Using Gamification to Teach Undergraduate Students about Scientific Writing

Brian B. Gibbens, Noah Gettle, Seth Thompson, Katherine Muller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite its importance, scientific writing is often deprioritized in undergraduate biology classes. Reasons include assumed prior knowledge, lack of class time, tedious grading, and the complexity and challenges associated with quality writing. To help students develop their writing skills, we created a computer game called Playon Words, which covers the basics of sentence structure, organization, scientific style, and reference management. The game helps students to avoid common writing mistakes and helps instructors provide targeted writing guidance without consuming much class time. To assess the effectiveness of the Playon Words game, we offered it as extra credit in the Foundations of Biology course at the University of Minnesota. Seventy-seven students elected to play the writing game and agreed to have their data included in this study. These data suggest that the questions in the game were sufficiently challenging for our students and that student performance varied significantly with respect to each topic. A follow-up survey indicated that nearly 90% of the students reported learning some helpful writing tips from playing this game.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2015


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