UNIT 1: The Natural Sciences ASSIGNMENT SEQUENCE | Engl 105.047 fall 2020


For this unit, you will compose a scientific literature review for the Journal of Young Investigators (http://www.jyi.org/) , a scholarly journal that publishes work by undergraduates from across the country.

Literature reviews make up a common genre of scientific writing that analyzes, synthesizes, and evaluates the research conducted by other scientists. These compositions make an argument that is based on publications rather than original experiments, physical data, or field observations.

A literature review is, in many ways, similar to a humanities research paper. It is organized around a central question or concern, and it evaluates the state of a field in relation to that question. Such reviews are frequently written for scientists from related fields who are looking for an overview of current work, students who are beginning research, or politicians who need a quick but professional lesson on a certain subject in order to make policy decisions.


DUE 8/21

Topic Selection/Situating the Problem:

Select a topic related to a scientific issue of your choice. Describe the topic and consider the following questions: Why did you choose this topic (what interests you about it)? To what discipline(s)--within the Natural Sciences--does your topic belong? What’s at stake in paying attention to this specific topic?

Next, after doing some preliminary research, try to identify who is conducting research on your topic: what institution are they employed by? Where is their research being conducted? What journals publish research related to your topic?

examples of three peer-reviewed scientific journals, Geological Journal, PLoS Biology, and Nature.

Finally, in understanding how you might contribute to the conversation you are engaging with, you might want to consider the following questions: What is the most recent research you have been able to locate on your subject? What was the publication's central argument? What are the stakes of this conclusion? What prompted their original research? Where was the argument the weakest? Where might this research take us? What is missing? What are the implications of these findings?

(You don’t have to answer all of these questions, these are simply modes of generating ideas as you contextualize your interests and situate yourself within a broader scholarly conversation.)


DUE 9/11

Annotated Bibliography (~3 - 4 pages)

Prepare a list of 5-6 sources that you will use for your literature review. Your sources should be peer-reviewed journal articles and/or supplementary reports, since they will be the most current and are the only sources respected in professional scientific communities. You might also include one or two studies by the CDC or a medical board.

For each source, write a brief annotation: What is the main finding of the article? What methods were used in this study? What are the potential limitations of this study? Why will this source be useful for your literature review (i.e. how does it relate to your topic)?

Use CBE/CSE, APA, or AMA style to cite sources.


DUE 9/22

Scientific Literature Review (5 - 6 pages)

Your literature review will examine the latest research on a scientific topic related to your interests. Then, you will synthesize and evaluate that research: what do researchers know, and what directions of inquiry are they pursuing? What areas are most promising for future research?

If you are planning to publish your work, be aware that the selection committee will want to see that you have done your homework: do you know what scholars have already said about this topic? What scholarly or professional conversation(s) are you trying to enter?



Frederic Edwin Church, View of Cotopaxi (1857)
Created By
Emilio Taiveaho