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BIEB 121: Ecology Laboratory: Read Articles + Write Your Lab Report

This guide supports the BIEB 121 course at UC San Diego.

Writing Guides

There are books that can help you learn how to read peer-reviewed journal articles and write your thesis . Here are a couple that I think are especially useful.

Anatomy of a primary paper

Abstract: summary of the article

Introduction: background information and a description of the author’s purpose  

Materials & Methods: how the study was performed with enough detail so that other scientists could repeat the study  

Results: includes new observations, data and findings 

Discussion: a description of what the findings mean and their implications; address potential criticisms

Understanding Scholarly Articles

Check out this page to learn more about:

  • the difference between popular and scholarly articles
  • key features of scholarly articles
  • how to "spot" a scholarly article

Questions to ask yourself

First, skim the article. Read the abstract and skim the Introduction and Discussion.

Second, read and take notes. If you think the article will support your topic, then read the entire article. Be sure to take good notes.

If you can answer the following questions about the article, then you have a pretty good understanding of it.

  1. How does the research fit in with what was previously known?
  2. What is the author's hypothesis?
  3. How was the study designed?
  4. What were the author's conclusions?
  5. How is the study relevant?
  6. Who does the author represent?
  7. How was the study funded?

Note taking

There is no right way to take notes. You should find the method that works best for you. If you are unfamilar with note-taking methods, these are good places to start.

Questions? Contact me

Jenny Reiswig's picture
Jenny Reiswig
UC San Diego Library
9500 Gilman Drive, 0699
La Jolla, CA, 92093

Preventing plagiarism

The UC San Diego Library offers a variety of ways to help you learn how to prevent plagiarism.