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Rhetorical Analysis of a Formal Observation Report in the Sciences

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Rhetorical Analysis of a Formal Observation Report in the Sciences

A good scientific writing allows for future study and survey of the experiment, meaning that it provides sufficient information for future scientist that may try to recreate the experiment for future knowledge. In Engaging Inquiry: research and writing in the sciences by Kirscht and Schlenz, there is a format one can use to determine a good scientific writing. This format is IMRAD, an acronym for the introduction, method, results, analysis and documentation. Timothy Quinn uses the IMRAD system to communicate the process of his experiment with coyotes and their eating habits to the reader. His report diverged slightly from this general format but it was accurate in representing his study and research, experiment, and the results that he gained from them.

In order to have a well written scientific report, according to Kirscht and Schlenz, the title should answer the question "What object and issue are under study" (32). Quinn titles his work "Coyote Food Habits in Three Urban Habitat Types of Western Washington" (89). In his title Quinn lets the reader see what is under study: the coyotes, why they are under study: their eating habits, and where he studied them: Washington. Quinn does a wonderful job with his title because it is too the point and is not used "to attract attention or create dramatic or persuasive effect" (33).

The abstract should be used to "give the researchers a quick overview of your work so that they can see at a glance its relevance to their own work" (Kirscht and Schlenz 33) and it should answer the questions "what type of study, object, issue, method, results" (32). Quinn, in his abstract, describes the process through which he analyzed the coyote eating habits; he collected scat (fecal matter) "from three areas representing typical patterns of human occupation and density" (89) then giving the specifics and numbers portraying the typical pattern, answering the study, object and method questions. He clearly states the issue at hand and results, being, "Coyote in my western Washington study area rely on foods that result from human activity but those foods, particularly mammals, may change as land was patterns change" (89). By looking at Quinn's abstract a fellow researcher could easily be able to convey its relevance to his or her own work.

An introduction is where one would cite any learned or known information about the occurrence at study and will give an answer about "what you are studying and why" (Kirscht and Schlenz 32). In Quinn's introduction he states that "My objectives were to document the annual diet of coyotes in three types of urban habitat of western Washington and to qualitatively assess how coyote diets changed as a function of land use patterns and human density" (90), showing future researchers what he is studying and why, so that they can apply it to any future work they do. Quinn also gives prior knowledge that he has learned from other research studies on coyotes and their eating habits from three sources: MacCracken, Shargo, and Atkinson and Shackleton (89).

Next, Quinn differs from the IMRAD format by including a "Study Area" (Kirscht and Schlenz 90) section; this section describes the region in which Quinn preformed his study. He gives information about the agricultural habitats in which he chose to collect scat from; these include "residential habitat, mixed agricultural-residential habitat, and mixed forest-residential habitat (90). Quinn lists specifics for each habitat, allowing for future researches to more easily recreate the study area in future research. He also includes this section to show that he has tried to keep his study consistent by staying away from "feral dogs" (91) which would alter his results because of the scat collection.

The method and materials section in Quinn's writing should address the question "what did you do" (Kirscht and Schlenz 32) and he should do it "precisely enough so that scientist reading your paper could duplicate your activities exactly" (34). Quinn describes his method for scat collection as identifying them by their "physical appearance, including size and shape" (91). And he said, "as an added safeguard against including dog scats in the samples I assumed that scats composed of >50% commercial dog food (estimated visually) originated from dog" (91). The only problem with this is that by assuming that scat that is >50% dog food is from a dog and not a coyote he is leaving out the fact that some coyotes could scavenge for food and eat dog food. Because he is handling all of the scat there is human error that could play into it. It is true that he must "draw the line" somewhere and he does acknowledge that there will be faults and that he may not be exactly right. Although his writing was based on this scientific formula, he makes discrepancies that can alter his experiment yet, he is allowing future scientists to improve upon his study by providing them with enough information to recreate a study and gives his reasons for mistakes, which could be changed later.

In the results, Quinn must



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