BISC413 Paper instructions

Here are some instructions for your term paper:

  1. You must follow the format given in the syllabus for text, figures, and references. I think that paying attention to picky details, like following the reference format that I require, is good practice for following a detailed scientific protocol or medical procedure.
  2. Your paper must have an informative title. "Enzyme variation in an isopod" would not be informative enough; "Seasonal changes in allele frequency at the mannose-6-phosphate isomerase locus in the isopod Porcellionides pruinosus" would be informative.
  3. Your paper must have an abstract. This should be a few sentences that summarize your results, not just say what you studied. "Samples of Porcellionides pruinosus from August and January were compared" would not be acceptable; "In samples of Porcellionides pruinosus from Baltimore, Maryland, the Mpif allele was more common in August that in January" would be better.
  4. Your paper must have an introduction. For most of you, this will be based on the proposal you did earlier in the semester (unless your project changed). It should review the relevant literature on your topic and say what the goals of the project are. Be sure to fix any problems I saw in the proposal.
  5. Your paper must have a methods section that describes what your team did in sufficient detail that someone else could repeat the work. For some of the projects, I may have next year's class continue your work, so write with them in mind; they should be able to read your methods section and repeat what you did.
  6. Your paper must have a results section that uses text, tables and figures to report what your team found. This should include information about things that didn't work; the urine assay that didn't work, places you looked for your isopod species and didn't find it, etc.
  7. Your paper must have a discussion section. This should interpret your results; for example, if I found a difference in Mpi allele frequency in Porcellionides pruinosus between August and January, I would give all the possible explantions for what would make the allele frequencies change. Your discussion section should compare your results to those in the published literature, if any. And your discussion section should give your ideas about what experiments to do next.
  8. Your paper must have a Literature Cited section. It must list all of the references you cite in your text (and no others), and it must follow the format given in the syllabus.
  9. Your paper must have some tables or figures; it should probably have both.
  10. There is no set minimum or maximum length. Some of your topics have very little literature, simple methods, and results that can be completely described in a couple of sentences. Other topics have a lot of background information and more complicated results. As you've seen in your reading, some scientific papers are a couple of pages long, and some are 50 pages long; your paper just needs to be long enough to convey all of the information I'm looking for.

Please, please, please, ask me for help if you're not sure about anything that goes in your paper. I am a lazy person, and it is much easier to give a perfect score to a perfect paper than it is to mark all of the errors in a crappy paper, so I want all of your papers to be perfect.

Return to the Genetics Lab syllabus

Return to John McDonald's home page

This page was last revised August 26, 2012. Its URL is