2.3 – Evaluation and Interpretation of Scientific Literature

Students will be able to evaluate and interpret data in scientific literature and other sources.

One of my first experiences evaluating scientific literature came when I took a class called Sophomore Seminar. In this class, we were tasked with writing a review paper on a relevant, biology-related issue that we thought needed to be addressed. I chose to write a review paper exploring coral reef degradation. I remember feeling overwhelmed by and struggling with the amount of information I was taking in during my literature search and trying to decide what information I wanted to include in my paper. I feel like this experience was valuable to me because it forced me to learn how to evaluate and interpret literature so that I could write a comprehensive review on my topic. This class gave me a strong foundation to build on my information literacy skills and my ability to synthesize complex information from outside sources into a cohesive and organized paper of my own.

Another class that gave me experience evaluating scientific literature was Evolution. In this class, we had to write a review paper on an evolutionary topic of our choice, and I chose to write a review paper on the evolution of the human system of communication. I had a lot of exposure to scientific literature between the class I mentioned previously and this one, and I think that that is evident when comparing the end results of the two writing assignments. I was much more confident in my ability to effectively evaluate and interpret scientific literature and differentiating what information was important to my topic and what wasn’t. Aside from my increased confidence, I think that this class and this assignment were beneficial to me in that they helped me to refine those skills and do so in a different context.

My Senior Capstone in Biology class gave me more experience in evaluating and interpreting scientific literature. In this class, rather than writing a review paper, we were tasked with writing a research proposal. I wrote my proposal on the immunopathology of COVID-19 and the need for more research in that area. I had never written a research proposal before, so this was completely new to me. Still, though, it involved a lot of literature searches that required me to sift through loads of information to find what was relevant to my topic. Despite my confidence in writing scientific literature reviews, I felt that there was more pressure while writing this one. Now, instead of just compiling and restating evidence that already exists, I had to identify gaps in the research and find a way to fill them. For me, this required a much more careful evaluation of the literature. Ultimately, it helped me to improve my skills regarding scientific literacy, synthesizing complex information, and identifying potential avenues for new research.