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BOT 440/540 Field Methods in Vegetation Science


Writing guides and writing help

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Writing is an important part of this course. Writing clear and concise reports is also a key skill in the workplace. The resources listed in this section can help you become more effective in writing technical material.

Course writing guide

For information about format, and for general hints about writing in the course, see Writing in Ecology (a 32 KB Adobe PDF file).

Help with reports

Two sources provide human feedback for particular writing assignments. More important, however, is using their feedback to improve your technical write skills.

OSU's Online Writing Lab, part of the Center for Writing and Learning, allows you to send your writing project to a Writing Assistant who will help you with such things as organizing, developing, and revising your work. The feedback is general, but free and unlimited.  (This service is offline as of June 16, 2009.)

A new service to ECampus students is online tutoring through Smarthiniking. The comments will be detailed and specific, but is free only for the first 12 essays.

I encourage you to use these two resources. If you do, please let me know how satisfied you are with their services.

Other writing resources

OSU has a range of good writing resources available to students. A key resource is the Center for Writing and Learning, which includes some online resources. See the style and citation guides at the Valley Library Web site.

Style sheets from UC Berkeley for citing sources, including Internet sources.

Dartmouth has a very good Web site looking at the many sides of writing.

The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin has a good Writer's Handbook.

Real superscripts and multiplication signs are within your grasp!

Don't fall into the trap of using a slothful shorthand for superscripts, like writing m2 as m2 or m^2. It makes text distracting and mathematical formulae inpenetrable. It is really quite easy to write a real superscript in word processing and spreadsheet programs.

  • In Word Perfect, highlight the superscript and select Format ... Font ... Position ... Superscript.
  • In most versions of Word, highlight the superscript, select Format ... Font, then select Superscript.
  • In Quattro Pro, enter the text in a cell and go back to edit it. Highlight the superscript, then click press the x2 button.
  • Likewise, in Excel, enter the text in a cell and go back to edit it. Highlight the superscript, then select Format ... Cells and select Superscript.

The process for the multiplication sign is similar.  Eschew the asterisk and join the ranks of the mathematically literate.

  • In Word Perfect, enter Ctrl-W, go to the Math sethighlight the superscript and select times.
  • In most versions of Word and Excel, use the menus to Insert ... Symbol, select the Symbol font, and search for times.

Guidelines for effective communication with e-mail

(adapted from an article in the New York Times Magazine by O'Conner and Kellerman, experts on e-mail writing)

  • It's written in good English: clear, plain and, above all, understandable.
  • It gets to the point in the first screenful.
  • It has a helpful subject line.
  • It mentions what it is replying to — a cryptic "Fine" or "Nope" of "Maybe" isn't enough. (A good idea for class e-mail communication is to include the message to which you are replying.)
  • It capitalizes properly. Writing that's all upper- or lowercase is hard to read.
  • It uses shorthand sparingly.
  • It has obviously been reread — yep, just like "real" writing.

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