etc.: Fall 2018
You'll write four review essays, each digesting and critically assessing a selected paper from the primary literature. Submit essays as word-processor files via POPULI. They're due on the calendar date indicated (i.e., by midnight -- although I won't worry if they're there by the time I check in the morning).
The first essay is due 27 September
dates for the
other three are:
YOU MAY CHOOSE to combine the last two of these to write a longer 'topical', synthesis and comparative review of several (three or more) related papers; if you wish to do this, you must talk to me by beginning of November about topic. This paper would be due 10 December.
Papers should be in the 5-page range generally, although that is a guideline, rather than a rule; if you choose the larger 'synthetic' paper option instead of the last two review essays that should be proportionally longer.
Here are some guidelines and hints:
1. Pick a paper from the primary literature. “Primary” means journals (usually peer-reviewed) in which scientists present new research for a scientific audience. "Secondary” literature generally summarizes and relies upon research that has already been published. There are very good secondary journals targeting a relatively broad but scientifically sophisticated audience (American Scientist, Scientific American are examples); papers from these are generally not what I'm looking for. Some primary journals publish synthesis/review/news articles that don't report new research findings; also not what I'm looking for. However, you can use such articles to guide you to interesting primary papers. If you have something you're interested in, but aren't sure it's appropriate, check with me...
To choose a paper, you might:
browse through some of the journals that publish papers with emphasis on biogeographical or macroevolutionary questions; many biological journals would include such papers, and many are available online through the library’s data-bases, directly through college subscription, or simply freely accessible online. Some of the journals most likely to include appropriate material are: Ecology, Journal of Biogeography, Global Ecology and Biogeography, Evolution, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Public Library of Science (PLOS), American Naturalist, Oikos, etc. Nature and Science also publish appropriate material, but can be challenging to read if you're not familiar with their very compact format). You can generally go to a journal's home-page and browse tables of contents with abstracts.
OR, you might search data-bases for particular topics of interest. Use scholar.bennington.edu both to find papers (enter key-words in search field), OR to find papers by particular authors or that have cited papers you've already found interesting. Scholar.google can also often find pdf versions of papers even if the library lacks access (or go to personal websites of authors). Crossett website also has some useful data-bases for this sort of searching. We'll talk a bit about search strategies. If you find something interesting, but can't find full-text or pdf, check the author's home-page, OR see if they are on 'researchgate.org' and have posted the paper there.
WHICHEVER approach you take, before you commit to a paper make sure you do a 'scan' of the full thing to make sure it's something you'll be able to follow in at least the main arguments. You don't want to choose a paper and then wait until the last minute only to find that you can't really make sense of it! If you have trouble finding something appropriate, or are unsure what might be appropriate, check with me. Many (or most) articles will involve, at the core of their argument, techniques (mathematical or otherwise) beyond your expertise; you don’t necessarily have to understand everything before you can read and review a paper intelligently (if you did, there’d be very few possibilities), but it is important that you can follow the bulk of the arguments and approaches. You may have to do some background reading. You'll certainly need to read papers several times...
2. WRITE a critical review/analysis of the paper/study. In your essay your thoughts and analysis should have at least as much emphasis and weight as summar of the researchers' work. Yes, you should offer an efficient digest of the paper, but that should be no more than than half of your essay “Digest” is the important word; summarize the primary questions, arguments, and approaches, so that your reader understands the nature of the research, but keep your focus on the essential argument of the research. No need to review all the methodological details, specific results, and such unless you want to comment on them. Part of intelligent reviewing is determining what’s essential, what’s not! THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of a review, however, is your commentary; Why is the research interesting? How effective was the presentation (what might have made it better, clearer)? Consider the graphics and tabular presentations as well as the prose; were they well done and useful? Does the research suggest further questions and research possibilities to you (of course it does; and this question should ALWAYS be considered in a review)? Are there logical inconsistencies or problems or implications that you find particularly interesting or problematic? And so on.
Do not panic if you are struggling with some of the details. You should choose a paper where you can follow the general logic and approach -- but it's to be expected that you'll find places where you're out of your depth...
Your paper should be on the order of 5 pages. MAKE SURE you give, somewhere, a full citation to the paper being reviewed. If you refer to particulars from other published sources, you must cite them as well. Use any standardly used form of citation; your reader should have no difficulty tracking it down... (Always helpful to give the 'DOI' or Digital Object Identifier -- but we still like to see the full citation in this context...)
KW - Aug 2018