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Rubric and Paper Assignment Learning Objectives


Animal Behavior PAPER GUIDELINES                                                                                         

 Learning Objectives

  1. Students will be able to communicate the science behind a recent discovery to people outside the field without compromising in integrity of the material.
  2. Students will follow formatting guidelines as determined by a journal.


Biologist are often trained to communicate scientific ideas to other biologist, but are rarely trained to communicate those ideas to non-scientist. Science today is the dominant paradigm for how we know and shape the world. The outcomes of scientific research profoundly affect the lives of all of us. Unfortunately, science is also often perceived as inaccessible or incomprehensible. Therefore, it is incumbent upon those trained in science to act as representatives and communicators of the ideas that shape the political and moral discussions in local and global communities.


Paper Selection

Students should choose a behavioral science article from the primary literature that was published in the last 12 months. The article must be approved by your editor (i.e. me) by Jan 23. Once approved, submit two copies of the paper so that I can distribute them to your peer reviewers. Peer reviewers will read the primary article prior to reviewing your article.


Good journals to look for articles are in issues Animal Behavior, Journal of Experimental Biology, Current Biology, Science and Nature. Alternatively, students can search online databases for research on behavioral phenomena for which they have a specific interest


Paper Guidelines: Format

  1. Composed in Microsoft Word
  2. 2 columns, left side justified
  3. Indentation on the first line of every paragraph
  4. Single spaced
  5. 10 point font
  6. 1200 words
  7. 1-2 original figures that illustrate the research in your article. You should design the figures yourself, but you may enlist friends with graphic skills to fulfill your vision. Of course, they must be given appropriate credit for their work in the article.
  8. This article should NOT be a SUMMARY of the research in the article. This article should communicate why the research is exciting and provide some insight into the context in which the reported research sits.  Why should Jane and Joe Schmoe give a hoot?



The title must suggest the articles content and spark reader interest without being too cutesy. Of course, the line between cutesy and clever can be a judgment call, but that is why we have the peer review process.


Deadlines for drafts and peer review

Due to the scheduling of peer review process, deadlines for this project are DROP DEADlines. Exceptions will only be made in the case of a verifiable emergency.




Work Due




Bring paper to class for approval




Draft 1




Peer Review




Draft 2




Outside Peer review comments




Final Paper



Peer and Faculty Assessment guidelines

The goal of peer review is not to give warm-fuzzies to your peers. It is also not intended as a forum to work out all of your internalized aggression. Your goal should be to give a balanced critique of a peer’s paper. Since you will have read the research article on which your peer is reporting, you should be able to assess the paper using the following rubric. This is the same rubric that I will be using to do the final assessment of your paper.






Integrity of the science being reported:

The author accurately explained the research done. They have presented a balanced report of the significance of the paper.

The author gets much of the research correct but makes significant errors or presents an unbalanced picture of some aspects of the work.

The author sacrificed accuracy for a sensational take on the research or misread the research from the primary article have the blown it out of proportion


The writer uses additional sources to provide a solid context for the reported research and places the work in a broader, engaging context.


The article is simply a summary of the article. Descriptions of the context for the science and the broader implications of the work are patchy. Use of additional sources is limited.

The significance of the work is unclear. The author utilizes outside sources poorly (i.e. too many or too few).






The ideas flow naturally. The author’s organization facilitated understanding. Explanations expressed clearly.

Some parts are well organized but some parts remain disjointed and/or confusing making it difficult to entirely understand the science being reported.

The article is disjointed. Lack of organization has obfuscated the significance of the work.


The article employs scientific terminology sparingly and only when appropriate. The author works hard to use accessible language whenever possible.

Non-specialist will be able to get the gist of the article, but may miss the full significance of the work because of unnecessary jargon

The article is choked by  undefined jargon that makes the article inaccessible to non-specialists.

Figures: information delivery

Figures facilitate understanding because they are relevant and information rich.



Figures fall short of a thorough description, lacking some elements of labeling or accuracy.

Figures fail to facilitate understanding or create the wrong impression.



Figures: design

Figures look professional and well thought out.

Elements of the figure are well conceived, but the figure as a whole lacks some cogherence.

Figures are sloppy, poorly constructed and/or indicate very little thought.


The writing style is unique, engaging and unobtrusive.

The style is either uneven, ranging between being effective, distracting and/or dull

The writing style is self-conscious, dull and/or distracting.


No more than two spelling and grammatical errors that may include misspelling, punctuation run-on sentences, fragments and vague pronoun references, etc.

Three to four spelling and grammatical errors that may include misspelling, punctuation run-on sentences, fragments and vague pronoun references, etc.

More than four spelling and grammatical errors that may include misspelling, punctuation run-on sentences, fragments and vague pronoun references, etc.

Overall assessment of communicating science to non-scientists

Your Grandma is SO proud of you she declares that you have always been her favorite.

Your Grandma smiles and nods, occasionally saying things like “Oh, my stars and garters! Isn’t that just amazing?”

Grandma stares at you quizzically, pats you on the head and offers you a cookie.










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