Journal article critique

Biology 321: Developmental Biology
Spring 2001

Journal article critique: 70 points

The objective of this assignment is to write a 4-6 page critical analysis of a scientific paper that will form the basis of your grant proposal.

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 and critically evaluate this published study. Be sure that you select a journal article that interests you - you will need to do some additional background reading (both primary and secondary sources) in order to fully analyze the paper. This background reading will also be helpful for the second half of this project - the grant proposal. 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. Try to select an article 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. As you analyze the paper, begin to think about experiments you could propose that are related to the work - although you won't need to write about new experiments just yet!

Paper topics must be approved by me in person by 4 p.m. 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 1999, 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.

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?

Although you will not be writing about the following in your analysis (i.e. this assignment), consider the following questions that you will address in your grant proposal:
What questions would you address next and how?
What answers would you expect and why?

What would these results mean?

How would these experiments contribute to the field of developmental biology (i.e. why should you be awarded money to carry out your proposal?)

Papers are due Monday, February 19 in class. Your paper must be no more than 4 - 6 pages of text (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 apply to late papers. Please include a copy of the primary research article that you discussed in your paper (I will return it).


You must analyze a primary source for this assignment. 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 paper 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.

Journals to browse for interesting research articles:

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

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

Current Biology
Current Opinion in Cell Biology
Current Opinion in Genetics and Development
Current Opinions in Neurobiology
Current Opinion in Plant Biology
Current Topics Dev Biol
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