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Rubric and Paper Assignment Learning Objectives

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Animal Behavior (BI 450) 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


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. To that end, there are two primary goals of this assignment:


Paper Selection

Students should choose a behavior article form the primary literature that has appeared in press in the last year. 


You must select an appropriate article (approved by the instructor) by Jan 23. Submit three copies of the paper so that your reviewers can read it and become “experts” when it comes time for peer review.


The best places to look are issues of the journals Science and Nature. Students should also consider subscribing to the email service Biological Psychology/Behavioral Neuroscience news [BP/BNnews] articles. To receive Biological Psychology/Behavioral Neuroscience news [BP/BNnews] articles, email the command: subscribe biopsychology in the text (not the subject line) to:


Also check and These article ARE NOT APPROPRIATE, but they usually direct you to the article in which the research originally appeared.



Paper Guidelines


  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.


Author comments

It is always nice to include a sentence or two from one of the authors in a popular article like this. You should contact at least one author of the article VIA EMAIL. Explain the nature of your article and ask them if they are willing to answer a few questions. If they are, email them 2-3 questions their research raised in your mind. Keep the questions direct and clear. Do not ask broad questions that require an extensive answer. Find out what they consider to be the major significance of their work. When they send you their replies be sure the THANK THEM and send them the article when you are finished.


Given how busy we all are, be sure to send this request far enough in advance of the deadline that the author has time to respond (three weeks is a nice chunk of time). The possibility always exists that the author will be too busy, out of town or uninterested in helping you. To cover yourself in case of this, be sure to CC me on ALL emails so that I know you made an honest effort and didn’t just wait until the last moment.


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 review 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 following:






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 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 provides a good context for the reported research and places the work in a broader, engaging context?


The article is a summary that provides patchy context for the science reported and the broader implications of the work.

The significance of the work is unclear. The author utilize too many or too few outside sources to texture the article






The ideas flow naturally. The author’s organization facilitated understanding. Are explanations expressed clearly?


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


The article employs the appropriate terminology when necessary but works hard to use accessible language when appropriate.


The article has significant undefined jargon that makes the article inaccessible to non-specialists.


Figures facilitate understanding because they are relevant and information rich. Do they facilitate understanding or obfuscate it?


Figures look professional and well thought out.


Figures are not labeled, poorly constructed and/or not important to the article. Figures do not facilitate understanding.


Figures are sloppy and/or indicate very little thought.


The style is unique and unobtrusive. Is the style obtrusive? Note those elements of style that work and those that do not. How well did they navigate the line between clever and cutesy?


The style is


 Note spelling and grammatical errors that the author should correct. This should include run-on sentences, fragments and vague pronoun references, etc.