Assignment 1: Reading and Understanding Scientific Papers Objectives 1. Be able to understand and interpret the research presented in the primary literature published
in a scientific journal. 2. Understand the major sections found in most scientific papers and the type of information
found in each. 3. After reading the article and discussing it you should be able to describe the following:
a. What the hypotheses were. b. How the study was conducted, i.e., major elements of the experimental design c. What the major results were. d. How the results were interpreted with respect the original hypotheses, potential sources
of error, and possible directions for future study.
Different types of scholarly literature in science. Scholarly literature is often classified according to the type of information it presents.
Primary literature is the initial presentation of information, such as the results of original research. For instance, a scientist writes an article about the findings and conclusions derived from a set of experiments performed. Primary research papers will contain methods & have original experiments.
Secondary literature summarizes primary literature. For example, a scientist might write an account of the scientific work done up to that moment by other investigators on a specific area of research. These are often called “review articles” and they are useful to scientists for determining what has already been done in a particular field of study.
Tertiary literature is based on both primary and secondary literature. An example of this is an encyclopedia.
Use bibliographies to expand your information base. A bibliography is a list of sources cited — sources that were consulted for the preparation of a work or suggested for further reading. Bibliographies are generally found at the end of the work and may be called “Bibliography” or “References” or “Sources consulted” or “Further reading” or “Literature cited.” The bibliography of any article or book you consult can serve to expand the information on a topic. Activity two will focus on this research technique.
Sections of Scientific Paper Abstract The abstract is a summary of the paper. Usually this is a paragraph with the objectives or hypotheses stated, a brief statement of the methods, the general trends in the results, and a statement of the significance of the work. Generally, this section is written last and its purpose is to convince people to read the paper. It is like an advertisement for the scientific research. Introduction The introduction provides background information that builds a framework for the research. It helps the reader understand the logic the researchers used to formulate their questions/objectives. A hypothesis is based on these questions and is generally stated toward the end of this section. A hypothesis is a statement that suggests a predicted outcome and is what will ultimately be predicted in the study. The Introduction is typically written in the present tense. Materials and Methods (Methods) The materials and methods section presents information so the experiment or study can be repeated by other researchers. It also provides information on types of statistics used. This section is generally written in the past tense because the research has already been conducted. Results The results of the experiment are stated in WRITTEN FORM. Visual representation of summarized data in the form of tables and graphs are also included in this section. The results of statistical analysis are also presented in the past tense. Don’t ignore the graphs and figures…if it was important enough to take up space in the article then it must be an important result! Discussion (Conclusion) The discussion presents an interpretation of results and significance of research. Was the hypothesis supported? How do the results contribute to the field of study? The discussion may also suggest flaws or holes in study/experiment as well as future directions in research. References List of references cited in the paper. Here is the reference for the article we will be reading. Kvarnemo, C., Moore, G. I., Jones, A. G., Nelson, W. S., & Avise, J. C. (2000). Monogamous pair bonds and mate switching in the Western Australian seahorse Hippocampus subelongatus. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 13(6), 882-888. *note the authors are in order of contribution to the work, NOT in alphabetical order.
Name ____________________________________________________________________ Activity 1: Outline the key ideas in the article: General Information/ Introduction: Write out the specific research question(s) and/or hypothesis presented in the paper. If the hypothesis is not explicitly stated in the article, then there is likely an objective(s) listed as the researcher has no idea of the outcome of the investigation. Not all studies begin with a hypothesis, many have objectives and then hypotheses are formed from those data and testing continues. Yay science!
Methods: Describe the approached used: did the research use experimental or observational
methods, or both? • What species was/were studied? (common name(s) and Latin binomial(s)) • Where was the research conducted? • Describe how the data were collected. Draw pictures of the methods – this will help you to visualize the work. • What kind of statistical methods did the researchers use?
Results: • Describe the major findings/results of the paper. • Describe any figures or graphs. Remember don’t ignore the figures and graphs…if the authors used valuable journal space (it’s limited) & made a graph about it, it must be important!
Discussion/Conclusion • What did the researchers conclude and did their research support or refute the hypothesis tested? • What is the most important result/finding of the paper? Note that this is different from the main conclusions. This should be a broader statement. • How does this research fit into the “big picture” of the organisms’ system? i.e. why should we care? • Are any alternative hypotheses discussed in this section? If so, what are they? Are they evaluated?
Activity 2: 1. Go to the end of the article you just read and find the references section. 2. Based on an article title & the journal it is in, pick one that interests you. 3. Write the reference down in the space below.
4. Find this article online or in the library & read the Abstract. 5. Does it still interest you?
6. Will you read the whole article?
7. How does the new article relate back to the original one you found the reference in?