Project #61367 - Critique of research paper

I have to write a critique, abstract and summary for this paper:

the details are below:


1. Write an abstract (≤250 words, or as instructed by your tutor)

2. Write a plain English summary (≤400 words)

3. Write a critique of the paper (≤800 words)


Each element (1-3) is worth one third of the marks for this exercise


1. Write an abstract for the paper




The abstract should offer another worker in the field a brief synopsis of the entire paper. From reading the abstract, it should be possible to understand why the study has been done, broadly how it’s been done, what’s been demonstrated, and what the major conclusions are. The abstract should tell the reader whether or not the rest of the paper contains material of interest, and should make him/her want to carry on reading. It’s important to include the right amount of detail.



2. Write a plain English summary of the paper (≤400 words)


Imagine you are summarising the paper for a reasonably well-educated person who is not a biologist. Explain the general field as simply and accessibly as you can. Remove all the technical jargon, and describe what the authors have done, and why it is important. What’s novel about the way they have done it? How has this work advanced our understanding?


There is a good point to this exercise. In a few months, you may be called upon to communicate your ideas to funding bodies, the press or non-specialised audiences. Many people will not necessarily be “tuned in” to what you have to say, so it is vitally important to focus their attention, and convey what you have to say in a manner that they will understand.




3. Your critique of the paper (≤800 words)


The following notes and questions should help you to prepare this. Your review should be more than a simple list of answers to these questions.




Does this reflect accurately the content of the paper, and does it attract your interest? Can you suggest an alternative?


Introduction and/or background


Depending upon the journal, the introduction may be anything from a brief statement of the problem or the issue addressed, right up to a comprehensive review of the field. It should provide a clear statement of the hypotheses being tested (usually with the null hypotheses), explain why they are being tested, and begin to allude to how they will be addressed. What sort of introduction does this paper provide? Does it enable you to set the present study in context, and does it provide enough background for you to fully understand what follows? If not, what is missing? Is there anything that could be removed without compromising the integrity of the paper? Is it clearly written, and are there enough citations to the rest of the literature? Is the prose style unnecessarily flowery, or is the writing “tight”. How could it be improved?




You should consider two things here:


A. Are the methods and experimental design adequately described? Is there sufficient detail for someone to come along and repeat the experiments or analyses? Some authors consign technical detail to an appendix, and simply provide an outline and rationale in the methods section itself (indeed, some journals require this). Occasionally, details can only be accessed on a web site. If your paper has such an appendix, is this balance right? If there is no appendix, should there be one? Another common and acceptable practice is to refer the reader to another publication, especially where the methods are first described there. However, there should be sufficient detail in the paper itself to understand what follows. If there are complex procedures, could these be summarised as a diagram or flow chart? Statistical procedures should also be described here, especially if they are “non-standard”.


B. Are the methods employed those best suited to test the hypotheses? Are there flaws in the experimental design or analyses? How are the data collected? Are there adequate controls? Are the statistical procedures adequate and appropriate? Are the sample sizes used suitable (these can be unnecessarily large as well as too small). If there are new methods with wider applicability, this may be a considerable strength of the paper. Are new tools (e.g., computer programs) highlighted and made available to the rest of the community?




As well as tables and graphs, the results should be summarised in the text. Broad trends and salient features of the results should be described and highlighted. In effect, the author should guide you through. Tables should be clearly structured and easy to read. Graphs should be correctly labeled and convey information as economically as possible. Unnecessary embellishments (e.g., 3D) are usually a distraction. All figures (in the results and elsewhere) should have legends that are sufficiently detailed to enable you to interpret them without referring back to the text. Are all of the figures necessary? Are there some tables that would have been more effectively conveyed as figures? Are there some data that you would have liked to see, but which are not presented here at all. Are all statistical test results correctly reported? Are null hypotheses rejected? Again, it is possible to consign some tables and test results to an appendix. Is this device used appropriately, and if not, should it have been?






Some people may start reading a paper at this point!  It is therefore usually good practice to remind the reader of the issues that have been addressed here. The discussion has four important functions. Firstly, it should offer an interpretation of the results, and discuss their implications. Secondly, it should relate the findings of the paper to the rest of the literature, setting them in context. Thirdly, strengths and limitations of the study should be discussed. No piece of research is perfect, and some of the best papers raise as many questions as they answer. Hence the fourth function is to set an agenda for future research, and provide pointers for how new hypotheses might be tested.




When not subsumed into the discussion, conclusions usually take the form of a brief summary of the results and discussion. Important methodological developments can also be highlighted here (e.g., “We demonstrate that the best way to … is …”). What are the take-home messages from the paper, and what are the important findings? Are all of the conclusions adequately supported by the data the authors have presented, or do you think some are smuggled in at the end?  Could the conclusions be made clearer by the use of numbered points?  


General structure


Is the paper easy to navigate and follow? Not all papers follow the classical structure of: introduction, methods, results, discussion and conclusions. Sometimes, sections are amalgamated (often as results/discussion or discussion/conclusions). Sometimes, there will be a cycle of experiments, each prompted by its predecessor. Manuscripts of this type can become difficult to follow. It is acceptable practice to present such sequences in a different order from that in which they were conducted, as long as this clarifies and simplifies the paper overall. Could the structure of your paper be improved?



Suitability of the paper for this particular journal


What is the remit of the journal in which your paper appears (you should be able to find this information on the web or in an “instructions to authors” section). Does this seem to be the most suitable vehicle? If the journal is Science or Nature, is the paper sufficiently important and of wide interest to other scientists? If the journal is very obscure, should the authors have submitted it to a vehicle with a higher “impact factor” (your tutor will tell you all about these!)?


What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of this paper?


A common question on reviewers’ forms is how highly you rate a paper. For the best journals, anything less than “exceptional” is usually damning with faint praise (which is why their rejection rates are – quite rightly – so high)! 


• Assume (or imagine) that you think this paper is exceptional. What three things that make the paper stand out?


• What are the three worst things about the paper?





Provide a list of any editorial points not covered above: spelling or grammatical errors, for example. Are there any paragraphs or sentences that could be rephrased or clarified? Are there any errors of fact, omitted references or typos?

Subject Science
Due By (Pacific Time) 03/08/2015 07:00 pm
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