Scientific Article Discussions
It is important for scientists to be able to read, analyze, and synthesize scientific journal articles in order to answer questions and determine the current state of knowledge on a topic. We will have seven paper discussions over the course of the semester, six led by pairs of students. Each student is required to co-lead one discussion.
The discussion leaders are required to:
1. Examine the list of questions provided below for their assigned article discussion (#2-7) and choose a question (or come up with your own) that you would like to address with the literature discussion.
2. Find one scientific article that you think addresses that topic. (You will probably need to search through several papers to find one that actually address the question or are interesting to you).
3. Meet with me at least two weeks before the discussion day to look over your topic and journal article. Be sure you read the article before you meet with me! You need to send me the articles you propose to use at least two days in advance of our meeting.
4. On the day of discussion, give a 5-10 minute mini-lesson reiterating what the foundational question was addressed by the paper and then providing background context for the paper and summarizing the key question(s), methods, results, and conclusions. This should incorporate a PowerPoint presentation with the most pertinent (not necessarily all) information and figures…just hit the most relevant items. Try not to provide critique or opinions about the paper during the summary.
5. Facilitate discussion about the paper. Here are some tips (in no particular order) of things you might want to include in your discussion:
a. Try not to let your opinion of the paper dominate the discussion. Encourage everyone to contribute his or her thoughts.
b. Solicit people’s opinions of what they found to be the strongest or weakest parts of the paper. You can ask for everyone to respond, or specific individuals (but spread the love a little).
c. Ask for people to share what confusions they had, or what they thought was unclear.
d. Discuss whether the authors achieved what they set out to do and whether their conclusions were meaningful, reasonably “within the bounds of their data”, and/or important or generalizable to other topics.
e. You can ask people what they would have done differently for this study, or helpful follow-up studies that could be pursued.
f. Ask the group what research questions arose in their minds while reading the article(s).
g. Try to conclude with a brief summary of what ideas/conclusions were produced/shared during the article discussion you just led.
The rest of the class is required to:
1. Read the paper.
2. Write a summary of the key points of each paper and how they relate to larger question being addressed or the course content. This summary must include at least one idea or question for discussion (see the list of discussion tips above and consider making notes about those while reading). The summary should be short (approximately ½-page single-spaced), typed, and brought to the discussion.
3. Participate in the discussion during class. Active participation is essential for discussion and relies on having read the papers. (Your written summary and active participation in discussions accounts for 7.5% of your course grade.)
Article Discussion Possible Questions: Other questions are possible, so if you have a question that is somewhat related to what we have discussed in class, then suggest that.
Article Discussion #1: (Instructor-led)
How should scientists approach the study of the natural world?
Article Discussion #2:
What environmental traits determine the geographic range of a species?
How to species respond to climate change?
Are native or invasive species better able to adapt to environmental change?
How do animals (or plants) live in the desert with such little water?
Why can some fish live in freshwater, some in salt water, and some can live in either?
How do plants maintain homeostasis of energy production under various environmental conditions?
How do organisms optimize their time when obtaining energy?
Article Discussion #3:
What are the costs and benefits of direct versus indirect development?
What environmental conditions cause variation in modes of reproduction? (between species or within one species)
Why do some organisms produce few offspring while other produce many?
What factors determine when an organism begins to reproduce?
What is better for a larvae to do, develop fast an metamorphose when small or develop more slowly and metamorphose when large?
How do different dispersal methods affect population connectivity?
What factors influence the magnitude of population dispersal?
Are (or when are) some methods of measuring abundance better/worse than others?
How does [insert some aspect of population demographics] influence change in population growth?
What ecological circumstances lead to different types of survival curves (or reproductive timing) in a species (or different species)?
What exerts more influence on populations of [insert species], density-dependent or density independent processes?
How to population outbreaks affect an ecosystem (or community)?
Can population cycles be predicted? How? (Or what factors determine population cycles?)
How impact does the allee have on a population?
More to come for the later discussions…
BIO317 Spring 2018