Writing in the Sciences Lesson Plan: Using Multiple Sources

Lesson Plan on Using Multiple Sources for a Perspectives Journal Article
Esther Muehlbauer, Queens College Department of Biology
CW2: Writing in the Sciences – Evolutionary Themes

Lesson Objective:  To gracefully present diverse “perspectives” on an evolutionary topic for a scientific journal article.

Total Estimated Time: 75 minutes

Additional Outcomes:  Applying methods of using multiple sources/perspectives to other fields of academic writing.

Assignment Underway:  Writing Assignment #2: Scientists Writing for Scientists – A “Perspectives” Article for the Journal Science. Students are writing a “Perspectives” article from the vantage point of a paleoanthropologist evaluating the recent scientific literature on a fossil human ancestor.

Work completed before class: Students have previously selected and read two scientific journal articles written about the evolutionary placement of a particular fossil ancestor (e.g. Neanderthals), and have written a brief synopsis of each article which they bring to class.  

Sequence of classroom activities:

  1. Sharing of topics. Student volunteers are asked to describe briefly their research topic and the perspectives presented in their sources.   (15 minutes)
  2. Writing.  Students are asked to write a one paragraph discussion comparing/contrasting the two perspectives provided in their sources.  (15 minutes)
  3. Analyzing perspectives. Several student volunteers are asked to read their paragraphs to the class, with intermittent class discussion evaluating the writing in terms of clarity of expression in describing distinct perspectives on the same topic.  Alternately, an overhead projector can be used to project the student writing on a screen. (15 minutes)
  4. Inserting opinion. Students are instructed to now write a second paragraph that immediately follows the first, stating their opinion, as author, on the previously described research.   (15 minutes)
  5. Analyzing author’s viewpoint.  A few student volunteers are asked to read their “opinion paragraphs” to the class. Discussion follows each reading as the instructor asks the class to comment on the strengths/weaknesses of the writing.
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