Writing in the Sciences Essay Assignment

Purpose: In this essay, you will create what is normally the introduction to a science
research report. For this assignment, you will explain the state of the knowledge
surrounding a local1 environmental issue and justify the need and present the evidence
for further exploration and research. Examples of some topics include oil spills,
phosphate mining, air pollution, noise pollution, beach erosion, or habitat destruction.
Getting Started: You will begin by choosing a local environmental issue. Please select
a topic based on the many articles found in this Tampa Bay Times section. If you live
outside of the Tampa Bay area, or arrive at another topic not represented here, please
consult with your instructor.
Thesis: Your thesis for this essay should explain why this environmental issue
warrants further investigation.
Example thesis: Although many of the bay’s coastal bird species have increased in
recent years, the numbers of some wading birds, such as the white ibis, have declined.
Additional research is needed to understand the impact of nitrogen pollution on wading
birds in the Tampa Bay watershed area.
● First paragraph: Introduce the local issue, closing the first paragraph with your
● Second paragraph: Explain the state of the knowledge. What do we know about
the issue now? Summarize and synthesize the research that you find in library
databases, such as Science in Context and Springer eJournal Collection (see
next section for greater directions on research).
● Third paragraph: Out of the knowledge that you discovered (and discussed in the
previous paragraph), what is the most compelling? Why?
● Final paragraph: What are the implications from the research to date? What
further research would you recommend?
1 The word “local,” here, can mean the environmental issue affects the geographical state (e.g., Florida) in which you
live, but narrowing your topic to an issue affecting your surrounding area (e.g., Tampa Bay) may bring with it a
greater sense of awareness and understanding regarding the depth of the concern.Research: You should have four-to-five credible sources. You should aim to ensure
the majority of your sources come from academic journals2 found in library databases,
such as Springer eJournal Collection, Science in Context, and GreenFile, which
provide professional research from scientific journals. The remaining sources may be
from local news media, which is also available through library databases, such as
NewsBank’s Florida Newspapers edition. Remember to keep your research as local as
possible, but in some cases, you may have to widen the net to gather some national
statistics or comparisons from other cities/states/countries in order to help situate or
contextualize your arguments. If experiencing challenges with finding the balance of
sources suggested, ask your instructor for guidance. You might also speak with a
librarian. You can find a list of SPC libraries with contacts here, or visit Ask-ALibrarian.org, an online, statewide reference service in which SPC participates.
Documentation: Documentation should be in APA style. You can retrieve APA
citations from the databases, but double check them against APA resources. Good
resources for APA style include Purdue OWL, SPC’s Guide on Citations, or APA Style
Home. Ask your instructor whether s/he would like a cover page and/or abstract.
Audience: Write for an educated audience, ages 16-65, meaning with such a wide
audience that you should not assume that your readers know everything you do, or that
you know everything your readers do. Write consistently in third-person point of view
(i.e., avoid I, me, my, we, us, our, you, your). Use academic, formal prose containing no
slang, contractions, jargon, or gender-biased language. Concerning that last limitation,
make sure your nouns and pronouns agree; choose plural subjects over singular
subjects (e.g., use individuals instead of individual).
Length: 500-600 words.
2 Academic journals, here, is used broadly, meaning titles with articles written by academics, scholars, and
researchers for an academic audience. It may or may not include peer-reviewed articles. It does NOT include
popular titles and news media, such as Time, Newsweek, CNN, or Tampa Bay Times; specialty magazines, such as
Discover or Popular Science; or trade publications, such as Environmental Times or Food Engineering. Read more
about the differences here.