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BSCI 1510L Literature and Stats Guide: Scientific Literature Guide

Introduction to Biological Sciences lab, first semester

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"Write with precision, clarity and economy. Every sentence should convey the exact truth as simply as possible."

Instructions to Authors - Ecology 1964

About this guide

This guide contains material from "Guidelines for Writing Scientific Papers" written by Sandra Steingraber in 1985, with subsequent modification by Dr. Claudia Jolls, Dr. Debra Goldberg, and others.  It is used here by permission of the author.  This material has been heavily edited so it is no longer possible to sort out all of the text is quoted verbatim from the original guide.  Kelsey Matteson made significant contributions to several parts of the guide.

Here is a suggested reference listing for this guide:

Baskauf, S. J. 2018. Introduction to Biological Sciences Lab (BSCI 1510L) Scientific Literature Guide. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA.

For additional reading

Another recommended guide is Turbek, S. P., Chock, T. M., Donahue, K., Havrilla, C. A., Oliverio, A. M., Polutchko, S. K., Shoemaker, L. G. and Vimercati, L. (2016), Scientific Writing Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Undergraduate Writing in the Biological Sciences. Bull Ecol Soc Am, 97: 417–426.


1 What is a scientific paper?

2 Referencing and accessing papers
2.1 Literature cited
2.2 Accessing scientific papers
2.2.1 Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs)
2.2.2 Using the "journal vol:pg1-pg2" reference format to find an article
2.2.3 PubMed and PubMed Central
2.2.4 Web of Science
2.3 Traversing the web of citations
2.4 Keyword searches
2.4.1 Web of Science
2.4.3 PubMed
2.4.3 Google Scholar

3 Style of scientific writing
3.1 Specific details
3.1.1 Scientific names
3.1.2 Data
3.1.3 Citing references in the text General citation/reference patterns Additional citation examples
3.1.4 Active vs. passive voice
3.1.5 Notes of formatting specific to this class
3.2 Components of a scientific paper
3.2.1 Abstract
3.2.2 Introduction
3.2.3 Methods
3.2.4 Results Tables Figures
3.2.5 Discussion
3.2.6 Title