.
3. NCBI/PubMed – this website is a fantastic source of thousands of resources. If you don’t find something in Nature, it’s highly likely you’ll find it here.
4. The Warwick Uni Library page – The Uni’s library actually has a ton of online resources, including some textbooks, and a lot of links to journal articles.
With all of your sources found, and information collected, it is now time to begin writing. I tend to start by taking my notes that I made and typing them up as bullet points or just short sentences underneath the topics in my typed-up essay structure plan. Once that’s all typed up, it’s time to go through and add my discussion, because you can’t just have an essay that is solely facts and nothing else. The discussion should be relevant to the topic, obviously, but it should come from you. Based on things you’ve read and thing’s you may have already known; you can compose a paper that shows that you know what you’re talking about and have the facts to prove it. Add in a few diagrams to support where relevant and you’re almost completely finished!
Although the abstract goes at the beginning of an essay, I like to save it for last because it is ultimately a summary of what you have just written. While you could write it before, it’s highly likely that you’ll add something into your essay while writing that you hadn’t thought of before, which would then mean you’d have to go back and change your abstract. In saving the abstract for last, you already have the information in your head, so you can make a very goof summary that tells a short version of the long story you have just written.
Having a good abstract is very important. All published papers have an abstract, and often times that is what will help you determine whether you are going to read a paper or not, so making sure you’re is brief enough to be a summary, but detailed enough to tell the reader exactly what you are going to expand if they continue reading your paper is very important.
Finish off you abstract, and you’ve just got to type up your references in order. I mentioned citations in the text, and the easiest way to do that is to simply have square brackets with a number in them after a sentence that you are referencing. The number will then correspond to that numbered reference in your bibliography.
For example, this could be my sentence.  After which I would keep typing. (or not)
1. And this would be the corresponding reference.
2. Not this one.
Voila! You’ve just finished a beautiful scientific essay that is structured, factual, informative, interesting, and yours.
I hope you guys found this post helpful! Check out the video attached as well to hear me discuss this a bit more, and also talk about how I’m studying for my first test next term when I get back!
Happy Holidays to all!