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Frequently Asked Questions

Melbourne's Spiders

Writing Scientifically
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Climbing spider
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Red-back spider


Writing Scientifically

As well as learning to use practical scientific skills such as observation, drawing and labelling, it is also useful to practice thinking and writing like scientists. When scientists write about particular subjects, they use a type of text called an information report.

You can learn how to write information reports. However, it is important to have an understanding of the topic, or field knowledge, before being expected to write about it.

The structure of information reports

An information report is organised into distinct stages so that its purpose is achieved. These stages are outlined below.

Title - what the report is about
For example: Scorpions

General classification - a general statement about the topic
For example: ‘Scorpions are arachnids’ or ‘Spiders are arachnids’.

Description - a number of paragraphs which describe the topic in detail. Each paragraph usually focuses on a different aspect of the topic, for example appearance, habitat, or behaviour.

Each paragraph should also begin with a topic sentence. The topic sentence (italicised below) foregrounds the information contained in the rest of the paragraph.

For example:

Scorpions look very distinctive. Some are as big as a hand, while many are as small as a little finger........

The language features of information reports

Information reports have several distinct language features:

  • They are written in the simple present tense, unless the topic is about an extinct animal.
  • The subject of the information report (eg scorpion, spider) is continually mentioned throughout the text. Pronouns such as they and it are used to prevent repetition of the subject and to make the text more readable
  • They use some technical vocabulary.
    For example:
        arachnids, palps, chelicerae, etc
  • They use noun groups. Noun groups name some thing. In addition they can describe or specify the noun. Short noun groups may consist of a single word, for example ‘claws’. Long noun groups compress information by clustering groups of words before and/or after the noun.
    For example:
        large, heavy, pincer-like claws which are attached to the cephalothorax

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