Writing in the Sciences Lesson Plan: The Use of Analogy in Science Essays

Lesson Plan on the Use of Analogy in Science Essay Writing
Esther Muehlbauer, Queens College Department of Biology
CW2: Writing in the Sciences – Evolutionary Themes

Lesson Objective:  To use analogy between biological phenomena and processes in other academic fields in writing a scientific essay.

Total Estimated Time: 75 minutes

Additional Outcomes:  Applying the use of analogy to writing in other disciplines.

Assignment Underway:  Writing Assignment #4: Scientists Writing for Society – Essay for a Periodical.  Students have been “commissioned” to write an essay for the periodical of the American Museum of Natural History, in the tradition of Stephan Jay Gould’s column, “This View of Life” – essays that explore relationships between biology and art, music, history, philosophy or literature.

Work completed before class: Students have read several of Stephan Jay Gould’s essays, and have brought to class, “A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse”, an essay from Gould’s book, The Panda’s Thumb.

Sequence of classroom activities:

  1. Reading and Discussion. The instructor, or a student volunteer, reads the opening few paragraphs of “A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse”, to segue a discussion of “analogy” in science writing – “What does the science writer accomplish through the use of analogy? What types of analogies make for interesting writing?  (15 minutes)
  2. Brain-storming.  Students are instructed to work with a partner to brain-storm analogies between biology and other disciplines.  One student in the pair can name a biological process, while the other student responds with an analogous idea from another field.  (10 minutes)
  3. Lists.  Students are then asked to write down a few of the most interesting relationships that they brain-stormed, to begin forming a list of analogies. (10 minutes)
  4. Discussion.  A few student volunteers are asked to share sample analogies, while the class is encouraged to discuss the strengths/weaknesses of these concepts and their potential for essay development.  (15 minutes)
  5. Writing.  Students are asked to pick one analogy, and to begin to draft an introductory paragraph for an essay based on that relationship.  Students may think of this as a possible starting point for their forth essay assignment. (10 minutes)
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