Developmental Biology

Biology 21

Spring 2000

First paper assignment - 125 points

The objective of this assignment is to write a 5-7 page critical analysis of a scientific paper.

Choosing your topic:

You will begin the assignment by choosing a recent research study (published with the last two years) pertaining to developmental biology. In your paper, you will describe, critically evaluate, and build from this published study. Be sure that you select a journal article that interests you - you will most likely need to do some additional background reading (both primary and secondary sources) in order to fully analyze the paper. Try to select a paper that makes an important or controversial contribution to the field, as it is hard to write an interesting analysis of a boring or insubstantial paper. When choosing an article, be sure that you will be able to address the questions below as they pertain to the article you choose to analyze.

Paper topics must be approved by me by Wednesday, February 7. Please bring a copy of the journal article you have chosen and be ready to briefly summarize it for me. The journal article must have been published since January 1998, and must pertain to developmental biology. I will be available during my scheduled office hours and also by appointment. Earlier approval is highly encouraged!

Writing your paper:

I should be able to understand your paper without having to read the original published study. Therefore, you will need to briefly summarize the study. However, your analysis must go beyond this summary! Consider the following questions in your analysis clearly, succinctly, and in your own words. Be sure to support your statements with thorough explanations and cited references.

A. (75%) Why was this study undertaken? What was known at the time that it was published? What was the question being addressed? How was it addressed, and what were the results? Are the results sufficient for the author(s) stated conclusions, and why or why not? How might you improve on the study?

B. (25%) What questions would you address next and how? What answers would you expect and why? Briefly propose original specific experiments, discuss the results you would expect (usually at least two outcomes), and what the results would mean.

Papers are due Monday, February 21 in class. Your paper must be no more than 5-7 pages of text (10-12 point font, 1.5 - 2 line spacing, 1 inch margins). References and figures will not be counted within the page limit. Remember to proofread your paper before submitting it. I will not grade papers that require substantial proofreading. No extensions will be granted, and a penalty of 10 points per day will be applied to any late papers. Please include a copy of the primary research article that you have discussed in your paper (I will return it).


You must use primary sources. Secondary sources, such as review articles and your textbook may be useful as starting points, but are not sufficient ending points. Literature searches can be carried out using the library catalog (CONSORT) and a number of electronic databases (many are linked via the Biology resource page from the library; see me for assistance). Be sure to cite your references fully in your paper. Feel free to ask me about proper citation.
Many journals are available through the OhioLink Electronic Journal Center.

Journals to browse for interesting research articles:

Cell (full text not available online)
Molecular Cell (full text not available online)
Science (full text not available online)
Nature(full text not available online)
Nature Genetics(full text not available online)
Development (full text not available online)
Developmental Biology
Genes and Development
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.
Int. J. Dev. Biol.
Mech. Dev.
Dev. Genetics
Plant Cell
Plant Journal
Plant Phys.
Mol. Microbiol.
J. Bacteriol.

Journals that publish review articles (in addition to those already listed)

Seminars in Cell and Dev Biol
Seminars in Cell and Dev Biol (two sites on EJC)
Trends in Genetics
Trends in Cell Biology
Trends in Plant Science
Current Opinion in Cell Biology
Current Opinion in Genetics and Development
Current Opinions in Neurobiology
Current Opinion in Plant Biology
Current Biology