Publications [#184260] of Julie Reynolds

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Published Abstracts

  1. J.A. Reynolds and R. Thompson, Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Theses by Teaching the Conventions of Scientific Writing and Professional Peer Review, Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, vol. 11 no. 1 (2010), pp. 97 [pdf_18] .
    (last updated on 2010/12/16)

    Undergraduate theses and other capstone research projects are standard features of many science curricula, but participation has typically been limited to only the most advanced and highly motivated students. With the recent push to engage more undergraduates in research, some faculty are finding that their typical approach to working with thesis writers is less effective (given the wider diversity of students) or is inefficient (given the higher participation rates). In these situations, a more formal process may be needed to ensure that all students are adequately supported, and to establish consistency in how student writers are mentored and assessed. To address this need, we created BioTAP, the Biology Thesis Assessment Protocol, a teaching and assessment tool. BioTAP includes a rubric that articulates departmental expectations for the thesis, and a guide to the drafting-feedback-revision process that is modeled after the structure of professional scientific peer review. In this paper, we present the results of a study that compares the quality of theses written by students who used BioTAP versus those who did not, controlling for academic and demographic variables that could confound results. The overall quality of theses – including factors such as writing for the appropriate audience, constructing an argument for the significance of the students’ research within the context of the scientific literature, clearly interpreting results and discussing their implications, and citing appropriately – written by students who used BioTAP was significantly higher than the group who did not use this tool (p < 0.01). We also discuss how BioTAP has been successfully adapted to other departments and other disciplines, including economics, chemistry and engineering.