Writing Style Guide

These pages will be your guide to the official writing style required of any formal writing done for biology, microbiology, chemistry, or mathematics courses at The W.  Unless you are told to follow another specific style, this is the style you should use in all science and mathematics courses for assigned essays, literature reviews, lab reports, research reports, HO 401 proposals, HO 402 reports, BSB 499 reports, and BSM 499 reports.  It is the style you should use when writing EN 102 or EN 300 essays in the style of your discipline.  Other types of writing may require this style if the course instructor tells you to use it.

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In science writing, there is no one defined style everyone uses.  Generally, the writing style changes depending on where you are sending your work.  For instance, different journals all have different styles – the styles used by Nature, Science, Cell, The Journal of Biological Chemistry, The Journal of the American Chemical Society, The Journal of Ecology, and Microbial Reviews all have small and large differences from one another.

The default style we will use for science writing at The W is the style used by the journal PLoS Biology.  This is a top-tier journal that has been publishing since 2003.  It is freely available online at http://www.plosbiology.org.  Even this journal requires slightly different styles depending of the content of the writing.  Be sure to click on the link that is closest to the writing you will be doing.

1.  Style for Essays and Literature Reviews

2.  Style for Research Reports (HO 402 reports, BSB 499 reports, BSM 499 reports, etc.)

3.  Style for Research Proposals (HO 401 proposals.)

In some courses, you may be asked to follow the style of a specific journal germane to that course. If so, you should consult representative articles from that journal to get a sense of how the writing should be structured, how citations are done, how references are formatted, etc. It is likely that the rules will be different from the PLoS Biology style.


In any written work submitted for a course grade, whether it is a formal essay, report, or proposal, or whether it is a smaller-scale assignment, you must avoid plagiarism. Read more about plagiarism and how to avoid it:

Plagiarism Guide