Science Summary

You can see the guideline on SciSummary generally at that link.

In addition to writing a Wikipedia profile and SciComm piece about ongoing Duke research, you will also write a piece summarizing a journal article to an academic audience. While the SciComm pieces will help develop your writing skills for a broad audience, this science summary piece will help develop your writing skills for academics. This is useful for any future STEM courses you take and research you do. Moreover, comparing the writing styles between the assignments will give you a greater grasp on what writing to different audiences means.


In class, we will deconstruct academic articles as well as summary pieces written for scientists about academic work so that you become critical consumers of both styles of writing. Here is a list of scientist summary pieces that we will cover:

We will also spend every day in class discussing and summarizing academic articles and build each day on that foundational material. This piece is about you applying what you have learned from that process.


The guidelines from the Journal of Neuroscience on how to write a "Journal Club" article are helpful:
In general, Journal Club articles should have three components: a short overview of the topic and questions addressed in the reviewed paper; a description of the key findings; and a brief discussion of the significance of the paper. Authors should discuss what the highlighted paper teaches us about how the nervous system works. The Journal Club must offer more than a summary of what was stated in the original article. For example, it might present a broader interpretation of the results in the context of work that the author did not discuss. Presentation of unpublished work or modeling results is not acceptable, however.

We expect that authors of Journal Clubs will be working on a topic related to that of the reviewed paper and thus will be familiar with the experimental approach, but Journal Clubs should not focus on the author's own work. We encourage critical reviews, but comments must be accurate, well-reasoned, and diplomatic. Inappropriately harsh or glowing reviews will not be considered. Moreover, the focus should be on what was learned, rather than what might have been done differently.

Journal Club submissions must be concise and should be limited to 1,500 words. They should be written in a style that is understandable to all readers of JNeurosci. Avoid using jargon and unnecessary abbreviations.

A single, original schematic or explanatory figure is acceptable. The figure caption must appear in the main document after the references. Do not duplicate figures that were in the reviewed paper: links to any figures you cite will be placed in the published Journal Club. In the text, refer to the cited figures with the author's name, e.g., "(Author et al., Figure 1A)."

A title page must be included with your submission. The title page should include: title, citation of article being reviewed, list of authors and affiliations (graduate students’ affiliations should be listed as the graduate program or department), corresponding author and contact information (address, phone, and email address), abbreviated title, and acknowledgments (optional).

Notably, you are NOT working on a topic 'related to that of the reviewed paper', BUT we will be discussing the literature that contextualizes the academic article you summarize, and we will assume that the audience is for psychologists and neuroscientists (re: 'readers of Journal of Neuroscience'); in other words, you are writing for someone like me, your instructor. To make the writing process easier, we are going to start small. First, you'll choose one non-Duke article. You'll write an opening paragraph for your summary piece (June 4) and then, incorporating feedback, you'll write multiple paragraphs for that summary piece (June 11). After gaining experience with this style of writing, you'll select your specific academic article (not the same one), outline your summary piece (June 17), and then finish your piece (June 20). All along the way, your classmates and I will provide feedback that will help you improve your writing skills.

Unlike your Duke research and Wikipedia pieces, this piece will not published publically outside of this site, and it would only be published on this site if you consented. However, when students are interested in working with a lab on particular research, it is common for the students to email the professor with whom they would be interested in working. They typically include their CV in this email. If you want to work with a professor who does similar research to what you write about, via a practicum or Independent Study, you could include this summary piece as a suggestion for what you see as open questions in the field. If you're interested in teaching, the Constanzo Teaching Fellowship also asks for a science writing sample. Nonetheless, this assignment is primarily focused towards stretching your writing skills to that you write to multiple audiences over the course of the class and recognize the important role that the audience plays in writing.

Sounds good? Let's get to work!

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