Schematic drawings of observations

What is a schematic drawing?

A schematic drawing is a simplified representation of something you’ve observed. In biology, this can be for example a plant, a cell or any other (part of an) organism that you are interested in. Biologists have used, and still use, schematic drawings on a regular basis to communicate their findings. After all, a picture says more than a thousand words! For example, drawings are used to describe new-found organisms, or to give a functional or simplified image of a complex process or structure.

Why do we still use drawings?

You may think that drawing organisms seems a little historical. Why draw if we can simply take a picture of something? In fact, there are several very good reasons why drawings are preferred over photos, and drawing thus is an essential skill for a biologist:

1. Communicating our findings to other people. 

  • Highlighting the important parts. Many organisms look very complex or at first sight. Using schematic drawings allows you to focus the attention on the parts of the organism that are important for your study. What are specific characteristics for this species or organism groups?
  • Perfect-looking organisms are very hard to find. When we describe a species, we want to show what that species generally looks like. But, it can be incredibly hard to find a specimen that has all the features just right. This is also the reason why most species identification guides use drawings instead of photos.

2. Learning.

  • You learn much more by actively engaging with the material by drawing it, than just looking at it. This is scientifically proven many times!
  • Drawing an organism and its main characteristics forces you to look at your subject at a much higher level of attention. Therefore, it is an excellent way to understand and memorize how this organism is built up.