Transitions Programme Workshop 1

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Transitions Programme Workshop 1

  • © Isobel Pastor-Bristow 2007


Aim & Outline

  • To help you feel more confident about your ability to produce a well written and structured piece of work.
  • Writing for Science
  • Structure
  • Next workshop – Argument & Planning


  • What kinds of writing have you done in the last few weeks?
  • What makes these types of writing different?
    • Audience
    • Purpose
    • Register


  • Isobel says that to write a good essay, you must always try to think about how to write things well, then you’ll have a great essay after all your hard work.
  • In order to produce a good essay it may be necessary to consider ways in which the written word can be used to best effect.

Scientific Register

  • We have found a cure for baldness
  • I have looked at work on the peripheral nervous system at length
  • I observed the cells so that I knew the time at which they divided
  • Lots of people have said that there isn’t a better method for seeing neurons than Golgi


  • Writing for Science
  • Structure

Styles of Essay Question

  • “Describe/explain”
  • “Discuss”
  • “Compare and contrast”
  • Open, for example, “The Sympathetic Nervous System”.


  • Essay
  • Introduction
  • Body – explanation and possibly argument
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Experiment Report
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References

Introduction - essay

  • Compare Events that Follow Initiation of an Action Potential in a Neuron and in a Muscle
  • Action potentials are electrochemical signals that travel along excitable membranes. Neurons carry action potentials throughout the nervous system to effector organs. Muscles are effector organs and their cell membranes receive action potentials and allows them to be translated into a contraction.
  • This essay will outline the physiology of an action potential in a neuron and a muscle following its initiation Differences in this physiology will be examined, as will the similarities which exist.

Introduction - report

  • Hodgkin & Huxley Simulation Practical
  • The aim of this practical was to use the computer
  • simulation of Hodgkin and Huxley’s voltage clamp
  • experiments to gain an understanding of the
  • behaviour of voltage gated sodium and potassium
  • channels and the ways in which they contribute to
  • the action potential.


  • It is likely that the difference in reaction times between the two groups of children is caused by slower overall processing in younger children.
    • Report.
  • The literature presented here suggests that it is possible that BDNF could contribute to neuronal degeneration. The following model is proposed.
    • Essay.


  • In conclusion, it has been demonstrated that the nucleolus may well have three discernible domains in mouse striatal cells. However, this needs to be confirmed in other areas of the brain.
    • Report
  • In conclusion, a comparison of the ways in which action potentials are initiated and carried along neurons and muscle cells demonstrates that, at an ionic level, the processes are identical.
    • Essay

Body Text

  • Each paragraph can take the form of a scientific study
    • Point
    • Method (i.e. reference)
    • Results
    • Conclusion – theirs and yours
  • This is then linked to the next point

What aids and what hinders the essay writing process?

  • Sweets may be essential to the essay writing process.
  • Cadbury et al., 2005 compared the academic output of a group of students with access to chocolate and those who were deprived of it while writing an assignment.
  • Their results showed a statistically significant difference in marks obtained by the two groups; those who had sweets received an average of 110% while those without dropped out of university with an average of 3%.
  • The authors concluded that students should eat sweets or they will fail.
  • This research was, however, fundamentally flawed as it was funded and conducted by a sweet manufacturer.
  • More reliable sources of information have been produced…

Now write your own paragraph

  • Point
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Their conclusion
  • Your conclusion
  • Link

It may be appropriate to use figures

  • Results from studies
  • Diagrams of a process/anatomy
  • Chemical reactions or equations
  • Diagram to illustrate an apparatus
  • Make sure they are well labelled and annotated.
  • Figure 1.8 – Coronal image showing activation of the superior parietal cortex during animate contingent conditions. (Taken from Blakemore et al. 2003, Cerebral Cortex 13 p841)

Report Methods & Results

  • Students were given individual writing spaces consisting of a room containing a desk, computer, chair and any reading material required. The chocolate group had a serving hatch in their rooms through which a selection of sweets was displayed. As a control, the deprived group had a serving hatch through which pictures of sweets were displayed.
  • Students with access to chocolate gained considerably higher grades than those without as graph 3.4 illustrates.


  • Citing does not mean that you are copying. It demonstrates an understanding for how a piece of information was found to be true.
  • Each statement that you make on the basis of someone else’s work, should be appropriately attributed.
  • The more sophisticated a piece of writing, the more original the source of the information should be.

Examples of Citing

  • The hip bone is confirmed to be connected to the thigh bone (Funny Bones, 1989).
  • The cytoskeletal network acts like the strong bars within a scaffolding (Alberts et al., 1998)
  • Slavic-Smith (2006) postulated three classifications for nucleoli in neurons
  • In 2007, Pastor-Bristow claimed to have helped all first years to improve their essays
  • It was shown in 2006 by Take That, that a successful comeback tour was possible [1].


  • Alberts, Bray, Johnson, Lewis, Raff, Roberts & Walter. Essential Cell Biology, 1st Edition, Garland, 1998
  • Dickson, B (2002) Molecular Mechanisms of Axon Guidance. Science 298 1959-1964
  • [1]


  • Writing for Science
  • Structure


  • Don’t worry if you find writing difficult.
  • Think about what each section needs to say – depends on what you are writing.
  • Don’t forget diagrams and references.
  • Enjoy your finished masterpiece and feel proud of yourself!

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