Friday, February 13, 2004

Scientific writing lab

I apologize for not posting last night; Thursday's my busiest day with two 3+ hour labs and a 1.5 hour lecture that wipe me out. The labs this week were a new lab introducing scientific writing, and after four labs I've found a few interesting things:
  • The students seem to like learning how journal articles are published. I don't know why I haven't discussed this with students before, but in each of my 4 lab sections I got a number of thoughtful questions about the process, and a lot of comments demonstrating a newfound respect for journal articles. The students were especially engaged as I described my own publishing experiences.

  • The recent follicular development paper I've discussed (here, here, and here) that was misreported in many media outlets makes a good, understandable example of the possible problems of using just popular media to gain scientific information. I had half the class read only the "bad" newspaper articles, and half read only the journal article. After the reading we discussed the differences between the two sources' conclusions as a group. With only a bit of background about ovulation and follicular development the students were able to pick up on the difference with minimal guidance from me. During our discussion a number of students were asking, "What kind of punishments are there for this misreporting?" Heh. If you're interested, see my third post on the paper for a list of resources.

  • Letting students explore journal articles seems to be a good way to help them learn how the articles are written. I scattered a number of papers around the room and had the students figure out what was in each section; most students did a good job.

1 comment:

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

HAH! If I'd had half an hour more before lab this week I was going to print out the manuscript/review history for one of my papers and have that available to my students. I was debating how useful it'd be ... but now I'll definitely do it next semester. Thanks!

I also like the idea of using an official 'instructions to authors' as the guidelines for writing up articles. Is the Journal of Neuroscience's especially good?
February 14, 2004, 5:30:56 PM PST – Like – Reply

PZ Myers
I've done similar things in my classes, and yes, students seem surprised and interested.

I've also got 1) my first submitted draft of a paper and its cover letter, 2) all of the reviewers comments, 3) my final, accepted version with the cover letter explaining how I addressed the criticisms. Students get to look those over and see a bit of the history of a paper, and since one reviewer blasted me far more heartlessly than I would ever do to a student, it's also a good lesson in how to constructively handle criticism.

One other thing I've done is to download the 'instructions to authors' page from the Journal of Neuroscience, edited it a little bit, and handed that out as my instructions for the proper format for lab reports. I also tell them that yes, I'm going to be that picky.
February 14, 2004, 6:01:40 AM PST