Writing Plan Phases
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First Edition Writing Plan
Second Edition Writing Plan
Third Edition Writing Plan
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Gloved hand documenting data, test tubles, specimen sample in cup.

Medical Laboratory Sciences (MLS) is an undergraduate major in the Center for Allied Health Programs enrolling 120 students.

After graduation, MLS majors are employed primarily in hospital and reference laboratories and often advance quickly to management positions. Therefore, in addition to teaching students to analyze blood and body fluids, identify infectious organisms, monitor patients’ overall health and treatment, and detect disease, the program prepares them to write policies and procedures for laboratory personnel, communications concerning laboratory testing, results for patients and other health care professionals, and case studies and scientific writing for healthcare professionals.

Medical Laboratory Sciences Writing Plan

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Writing in Medical Laboratory Sciences

The Medical Laboratory Sciences faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “What characterizes academic and professional communication in this discipline?”

The MLS faculty agrees that as healthcare professionals, medical laboratory scientists must be able to address a variety of audiences. For the entry‐level practitioner, most often the communications will be short and directed to another healthcare professional regarding laboratory testing that has been requested or performed. MLS graduates must also be able to effectively communicate the status of the laboratory to administrators and accrediting bodies using business letters, annual reports, and budget requests. The following writing characteristics have been identified by faculty and medical laboratory scientists as being important for successful written communication within the discipline:

  • Explanatory: Scientific and administrative information is explained logically and at levels of detail that are appropriate for the particular audience being addressed (health care providers, management, peers, and patients).
  • Descriptive: Procedures, microscopic objects, and results are described accurately and unambiguously using appropriate medical and scientific terminology.
  • Distilled: Conveys information in a thorough, yet precise and concise manner; without unnecessary information.
  • Persuasive: Emphasizes reasoning used to make a decision or develop a plan of action.
  • Organized: Texts use established administrative and scientific reporting formats, including those prescribed by regulatory and accrediting organizations.
  • Multi‐modal: Texts present information accurately in both hand‐written and electronic formats, and including test result reports, proposals, posters, and Powerpoint presentations.
  • Informative and Constructive: Writing in this field is clear, helpful and educational.
  • Timely: communications are expected to be submitted in a timely manner.
  • Correct in grammar and spelling.

Writing Abilities Expected of Medical Laboratory Sciences Majors

The Medical Laboratory Sciences faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “With which writing abilities should students in this unit’s major(s) graduate?”

MLS faculty members have continued their efforts to define the desired writing abilities of MLS graduates. The list below is the most recent version:

Concise  

  • Integrates and revises collaborative and individual writings for concision, logic, and  readability

Clear

  • Deciphers and presents information in an accurate and precise manner, being mindful of circumstantial details
  • Writes clearly and effectively to the appropriate audience in a variety of media

Contextual  

  • Prepares appropriate documentation when necessary
  • Conveys information using audience appropriate language
  • Writing in the appropriate tone and in a professional manner
  • Uses graphics and figures to convey complicated ideas accurately
  • Effectively utilizes current and emerging communication technologies to appropriately collect and disseminate information
  • Describes quantitative analyses accurately (e.g., statistical results and mathematical solutions)

Professional

  • Conveys information using professional and audience‐appropriate language

Meaningful  

  • Creates visuals using graphics and figures to convey complicated ideas
  • Writes clearly and effectively in a variety of media
  • Evaluates and demonstrates synthesis
  • Demonstrates mastery and proper application of terminology, tools, and jargon

Reflective  

  • Evaluates and effectively revises their own writing

Collaborative  

  • Creates and edits team‐written documents for concision, unity, and readability using collaborative authorship

Conforming to expected formats  

  • Uses correct mechanics, structure and spelling
  • Follows formatting instructions for documents
  • Correctly uses industry‐standard formats

Menu of Grading Criteria Used in Medical Laboratory Sciences Courses

Despite the wide range of written genres assigned in their courses, the MLS faculty developed the following short-listed menu of criteria from which members can adapt items suitable for their assignments:

  • Explains subjects within laboratory medicine such that they can be clearly understood by a healthcare provider, laboratory professional, patient, or other appropriate audiences
  • Is free of grammar/usage/proofreading issues that will distract readers or confuse meaning
  • Demonstrates proper formatting and mechanics (margins, font, spacing)
  • Stays within expected organization such that readers are able to follow logic
  • Records information in an accurate and unambiguous fashion
  • Precisely describes observations in order to clearly convey what is being observed
  • Summarizes essential content; is concise and free of unnecessary information
  • Access, select, critically evaluate, and convey information
  • Demonstrates appropriate use of terminology

Highlights from the Writing Plan

implementation by focusing on ways of supporting multilingual writers. A team of three language acquisition specialists analyzed a corpus of MLS undergraduate student writing (texts written by both multilingual writers and monolingual writers) for patterns of writing strength and weakness. This research found (a) that errors found in the texts contributed by multilingual writers were categorically similar to those found in the writing of native English speakers but appeared more frequently in multilingual students’s texts and (b) that some of the discourse styles and textual shorthand expected in MLS writing (for example the frequent omission of definite and indefinite articles) complicated the ability distinguish language-based errors from familiarity with discourse norms. More on this study can be found in Conway-Klaassen, J.M., Thompson, J.M., Eliason, P.A., Rojas Collins, M., Murie, R., & Spannaus-Martin, D.J. (2015). Multilingual and native English-speaking student writers in medical laboratory sciences (MLS): A comparative pilot study. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 15(4), 139-160.

Currently in their third-edition Writing Plan, the MLS faculty members are working to support a vertically organized sequence of writing support within their curriculum, helping students to transfer and develop expected writing abilities as they move from course to course. The faculty also continues to focus on integrating faculty-identified grading criteria into departmental assessments and promoting the importance of writing in the field through interviews with lab professionals.