| Peer Review Form | Responding to Peer Review Comments | Revision Response Form | "How to Write" Guide |
Science is most often done as a collaborative process. The design of an experiment, the interpretation of the results, and formal reporting of these results in a scientific paper often involve the contributions of many people. All you need do is take a look at any recent scientific journal and note the lack of single-author papers. Thus, since one of the goals of this Biology course is to help you learn scientific writing, we decided to introduce the concept of collaborative lab reports. The process you'll undertake is patterned after that used by scientists everywhere as they prepare papers for publication. In 2 of the labs in each core course, you'll follow a process as described below to write up your lab work as peer reviewed, research journal-style papers. We will ask EACH GROUP of students to hand in a single, anonymously peer reviewed lab report for each of the designated labs. Your group can be a source of support, encouragement, and could even form the basis of a study group to help achieve your goals in this course.
Preparation for each lab: hypotheses, background literature, experimental design
The first week of a multi-week lab will always be used to teach you techniques appropriate for answering a particular type of research question. For example, in the first such lab in Bio 242 you will pose a testable hypothesis regarding the effects of altered conditions on the hydrolytic activity of alpha-amylase. The first week of a lab should be spent learning and refining the techniques presented so that your group can design an experiment to test your hypothesis in a subsequent lab.
The group should undertake a literature search to find relevant information pertaining to your type of experiment. Very often your instructors will provide some advice on the types of information and resources to target. In brief, the background should summarize our current knowledge of the specific problem you are studying. The group should produce a carefully written, well-revised draft of your paper's TITLE (working draft) and INTRODUCTION and METHODS, and you then bring this document to lab when the self-designed experiment is performed. Either an instructor or a TWA will critique your draft during lab (or soon after) and return the paper to you with some verbal and written feedback. Your group will then revise the draft to improve it.
Experimental Design (Bio 242)
Your experimental design, a carefully thought out description of the actual experimental procedures, should then be developed and discussed with your lab instructors. A general guideline for designing an experiment is provided in the Resource Materials Guide and we encourage you to use it: Experimental Design Worksheet. We will critique your design to help you refine your experimental design such that it will test your hypothesis and can be done within our constraints of time, equipment, and budget. Each lab group will perform the experiment they designed and collect the data which is relevant to the question posed. These data should allow the group to propose an ANSWER or EXPLANATION for the hypothesis the experiment tested.
Data Analysis and Interpretation
Either during lab, if there is time, or immediately thereafter, your group must meet to analyze and graph the data, determine what the results are, and arrive at an interpretation of the results. Sometimes this can be done during lab. The sooner the group meets after performing the experiment, the more accurate your recollections are and the more clear will be your understanding of the data you collected. If you have difficulty understanding your results, meet with your instructor to discuss possible interpretations. Everyone in the group MUST have a full understanding of the results and interpretation of your experiment.
Writing the Draft in Collaboration: Google Docs
We now ask you to write the draft in Google Docs so all group members will work from the same draft all the time. The clear advantage of this approach is that you can see what everyone has written (or not!) and it allows simulataneous editing, so the doesn't necessarily have to be in the same location to work on the document together.
Initially, the entire group will work together to sketch out the content of the entire paper.This might include an outline, or could be simply a rough overview of the points to be covered in each section. The best practice is to have an complete outline of the paper at a level that all members of the group know what content will appear in each section at a global level of organization. As you work together you will discover the strategy that works best for your group. Instructions for writing a paper in scientific journal style and format will be given in workshops in Bio 242 and is documented in detail in the "How to Write" guide. Your strategy for writing the actual draft is up to you. Some groups work best by all writing it together in one place. Others may opt to divide up the parts and then bring them together. If you choose the latter strategy, it is critical that you critique each others sections. In the end, the style of the whole paper MUST be unified, i.e., it must sound as though one person wrote the whole draft.
Remember: this entire process is a COLLABORATIVE EFFORT. Utilize the talents of all group members to improve the quality of work. If group members possess expertise in various fields, e.g., computer graphics, statistics, writing, etc..., tap into these skills. Producing a well crafted scientific paper is hard work, but if all group members contribute to the effort from their areas of strength, the chances succeeding and enjoying the experience will be much improved.
NOTE: We strongly encourage all groups to meet with their lab instructor to check your data analysis and interpretation before you begin to write up the results. You will have extraordinary difficulty interpreting your results and crafting your paper if you do not fully understand these aspects.
Feedback on your papers will be provided formally by anonymous Peer Review. Each student in the course will be assigned a random peer review ID number to facilitate anonymity in the Peer Review process. On an assigned date in lecture, each group will bring three (or one per group member) photocopies of their paper for distribution to reviewers in other lab sections. Instead of your names, you should put your ID numbers under the title. Your instructors will distribute the papers such that each student receives one paper to critique anonymously. The obvious advantage of anonymous review is that you can be honest and complete in your critique without risk or worry about causing ill-feelings among your classmates.
To help structure this critiquing process, use the Peer Review Form, which you can download, and review the advice on making constructive criticism. The Peer Review form is simply a guide to reviewing the paper. To be effective, you must provide detailed and clear comments that give explicit guidance to the authors for improving the paper. ALL papers at this level need revision, so important to ENGAGE closely with the paper give good, meaningful feedback. Your comments will be in two forms:
As time permits we may have each group
briefly summarize their experimental design, results, and interpretation
of their experiment in lab the week that the lab is handed in.
These presentations should be brief (5 min). Your classmates
and instructors will have opportunity to ask questions. These
discussions are very useful to see the range of results and outcomes,
and to hear alternative interpretations of similar results.
A PORTFOLIO of your formal labs should be maintained, and should include reviewed rough drafts and Peer Review comments. These critiqued labs will be extremely useful in the writing process of the subsequent labs. Learn from past successes and mistakes. Each group member should study the labs in this portfolio before beginning the writing process again. This will help everyone understand the organization and presentation of a lab write-up. We also recommend that each group member photocopy the final graded lab report for their personal files. Papers such as these are frequently useful later as examples of your scientific writing abilities when applying for jobs (e.g., TWA) or graduate school.
DUE DATES: Due dates will be posted on course webpages for each core course. For final papers, your group will hand in a clean, complete copy of the final draft along with all rough drafts, with attached Peer Review forms.
Your lab instructors will endeavor (against all odds!) to return graded papers to you within a week (or two). To insure equity in grading between instructors, we have devised a point scale which assigns values to each section of the paper and to overall considerations such as format, clarity of writing, use of cited literature, etc. A copy of the grade form will be attached to your draft when it is returned so that you can quickly get a sense of your paper's areas of strength and those that need work.
Peer reviews are worth 30 points and are graded separately. Reviewerss will be evaluated on how well they have identified the major strengths and weaknesses of the paper, particularly the organization and flow of information, and on the constructiveness of their suggestions for improving the paper.
REGRADES: All papers receiving scores of 60-90 points may be revised for up to one half the credit lost. Papers below 60 points may receive up to a maximum score of 80. In order to get regrade credit, you must first meet with your instructor ASAP to go over their critique and receive specific instructions on how much and which parts to revise. You may be advised to seek assistance from Seri Lowell (call x6159 OR make an appointment) at the Writing at Bates Program. Writing skills and understanding of lab concepts are best developed through the process of peer review and revision. The revised lab's due date will be decided when you meet with your instructor, but is generally one week after the meeting. The revised lab must include a completed Revision Response Form on which you will summarize the changes made to the paper during revision.
Your instructors are the most available resources you have in this course and you should take advantage of slack times in lab to get assistance. We will also be available outside of lab time by appointment. Seek help early on so that you can master the basic process quickly.
Seri Lowell, the Scientific Writing Specialist at the Learning Commons, will be available to assist you with your writing projects by appointment (call x6159 or make an appointment). Please come prepared with specific questions or problems to be addressed.
TECHNICAL SUPPORT: Help Sessions
As mentioned previously, the instructors and regular TAs will hold several evening help sessions specifically designed to provide help with data analysis, computing, and other technical, non-writing aspects of lab. A schedule of these sessions will be posted to e-mail ASAP once the semester begins.