The News and Views Project
Biology 243: Comparative Animal Physiology
In this project, you will write two papers describing primary research articles
- a summary and a commentary. In the summary, you will describe an article -
its purpose, methods, results, and significance. In the commentary, you will
write a critical analysis of an article. The differences between summary and
commentary are described in the assignments below, and we will read several
summaries and commentaries along with the associated research articles as the
Assignment 1 - Summary proposal.
Purpose: Your goal in writing this assignment is to propose a paper that
you use for the project summary and commentary assignments . You should make
a convincing case for why the paper you choose deserves to be evalauted.
- Your paper must be from the
American Journal of Physiology. This journal has several different sections,
so you should be able to find something interesting to you.
- Your paper should be current. Look for papers that are published within
the past 5 years.
- Be sure that you select papers in a field that interests you; you will need
to do additional reading in the field to understand it.
- Try to select papers that make important or controversial contributions
to the field; it is hard to write an interesting summary of a boring paper.
- Check the instructions below in assignment 2, 3, and 4; if you don't
think you will able to follow them, you might consider other papers.
- Read the FAQ at the bottom of this sheet.
- Research article: A copy of the paper. Print out a PDF version of
- Article process paper: A description of why you chose the paper (not
to exceed two pages double spaced, 12 point font). This description should
- Your process in finding the chosen article. Focus not on the specific
steps you took, but rather on what criteria you used in narrowing your
selection. Did you search for papers in a particular subject area? Papers
that use a particular methodology or approach? Reference should be made
here to other articles that you considered.
- A very short synopsis of the paper.
- An argument for why the paper is interesting, controversial, important,
exciting, or groundbreaking.
- At least two other research articles that you considered
- At least four references that you will use to better understand the
paper. At least three must be primary research articles. Be sure to use
Proper citation format.
Assignment 2 - Summary
Purpose: In this assignment you write a detailed summary of the paper.
The point here is to accurately describe and explain each research paper. The
summary should not simply paraphrase the papers, the point is to explain
the study. Your summary should address the following points:
- Choose one key previous study and explain how it leads to the hypothesis
or research question that is being addressed in the paper.
- Indicate why is it important to test the hypothesis or answer the research
- Choose one aspect of the methodology explain it. You might focus on
a particular method or technique or consider the model system that was
- Indicate how the methods will test the hypothesis or address the research
- Choose a representative figure or table and explain it in detail. Describe
how the data in the figure or table support or contradict the hypothesis.
- Indicate the significance of the results.
Your summary must address the above points, but may also contain additional
material. Your summary must be written as a coherent essay, not as a list of
responses to the above items.
- Summary process paper Describe your process in writing the summary.
How and why did you choose to focus on the particular previous study, methodology,
and figure? Did you consider other articles, methods, or figures? What aspects
presented difficulties and how did you address them? The page limit is 1 page,
double spaced (not 1.5), one inch margins, 12 point font.
- Paper summary The page limit is 2 pages, double spaced (not 1.5),
one inch margins, 12 point font. Do not exceed the page limit. You will need
to consult and cite other literature to effectively complete this assignment,
and therefore you must include a references cited section. The references
cited is not included in the page limit. Be sure to use Proper
citation format. Please hand in a copy of the paper with your assignment.
Also, please hand in Assignment 1 with Assignment 2. Use a folder to keep
your work together.
Grading: The following criteria will be used to evaluate your paper.
- The summary clearly and accurately describes and explains the hypothesis,
methods, and one figure or table. The paper is explained, not simply paraphrased.
- The summary demonstrates a deep understanding of the research field.
- The summary describes why the research is important and the significance
of the results
- The summary effectively incorporates other sources, including primary sources.
- The summary is well-written and well organized. It follows the format and
page limits described in the project assignment.
Assignment 3 - Commentary draft
Purpose: The goal of this assignment
is to write a critical commentary on your chosen research article. This differs
from the summary in that you must include your own interpretations, analysis,
and criticism. Your commentary should discuss the strengths and weaknesses of
the paper, using other research literature for support. It may also discuss
the implications of the work and its possible impact on further work. Focus
on the most exciting, important, controversial, or innovative aspects of the
paper. You may use the same research article that you used in Assignment 2,
although you may also choose a new article if you wish. If you decide to write
on a new article, please have it approved by me before you proceed.
The commentary should not be simply a summary of the paper. Instead it should
critically analyze the paper. Your commentary should only include whatever summary
of the paper that is needed to make effective comparisons and analysis. It should
not include large sections of summary without critique and analysis. Your commentary
need not cover every aspect of the paper. Choose what is more important, exciting,
interesting, or controversial and write about it. Some tips for making arguments
in an essay are here.
Your grade will primarily be based on the quality of your critical analysis
and the clarity of your presentation of this analysis to the reader.
- Commentary process paper. Describe your process in writing the commentary.
How and why did you choose to your focus? Did you consider alternative approaches?
What aspects presented difficulties and how did you address them? How does
your commentary differ from the summary written in Assignment 2? The page
limit is 1 page, double spaced (not 1.5), one inch margins, 12 point font.
- Commentary draft. The page limit is 4 pages, double spaced (not 1.5),
one inch margins, 12 point font. Do not exceed the page limit. You must include
a references cited section and this is not included in the page limit. Be
sure to use Proper citation format. You may include
graphs, drawings, figures, etc. and these are not included in the page limit.
Please hand in a pdf copy of the research paper with your assignment. Also,
please hand in Assignment 2 with Assignment 3. Use a folder to keep your work
commentaries will show the following characteristics:
- Connections between different parts of the article
- purpose and hypothesis
- hypothesis and experimental design
- results and conclusions
- Interpretations and conclusions of the article
are subjected to rigorous analysis.
- Both strengths and shortcomings of the article
- Scientific reasoning is used as the basis for
- Judgments reflect an appreciation of other relevant
- The essay makes a novel claim.
- The claim has implications beyond the article itself.
- The claim contributes to the ongoing scientific dialogue.
- The claim reflects synthesis of the article and other primary literature.
- The essay is organized and focused.
- The entire essay forms a coherent argument.
- Citations are carefully selected to address the essay's claim.
- Arguments draw upon data from the article itself.
- Arguments draw upon data from other primary sources.
Assignment 4 - Commentary final
Revise your commentary based on feedback from your draft. It is important that
you think broadly about this revision rather than simply "fixing"
the original. In my comments, I will often make suggestions that refer to a
particular passage in your writing. It is your responsibility to apply such
suggestions across the entire essay. Also, consider whether a reoganization
or shift in focus would improve the essay. You will be graded on both the quality
of your revised essay and the care with which revisions were made.
- Revision process paper Describe your process in writing the revision.
What changes did you make and why? Did you consider other approaches to the
revision? How has the revision strengthened the essay? The page limit is 1
page, double spaced (not 1.5), one inch margins, 12 point font.
- Revised commentary The page limit is 4 pages, double spaced (not
1.5), one inch margins, 12 point font. Do not exceed the page limit. You must
include a references cited section and this is not included in the page limit.
Be sure to use Proper citation format. You may
include graphs, drawings, figures, etc. and these are not included in the
page limit. Please hand in a pdf copy of the research paper with your assignment.
Also, please hand in Assignment 2 and 3 with Assignment 4. Use a folder to
keep your work together.
Assignment 1 - 5%
Assignment 2 - 25%
Assignment 3 - 20%
Assignment 4 - 50%
Deadlines and conflicts:
Work in this class that is handed in late will be penalized 1/3 grade per day.
For example, a B+ will become a B.
Frequently asked questions:
- Can I use the same paper for the summary and the commentary?
- Who is the audience for my writing?
- Write you paper so that it can be understood by members of the Biol
243 class assuming that they have access to the research articles. Rather
than simply repeating what is in the paper, try to explain it so that
it is understandable to members of the Biol 243 class. Assume the audience
has a basic understanding of physiology but may not be familiar with the
intricacies of a particular research area.
- Suppose I agree with the authors of the paper,
how can I add my own analysis in the commentary?
- What is interesting, exciting, innovative, curious,
or controversial about the papers? What further work should be done? What
is the impact of this work on the field? Why is this a strong paper? What
makes it better than other papers in the same research area?
- How can I possible summarize an article in only
- Choose what is important. You need not discuss
every aspect of the paper. Instead, focus on the important aspects of
the paper. As you begin to develop your own analysis of the paper, try
to develop an "angle" or "theme" for your analysis
and focus your writing accordingly.
- I am not an expert, how can I possibly comment
on a scientific paper written by professional biologists?
- Become an expert! You can't succeed at this assignment
without reading and thinking about the topic. Also, remember that you
will not be asked to present this work at a conference with the authors
of the papers in attendance. So this is a relatively low-risk exercise.
Take a small risk here and you'll have some experience when it does come
time to present your opinions in a public forum.
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