NEUR 335 News and Views Report Guidelines
Prestigious scientific journals often publish News and Views reports about particularly interesting or impactful research. The goal of these reports is to communicate the importance of the research in a manner that is accessible to the wider scientific community, from undergraduates to senior researchers. These reports are relatively short (800-1000) words.
As a result of completing this assignment, you will be able to:
1. Critically evaluate and explain the contributions of an original research report pertaining to developmental and/or systems neuroscience.
2. Hone your scientific reading and writing skills.
Choosing an Article
Your chosen journal article must be an original research report published one of the following scientific journals with the past two years:
· Nature Neuroscience
· Journal of Neuroscience
· Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
These journals have been chosen because they have very high standards for publication. The research published in these journals is generally high-impact work that significantly contributes to or even changes our understanding of the field. The article you choose must have a clear link to developmental and/or systems neuroscience. If you can’t explain the connection between your article and one or both of these topics, you need to choose a different article. It is important that you select a paper (1) that interests you; (2) that you can understand well enough to get its basic approach and results and (3) that the primary finding of the paper (the news) is sufficiently significant to be of interest to a general audience. Long papers with multiple technical findings are not good choices. This document contains some great tips for reading scientific journal articles: http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~cainproj/courses/HowToReadSciArticle.pdf
An original research report will generally include the following sections, whether specifically labeled or not: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion/Conclusions. You may not use a literature review for this assignment. The key difference between an original research report and a literature review is that a research report will contain new results that have never been published before. Lit reviews discuss multiple studies that have previously been published elsewhere and are often labeled as “review” at the beginning of the article. Please make sure you choose an original research report or your grade will suffer greatly.
Your paper should be between 800 and 1000 words. Please use the Columns function in Microsoft Word (under the Layout tab) to create an article-style appearance. You do not need a title page or running head. Including a figure or image from the original paper is encouraged but not required. Examples of actual published News and Views reports as well as exemplary reports from former students are provided on Blackboard.
The paper should include the following:
· A title that catches the reader’s interest and hints at the general content of the paper (NOT the same as the journal article title)
· Full citation info (article title, authors [first author followed by “et al” is fine if more than 3 authors], journal title/volume/issue, publication year) somewhere at the beginning of the article. This info should be woven into a sentence, not listed as a formatted reference.
· 1-3 sentences that preview the “big picture” problem or knowledge gap addressed by the research in your article. These sentences should attempt to draw the reader in further by hinting at what they’ll learn if they stick it out and read the rest of the paper.
· A brief description of what was already known prior to this article being published (hint: this info is usually found in the Introduction section of the paper). You should not cite any papers here; rather, you should simply mention that the findings you are describing come from previous studies discussed by the authors of your paper. This shouldn’t just be a list of facts. Select the information that is most pertinent to the message you want to send in terms of the importance/impact of the research.
· The specific research questions that are being asked/hypotheses being tested by the research in the article. If your article reports the results of many experiments, each with their own hypothesis, describe one or two overarching hypotheses/research questions being addressed by the study.
· An overview of the methods used to test the hypotheses, the results, and major conclusions. Focus on summarizing rather than critically evaluating the work. Avoid filling the space with irrelevant details (e.g. the brand of pipette used). Focus on things that are essential for understanding the research. If you encounter complicated methods and statistics, do your best to understand them, acknowledge your limitations and trust that they were done correctly and vetted during the peer review process. You are expected to look up unfamiliar terms/methods on Wikipedia, PubMed, or neuroscience websites so that you can use them in the proper context.
· A discussion of the “big picture” or societal implications of the research. How do these findings advance our knowledge, solve a problem, change the way we think about a topic and/or how we approach the problem? What should future studies on this topic aim to address now that this work has been done?
It might be helpful to consider your classmates to be your audience — people who have a background in neuroscience but are not knowledgeable about the specific topic in your chosen journal article. After you have completed a polished draft, ask a classmate, roommate, or friend/relative to read it and tell you if it effectively told them something interesting and/or important. They may not understand everything, but they should be able to summarize the main points. If it isn’t what you intended, edit your draft accordingly.
Your ability to write a good paper will depend on your writing skills. This is not a writing class and I cannot teach writing here. Thus, your writing skills will not be scored separately. However, if you cannot communicate your ideas effectively because of weak writing skills, your scores in every section will suffer. Once you have a final draft, read it aloud to catch any grammatical mistakes, sentence fragments, and run-on sentences. You are welcome to schedule a meeting with me to talk about your paper, but keep in mind that my ability to work intensively with you is limited. If you are having a lot of trouble understanding your article, it’s a sign that you should choose a different one. I will not review drafts via email. If you want me to look over a draft in person I can tell you whether you are on the right track, but my editorial advice will be very superficial. Students are expected to utilize the Writing Center (https://writingcenter.gmu.edu/) as needed.
Your report will be checked for plagiarism using the SafeAssign tool in Blackboard. You are expected to submit your report ahead of the deadline so you can check your own SafeAssign report and resubmit a revised version of the report if needed. The revised submission must be uploaded by the deadline in order to avoid a late penalty. An automatic late penalty will be applied if the instructor or TA contacts the student about a problematic SafeAssign report.
|Category||Excellent (4)||Adequate (3)||Inadequate (2)||Unsatisfactory (1 or 0)||Score|
|Introductory Info (title, article info, objective of the research)||A catchy title and the full citation info for the article are provided. The objective(s) of the research is/are described concisely and completely.||A title and full citation info for the article are provided. The overall objective(s) of the research is/are described in reasonable detail.||There is some attempt to include the requested information but one or more elements may be missing or not described clearly.||Information is missing or mostly missing or is very confusing/unclear.|
|Prior Knowledge/Research and Specific Hypotheses||The background information appropriately summarizes what is known about the problem. All hypotheses are clearly described. The writing is concise and complete.||The background information appropriately summarizes what is known about the problem. All hypotheses are described.||There is some attempt to summarize what is known about the problem and describe at least one hypothesis. One or more elements may be missing or not described clearly.||Information is missing or mostly missing or is very confusing/unclear.|
|Overview of Methods, Results, Conclusions||The methods, results, and conclusions of the research presented within the article are clearly summarized. The summary is informative yet concise, omitting irrelevant details.||The methods, results, and conclusions of the research presented within the article are summarized. .||There is some attempt to summarize the methods, results, and conclusions of the research presented within the article. One or more elements may be missing or not described clearly.||Information is missing or mostly missing or is very confusing/unclear.|
|Implications and Significance||The big picture/societal implications of the research findings are clearly defined. Multiple ideas for future research directions are suggested.||The big picture/societal implications of the findings are defined. One direction for future research is suggested.||There is some attempt to discuss big picture/societal implications. One or more elements may be missing or not described clearly.|