BIO 349 Developmental Biology (K. Kalthoff)


Minipapers review and evaluate data from scientific journals or books that pertain to a course topic. Each minipaper has to be at least one page of single-spaced print, and containing at least two references to scientific book chapters or to articles from reviewed journals.

Chose a topic that interests you because then writing a minipaper will be fun. A good way of getting into a topic is to start with a review article from a review journal, such as Scientific American, BioEssays, or one of the Current Topics in… or Current Opinion in… journals. Review articles, by their nature, will summarize and place into perspective a number of original research articles. You would draw on the review article in the introductory paragraph of your minipaper and base the body of your minipaper on the original research article. Do not try to review the review article itself, as it is already a condensed product.

To find appropriate journals or books, you may start from references given in the text or on the Answers, Comments, and Updates web page for the topic of your interest. These web pages list in particular recent review articles. Alternatively, you may start from a keyword combination using UTCAT or internet data bases such as Pubmed. The best place to browse hard-copy journals and books is the Life Science Library in the in the Main Building.

Textbook chapters, web pages, lecture notes, science fiction, and articles or books written for non-scientists do not count as references. Likewise, editorials and "News of the Week" kind of summaries do not count as references, even though they may help to find interesting topics. However, such non-reviewed publications may give references to the scientific literature, or you may use keywords from such publications for searching data bases. If you have any doubts about the quality of your sources ask the instructor.

The typical outline of a minipaper is

If you plan to write several minipapers, it is a good idea to write one paper early to solicit feedback from the instructor before you write more. From the maximum of two credit points per paper, points have generally been deducted in accord with the following guidelines.

Reason Max. Points Deducted Note
Spelling/grammar mistakes 0.5 a
Topic is not relevant to class 1  
No clear understanding of topic demonstrated 1 e
Fewer than two appropriate references 1 b
References incomplete 1 c
No contribution or trivial contribution from student 1 d
Writing unclear 1 e
Plagiarism/copying from sources 2+ f


a: Papers should be proofread and spell-checked.

b: Appropriate references are articles from peer-reviewed scientific journals and chapters from scientific books. To find appropriate articles, go to the Updates section on the web site for this course, or do a keyword search on UTCAT or Pubmed. Alternatively, go to the Life Science Library (2nd floor of Main Building) and browse the new journals in the reading room or the section of your general interest in the stacks.

c: In the text of your paper, quote references by author and year, e.g. “(Smith, 1993)”. At the end of your paper, list the full bibliographical data, in the format used in your textbook or other materials received from your instructor.

d: For your evaluation of the articles or chapters you read, sum up what you see as specific strengths or weaknesses. General phrases such as “This was a good paper because it told me a lot about <topic>“ do not count.

e: If the instructor or grader cannot tell what you are trying to say he will find it difficult to give you credit. Use simple, straightforward language, avoiding passive voice and jargon. The instructor or grader wants to be convinced that you understood your sources and could discuss them in person if asked to do so.

f: Do not pass off another person's writing as your own, and do not copy whole sections from your sources and merely string them together with a few words of your own. This would constitute plagiarism! The penalties for plagiarism range from zero extra credit to disciplinary action from the dean's office.

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Last modified: 15 August 2002