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Lund University

Writing and sources

A guide on writing and the use of sources intended for students at the department of Biologi and CEC.

Academic writing

When studying at the university you will be expected to both read and write academic texts. Academic writing is typically characterized by an objective stance, a formal language and a logical structure, and the content is targeted at an informed audience consisting of other experts. Another typical feature of academic texts is that all arguments and claims made should be supported by evidence. This can be accomplished by either presenting once own research results or by referring to other, primarily academic, sources.  

Types of academic writing

There are many different types of academic writing, and the choice of style will depend on the purpose of the text and the context in which it is written. Although there are some core aspects and skills which apply to all academic writing, it is important to remember that the various disciplines in science, technology, social sciences and humanities all have their own specific conventions regarding how to describe ideas, knowledge, methods, results and interpretations. There is also a difference in style between scientific texts based on experimental research compared to those of an analytical or argumentative kind, especially when it comes to the structure of the text.

Experimental study

The results from an experimental study are usually reported in the format Introduction-Methods-Results-and-Discussion (IMRaD). The Introduction introduces the problem and why it is important, and outlines the background, purpose, and hypotheses to be tested. The Methods section describes in detail how and, in case it is a field study, where the research was conducted. This section may be subdivided into subsections describing experimental design, machines or other materials, and statistical methods. In the Results section, the data is summarized, analyzed and presented in sufficient detail to justify the conclusions. In the Discussion, you explain how the data fits the original hypothesis, compare your results with other studies, state your conclusions, and look at the theoretical and practical implications of your research.

Analytical and argumentative text

For analytical and argumentative texts, the standard format is instead a three-part structure consisting of Introduction-Body-Conclusion. The Introduction presents the topic of the article, providing background and contextual information to the study. This is also where the research question and argument are introduced. The Body is the main part of the text and it consists of a discussion, which in this case serves as the analysis, followed by the results. The exact structuring of the body of the text will depend on the aim of the text and conventions of the discipline in which it is written. In the Conclusion, the argument is summarized and conclusions are drawn. 

Literature study

A literature study is an attempt to sum up and analyze the current state of the research on a particular topic. Ideally, the author(s) reviews all literature relevant to the topic, and then summarize and structure it into a coherent story. The literature study should include a background and context of a subject, recent major advances and discoveries, significant gaps in the research, current debates and ideas about where the research is heading. For more information on how to conduct a literature study and write a review, see the guide Biology and Environmental Science: Literature study

Learn more about academic writing

To learn more about academic writing, visit AWELU, Lund University’s platform for academic writing in English. In addition, Lund University offers two open online courses on academic writing: Writing in English at University (in English) and Akademiskt skrivande (in Swedish). There are also two online lectures produced by the Social Sciences Faculty Library on the subject of academic writing, which can be found on their webpage Academic writing and reference management.

You can find literature about academic writing and related topics in the Biology library on the shelf sections Forskning och utbildning (Research and education) and Skrivteknik (Writing techniques). Here follows some suggestions of books and e-books that may help you in your writing. 

Books in Swedish

Akademiskt läsande och skrivande by Blomström & Wennerberg (2015) 

Att skriva en bra uppsats by Rienecker & Jørgensen (2018) 

Samhällsvetenskaplig metod by David & Sutton (2016) 

Skrivboken: skrivprocess, skrivråd och skrivstrategier by Strömquist (2017) 

Studentens skrivhandbok by Schött et al. (2007) 

Books in English

A student handbook for writing in biology by Knisely (2014)

Communication skills for the biosciences: a graduate guide by Divan (2009)

How to Write a Master's Thesis by Bui (2014)

Science research writing for non-native speakers of English by Glasman-Deal (2010)

Social research methods by Bryman (2017)

Research Methods for Engineers by Thiel (2014)

Study and communication skills for the biosciences by Johnson & Scott (2013)

Successful scientific writing: a step-by-step guide for the biological and medical sciences by Matthews & Matthews (2014)

The SAGE encyclopedia of social science research methods by Lewis-Beck, Bryman & Liao (2004)

Writing scientific research articles: strategy and steps by Cargill & Connor (2009)