A common complaint that writing instructors hear from students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines is that they aren’t good writers (and if they were, they wouldn’t be majoring in science-related disciplines). However, students majoring in STEM disciplines still need to develop strong writing skills in order to complete necessary reports.
Writing instructors can appeal to students in the STEM disciplines by presenting research-based writing as analogous to a science experiment. Teachers can show that the research and writing process is similar to the process involved in conducting an experiment according to standard scientific method, thus making the process more relatable and dispelling some of their fears and anxiety about writing or buying papersfor.sale/.
Formulating a Hypothesis
Every science experiment needs a hypothesis – the predicted outcome based upon previous knowledge. And a good research paper needs a hypothesis as well. Based upon a student’s knowledge of a certain topic, she can form a thesis that she thinks will be supported by her research. For example, if her topic is “parking issues on campus,” a hypothesis based on her observations and knowledge could be “Parking on campus is difficult because students and campus guests do not obey published parking rules.”
Designing the Experiment
Once she has formed her hypothesis, the student must now design an experiment that will yield results she can analyze. In the case of a research paper, the student must look at her hypothesis and ask herself what research sources are likely to yield data. In the case of the example above, the student could design a survey in which students reveal where they typically park on campus and why. The student could also interview someone from parking services about the number of tickets given out to students and guests who park illegally on campus (or look this information up on a website or fact book if the university publishes such data).
Conducting the Experiment
Now the student must conduct the “experiment” – in other words, she must now gather the research for her paper. The research paper/science experiment analogy breaks down a bit here as students do not have to be as rigid in conducting research as they do in executing an experiment. If a student changes a step in a science experiment, the entire experiment could be compromised. However, in the course of gathering research, a student may discover additional resources to explore that were not part of the original research plan but will still add quality information to the paper.
Formulating the Thesis
Just as an experiment yields results that either support or refute a hypothesis, the research process will force students to look at the information they have accumulated and ask if their hypothesis needs to be revised or changed before it becomes the thesis for the research paper. For example, after conducting interviews and surveys, the student may discover that while her hypothesis of “Parking on campus is difficult because students and campus guests do not obey published parking rules” is borne out by her research, she may also have discovered that people park illegally because parking services sells more parking permits than there are spaces on campus. Thus, her thesis should be revised to include this new information as well.
Writing the Report
Following a science experiment, a student must write a report, divided into sections based on scientific method, about what happened and whether or not the hypothesis was supported by the experiment’s results. While a student needn’t mention her “hypothesis” in her final research paper, the writing process for a research paper is quite similar to that of an experiment report: the student writes an introduction stating her thesis, and the rest of the paper is a report on the “experiment” (in other words, how her sources support that thesis).
Writing a research paper can be a daunting experience for any college student. Yet students in the STEM disciplines may find writing a particular challenge as they can feel that their skills lie more in the active processes of a lab setting than in the more introspective (yet still analytical) processes of writing. By pointing out the similarities between researching and writing a paper and conducting research in a lab, instructors can help STEM students increase their abilities in writing for all settings, both within the sciences and without.