BIO 15L:  Writing Assignments

Your Writing Assignments will be broken into 2 parts:  (1) Responding to questions or situations that I pose for you and (2) Finding current articles in the popular media and relating them to what you are learning in your biology classes.  Each of these parts will, in turn, be broken into two assignments (A and B) worth 10 points apiece, for a total of 40 points throughout the semester.  Parts 1A and 1B will be assigned by me as relevant topics in lab appear.  Parts 2A and 2B can be completed any time before the end of the semester, though I will start nagging you in a few weeks if you have not completed part 2A by then.  This will allow you to accomplish the writing assignment in small pieces and with some flexibility.


The objectives of the writing assignments are to help you

§      practice clear, logical writing, with proper grammar, sentence structure, and organization

§      think about how the biological principles and scientific approaches you are learning apply to your daily life

§      explore topics in biology, which catch your interest.




Guidelines for Parts 2A and 2B:  Each current article analysis will be worth 10 points; to start you must find a current article in a magazine or newspaper or reliable website, which is related to biology.  In 1-2 pages you must

ü  summarize (present the major ideas in a concise form) the article, taking care not to plagiarize [Plagiarism is the use of major parts of others' ideas  and/or language without citing their work.  Information on citing sources is available at],

ü  discuss a piece of biology-related information in the article and explain how it is connected with an idea that you have already learned in biology (through lecture, lab, text, or outside reading),

ü  identify another piece of biology-related information or concept in the article, which you would like to know more about.  Explain why you are interested in learning more about it,

ü  find out more to satisfy your curiosity, and summarize what you learned; also cite the source of your information.


Write for an audience of your peers.  You will be graded for organization, grammar, and spelling, as well as scientific accuracy.  The short writing assignment can be turned in any time up to the last day of class.  If you turn one in at least 10 days before the last day, I can return it to you for revision.







Assignment 1A (10 points):  Good Science or Bad Science?

Due Wednesday, February 18, at the start of lab


Dr. Barry Sears has a PhD in biochemistry and invented what he called the "Zone Diet,"  which is a low carbohydrate-high protein diet  (40% of Calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 30% from fats).  He called it the Zone Diet because he claimed that it helped athletes and others stay in their "zone" of high performance.  He claimed that the diet worked because it kept the production of insulin low and promoted the production of other molecules that stimulated high performance.

To summarize his ideas in the form of the scientific method, we could represent Sears' ideas:


Observations:  high carbohydrate diets can inhibit enzymes removing “bad” fatty acids

                      high protein diets can stimulate enzymes removing “bad” fatty acids


Hypothesis:  A low carbohydrate-high protein diet (the Zone Diet) can improve physical and mental    performance


Prediction:  People on the Zone Diet will outperform those not on the diet


Sears' reported Experiment:  1990-91 Stanford swim team lost to University of Texas swim team

                      1992 Dr. Sears convinced Stanford coaches to put swimmers on Zone Diet; while

                      Univ. of Texas team was not on Zone Diet

                      1992 Stanford swim team beat Texas; 6 Stanford swimmers went to Olympics


Sears' Conclusion:  the Zone Diet leads to “peak performances”


ü     Identify the following parts of Sears' experiment (no need for complete sentences here).


§      Independent Variable and its different states or values?     



§      Dependent Variable and its different states or values?



§      Controlled Variables?                                                      



§      Uncontrolled Variables?



§      Observed outcomes and Inferred outcomes?






ü     This part you should answer in a complete, well-written paragraph (demonstrating proper sentence structure, organization, grammar, and spelling).  Based on what you have learned about scientific approaches, was Sears' conclusion scientifically sound?  What made his experiment scientifically believable or not?  What further information would you need in order to make a stronger conclusion about whether to believe Dr. Sears or not?  Give an example of how that information would influence your conclusion.