Devising an Online Resource to Help Undergraduate Science Students Critically Evaluate Research Articles
Keywords: Academic reading, critical evaluation, research articles, science undergraduates, online resource
AbstractCritically evaluating research papers is an important vehicle for promoting acculturation into a scientific discipline. As science students progress through their undergraduate studies, their critical abilities are expected to become heightened, and research papers are read and cited in order to support a variety of assignments, such as essays, critical reviews and presentations, progressing to shaping laboratory research projects and dissertation-writing. This article describes the process of designing a modular online resource. The resource is aimed at familiarising students with the structural conventions and argumentative devices used in research papers and supporting them in deep-reading a research paper in life sciences or chemistry. The modules employ audio- and video-recorded extracts from interviews with a key author to provide a context for the origins, motivations and processes behind the writing of a specific paper, plus scaffolded questions to encourage critical evaluation of the paper. Notable features of the project were the employment of a multi-disciplinary team of staff and research postgraduates coupled with the developmental testing of the resource by undergraduates. Lessons learnt from the project are considered, including the resource’s integration within the curriculum and the challenges of writing such interactive resources for different disciplines.
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