Library Paper Bio14

How to write a library research paper

Goal of assignment:

Learning how to summarize information clearly and succinctly is one of the most important skills you can learn in college. Your primary goal in this assignment is to summarize, in your own words, what is known about a topic, including the current state of knowledge. Your paper should summarize recent work and provide a historical perspective (remember science does not occur in a vacuum but builds on earlier results and observations). Follow the guidelines below and consult chapter 8 in A Short Guide to Writing About Biology, 7th edition for further details.

The paper should include:

  1. A synthesis of information on your topic. (Your discussion must integrate the various sources that you found; it should not be a series of summaries of individual articles without a discussion of the relationships among them.)

  2. An organization that develops the topic clearly. Usually this involves:
    1. A Title. You must convey significant information
    2. An overview (1-3 paragraphs in length). This is your opportunity to develop the idea(s). Use reference materials and secondary literature to establish context and to introduce existing hypotheses. By the end of this section your reader should know where you are heading (what are your goals).
    3. A presentation of recently published results. Use new data from primary literature (data papers). Give summaries of the observations or experimental results that support specific ideas/hypotheses/conclusions in your overview. In other words, you must support your assertions with concrete examples. (Don't ignore studies that run counter to your expectations.)
    4. A summary paragraph. Here you will summarize the current state of knowledge and suggest avenues for further research.
    5. A literature cited section. You must include all the references you cited in your paper. (Do not include those that you read but did not cite.)

Mechanics of writing the paper (expectations):
(see "Keys to Success" in chapter 1 of Pechenik for list of rules to follow)

  1. Don't quote but clearly attribute each concept, idea, definition etc. to the literature source from which you got it. Do this using in-text citation of the sort you see in the laboratory manual. (Rules 2 & 3)

  2. Each reference you cite in your paper should have its full citation in your literature cited section. Only references used in your paper should be in your literature cited section.

  3. All references in the literature cited section should be in the correct citation format. Also see the example citations at the Bio14 web site (

  4. You should use at least six sources: two sources from the primary literature(original data papers), two sources from the secondary literature (books and reviews) and two web resources. Each source should relate directly to the topic you have selected. The literature cited section should be in alphabetical order by the first author's last name; do not separately list the primary, secondary and web resources.

  5. Write clear, concise statements about the topic. You will need to understand the topic and the literature very well before you will be able to summarize it effectively. (Rules 4-6)

  6. Provide clear summaries followed by specific examples (Rule 8) . You might write: "The mating success of insects is extremely temperature dependent. For example, Bernheim and Furhman (1988) found that ..."

  7. Always distinguish your ideas from those presented in the papers (Rule 9).

  8. Plan to finish a first draft at least several days before the final paper is due (Rule 10).

  9. Revise a day or two later according to Rules 11-16, so that you present your thoughts logically, succinctly and clearly.

  10. Don't forget to italicize or underline all scientific names and proofread before handing in your paper (Rules 17-25).

    Before you hand in the paper, make sure you have: (1) checked off the list at the end of chapter 8, and (2) answered yes to the questions inside the back cover of Pechenik. Your paper will be evaluated on the above criteria (identified in bold face above).