Writing Manual

Biocore FINAL PAPER Review Rubric

Title

4 = excellent Title is concise, conveys main point of experiment, and includes these key components: study system, variables, result, & direction. [With systematic observations, results may be too preliminary to define direction so title should be more general.]
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3 = very good Title is concise & conveys main point of experiment but 1 key component is missing
2 = good Title could be more concise but still conveys main point of experiment; 2 or more key components are missing
1 = adequate Has two or more problems comparable to the following: Title is not concise, point of experiment is difficult to determine by title, most key information is missing
0 = inadequate Point of experiment cannot be determined by title

Abstract

4 = excellent Concisely & clearly covers all key components in 200 words or less: biological rationale, hypothesis, approach, result direction & conclusions
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3 = very good Concisely & clearly covers all but one key component OR clearly covers all key components but could be more concise and/or clear.
2 = good Covers all but 2 key components and/or could be done more clearly and/or concisely.
1 = adequate Many key components are missing; those stated are unclear and/or are not stated concisely.
0 = inadequate Abstract is missing or, if present, provides no relevant information.

Introduction

BIG PICTURE: Did Intro convey why experiment was performed and what it was designed to test?
4 = excellent Clearly, concisely, & logically presents all key components: relevant & correctly cited background information, question, biological rationale (including biological assumptions about how the system works and knowledge gap), hypothesis, approach. (There may be a few minor issues with organization/clarity.)
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3 = very good Concisely & clearly covers all but one key component (w/ exception of rationale) OR clearly covers all key components but could be more concise and/or clear.
e.g., has done a reasonably nice job with the Intro but fails to state the approach OR has done a nice job with Intro but has also included some irrelevant background information
2 = good Covers all but 2 key components OR clearly covers all but 1 key component but could be done much more logically, clearly, and/or concisely.
e.g., biological rationale not fully developed but still supports hypothesis. Remaining components are done reasonably well, though there is still room for improvement.
Includes information that is extraneous and detracting from the main ideas.
1 = adequate Covers all but 3 key components & could be more concise and/or clear. OR clearly covers all but 2 key components but could be done much more logically, clearly, and/or concisely.
e.g., background information is not focused on a specific question and minimal biological rationale is presented such that hypothesis isn’t entirely logical
0 = inadequate 4-5 key components are very weak or missing; those stated are unclear and/or not stated concisely. Weak/missing components make it difficult to follow the rest of the paper. Often results in hypothesis that “comes out of nowhere.”

Methods & Materials

BIG PICTURE: Did Methods clearly describe how hypothesis was tested?
4 = excellent Concisely, clearly, & chronologically describes procedure used so that knowledgeable reader could replicate experiment and understand the results. Methods used are appropriate for study. Clearly defines controls and how they will inform the experiment.
Briefly describes mathematical manipulations or statistical analyses.
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3 = very good Concisely, clearly, & chronologically describes procedure used so that reader could replicate most of experiment with the exception of a few relatively minor details. Methods used are appropriate for study. Minor problems with organization OR some irrelevant/ superfluous information.
2 = good Procedure is presented such that a reader could replicate experiment only after learning a few more key details OR methods used are reasonably appropriate for study, though a more straight-forward approach may have been taken.
1 = adequate Procedure is presented such that a reader could replicate experiment but methods are largely inappropriate to test hypothesis OR Procedure is presented such that a reader could replicate experiment only after learning several more key details.
0 = inadequate So little information is presented that reader could not possibly replicate experiment OR methods are entirely inappropriate to test hypothesis

Results

BIG PICTURE: Did the Results clearly & effectively display relevant data?
4 = excellent With a few minor exceptions, contains a concise, well-organized narrative text & tables/figures that highlight key trends/ patterns/output from statistical tests without biological interpretation. Tables & figures have appropriate legends/ labels & can stand on their own.
If you have problems collecting valid data, state what the problem was that makes your data invalid.
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3 = very good Has presented both a concise, narrative text & informative tables/figures without biological interpretation, but has made 1-2 minor omissions or has other relatively small problems. e.g., relevant data & trends are summarized well and without biological interpretation, but tables & figures have very brief legends that leave out some key details.
2 = good Has presented findings with a reasonably good narrative text & informative tables/figures, but has 2-3 problems comparable to the following: most relevant data are present but are mixed in with some unnecessary information, trends are shown in figures but are not explicitly noted, tables & figures have very brief legends that leave out key details, variation around mean values is not indicated in figures, conclusions about hypothesis are briefly made.
1 = adequate Has 3-5 problems comparable to the following: narrative text and & tables/figures are minimal and mostly uninformative, some relevant data are present but are mixed in with much unnecessary information, trends are not immediately apparent in figures and are not explicitly noted in text, tables & figures lack legends, variation around mean values is not indicated in either text or figures, conclusions about hypothesis are emphasized.
0 = inadequate Major problems that leave reader uninformed; narrative text is lacking entirely, tables & figures contain unclear and/or irrelevant information. e.g., “Results” contain no text, raw data are in a table w/ poor legend.

Discussion

BIG PICTURE: Did the Discussion present conclusions that made sense based on the data?
4 = excellent With a few minor exceptions, clearly, concisely, & logically presents all key components: supports or rejects hypothesis*, interprets/integrates data; formulates argument for conclusions referring back to biological rationale & by comparing with relevant findings in literature, introduces new literature to discuss or support findings, evaluates experimental design, evaluates reliability of data, states knowledge generated & implications of results, suggests next investigation steps, includes unique observations, and ends paper with final conclusion.
*If you believe error occurred, describe what you believe happened and discuss how this impacts your ability to make conclusions about hypothesis.
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3 = very good Concisely & clearly covers all but one key component OR clearly covers all key components but could be more concise and/or clear.
e.g., has done a reasonably nice job with the Discussion but fails to clearly tie biological rationale from the Intro into the conclusions made OR has done a nice job with the Discussion but has also included an extensive laundry list of experimental problems without discussing their impact on the conclusions. e.g., lacks a discussion of assumptions.
2 = good Covers all but 2 key components OR clearly covers all but 1 key component but could be done much more logically, clearly, and/or concisely
e.g., clearly states that hypothesis is rejected or supported and develops a good argument that refers to biological rationale, but fails to logically and objectively evaluate assumptions and the experimental design and data reliability. Remaining components are done reasonably well, though there is still room for improvement
1 = adequate Covers all but 3 key components & could be more concise and/or clear. OR clearly covers all but 2 key components but could be done much more logically, clearly, and/or concisely.
e.g., fails to explicitly reject or support hypothesis and so conclusions are vague and incompletely tied to rationale, literature is minimally cited, presents unranked laundry list of problems instead of logical evaluation of design and data, suggests flashy new experiments that would not clearly shed light on current question
0 = inadequate 4 or more key components are missing or very weakly done.
e.g., illogical conclusions made based on data, no ties to biological rationale are made, no literature cited, little to no evaluation of experimental design/data.

Literature Cited

4 = excellent
References within body of paper are cited appropriately; references in final citation list are formatted appropriately and listed alphabetically by author using WM guidelines.

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3 = very good
References within body of paper are cited appropriately; references in final citation list are formatted appropriately and listed alphabetically by author using WM guidelines, but there are 1-2 exceptions. e.g., citations are done well except that one or two references listed in text do not appear in the final list OR there are a few minor formatting errors in the final citation list.

2 = good
References within body of paper & references in final citation list are done appropriately for the most part, but there are consistent exceptions. e.g., citations are used sparingly throughout the paper when background information is presented OR there are consistent formatting errors in text and final citation list.

1 = adequate
Very few references are cited in text of paper; final citation list is largely incomplete and/or is not formatted appropriately.

0 = inadequate
Background information is presented but is consistently not cited; final citation list is missing

Overall grammar, organization, wording

4 = excellent
Excellent organization and paper flow, appropriate word choice, few to no grammatical errors

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3 = very good
Organization was good with few to no problems, wording awkward in a few places, few grammatical errors

2 = good
Organization somewhat problematic but can still follow thought progression e.g. explanation of methods in the results section; wording awkward at times, some grammatical errors

1 = adequate
Problematic organization of some section resulting in loss of clarity; awkward wording at times; some grammatical errors

0 = inadequate
All poorly organized, interrupted flow to ideas leading to lack of clarity, cannot follow thought progression, many grammatical errors

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Process of Science Companion Vol. 1 by University of Wisconsin-Madison Biocore Program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.