Writing Competency Requirement: Biological Sciences Department

One of the goals of the Department of Biological Sciences is to ensure that our graduates are able to communicate clearly using scientific terminology and style. The Writing Competency Requirement (WCR) is used to evaluate whether a student has accomplished this goal.

The Biological Sciences Department has a two-part WCR: a timed essay and a class assignment. Each student must pass both portions to satisfy the WCR. If a student fails to pass either portion after the maximum number of attempts, then he/she must take English 210, Writing for Competency and earn a grade of C+ or better.

Since the department has adopted a specific form and style manual, students are expected to follow this manual — not only in all coursework, but also in fulfilling the WCR. This is particularly important for any citations in the text of the paper and for the bibliography/works cited. The current manual is: Pechenik, J.A. 2016. A Short Guide To Writing About Biology, 9th ed. Pearson-Longman, NY.

View the Writing Competency Requirement PDF


Components of the Writing Competency Requirement

  • Component #1: Timed Essay
    • The first component of the WCR involves a supervised writing assignment in a classroom setting at a time and date designated by the Department.
    • The new department policy allows for the timed essay to be retaken only twice for a maximum of three attempts. Three failing grades automatically require the student to take ENGL 210.
    • Timed essays must be completed a minimum of two semesters before graduation. (e.g. If a student plans on graduating Spring 2016, they must pass by Spring 2015.)

  • Component #2: Class Assignment
    • Each student must provide the department with a research report that was prepared for a biology class. The paper must include a minimum of eight (8) pages of double-spaced written text. This does not include the title page, figures, or the literature cited section. The student may also consult the Rhetoric & Writing Center for assistance with any revisions. Submissions should be sent to Amy Tan (amy.tan@biola.edu).
    • Courses approved for fulfilling the Class Assignment:
      • BIOS 281 – Physiology
      • BIOS 322 – Lab in Cell & Molecular Biology
      • BIOS 332 – Genetics
      • BIOS 380 – Advanced Microbiology
      • BIOS 381 – Advanced Physiology
      • BIOS 401 – General Ecology

*Research reports written for other biology classes may be considered if they report original research conducted by the student.

    • If a student opts to revise a failed class assignment, the student should submit an electronic version of their revised paper to the Department via email to Amy Tan (amy.tan@biola.edu).
    • A student may make a maximum of two attempts to pass the class assignment. If the first attempt receives a failing grade, that paper may be revised and re-submitted one time only. Or the student may opt to submit a new paper from a different class for his/her second attempt at passing. If the student fails after two attempts, they must take ENGL 210.
    • The class assignment must be completed a minimum of one semester before graduation. (e.g. If a student plans on graduating Spring 2016, they must pass by Fall 2015.)


Additional Information

  • The Sophomore Writing Seminar (BIOS 200) was established to train students in the specific skills necessary to pass the WCR. It is strongly recommended that BIOS 200 be taken during a student’s sophomore year to prepare for the Timed Writing Essay and to prepare for writing in all upper division courses.
  • The Rhetoric & Writing Center in the Biola Library offers assistance to students preparing and revising written assignments, including the WCR class assignment.
  • Ideally, students will complete their WCR by the end of their junior year, but the student must satisfy the WCR before his/her final semester. This will allow students who do not pass WCR to take ENGL 210 during their final semester and graduate on time.

If you have any questions or would like to sign up for the next Timed Essay, please contact Amy Tan (amy.tan@biola.edu).

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