Written assignments

The written assignments should be no more than one page long, (single space, times 12 font, 1 inch border on all sides). This count does NOT include the "Works consulted" section that should follow your report.

The goal of these reports is to help you find out whether you have understood the material. Writing about (or teaching) a subject frequently makes us aware that we do not really understand a topic. The other reason for this assignment is to give you practice in writing clear, logical presentations on biological topics.


Write for a general, intelligent audience, not a scientific journal. Examples can be found in Discover Magazine and the Economist. The only difference is that I am asking you that you tell me where you obtained the information because, with search engines, you may well come across a source with which I am not familiar. If I think you have said something that is incorrect, I like to be able to find out whether I am wrong or, if not, what led you to say what you did.

Hints on getting started

Read the assigned topic over carefully. You must be very sure that your report addresses the assigned topic, not something related to it. For instance, if the assigned topic is "Modications for bird pollination", a report that describes includes modifications for insect pollination would lose points even if some of the modifications were identified as favoring birds.

Organize your thoughts. What are the main points that you think should be made? In what order should they be made? Are there examples that should be cited in support of these points?

Read what you have written. Does your second sentence tie logically back to the first sentence? And the third sentence to the second sentence? Etc. I am assuming that you are writing complete sentences. Please be sure that is correct. Also, check your spelling.

I am deliberately asking for short reports. Writing a short report requires more effort on your part to sort out the information that is most relevant to the assigned topic. These are not meant to be major research efforts requiring hours in the library. I want you to organize your thoughts on the topic. The topic will always relate to material presented in class. If you do come across a Web site or paper that influences your thinking, please credit the source.

"Author(s). Date. Title. Publication" is the usual form for citing printed works in biology (I can give more details in class). I am not going to look for details of citation format.

For a web site, the Publication information is the URL. Your should also give the date on which you viewed it. By the time I go and look at it, it may have changed. Some Web sites do not list when they were first created. In such instances, just omit the year.