Meeting Abstract

P3.99  Jan. 6  Teaching students to recognize interpretation and criticism in research articles GILLEN, C.M.; Kenyon College, Gambier, OH

Beginning readers of research articles are challenged in two different ways. Primarily, they struggle with the challenging subject material, but they also find the rhetorical complexity of papers to be a hurdle. Research articles contain straightforward reporting of experimental methods and results (the experimental narrative), but the also contain interpretations and criticisms. Practicing scientists automatically recognize these different levels of analysis, but students may not. In an upper-level Comparative Animal Physiology class, I assign students to write a critical analysis of a primary research article. One difficulty that some students have with this assignment is moving beyond a summary of the article towards an authentic critical analysis. These students often benefit when I make clear the differences between experimental narrative, interpretation, and criticism. I have used a “paper pairs” assignment to help students see these differences. By reading and writing about two related papers, students are encouraged to move beyond the material in a single paper and consider how it relates to a broader literature. Another assignment with the same purpose is the summary/commentary assignment, in which students read both summaries and commentaries of articles, looking for summary, interpretation, and criticism. They then write papers in each manner. I have found that students write stronger critical analyses when I have explicitly taught the distinctions between summarizing an experimental narrative, interpretation of results, and criticism.