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Department-by-Department Reference Guide

Writing in Chemistry Courses

A Sampling of Advice from Faculty

1. What kinds of writing assignments can I expect in Chemistry classes?

  • Laboratory reports. Each successive course that you take in chemistry will require a more sophisticated laboratory report. The standard style includes
    • Introduction
    • Procedural details of the experiment
    • Calculations and error analysis
    • Discussion of the experiment

The introduction would normally state the purpose of the experiment and place the experiment in context with the large body of knowledge which we call chemistry. Normally the error analysis and discussion will be the areas of increased sophistication.

     Each laboratory course will provide the necessary information to enable you to write a suitable report.

  • Critical evaluations of a paper or event. Many courses will also require that you write a paper. Again the level of the course will determine the level of sophistication expected. The minimum requirement is that you show that you understand the chemistry which you are discussing.
  • Paper based on a literature review. In an upper division course, a typical assignment would be to review the literature on some topic that is germane to the course and then write a paper based upon that review. Typically, you may treat information that is covered in a class as understood, but you must explain and defend anything which goes beyond material that is covered in class. Most professors would usually expect a paper to contain more advanced discussion on a number of topics than that which has been covered in class. It is imperative that you thoroughly explain and demonstrate a clear understanding of the science involved.

2. What citation conventions will I be expected to use in Chemistry?

     Always handle your citations in the format recommended by the American Chemical SocietyFor guidance, click here.
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Page Last Modified: July 7, 2011

  For suggestions and corrections, please email
Dr. Rebecca Nowacek, Associate Professor of English
Director of the Ott Memorial Writing Center, 240 Raynor Library (414.288.5542)
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