Hello, Again

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.

4 thoughts to “Hello, Again”

  1. Hi Kristen,

    It is interesting that you know how to Milk a cow. I promise. I milked a cow about six years ago and I can’t say I’d know what I was doing if I were presented that opportunity again. Anyways, it’s cool to see how different your two writing communities are. I, too, took English 225 and absolutely loved it. I think one of my best papers in college was a piece on why college athletes shouldn’t get paid (not too popular of an idea on a college campus full of athletes).

    What I found most interesting about your writing experience, is that you find the science career more interesting than a writing one, but the writing in a writing career more interesting than science writing. That was wordy, I know. It’s nice that you know which writing you love, though. I used to think journalistic writing was my favorite, but after writing short fiction, that might have taken the crown.

    It sounds like you are great at both types of writing. After all, writing is writing, no matter how different it can be. You just have to write through a certain lens and realize every type of writing has a particular lens. I enjoyed your post, and am looking forward to working with you.



  2. Hi Kristen,

    Good to be in class with you again! I really enjoyed your post, and I was pretty much nodding along the entire time. I have definitely struggled with crossing over my flowery writing with my concise writing. I think it’s really awesome that you have such an interest in maintaining your creative projects when pursing a scientific career. That’s something I have been really struggling with as it is time to become an adult and get a real job. I am trained to go into business, but I refuse to let my love of writing fall by the wayside, and it’s super inspiring you want to do the same.

    I think it is really unique that you mentioned the collaborative aspect of your scientific writings. That’s always been something so fascinating to me because, while I have been assigned collaborative writings, it always bothers be when there are noticeable shifts in voice. I guess though with research, the entire tone is very technical, but still so impressive to merge thoughts like that.

    Anyways, looking forward to a great last semester working with you!


  3. Hi Kristen

    As Jason said, I think it’s awesome that you know how to milk a cow. By include that little tidbit, you reveal so much about your background and your voice!

    I liked your comment on how difficult it is to switch between scientific versus argumentative writing. Practicing any type of writing makes helps us improve our overall writing abilities, but sometimes doing too many types of writing can lead to confusion. After taking English 325 all semester (creative nonfiction) I had to write a psych research paper for a different class. I assumed after doing lots of writing in 325 that the psych paper would come easily to me. Instead, I ended up doing below average on the paper and received comments that my evidence and central thesis were vague. It showed me that I had to be really careful about remembering what type of writing I was doing, and it sounds like you had a similar experience!

    Best of luck as you continue writing this semester!


  4. Kristen!
    It’s so weird not having you in the capstone course. I will forever miss the days of sitting next to you everyday in the gateway course. I lived with you an entire year and I don’t think I actually knew you could milk a cow. I mean, it makes sense, but somehow it never came up in conversation.
    I, too, have to switch back and forth between writing for my science classes and then writing for my writing minor classes. I also find it very difficult to do. I feel like I’m not very wordy in most of my writing classes, but apparently I am way too wordy for any of the classes for my major (ahem- Writing in Biology).
    Although I love the creative freedom given in writing classes, there’s something to say about the formula of a scientific paper. It’s nice to know what the structure of your paper is going to be before you write it. In a way, you don’t have to think as hard because you are just filling in the formula with your own information. I usually prefer more creative writing; however, I wish there was more of a clear structure to our capstone project! Right now, as I am brainstorming ideas for my project, I almost wish I had a more definitive idea of what I need to accomplish.

    Good luck this semester!

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