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Dr. Richard King coordinator | Office: TLS 470, Phone: 486-5662, e-mail: richard.w.king [at]

This website contains information for the W portion of the course only. For the lecture portion of the course, click here


The library resources sessions are scheduled for the following times:

  • Friday, Jan. 22 9:30-11:00 am (King)
  • Monday, Jan. 25 3:30-5:30 pm (Turchin)
  • Tuesday Jan. 26 11:00 am - 12:30 pm & 3-4:30 (King)
  • Wednesday, Jan. 27 1:00-2:30 pm (Schlichting)

Attendance at one of these sessions is REQUIRED. To sign up, email me at richard.w.king [at] Please sign up no later than Friday, Jan. 22.

All library resources sessions will take place in the Library Electronic Classroom, on level 2 of the library.

Sessions will be attended by a 2245W writing instructor.

A reminder for the week ending Feb. 5:

  • The first term paper assignment is due this Friday, Feb. 5. Your instructor has provided details about what and how to submit this assignment. See 'General rules for citing sources in scientific writing' (below) for details on the proper format for the literature cited section.

This semester all EEB2244W students are assigned to Richard King. All assignments are submitted to, and graded by, your instructor. Your instructor will also provide additional information, either by email or through this EEB2244W website, about assignment requirements, assignment submission, and required meetings.

Course Goals

The goals of this course are to help you learn to present your ideas and arguments in clear, well-organized prose and to introduce you to library research in biology. Because it is a science course, some of what you learn about writing will apply principally to scientific writing, but your efforts in this course will also translate into enhanced skills in other writing tasks.
The assignments are geared towards writing a term paper on a subject that interests you in ecology. It is very important that you devote time and thought to your choice of topic so that you enjoy the research that goes into this paper. Your instructor will help you. By the end of the course, you will be an expert on this topic!


  • Meetings: All W students must sign up for and attend one library resources session during the 1st or 2nd week of classes. Sign-up by email to richard.w.king (at) Failure to attend one of these sessions may result in being dropped from the W section. Your instructor may require additional meetings.

  • Assignments: The final written product in this course is a review paper that defends a significant claim in ecology or conservation biology using data from the primary literature. This paper should be 4500-5000 words in length (about 15 pages) and cite a minimum of 8 references from the primary literature. Primary literature is written by the author(s) of the scientific research. Secondary literature is written by someone other than the author and could contain factual errors. To guide you through the process of researching and writing your paper, there are four term paper assignments.


Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s ideas or words as your own. In its most blatant form, it involves quoting without quotation marks or without proper attribution of credit, including doing so from another student’s paper or from a commercially available one. This form of plagiarism will result in an F for the course. Paraphrasing without giving credit or changing only a few words (i.e., paraphrasing too closely) even if you give credit are also examples of plagiarism. Penalties for these forms of plagiarism will range from a requirement to rewrite the assignment (if proper citations are included) to a 0 for the assignment to an F for the course (if proper citations are not included). Of course, you’ll be discussing the ideas of others in your paper, but you must express the ideas in your own words and cite the reference for each idea that is not your own in the text. Direct quotes, even with quotation marks, are to be used sparingly if at all (see writing tips/advice below).

Writing Help

There are many resources available to help you succeed in this course, but you need to seek them out. Good places to start are listed below. Be sure to take advantage of these resources!

  • the EEB2244W Resources tabs below: these provide more information about specific assignments and tips to help you avoid common problems.
  • the UConn Writing Center: the Writing Center offers individual meetings with tutors from the EEB dept. It’s free and will absolutely improve your grade if you let them help you. Past experiences of students in this class have been very positive.
  • Suegene Noh's EEB 2245W blog: this blog was aimed toward students in 2245W during the Spring 2008 semester, but much of the information is still relevant and you are strongly encouraged to look at what Sugene has posted.
  • your W instructor

Schedule and deadlines

Date Assignment Details
1st two weeks Library resources meeting Times are shown above; sign up by emailing me ASAP
Friday, Jan. 29 Term paper topic A brief description of your term paper topic with a list of at least 3 references you plan to use, including one from 2009 or 2010. The references should be listed in the proper format for a "Literature Cited" section. Correspondence with your instructor about possible topics before this deadline is required.
Friday, Feb. 5 Term paper assignment #1 Your instructor will provide details.
Monday, Feb. 22 Term paper assignment #2: partial draft A draft of a portion of the term paper, ca. 1500 words (ca. 5 pages) in length. This draft should incorporate feedback received on the first assignment. Your instructor may provide additional guidelines.
Friday, Mar. 26 Term paper assignment #3: complete draft Turn in a complete draft of your term paper in the required format. This should reflect a serious effort on your part to produce an already polished paper that you have edited (repeatedly) and proofread carefully. The previously submitted portion should be revised in response to instructor feedback.
Friday, April 23 Term paper assignment #4: revision Revision based on comments received on draft.


Term paper assignment 110%
Term paper assignment 2 (partial draft)15%
Term paper assignment 3 (complete draft)25%
Term paper assignment 2 (final revision)50%

Grading notes

  • Your grade in the W section is one quarter of your course grade in EEB 2244W. In accordance with university regulations, a failing grade for this section will result in an ‘F’ for the entire course.
  • 5% of the points will be deducted for each day an assignment is late. However, each student is entitled to 2 free late days (the first 2 used, no questions asked).
  • No assignment will be accepted until all previous requirements have been met. For example, this means that you cannot submit a revised term paper unless you submitted, and received feedback on, a complete draft.

Grading rubric: This table explains some of the major differences distinguishing strong, satisfactory and problematic papers. Use this as a checklist to improve your grade.

Term Paper Assignment

The purpose of this assignment is to explore in depth an area of ecology and/or conservation biology that is particularly interesting to you and to present the results of this exploration in the form of a clearly reasoned review paper. By reading and synthesizing the primary literature you will gain experience in library research, critical evaluation, and clear writing. Ecology is a broad field with extensive primary literature. During the lecture portion of this course, it will not be possible to cover most topics in depth. The term paper will give you an opportunity to read and evaluate the primary literature in a field that has attracted your attention.

You are expected to form a claim (thesis) about a significant issue in ecology. The main purpose of your paper will be to support this claim using data from the primary literature. Your claim should be synthetic and rely for support or integration of data from a variety of sources. Your paper should be 4500-5000 words in length (about 15 pages) and cite a minimum of 8 references from the primary literature.

See Tips_for_Getting_Started for more information on choosing and researching a topic.

Organization of the paper

Because you are writing a review paper rather than presenting new results, the paper's structure will not follow the format of most of the papers you have read. Your paper should be divided up into sections as indicated below:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Main Text: The main text should be subdivided to help the reader follow the structure of your paper. All papers will have an introduction and conclusion. In between, the body of the text should be divided using headings that identify your main points.
  • Conclusion
  • Literature Cited

Title-The title should be brief and informative. This is the bait that lures the potential reader to continue, so it is worth choosing carefully.

Abstract-This brief section (less than a page) gives a concise, specific, balanced summary of the main points of your paper. It should present both your thesis (i.e. main claim) and major lines of argument. Write it after you have finished a full draft of the paper.

Introduction-This section will probably be several pages long. The purposes of the introduction are to present your specific question, create a general framework, and provide necessary background information. If your topic is a question, state the specific question and describe your explanatory plan. Place the topic in a general context so that your reader understands its interest and importance. For example, if your question is "How is ocean acidification impacting coral reefs?" the context would be increased atmospheric CO2 leading to increased levels of oceanic CO2 and a chemical cascade that decreases pH.

Use the introduction to explain HOW you are going to go about addressing the topic. Having a clear structure will make it easier for the reader to follow your arguments. In the above example, you might state that you are going to 1) summarize several hypotheses which show an increase in atmospheric CO2, 2) place CO2 in the general context of global climate change, 3) briefly discuss the chemical cascade of increased CO2 and decreased ocean pH 4) argue for a particular one of these hypotheses to explain the how decreasing pH degrades coral reefs.

Body of the text-This section should present an objective, unbiased account of relevant information from the primary literature and your critical evaluation of it. It will be most effective to present information organized around key points to support your hypothesis. Do not simply summarize the papers you discuss. Instead, give the reader enough information about the data to follow your arguments and evaluate your opinions. Being critical does not necessarily mean finding flaws. Rather, it involves expressing a reasoned opinion, and judging correctness, value, or significance.

Subheadings will help the reader navigate through your arguments. The main point of each paragraph should be clear and supported by evidence from the literature. You must use proper citation format when presenting data or conclusions from the papers you have read. (See citation format for more information).

Conclusions-Present your own conclusions or analysis of the information you have synthesized. The quality of your paper rests on how well you support your view, not on what position you choose to support. If there is no controversy, then use this section to synthesize the major conclusions of the papers you have reviewed. Be sure to return to the general context you established in the Introduction.

Literature cited-This is exactly what it says: a list of all the papers that you have cited in the body your paper. Be sure to include all papers that are mentioned by author/date in your text. It is not appropriate to list papers that may have something to do with your topic but that are not cited in the text. Follow the format of the journal Evolution. More information on how to cite sources properly is available in the 'General rules for citing sources in scientific writing below.


In your research, you will be using primary literature as your main source of information. Review literature is also an acceptable source of information, but does not count towards the minimum of 8 required references. Here is a brief description of some of the kinds of literature you may encounter while thinking about your topic.

  • Primary literature consists of articles based on new data or presenting new analyses and interpretations of existing data, published in peer-reviewed journals. By "peer review," we mean that a paper submitted for publication has been reviewed and approved by several other scientists before publication. Primary literature is written by the person performing the work. Mainstream scientific journals constitute the majority of sources of primary literature. If an article includes a "Materials and methods" section, then it almost certainly belongs in this category. (Some book chapters in edited book volumes also fall into the primary literature category. Your instructor can help you determine whether this is the case for any book chapters you use).
  • Review literature is a kind of "secondary" or "derivative" literature, in the sense that review articles do not present new data or analyses but instead summarize and synthesize the information already available about a topic. These are also acceptable for use in your paper, as long as they have been published by established scientists in peer-reviewed journals or in book-type compilations of papers.
  • Unreviewed literature is found in popular magazines, newspapers, and on the web. In general, you should place little faith in any information presented in those forums, and in your term paper you should not cite information obtained that way. Some popular natural history magazines (e.g. Natural History, Discover, Scientific American) are good sources when browsing for term paper ideas, but are not appropriate sources for citation in the term paper itself. In general, if information in a popular source is scientifically accurate, there will be primary literature that reports the original data, which should be read and used for the term paper.
  • The web should be avoided except as a way to find links to confirmed information in journals and books. You must locate and read the article in the journal or book to learn its true content. In rare cases, it may be appropriate to cite a website created by a scientist or government agency. Check with your W instructor if you think you have one of these rare cases! (Note that peer-reviewed journal articles accessed through the web do not fall into this category because the citation is to the article, not to the website.)

Tips for Getting Started

Choosing a Topic

Begin immediately. Do not wait! You will spend considerable time this semester reading about your topic so it's important to select one that interests you. You can seek ideas by looking through 1) a list of potential topics (either provided by your W instructor or posted on the EEB2244W website); 2) the textbook and syllabus for the lecture section of this course; 3) journals that publish primary ecological literature such as Ecology, Conservation Biology, Journal of Ecology, The Journal of Biogeography, Molecular Ecology, American Naturalist, Science, and Nature; 4) review journals such as Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and Annual Review of Ecology; and 5) the popular media for interesting and thought-provoking articles of ecological interest.

Off-campus Access

Many electronic databases and journal articles are available only by subscription. UConn's electronic subscriptions are excellent, and if you are on campus, you should not have difficulty accessing this material. For access from off campus, you may need to configure a proxy account or use the VPN. To log into the VPN, follow the link on the main library page or simply Google "UCONN VPN." You will need your netid and password. More information on the VPN and on how to configure a proxy account are available here.

Library Research

The campus library is a tremendous resource. In addition to books and journals, it provides paper and electronic databases searchable by topic or author and an interlibrary loan service to obtain books and articles not accessible via UCONN Storrs Library. Below is a brief summary of some of these databases. The reference desk at the library is an excellent source of help. All of these databases can be accessed through the "Biology" link on the "Articles and Databases" page of the library website. Once you've chosen a topic, the best way to find relevant scientific literature is to do a subject search in an appropriate database.

  • Biosis Previews. This database indexes all of the major journals in evolutionary and organismal biology and contains references back to 1969. Once you have chosen your topic, this is the place to start looking for references. The full record of journal articles includes the abstract for many articles, a good way to quickly browse through a lot of articles and discover which are most likely to be relevant. For many articles, it provides a direct link to the online version (through the "UConn links" button).
  • Science Citation Index/Web of Science. This database is available online from 1994-present through the library web site (under shortcuts or databases by title). The SCI can be used to search for authors or topics (similar to BIOSIS previews). It can also be used to search for papers that have cited a relevant paper or author. This feature is particularly useful if you have discovered a key older paper on your chosen topic. Just as the Literature Cited section of a paper allows you to search backward in time, this SCI feature allows you to search forward in time. Another useful feature of the SCI is that you can limit the search to particular kinds of documents, such as review papers. This is useful when you are looking for more general papers to help with topic selection.
  • SCOPUS. This database has many of the same features as Web of Science, including a cited reference search feature. Its coverage extends back to 1966
  • Zoological Record is a valuable database if your paper has a taxonomic focus (i.e. focuses on a particular species or group of species). Coverage in the online version extends back to 1945.

Interlibrary loan

During the course of writing the term paper, many of you may find yourselves wanting articles that are not available in the UCONN library. To obtain these articles, you should submit a request online through the library web site. The first time you do this, you will have to set up a patron profile. Subsequently, you can log on directly. It is important to begin your research early so that the library has time to respond to your request. Typically, if you are requesting a journal article, the library will give you a digital version or photocopy of the article. This process may be relatively slow (several weeks, depending on the obscurity of the requested article), but sometimes requested articles arrive in less than a week.

Obtaining articles electronically

The library has electronic subscriptions to most journals it receives. In many cases, the online version can be accessed directly from the database (by following either the "full text" or "UConn links" button. To directly search the library website for online access to an article, click on "Search Journal Titles" and enter the title of the journal in which the article was published. If you are asked to pay a fee for online access to an article, and UConn has a subscription to the journal, then your problem is likely with your VPN or proxy configuration. If UCONN does not have a subscription, you can request the article through interlibrary loan (at no cost).
Below are some examples of possible evolution term paper topics. You are encouraged to come up with your own topic. You will be spending a significant amount of time researching and writing about the topic you have chosen this semester, so it is important to choose a topic that interests you.

Examples of term paper topics

1. Ocean acidification impacts on coral reef ecosystems
2. Global climate change(many more specific areas to consider)
3. Sea level rise and coastal ecosystems
4. Loss of Arctic summer sea ice ecosystem effects
5. Overfishing on top predators
6. Invasive species are a major threat to endangered species
7. Ecological impact of invasive species in freshwater lakes (as one example)
8. Predictors for what could be an invasive species
9. Ecological impacts of dams and impoundments
10. Forest regeneration: temperate vs tropical systems
11. Environmental impact of renewable energy sources (e.g., hydro, wind, geothermal, biomass etc)
12. Methane and other greenhouse gases
13. Watershed landuse impacts on stream ecology
14. Anthropogenic suface-water eutrophication; small and large scales
15. Anthropogenic 'pollution' of groundwater; causes and ecological concerns

General Guidelines For Citing Scientific Sources

When to cite:
All ideas and facts that are obtained from other sources must be properly cited, unless they qualify as common knowledge. (If in doubt about whether something is common knowledge, provide a citation).

How to cite:
If the author’s name is used as part of the sentence, the citation should be in the form "Holsinger (1995) argues that X" If the author’s name is not used in the sentence, then the citation should be in the form "(Holsinger 1995; Jockusch and Simon 1997; Caira et al. 1998)". If there are one or two authors, list their names in the citation. If there are more than two authors, list the first author followed by et al. rather than listing all of the authors in citations. In the literature cited section, all authors must be listed. Refer to the example by Prof. Schwenk below for general guidelines.

Where to cite:
The citation should be placed at the end of the sentence (before the punctuation) if it applies to the entire sentence or immediately following the information to which it applies. If several consecutive sentences contain information from the same source, the source may be cited at the end of the last sentence.

Synthesize citations:
In your writing aim for synthesis. A single sentence can and should express an idea promoted by several authors; cite all relevant authors at the end of such sentences. Avoid whole paragraphs devoted to the ideas of a single author.

Formatting Guidelines

We will be following the citation format used by the journal Evolution for this course. Here is some information on how to format citations modified from their website.

  • A one-to-one correspondence must exist between works cited in the text and those in the Literature Cited section.
  • Literature is cited in the text by the last name of the author or authors and the date of publication. For works with three or more authors, the last name of the senior author is followed by "et al." in the text. The complete list of authors is included in the Literature Cited section.
  • Use semicolons to separate multiple citations by different authors; use commas to separate multiple citations by the same author (e.g., Jones 1991, 1992; Brown 1993). Note that in-text references are placed in chronological order.
  • Do not use commas to separate the author names and dates in in-text citations.
  • Specific pages, tables, or figures within a reference should follow a comma after the reference year. A date should be provided for all personal communications: (D. Johnson, pers. comm. 1989).
  • References in the Literature Cited section should be arranged alphabetically.

Example of Proper Citation Formats

This example shows proper citation format in both the text and literature cited sections.

Faculty appearance and faculty quality: Is there a connection?

Kurt Schwenk
Dept. of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
U. CT, Storrs, CT 06269

It has been suggested that balding, blond, bearded professors are superior in overall quality (Schwenk 1987), although a few investigators disagree (e.g. Hirsute 1990; Brunette 1991). Indeed, the computer simulation models of Schwenk and Budlite (1990) predict that the addition of a slight beer-belly to the Schwenk (1987) physical parameters would so enhance the popularity of a UConn professor that it is unlikely any space on campus could accommodate his or her class enrollments (with the possible exception of Gample Pavilion). However, in a pointed rebuttal to Schwenk and Budlite (1990), Slender et al. (1991) noted that Professor Schwenk, himself, fits the Schwenk (1987) and Schwenk and Budlite (1990) profile, and his enrollments hardly fulfill the prediction. Furthermore, in her now classic study, La Mujer (1978) showed that female instructors are consistently preferred three to one over males by students at ten top-ranking U.S. institutions. Given that female instructors generally have all their hair, often are not blond, are rarely bearded (Darwin 1871) and only infrequently have beer bellies, these results would seem to falsify the Schwenk (1987) and Schwenk and Budlite (1990) hypotheses. Slender et al. (1991) noted that Schwenk's papers fail to cite the La Mujer study, and they further implied that the quality of Schwenk's scholarship is in question (indeed, they seemed to suggest that Schwenk had faked his data). In a vicious rejoinder to Slender et al. (1991), Schwenk (1992) claimed that Slender, Gracile and Lithe were involved in a massive conspiracy to ruin his professional reputation and that the conspiracy extended to La Mujer, Brunette, Hirsute, and a host of other investigators. He further claimed to have unpublished evidence linking these scientists to a heretofore unrevealed CIA plot to bring Elvis and Marilyn back to life in order to discredit Schwenk and his ideas. As proof, Schwenk (1992) offered the testimony of voices he hears constantly in his head (K. Schwenk, pers. comm.).

Literature Cited

Brunette, C. W. 1991. Hair color and classroom performance: a spurious correlation? Annals Amer. Inst. Beauticianary Sci. 35:121-154. [This is the proper format for a journal article.]

Darwin, C. 1871. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Modern Library, New York, NY. [This is the proper format for a book.]

Hirsute, G. E. 1990. Hair to stay: beards in the classroom and student preference. J. Taxpayer Waste 254:1086-1089.

La Mujer, W. 1978. Gender issues in faculty quality. Pp. 150-172 in F. M. Nist and C. Pig, eds. Gonads: Inside or Out? Fullcourt Press, New York, NY. [This is the proper format for a paper within an edited book.]

Schwenk, K. 1987. Faculty quality in relation to certain physical parameters. Zeitschrift f*r Schleimhauten und Zungenspitzen 52:231-242.

Schwenk, K. 1992. Voices in my head: the CIA, Elvis, Marilyn and the plot against me. Xenophobe 11:1-346.

Schwenk, K., and I. P. Budlite. 1990. Excessive beer consumption improves faculty instruction. Bull. Amer. Beer Inst. 21:24-32.

Slender, P., M. W. Gracile, and D. Lithe. 1991. Failure of physical parameter models to predict student preference. Pseudoscientifica 342:233-236.

Scientific Writing Advice

Scientific Names

Special formatting rules apply to scientific names

  • Scientific binomials and trinomials and genus names used alone are always italicized (or underlined). The genus should be capitalized; the species and subspecies start in lower case.
         Homo sapiens 
Homo sapiens sapiens
  • The first time the scientific name of a species is mentioned, it should be spelled out in full. After that, the genus name is usually abbreviated.
          H. sapiens
  • Higher taxonomic categories (e.g., families and phyla) are capitalized but not italicized.
          Chordata, Insecta, Pongidae, Plethodontidae, Scincidae
  • Many taxonomic category names are also used informally (with different endings), in which case they are not capitalized. For example, the formal scientific name Plethodontidae (which identifies a family a salamanders) is capitalized, but the adjective derived from it (plethodontid) is not.
         Not everyone is as fond of plethodontid salamanders as Dr. Jockusch is.
Newly discovered pongid fossils change our understanding of primate evolution.
  • Common names should generally be capitalized
         Turkey Vulture

Scientific Style

Scientific Writing. In general, discuss ideas, not “papers" or “articles”. Do not talk about the “assignment”. Avoid a book report style. Write for a professional audience.

For example, do NOT begin with a long-winded introduction: Dr. Elizabeth Jockusch and Dr. Ima Nobody of the University of Connecticut published the following paper in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology: “The role of hybridization in salamander evolution.”

Appropriate would be: Jockusch and Nobody (2001) investigated how birds use their sense of smell.

State the authors' findings in past tense: Jockusch and Nobody (2001) reported a general increase in researcher preferences for smelly birds.

Avoid “touchy-feely” writing that relies on personal experience or feelings. Your papers should not contain the phrase "I feel that X". The important question is what you think and what you can support. (In many cases, "I feel that X" can be appropriately replaced by "I think that X" in scientific writing).


Avoid quotations: In scientific writing, you should paraphrase what the authors say, not quote it. Quoting is appropriate only when the original phrasing is particularly memorable. Unlike in some fields, where support for a claim comes from citing statements made by authorities, in science the primary support comes from presentation of the authors' data, not of their words. As you will see when reading the scientific literature, most papers contain no direct quotes. Remember that you still must use citations to give credit for the ideas, even when you are explaining them in your own words.

Common Mistakes

The word “data” is the plural of “datum”. Therefore, it is correct to say that “the data show...” not “the data shows...”. There is no such word as "specie." Species is used as the singular and plural. "Few" refers to numbers, "less" refers to amounts. The word "then" is used to indicate a time progression while, the word "than" is used to compare two items; the two words are not interchangeable. For example, "Species one was allowed to feed first, then species two was allowed to feed" and "Species one ate more than species two." The following is incorrect: "Species one ate more then species two."

General Writing Tips

  • Be organized. Work from your outline.
  • Each paragraph should have one major point which is explained in the first "topic" sentence and elaborated upon in the next few sentences. Try to link the theme of each paragraph to the next.
  • Support all of your statements, preferably with evidence from the scientific literature. If you are guessing, making an arbitrary judgment, or relying on an unsupported assumption, say so. Admit to uncertainty in your or others’ conclusions.
  • Make sure that your paper accomplishes the goals you set in the introduction.
  • When finished, make sure to trace the logic of your arguments from introduction to conclusion. Many papers lack logically cohesive arguments or are contradictory. Don’t let this happen to you. It often helps to read work out loud or to have a classmate or friend read it.
  • Rewriting is the key to good writing. Most writers need to revise their work multiple times. Begin writing your paper well before the deadline so that you have time for rewriting. It always helps to let the paper sit over night and then read it afresh the next day.
  • Edit carefully. You will likely find yourself having to reorganize, cut unnecessary or redundant sections, and add sections to clarify key points. Do not be discouraged—extensive editing is part of the normal revision process.
  • Your writing should be grammatically correct. A good resource for writing is The Elements of Style by W. Strunk Jr. and E. B. White.
  • Here are some tips and examples or re-writes taken from actual EEB 2245W papers with permission of the students:

1) Avoid “teleology” which means statements suggesting a purpose, as in, an adaptation evolved for the purpose of …. It is anti-Darwinian to think this way. Darwin took care to point out that natural selection resulted in certain traits predominating because individuals that happened to have those traits survived better. The traits did not evolve for the purpose of survival but the environment at the time favored individuals that carried that trait. The following sentence, for example, is teleological.

Original sentence: In Batesian mimicry, a palatable species resembles an unpalatable species to increase protection from predators.

Non-teleological re-write: “In Batesian mimicry, natural selection has favored palatable species that resemble unpalatable species and thus gain protection from predators.”

2) A verb is missing here. Note also that humans are animals. See my rewrite.

Original sentence: The seedlings can mature easily if contained in a fruit but a disadvantage of being a fruit would be a food supply for animals and humans who consume the nutrition of the fruit, vegetable or nut.

Rewrite: The seedlings can mature easily if supplied with food by a large fruit, but a large nutritious fruit would also be a target for hungry animals.

3) Scientists avoid the word “proved” because rather than prove hypotheses, scientists gather data that lends various degrees of support to hypotheses. Scientists should remain skeptical until the data is overwhelming and the study replicated many times.

Original sentence: For example, Pfennig et al (2006) proved that mimics that are relatively rare in a population tend to succeed at higher rates whereas Cheney and Cote (2005) showed …

Edited sentence: For example, Pfennig et al (2006) demonstrated that mimics that are relatively rare in a population tend to succeed at higher rates whereas Cheney and Cote (2005) presented data to support the hypothesis that ….

4) Examples of editing for clarity and conciseness:

A) Original sentence: “The milkweed species' that had the highest volume of latex produced…”

A) Edited sentence: “The milkweed species' that produced the highest volume of latex…”

B) Original Sentence: “Researchers found that larvae that fed on leaves in the control group were 15 times more likely to die by getting glued to the leaf then if the researchers staunched the latex flow (Zalucki, 2001).”

B) Edited Sentence: “Researchers found that the leaf-feeding control group larvae were 15 times more likely than experimental larvae to become fatally stuck in latex while feeding (Zalucki, 2001).”

C) Original sentence: Mimicry depends on the organism being deceived and the reason for the deception, which eventually leads to an advantage in fitness and survival (Eagle and Jones 2004).

C) Edited sentence: The evolution of mimicry is influenced by the biology of the deceived organism and the selective value of the deception (Eagle and Jones 2004).

D) Original sentences: "In this experiment, the birds were presented with only butterfly abdomens for food. By doing this, Ritland removed all factors that wing coloration/pattern could play on a birds decision. Therefore, taste had the only impact on whether or not the birds ate the abdomen (Ritland, 1991b)."

D) Edited Sentences: In this experiment, the birds were presented with detached butterfly abdomens. By doing this, Ritland removed all cueing factors related to wing coloration/pattern. Therefore, taste was the only factor influencing consumption of the the abdomens (Ritland, 1991b).’

5) Be sure the form of the verb matches in both halves of the sentence:

Original version: The initial catalyst for evolution in bacteria was over prescription of antibiotics as well as those to whom it was prescribed not taking the antibiotics for the full course.

Re-write: The initial catalyst for evolution in bacteria was over prescription of antibiotics, and failure of patients to take the antibiotics for the full course.

6) Avoid redundancy. In the example below two sentences in a row refer to the advantages of rapid bacterial replication. They can be combined.

Original version: . The evolution of bacterial antibiotic resistance is observable on a human time scale (Martinez et al., 2007; Courvalin, 2008), giving new insight about the mechanisms by which selection and evolution occurs. Furthermore, bacteria's rapid generation allows observation of evolution at the genetic and population levels.

Re-write: The evolution of bacterial antibiotic resistance is observable on a human time scale (Martinez et al., 2007; Courvalin, 2008), giving new insight into the mechanisms by which selection and evolution occurs at the DNA and population levels.

7) Two sentences can often be condensed into one to reduce wordiness:

A) Original sentences: For humans visual mimicry is the most obvious type, however organisms employ smell, taste or hearing as an additional warning signal. Other organisms might use morphology or behavior to deceive predators. [Note: morphology and behavior are visual]

A) Edited Sentence: For human observers visual mimicry involving color, morphology, and behavior is most obvious; however organisms employ odorsl, chemical tastes, and/or auditory signals as additional warning devices.

8) Phrases that begin with "that" or "which" can often be made more concise by using the adjectival form:

Original version: When evolving in tropical Africa, Homo sapiens lost the body fur that shielded their skin from UV rays.

Rewrite: When evolving in tropical Africa, Homo sapiens lost their UV-shielding body fur.

9) Write more naturally. This phrase sounds awkward: "As to how resistance is acquired there are a few views..." This would be better written as, "There are multiple views on the mechanism of evolution of resistance,..."

10) Stick to the past tense when talking about past experiments.

11) Make sure that the form of two adjacent sentences parallel each other if the thoughts from the first continue into the second. Condense sentences where possible.

Your sentences: Ninety percent of genetically modified plants (GM plants) are currently engineered to be primarily resistant against disease and herbicides (Collinge et al. 2007). GM plants are also called transgenic plants. Plants are infused with novel genes for improved quality of ornamentation, increased productivity in crops, and can even be enhanced with Vitamin A (Hooykaas 2001).

Rewrite (first sentence stays the same): Ninety percent of genetically modified plants (GM plants) are currently engineered to be primarily resistant against disease and herbicides (Collinge et al. 2007). GM, or transgenic plants, are also engineered to improve ornamental qualities, increase yield, and/or increase nutritional value (Hooykaas 2001).

12) Here is an example of multiple sentences synthesized into one.

Original sentences: Those antibiotics we consume on a regular basis have been used in bovine to stimulate growth (Levy, 1998). Furthermore, in an attempt to prevent the spread of communal diseases between animals, the feed of bovines and poultry have been infused with antibiotics. This ever present dosage of antibiotics to these animals has actually perpetuated the spread of illnesses that are resistant to antibiotics.

Re-write: Those antibiotics we consume on a regular basis have been used in cattle and other farmed animals to stimulate growth and reduce communicable diseases (Levy, 1998). These persistent dosages of antibiotics has instead perpetuated the spread of illnesses that are resistant to antibiotics.

13) The word "because" is preferable to the word "as" because "as" has more than one meaning and can sometimes read ambiguously.

14) A general suggestion is that after writing the paper, let it sit for a day or two and then approach it with fresh eyes as if you were the editor rather than the writer.

15) Strive for synthesizing the ideas of multiple authors into each paragraph and sentence rather than sequentially citing references and using only one reference per paragraph.

16) Always capitalize a genus name (but not the specific or subspecific epithet). Be careful because Word will automatically capitalize letters that follow a period so you have to undo this if it occurs. Always italicize species names.

17) Take care with singular and plural agreement between different parts of a sentence.


Here is a checklist you should use before submitting your complete draft. We also suggest that you review the term paper assignment and any additional information provided by your instructor.

  • Does your paper begin with an abstract that summarizes your main points?
  • Does your paper have a clear thesis statement? (See this blog entry on thesis statements for more information.)
  • Does the introduction give readers enough context and background to follow your arguments?
  • Have you supported all of your claims with evidence from the primary literature?
  • Have you cited sources properly in the text and literature cited sections?
  • Do you use at least 8 primary sources?
  • Does your paper have an informative title?
  • Have you formatted scientific names properly? (See the scientific writing tips sheet for more information.)
  • Have you proofread a printed copy of your paper? It helps to read the paper out loud.
  • Have you checked the spelling? Remember that MSWord doesn't always know the scientific lingo, so don't assume it's right. (For example, it will want to turn phylogenetic into phylogenic. Don't let it!)
  • Did you follow the formatting and length requirements?