Request for references

FAC_SOWELL at WESTERN.EDU FAC_SOWELL at WESTERN.EDU
Fri Sep 22 14:23:30 EST 1995


Mike:
You might check regional natural history journals.  I have had good luck 
finding papers reporting studies that have simple experimental designs 
and analyses and are of local or regional interest in journals such as 
Southwestern Naturalist and Great Basin Naturalist.  I would imagine 
that similar journals exist for Ontario and surrounding region.  These 
journals would be of little use if you seek papers on molecular/cell
biology.

BTY, you mentioned you wanted to also have your students locate 
articles.  Up until two years ago we had our freshman students visit the 
library and receive bibliographic training including search strategies 
and periodical databases.  I'm uncertain why we did this for so many 
years.  The students saw little immediate use of the technology and were 
uninterested.  The librarians and biology faculty got together and 
strongly agreed that paper structure and scientific writing style, like
what you're covering, may be best introduced in the introductory course,
but searching the primary literature is best taught when it is needed
and after they have a background in biology.  Searches do take some
backgound, for example alternative search terms for white spruce such
as gymnosperm, conifer, Pinaceae, or Picea glauca are not going to be
in the minds of the typical first-term freshman.  We now wait and
include BI (bibliographic instruction) in upper-division courses,
tailoring the library training to the specific discipline and the course
requirements (such as references needed for a specific report).  Our new
approach is much better.  The librarians in particular see a marked
improvement in the student's desire and ability to learn. 

On a similar note, I routinely assign students to go to the library, 
browse the periodicals, pick a paper of interest, and write a one or two 
page summary.  I give them a list of pertinent journals, and the article 
they choose must report work appropriate for the course (e.g. plant 
ecology or plant physiology).  This works well.  They choose a paper 
they can understand but during their searching they see a lot of papers 
and get a good idea of current reseach.  The paper must have been 
published in the last year.  Also, the two-page summary must be written 
in lay person's terms.  I tell them to assume they are writing for the NY 
Times or to their grandmother so make it interesting and relevant.  This 
approach prevents them from simply paraphrasing the abstract.  Guided 
questions might do the same thing.

I'm always looking for new ideas and would appreciate hearing what has 
worked for others.

John Sowell      jsowell at western.edu
Biology Department
Western State College
Gunnison, CO  81231




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