Sunday, December 7, 2014

Attention to detail

I'd have to say that the main thing I've learned from 20.109 is how important it is to include all the information.  It isn't sufficient to say that bacteria were transformed, but you have to say how they were transformed.  In general, there are things that seem obvious to me after having worked in a few labs but are actually important pieces of information.  In my lab experience, for example, we would incubate plates until yeast cultures were sufficiently grown.  In a paper, however, you can't write that plates need to be incubated to this level.  Instead an exact time frame for incubation should be mentioned.

At the beginning of the semester, this was something that I really struggled with.  In my first methods section, I mentioned the procedures that were performed, but not the details of what was actually done.  I would say that a ladder was used, but not what kind of ladder or who had manufactured the ladder.

Another part of scientific writing that I struggled with was knowing when it was necessary to include references.  Oftentimes when I learn something I take it as a fact.  It didn't occur to me at the start of the year that someone had to spend time researching that information and, if I wanted to use the information in any way, they had to be mentioned.  It was difficult for me to distinguish what could be taken as given information (like how a PCR works) and what was novel and needed a reference.

20.109 has made a huge impact on my ability to write scientifically.  This was made very clear when, on the last day of Mod3, my partner and I spent 5.5 hours writing a document that was 2 pages long.  In those two pages, we outlined an experiment, explained results, and suggested future experimental topics.  We had 3 references, 3 figures, full explanations of procedures and complete descriptions of results.  And finally, in this report, I understood exactly what level of detail was necessary.

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