Well, those three semesters went by way too fast. It simultaneously feels like I was in the gateway course yesterday and like it was ages ago. For those of you who don’t know me, or don’t remember, my name is Kristen and I’m a senior majoring in Neuroscience. I’m from a small town near Flint, and I know how to milk a cow. I’m not really sure that the last part was relevant, but it’s interesting, right?
My major doesn’t typically call for a lot of writing, at least not the kind that the classes within the minor do, so I’m not a part of very many writing communities. The two types of writing that I want to focus on here are scientific reports and the writing done in more English-geared classes, like English 225. Both of these types of writing set out to convince a reader of something. They focus on framing available information to the writer’s advantage to make the piece more effective, but this is where the similarities end.
When writing a scientific paper, several materials make up the content, and that content doesn’t change. Typically, it involves a question that I set out to answer, a bunch of experiments that I did to answer the question, the results I got, and how I interpreted them. The only bit of creativity I had for that kind of writing is in designing the experiments to be done and explaining why my methods were the best that could be done. Even the introductions, which include background and explain why my particular topic needed to be studied, have specific forms that have to be followed in order to be approved by supervisors or publishers. The collaborative nature of science writing is also quite a bit different from any English class I’ve taken. Several people can contribute to a publication in science, though usually only one person will write the manuscript. This is advantageous when combating deadlines, but to me had its drawbacks when trying to get my own voice heard.
In contrast, an argumentative essay allows the writer to decide what to include to best support the argument. My voice was the only one to come through in a piece of writing. In an essay I would have written for 225, a class I took with Bessie McAdams, one of the best teachers I’ve had thus far, I had more creative license. I could choose how broad or specific I wanted my topic to be, I had a small amount of freedom with page length, and I could use any source (within reason) that I thought could be used to my advantage.
It’s difficult to make the switch between these two kinds of writing. I can still remember writing my first research proposal and getting it back with lines through almost every paragraph because I was too wordy or didn’t cite a source that should have been used in a specific place. Likewise, in my essays I get criticised for being too concise and not expanding on points that could strengthen my argument.
Though I will likely use scientific writing more often in my career, I will probably keep up more creative projects, too, because the two balance each other out, and that’s ultimately why I’m in the minor.