Meredith Bennett: Junior, Environmental Science
For the final project of the scientific writing internship, I am planning to assemble a portfolio of the writing projects I have/will have completed at the end of this semester. I am beginning to decide which samples of my writing should be included in the portfolio, and it has reminded me of the importance of reflection in academia, particularly when writing.
I think reflection is really what enriches our learning experiences. I think it’s possible, especially in the sciences, for students to forget why they are learning something. We’ve all been there. You’re cramming for an exam, and you just need to absorb that information as quickly and efficiently as possible. Even though the pure transference of knowledge is a crucial aspect of learning, I think to truly assimilate a topic, no matter what your area of study, requires a level of engagement beyond that. I always make a conscious effort to allow myself times of quiet reflection throughout the week. When we make room in our life for deeper thinking about topics, we start to make interesting connections between classes or between our academic career and our daily life. In addition, I think reflecting on what we learn helps us develop certain skills faster and become more advanced in approaching problems. Nowhere is this more apparent to me than in writing.
When I undertake a writing project, I am always surprised by how little of the total time it takes to finish the project was spent writing. I spend most of my time thinking about what I want to say and how. The organization, layout, and scope of any given article or essay is always evolving, and I think the part of writing that takes the most skill is taking stock of your research and deciding how it will be best represented. One example of this happened last year when I wrote a scientific review about ecological speciation for Dr. Klucevsek’s class. It was thrilling to watch my review turn into something completely unexpected as I developed a deeper understanding of the research I was finding. If I had not taken the time to truly reflect on the various studies I was citing and what they meant when taken together, I might not have made the connections that I did. In the end, my review became something of an opinion paper as well, because of my conclusions about the research literature on ecological speciation.
My recommendation to the other writers taking part in this internship is to always allow yourself time to contemplate why or how you are completing a given writing project. Try to begin assignments early if you can, so that you can allow the natural process to take over and shape your final product. A mediocre essay can turn into an article with an interesting new perspective if you just take some time to let your ideas grow.