BIOL 3325K “Research Focus Box” Writing Assignment Spring 2021 Thanks to my old grad school friend, Dr. Bob Podolsky, from whom this assignment is adopted. Assignment: You are a free-lance science writer who decides to submit to Jan Pechenik a Research Focus Box (RFB) for publication in his textbook. From reading the RFBs in the book, you ascertain that your job is to write an engaging summary and critical commentary of a research article on an organism covered in this course. To get your work accepted for publication, you must focus on the process of science: what gap in understanding led to the question, why the methods and experimental design were useful for addressing the question, how the results were used to draw conclusions, and what new questions were uncovered for the next study. The competition for publication is fierce, and the next step in your career depends on it. This is not the typical research paper- you will not be summarizing information about a topic that is derived from many sources. Instead, you will be explaining how something is known: the scientific process as revealed that led to conclusions in a piece of research that is interesting to you. Step 1: Choose your topic – yikes! Where do you begin? Here are some good approaches: Start with a topic you found interesting in this or some other biology class. You can use “Google Scholar” to search, but there are lots of good biology – specific databases accessible through the university library’s website. Ask a librarian if you need help conducting your search. Look at a site like Science Daily (https://www.sciencedaily.com/), Sci News (http://www.sci-news.com/news/biology), etc. These sites will give you a summary of a topic, and then should have the original citation from the scientific literature at the end of the article. Talk with me Common mistakes to avoid: The article is a review rather than a research article. A research article will include methods and results (data), showing how questions were answered, rather than simply reviewing what is known from other research articles. This is called primary scientific literature. Your article must be from a scientific journal that publishes primary literature, not a science magazine. It does not focus on the biology of an invertebrate. The main focus should not be the biology of the animal’s symbionts, or the community it lives in, or the number of specimens found in different areas, or the effect it has on humans, or its population structure, unless those topics reveal something interesting about the biology of the animal itself. Pechenik’s RFBs tend to be about form, function, behavior, and ecological interactions. It does not address an interesting question. You will have a harder time writing about an article that is highly descriptive but lacks a question that you find interesting and that you can compel your reader to want to know the answer to. It was published too long ago for this assignment. The article must be within the last three calendar years. It covers material that is beyond your technical background. Remember, you must be able to explain it in your own words. Step 2: Screen your topic with me – Submit, via the assignment box in D2L, the following for approval. This is due by 11:59 p.m. on February 13th. Worth 10 points. The full citation for the paper using either CSE or APA style. Here’s a website with good explanations and examples of each style: https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Documentation.html. One or two sentences describing the research question of the paper. An electronic copy of the paper, or a link to it if a copy is not possible. A brief (1 – 2 sentences) description of how you found the paper. Step 3: Write! Oh boy. The first draft is due in the assignment box of D2L at 11:59pm on March 20th and the final draft is due in the assignment box of D2L at 11:59pm on April 24th. Your final product (either first or final draft) should have no fewer than 2.5 and no more than 3 pages of text (line spacing = 1.5, with 1-inch margins, in 11 point font).
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