Scientific Methods

Sunday, April 16, 2006


In all spheres of society we have rules, we have rules that are part of law and order, rules of the road, even some restaurants have rules (the smart ones that I cannot afford to go to) represented as a dress code. Even when you graduate you are expected to wear smart clothes and a gown and that is a dress code and hence a rule. Language has it own set of rules referred to as grammar and when you learn to computer code like when making an HTML page you soon learn that if you do not follow these rules your page will not work since you broke the code rules! This is why I have made instructions on submitting to our Weblog assignments via email . If they are not followed the current Weblog will break in someway. Incidentally if the site does look broken, just do a quick check on your text size of your browser - it should be set to text size medium and a larger size will not work [Hint: on the Toolbar open View and from the drop-down select Text Size and then select Medium].

Getting Started ....

First of all you need to check that your English and Grammar is acceptable (yes I know mine is not always on the Weblog, we are not all perfect!) the best overall guide to Grammar and Guide on the Internet is Guide to Grammar and Style by Jack Lynch (revised 6 February 2006) and can be found at

Now we come to Science writing...

You will note that we have put up a Lecture on Scientific Writing Chapter prepared by Vanessa - this will help you with the overall picture but you will need a little more assistance when it comes to actually getting your assignment prepared. This is because scientists need to conform to their own Scientific Style that has its own style and rules and most Science Journals require that these are adhered to when preparing research papers for publication. Up to now we have not been strict on this issue since we want to let you in to doing science as gently as possible. Well, we now need to start re-programming ourselves to using the CBE (Council of Biology Editors) or as it is now known as CSE (Council of Science Editors) style of writing. The CBE/CSE style imposes conventions that are a little foreign to us since it is an International standard. To access this Style Manual you normally will need to purchase their book that is available at...

Council of Biology Editors. 2006. Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers. 7th ed. New York: Cambridge University Press. Retail $59.95

Since this is some 650 pages, from the students point of view, its is, well a little overwhelming! Basically it is so detailed, and it really is focused on research publication, and therefore would be rather difficult to use for your course report. It is best used as a reference and we will get a departmental copy for that purpose, possibly CSIR will purchase one for their library.

Now we come to a really nifty way to have some help with CSE writing right on your desktop, it is with the help of Dr. Able Scribe Student's Guide to Biostyle and is a quick reference for drafting papers in the biological sciences. The Guide covers reference formats, text citations, page layouts, and basic writing conventions. It is Freeware, so can be freely distributed for non-profit purposes and was revised in January 2003. Since every Journal while adhering in principle to the CBE/CSE will have their own particular (trademark) style it makes writing for a scientific publication a little chaotic. Consequently this particular resource uses the Journal BioScience as a standard for drafting papers in the biological sciences.

The Student's Guide to Biostyle is an electronic style guide that navigates much like a web site, but with added indexing and search capabilities. Scientific Methods Courseware Server under the folder "Applications" and the file is (649 Kb). As and additional guide that you can download and print I have put up Writing Research Styles: A Primer also written by Dr. Able Scribe and can be downloaded from

Student's Guide to Biostyle is actually a Windows Help file and when installed is accessible like any other Window program that you have installed on your computer. So you go Start, Programs, DOC Style, CBE Style Guide to launch it. To install it you can download it from , unzip it and run the setup file. So this Writing Document Resource is always available for you to refer to, so please take the time to install and use it - it will help you in the long term to get better marks.

Well all the best on a lovely Easter Sunday.


Dr Richard Knight
Co-ordinator: National Information Society Learnerships - Ecological Informatics
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
Bellville 7535
Phone 27 + 21 + 959 3940
Fax 27 + 21 + 959 1237


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