Writing for Science

Literacy is the ability to understand, respond to, and use a range of specialist language to describe the natural world and represent and communicate ideas.

Completing tasks honestly and without plagiarism 

HSC: All My Own Work is a program designed to help HSC students follow the principles and practices of good scholarship. This includes understanding, valuing and using ethical practices when locating and using information as part of their HSC studies.

Students who have completed the program will also know about penalties for cheating and how to avoid malpractice when preparing their work for assessment.

To be eligible for the HSC, students must complete HSC: All My Own Work (or its equivalent) before they submit any work for Preliminary (Year 11) or HSC (Year 12) courses unless they are only entered for Year 11 and Year 12 Life Skills courses.

How to read a scientific paper 

Social media science scare stories often rest on inaccurate reporting of research. Reading journal papers, however, can be challenging for non-scientists. Craig Cormick gives you the hacks you need to get to grips with the motherlode.

General writing links

Writing Scientific papers based on science experiments 

The following are university level guides that outline the parts of a formal scientific journal paper. It is useful to know how these are written and set out and were to find useful information. These guides could also be useful in constructing your own scientific papers.

Guides to writing and communicating in Science- language conventions 

Links regarding writing in the working scientifically page for additional tips.

Addressing the task words in questions

When answering questions it is important to first identify what the question is asking. This begins with addressing the verbs in the question. The next step is to also identify the knowledge, skills and background information required in order to successfully address the question. Marking schemes in assessments should not be ignored as this gives you an insight into what is being assessed and how the marks are allocated in each section. It is good practice to mark yourself with the marking scheme available before submitting any written work as this gives you an opportunity to evaluate your own work and to seek help if you think you are not quite addressing what is being asked of you before submitting the work. Don’t leave things to the last minute!

Below are common task words that usually require you to write a shorter answer of one or two paragraphs. However, even with short answers, the goal is to be succinct and to express your knowledge toward what is being asked. Some common task words in questions from this course include;

  • What– this is asking for information of a particular thing
  • How- this question is similar to explain, but it requires a logical sequence in its explanation, eg how you conducted a scientific method
  • Why – this is the same as explain
  • Identify – give the name of the part/s, process etc
  • outline -give a brief overview, use dot points
  • Compare- show how something is the same or different, use a T chart to compare differences, or Venn diagram if you need to show similarities and differences to organise your thoughts. Each section of each diagram becomes a short paragraph.
  • Contrast– show how something is different. Use a T chart and each section is a short paragraph.
  • Describe– give the general features, use dot point to list these, a flow diagram if it’s a process or a diagram if it’s a concept, such as the water cycle. This is more detailed than an outline as it would specify what needs to be described. The visual summary formes the backbone of your paragraph.
  • Explain – give a reason for your answer based on evidence from examples ect.what you explain depends on ther question, make sure you explain every part that is asked with examples or evidence. You may also need to show cause and effect, again with evidence on each side.
  • Propose- This is asking you to put forth suggestions or recommendations or ideas.

Below are some task words used in this course that requires uses of a structured format to write a longer response answer of several paragraphs.

  • Assess- you are being asked to write about the value of the topic in question. You would be required to make a judgment so evidence and examples are expected. each paragraph should address one topic area. The detail depends on how much is being asked.you should underline each part of the question and address each section accordingly.
  • Examine- You will be required to look over each part of the question with a critical eye, showing pros and cons or perhaps even giving reasons why. You will need detailed evidence and examples in order to make any final judgements.
  • Discuss – This is similar to a debate or argument, you will need to show multiple perspectives that are sourced from multiple lines of evidence and examples. ensure you know what parts of the question need to be discussed, underline these parts of the question.
  • Evaluate- This word is asking you to make a judgement based on the evidence you have gathered. This evidence must relate to what is being asked. You would probably need to discuss the issue first before making a judgement.
  • Investigate- this is similar to examine, however, this is more likely to be asked of you on the intention that you will conduct your own research that will support your point of view or the parts of the question.

Writing guides for essays and long response questions

 Check your sources

Secondary sources of information- looking for reliable information

Secondary-sourced investigations include:

  • locating and accessing a wide range of secondary data and/or information.
  • using and reorganising secondary data and/or information.

Click the link and it will take you to the depth study page. Scroll down for links to journals and databases. Remember, your local/school library has amazing resources too.

Evaluating your sources using the CRAAP guide below


Peer review 


peer review process 



The following information comes from the NESA guide to reference.

reference list includes all the sources of information that have been cited in a piece of work. The reference list is located at the end of the article of work and is usually listed in alphabetical order of the authors of the different sources used.
Each in-text citation must have a corresponding entry in the reference list which is submitted with the assignment.
bibliography includes all the sources used in the preparation of a piece of work – not just those that have been cited in the text of the work and covered in a reference list. The bibliography is located at the end of the piece of work and is usually listed in alphabetical order of the authors of the different sources used. Various resources, print and electronic, have different characteristics related to their type, format and the content they contain.

  • Annotated bibliography guide

Each type of resource is cited and referenced in a slightly different way. As you have already learnt, there is no universal referencing style, and you should ask your teachers which style you should follow.

The four most common referencing styles are:

  • Harvard (author-date)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • Oxford (documentary-note or footnote referencing).

While you will need to look up the specific requirements of the style approved by your school, your focus should be on consistency regarding:

  • punctuation
  • capitalisation
  • italicisation
  • abbreviation

The following links include guides and tutorials on how to reference using the Harvard method. Remember that your submitted work needs to be free of plagiarism and referenced according to the instructions in your task.See All my own work link at the beginning of this page.

Fancy yourself as a science writer? Australian Science communicators The national forum for science communicators and science journalists has some interesting links to investigate.