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1.6a Sci Writing Referencing Paraphrasing Tips

Writing, paraphrasing, referencing
Scientific writing can be challenging, but is important in communicating scientific results, concepts, and
arguments. There is a need for clarity and conciseness, in addition to recognizing the work that others have
carried out before you. This means that developing writing skills takes effort, practise and feedback. (Even
experienced writers will usually go through multiple rounds of writing and editing, seeking feedback and
review before submitting papers, grant applications, and other documents.) Here are some things to be aware
of to help you develop your skills and maintain academic integrity.
What reference format/style will you use?
There are many possible citation/reference styles that can be used. Scientific journals, publishers, and
professors will require specific styles for written submissions. There are excellent websites by university
libraries and publishers that describe the styles, and reference managers that can help with
managing/referencing. (I generally choose the Canadian Journal of Microbiology style, and that is what is
shown in examples here.)
How do you cite your sources in the body of your text?
Statements based on fact must be cited in the text of your paper immediately (i.e., do NOT wait until the end
of a string of sentences based on that article). Each reference you use must be cited using the surnames of the
author(s) and the year. E.g.,:
Observations of nodule morphology at the microscopic level have been made, and are useful in identifying the
characteristics of a functional nodule (Newcomb 1976).
Swamynathan and Singh (1995) studied purine mutants and suggested that S. meliloti pur- mutants are unable to
produce functional nodules because of pleiotropic changes on the cell surface of the bacteria.
If there are more than two authors, the citation should provide the name of the first author followed by et al.
and the date. E.g.,:
Mutants were able to curl root hairs and promote cortical cell division, but did not produce infection threads
(VandenBosch et al. 1985).
Buendia-Claveria et al. (2003) reported that a purine mutant of Sinorhizobium fredii HH103 produced ineffective
nodules on some hosts, was unable to nodulate others, and also demonstrated changes in surface polysaccharides.
Do NOT use numbered citations (in Dr. Noel’s classes, at least).
How do you list your reference sources?
Full reference citations should be included in your References section. List sources alphabetically by the last
name of the first author. (The order of authors can carry meaning – keep as listed on the paper/book.)
When citing a paper in a scientific journal, use this format: author, initials, date, title, journal, volume number,
pages. E.g.
Koonin, E.V., Mushegian, A.R., Galperin, M.Y., and Walker, D.R. 1997. Comparison of archaeal and bacterial
genomes: computer analysis of protein sequences predicts novel functions and suggests a chimeric origin for
the archaea. Mol. Microbiol. 25: 619–637.
When citing a book written by one or more authors (rather than a book with chapters by different authors) use
this format: author, initials, date, title, (edition), publisher, location. E.g.,
de Kruif, P. 1996. Microbe hunters. Harcourt Brace and Company, San Diego, CA.
When citing a chapter from a book (where there is an editor), use this format: author, initials, date, title, editor,
location, publisher, pages. E.g.,
T.C. Noel (for BIOL 2070/2071)
Writing, paraphrasing, referencing
Yost, C.K., and Hynes, M.F. 2000. Rhizobial motility and chemotaxis: molecular biology and ecological role. In
Prokaryotic Nitrogen Fixation: A Model System for the Analysis of a Biological Process. Edited by E. W.
Triplett. Wymondham, UK: Horizon Scientific Press. pp. 237-250.
If you use different chapters in such a book (i.e., where chapters may have different authors), each chapter
should be listed separately:
O'Brian, M.R. 2000. Heme biosynthesis and function in the Rhizobium-legume symbiosis. In Prokaryotic
Nitrogen Fixation: A Model System for the Analysis of a Biological Process. Edited by E. W. Triplett.
Wymondham, UK: Horizon Scientific Press, pp. 509-528.
Yost, C.K., and Hynes, M.F. 2000. Rhizobial motility and chemotaxis: molecular biology and ecological role. In
Prokaryotic Nitrogen Fixation: A Model System for the Analysis of a Biological Process. Edited by E. W.
Triplett. Wymondham, UK: Horizon Scientific Press. pp. 237-250.
If you are using an interview (or other communication) with a reputable scientific authority for the basis of a
statement, you can cite that person in your references as personal communication. E.g.,
Hynes, M.F. 2016. (University of Calgary.) Personal communication.
Be careful with websites (including Wikipedia) as reference sources. (To be fair, many Wikipedia articles are
quite good, and most do cite sources that would be acceptable – you can always check those out!) In some
cases, government or educational institutions may provide online information that can be cited as reference
sources. You may also need to refer to mass media articles published online, though most of these wouldn’t
be considered as scientifically credible as research articles and other scientific literature.
“Common knowledge” does not need to be cited. Textbooks for courses are NOT usually appropriate
reference sources – you may use a textbook to gather information, but if it does not appear to be common
knowledge, you should seek the original scientific publications that actually report the fact(s) described. If you
are not sure whether something is common knowledge, please ask!
Paraphrase, don’t copy & paste! Describe things in your own words, citing where you learned that
It is very important in your written reports/assignments to cite appropriate sources correctly. This gives credit
to the original authors and allows your readers to be able to find the reference for themselves. Plagiarism is
representing someone else's ideas, writing or other intellectual property as your own. You’re likely aware that
it is a serious academic offense, and it’s always better to ask questions if you’re not sure about your writing or
referencing than to risk submitting work that includes plagiarism.
All statements based on fact must be cited in the text of your paper. Care should be taken to cite the primary
source of the fact being reported where possible. If you are reading a secondary source (e.g. a review article),
be careful – you will typically need to track down the original primary literature article, read it, and cite it
(rather than the review article).
Note that you should read your references. Citing a reference that you have not actually read is considered
academic dishonesty. It can be challenging and time-consuming to read scientific papers, but if you only read
the abstract of the paper you may not fully be aware of (or able to describe) the findings.
The body of your essay should be written in your own words and the sources should be cited. This involves
more than changing a few words and citing the source, as you are still using someone else’s intellectual work.
Be sure that you do not include original phrases (or, of course, entire sentences) from your sources – if you
do they must be within quotation marks (or otherwise noted) to clearly indicate that they are not your own
words. Essays, lab reports and honours theses are expected to be your work – i.e. your own summary of the
literature, your analysis/synthesis, your writing. Even following the order of particular sentences (that you
T.C. Noel (for BIOL 2070/2071)
Writing, paraphrasing, referencing
may have reworded) in a paragraph from a source can be unacceptable, if you are presenting the same
information (i.e., unacceptable paraphrasing).
Paraphrasing is the process of putting someone else’s ideas into your own words (without actually copying
from the original). University students are expected to paraphrase appropriately. Be aware that paraphrasing
someone else’s work, even if you list it as a reference, is considered plagiarism unless properly cited. Proper
acknowledgement means that you indicate in your writing that you are paraphrasing. For example, you might
write: “To paraphrase Brown and Desai (2000), …” The source must also be listed in the References.
It takes some practice to learn how to effectively paraphrase, but this is a necessary skill in scientific writing.
Tips for good paraphrasing:
Make notes in point form from your references; write from those notes. Never write your paper directly
from your references. (Some people find that making notes using pen and paper is helpful, as the
temptation to copy and paste is much less!)
When making notes, if you can’t immediately find a way to put key points in your own words, include
quotation marks around the phrases so that you remember that they have been taken directly from the
reference (hopefully later you can put things together, while avoiding use of the original phrasing).
Try to integrate ideas from various sources in your own words.
Attempt to describe your points out loud before putting them in writing.
If you’re not sure about referencing/paraphrasing/plagiarism, please ask your instructor, TA or a writing skills
SafeAssign is enabled for some assignments, and you can see your originality report, which will give a
measurement of similarity to other documents. If you submit ahead of time, you can view your report and
make changes. You can resubmit before the deadline – the last one will be graded. If you have concerns about
your ability to paraphrase, and/or plagiarism, please let me know. I’d rather discuss this before your submission
than afterwards!
T.C. Noel (for BIOL 2070/2071)