Objectives of the Literature Assignment

The information reported in research articles increases our understanding of the natural world and provides a basis for new technologies. Research articles are condensed, stylized reports which describe original (usually laboratory-based) research conducted by one or more highly trained investigators.

As a reader, you are expected to know the "context" of a research article. The context includes the knowledge that existed when the research was conducted and the theoretical and technical basis, strengths and limitations of the methods used by the investigators. These methods include experimental design, experimental techniques and statistical tools. Such background knowledge aids you to understand the investigators' reasons for undertaking their research, their choice of experiments, the data that were reported and the authors' interpretation of that data. Your analysis of a research article must include your independent interpretation and evaluation of the reported data, and assessment of the contribution made by the research to human knowledge and experience.

By completing this project you will learn to read, understand and analyze research articles. Using this web site as a guide, you will find information essential to your analysis and formulate your report, including systematic citations of references on which your analysis is based. Reference citations will validate your statements and acknowledge the prior work of other scholars. Analyses like yours are part of the process through which we learn and, hence, human knowledge develops.

The process of finding, understanding and analyzing information that you learn by completing the Literature Assignment is not unique to molecular and cellular biology or to science. In our personal lives, in employment and in public service activities we are constantly required to find, understand and analyze information. The broader goal of the Literature Assignment is to equip you for that lifelong activity!

To prepare for Step 1, click on the Literature Assignment Orientation link below and complete the Orientation:

Literature Assignment Orientation