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A Simple Activity to Enhance the Learning Experience of Reading Primary Literature

    Author: Min-Ken Liao1
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    Affiliations: 1: Biology Department, Furman University, Greenville, SC 29613
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 29 July 2016 Accepted 30 November 2016 Published 21 April 2017
    • ©2017 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Corresponding author. Mailing address: Biology Department, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613. Phone: 864-294-3246. E-mail: min-ken.liao@furman.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1211
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    Abstract:

    Countless studies have demonstrated the benefits and the importance of incorporating primary literature into undergraduate curriculum. However, even with regular exposures to primary literature, students still find the reading task confusing and frustrating. Most educators are conscientious about choosing realistically challenging research articles that match students’ abilities and knowledge, so the negative experiences students have had are more likely due to fear-based emotions than skills. To help students overcome the initial fear of reading a research article, I first presented to them just the title of the paper, with 3 guiding questions, and encouraged them to get into the journey of the researchers by prompting them to speculate “What must they have done to write a paper with such a title?” I gave students 10-15 minutes to reflect upon the title and to jot down the answers to the 3 guiding questions. Depending on the students, time and the paper, we did not always have a class discussion after the reflection, but we always had one after students read the paper. While reading the paper, students were reminded to compare the paper with the notes they jotted down before reading it. Students responded positively to this simple activity. Facing just the title of the paper is certainly less intimidating than combating the entire paper at once. Once the initial fear has overcome, the reading task becomes less daunting. This activity is simple, flexible, and easily implemented and surveys showed that it effectively enhanced students’ experience in reading primary literature.

Key Concept Ranking

Dental Plaque
1.0
Microbiota
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1.0

References & Citations

1. Breakwell DP2003Using the primary literature in an allied health microbiology courseMicrobiol Educ4303810.1128/154288103X14285806272391236535513633124 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/154288103X14285806272391
2. Hoskins SG, Stevens LM, Nehm RH2007Selective use of the primary literature transforms the classroom into a virtual laboratoryGenetics1761381138910.1534/genetics.107.071183174834261931557 http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/genetics.107.071183
3. Kozeracki CA, Carey MF, Colicelli J, Levis-Fitzgerald M, Grossel M2006An intensive primary-literature-based teaching program directly benefits undergraduate science majors and facilitates their transition to doctoral programsCBE Life Sci Educ534034710.1187/cbe.06-02-0144171460411681356 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.06-02-0144
4. Krontiris-Litowitz J2013Using primary literature to teach science literacy to introductory biology studentsJ Microbiol Biol Educ14667710.1128/jmbe.v14i1.538238583553706167 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v14i1.538
5. Round JE, Campbell AM2013Figure facts: encouraging undergraduates to take a data-centered approach to reading primary literatureCBE Life Sci Educ12394610.1187/cbe.11-07-0057234632273587854 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.11-07-0057
6. Hoskins SG, Lopatto D, Stevens LM2011The C.R.E.A.T.E. approach to primary literature shifts undergraduates’ self-assessed ability to read and analyze journal articles, attitudes about science, and epistemological beliefsCBE Life Sci Educ1036837810.1187/cbe.11-03-0027221353713228655 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.11-03-0027
7. Flores GE, Bates ST, Knights D, Lauber CL, Stombaugh J, Knight R, Fierer N2011Microbial biogeography of public restroom surfacesPLoS ONE6e2813210.1371/journal.pone.0028132221322293223236 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0028132
8. Adler CJ, Dobney K, Weyrich LS, Kaidonis J, Walker AW, Haak W, Bradshaw CJA, Townsend G, Soltysiak A, Alt KW, Parkhill J, Cooper A2013Sequencing ancient calcified dental plaque shows changes in oral microbiota with dietary shifts of the Neolithic and Industrial revolutionsNat Genet4545045510.1038/ng.2536234165203996550 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ng.2536
9. Newton RJ, McLellan SL, Dila DK, Vineis JH, Morrison HG, Eren AM, Sogin ML2015Sewage reflects the microbiomes of human populationsmBio6e0257410.1128/mBio.02574-14257147184358014 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.02574-14
10. Koeth RA, Levison BS, Culley MK, Buffa JA, Wang Z, Gregory JC, Org E, Wu Y, Li L, Smith JD, Tang WHW, DiDonato JA, Lusis AJ, Hazen SL2014γ-butyrobetaine is a proatherogenic intermediate in gut microbial metabolism of L-carnitine to TMAOCell Metab2079981210.1016/j.cmet.2014.10.006254400574255476 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2014.10.006
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2017-04-21
2017-08-22

Abstract:

Countless studies have demonstrated the benefits and the importance of incorporating primary literature into undergraduate curriculum. However, even with regular exposures to primary literature, students still find the reading task confusing and frustrating. Most educators are conscientious about choosing realistically challenging research articles that match students’ abilities and knowledge, so the negative experiences students have had are more likely due to fear-based emotions than skills. To help students overcome the initial fear of reading a research article, I first presented to them just the title of the paper, with 3 guiding questions, and encouraged them to get into the journey of the researchers by prompting them to speculate “What must they have done to write a paper with such a title?” I gave students 10-15 minutes to reflect upon the title and to jot down the answers to the 3 guiding questions. Depending on the students, time and the paper, we did not always have a class discussion after the reflection, but we always had one after students read the paper. While reading the paper, students were reminded to compare the paper with the notes they jotted down before reading it. Students responded positively to this simple activity. Facing just the title of the paper is certainly less intimidating than combating the entire paper at once. Once the initial fear has overcome, the reading task becomes less daunting. This activity is simple, flexible, and easily implemented and surveys showed that it effectively enhanced students’ experience in reading primary literature.

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FIGURE 1

Adjectives students used to describe their previous learning experience in reading primary literature.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1211
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