Departmental standards for written work

Thesis courses (Biol. 495/496) carry “W” designations

Writing courses (those designated “W”) at Lafayette are intended by the College to meet the requirements of formal instruction in writing and have several requirements:

  • At least 20 double-spaced pages of reviewed writing must be evaluated in stages across the semester;
  • The mentor must review all of the writing and provide feedback to the student;
  • Special attention must be paid to the form, genre, style and the intended audience for the written work; instruction will also be provided in strategies for composing, drafting and revising.

Be prepared to bring a number of proposal and thesis drafts to your adviser; you will rewrite these several times.

Thesis and Independent Research students also must be aware of current copyright law and the procedures in place at Lafayette to insure compliance with the law. Illustrations, tables, or other material published by others must be properly referenced if included in a thesis, final paper, or oral presentation, and it is sometimes necessary to secure the permission of the copyright holder for such use. Students are referred to the Reference Desk or www page of Skillman Library for current College guidelines on the use of copyrighted material.

Theses require a thorough literature search

In preparing the thesis proposal and the thesis itself, the student is expected to search thoroughly the scientific literature on the subject of her/his research and to remain abreast of developments in the area as the research project progresses. The literature search is designed and carried out under the research mentor’s guidance. The place to start on any literature search is the library web page ( and its guide to research tools. Search strategies are a subtle art form and should be developed carefully with your mentor.

Literature reviews involve not only getting the reference and its abstract but actually reading and assimilating relevant research articles. Because our library is small and not a research library, you should expect to become familiar with the interlibrary loan service (ILL, a link off the library homepage) or, depending on your project and preference, Lehigh University or another research university library. Honors students receive special ILL privileges and the library staff is always willing to help any research students with special needs in this area.

Suggestions for clear scientific writing

The student is referred to the C.B.E. Style Manual, sixth edition, published by The Council of Biology Editors, Bethesda, Md.; it is usually on reserve for Biology 101/102 at the Reserve Desk in Skillman Library and is also available in the Biology Department office. This book makes excellent reading. Presented on the suggestions for clear scientific writing page are several quotations from “Chapter Four: Prose style for scientific writing” and a list of other books on the subject of scientific writing.

Plagiarism; The Department’s Statement on Academic Dishonesty should be consulted by all students submitting written work for a grade or for publication. An additional source for information on Lafayette’s policy on plagiarism is The Lafayette College Student Handbook. All students should be familiar with these policies and should address any questions to their research mentor.

NEXT: Sample Honors Thesis Proposals.