Term Paper Assignment

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Exemplary term papers from previous years

The Assignment

The literature in evolutionary biology is extensive and diverse. This assignment is designed to help you learn to work with the literature. The idea for this paper is to critically examine some problem of current interest in evolutionary biology. You have considerable freedom in terms of the approachthat you use. However, you must use primary research literature (you canuse review articles as points of departure) and you must be critical inyour approach. Choose a topic that interests you, and that has some broadevolutionary implications. You might examine the development of a particularconcept during the past several years by choosing a paper from 10 or soyears ago and then picking a very recent paper for comparison. Alternatively,you might pick a controversial topic and examine different points of view.Be alert to differing scientific methodologies of philosophies and to thepossibility of alternative explanations for similar observations. Thereis no need to limit your options; you may be able to think of some otherapproaches. However, you should discuss your thoughts on paper topics withthe instructors before you begin to write.

Do not approach this assignment with the idea that there is going tobe something wrong with the papers you read. A critic is one who expressesa reasoned opinion on a matter, involving a judgement on its correctness,value, or significance. Give your reader enough information so that yourarguments can be followed and your opinions understood, but do not summarizethe papers being discussed. Rather, focus on issues that attract your attentionand present them in a comparative, critical and synthetic way.

Choosing a Topic

You might start by reviewing Evolution (QH301.E82), American Naturalist(QH1.A5), Systematic Zoology (QL1.S95), or some other journals. Scan tablesof contents for several volumes issued during the past ten years. You mightget some ideas from your text or from such books as Kimura's The NeutralTheory of Molecular Evolution , Raff and Kaufman's Embryos, Genesand Evolution , Stanley's Macroevolution , Endler's NaturalSelection in the Wild , or Levinton's Genetics, Paleontology and Macroevolution, .Collections of articles such as Bateson's Mate Choice and Otte andEndler's Speciation and Its Consequences , and reviews like EvolutionaryBiology (QH366.A1.E9), Trends in Ecology and Evolution (QH366.A1.T7), AnnualReview of Ecology and Systematics (QH540.A55) will also give you ideas.There are some interesting newer journals, such as Paleobiology (QE701.P2952),in addition to such standard ones as Science (Q1.S33) and Nature (Q1.N2).Once you find an article of interest explore its literature cited for otherarticles of related interest.

Use Science Citation Index for determining the workerswho are citing papers of interest to you. The Biosciences reference deskis an excellent resource if you are not familiar with library research (andeven if you are). See also the tips on getting started.

The following journals are also available in other libraries: Evolutionin the Earth Sciences library, Systematic Zoology in the Entomology library,and Evolutionary Biology in the Earth Sciences library and Moffit. Natureand Science are found in nearly every library on campus.


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