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Posts Tagged ‘research papers’

In addition to mineralogy, structure is also reading a paper each week for discussion.   Since structure is a more advanced class and the students have experience with reading research papers, instead of assigning papers from Geology, I’m looking for papers that are a bit longer, require more structural-based knowledge, and relate to the topic covered in lecture that week.   The first paper (which I didn’t blog about) was from GSA Bulletin, which is where I’m going to start my weekly search.   This week I branched out to Lithosphere because I couldn’t find a recent rheology-themed paper.   Next week for microstructures, we’ll be back in GSA Bulletin.

Post-lunch, structure discussed a relatively short paper on using Field-based constraints on finite strain and rheology of the lithospheric mantle, Twin Sister, Washington by Tikoff et al.   In lab last week, the students did an analogue materials lab by Dyanna Czech and we’ve been talking about rheology in lecture, so the paper fit well into where the class currently is.

The questions the students considered when reading the paper:

  • what was the motivation for this study?
  • what kinds of data were used?
  • how was the data analyzed?
  • what kind of assumptions were made by the authors?
  • terms you didn’t understand?
  • concepts that were difficult to comprehend?

Unfortunately, there are a few issues with my structure paper discussions that don’t appear in mineralogy:

  1. it’s post-lunch and the students are ready for their naps
  2. there are only three students, so no one can have an “off” day
  3. so far I’ve chosen papers that require the students to actually remember material learned during previous semesters in other classes (e.g. how thermobarometry works; sedimentary basin formation), which I’ve had some backlash to

I feel like I have to lead the discussion more strongly with structure, which is something I want to move away from.   I’m considering assigning the student’s in rotating fashion ownership of the day’s discussion, but with three they’ll have to take a turn fairly frequently.   I’d welcome suggestions.

Full citation (paper is behind a paywall):

Tikoff, B., Larson, C.E., Newman, J., and Little, T., 2011, Field-based constraints on finite strain and rheology of the lithospheric mantle, Twin Sisters, Washington: Lithosphere, v.

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This morning, my mineralogy had a discussion about a January 2011 Geology paper by Paasche & Lovlie on the “Synchronized postglacial colonization by magnetotactic bacteria.”   In general, the paper was voted ‘more enjoyable’ than last week’s possible impact structure paper.

The questions I asked the students to consider and submit answers to:

  • what are MTBs?
  • what is the primary question the authors are trying to address?
  • what kind of data did the authors use?
  • would this kind of study work in MN? How would you choose your lakes?
  • to support the “bird repopulated the MTB” theory, what kind of study do you think might help?
  • terms you didn’t understand?
  • concepts that were hard to grasp?

My students believe that in order to test the “bird repopulation” theory proposed by the authors two experiments should be run: 1) force-feed magnetotactic bacteria to birds & see if the bacteria can be recognized in the bird poop and 2) track appropriate bird migration patterns near receding glaciers.

A number of the students highlighted the ARM / SIRM ratio as a term / concept that they could not either understand or find understandable material on when they searched the web.   I will admit that the paper just assumed the readers knew the difference between anhysteretic remanent magnetization (ARM) and saturation isothermal remanent magnetization (SIRM).   And the best site I could find searching quickly this morning was much more scientific than students without geophysics were going to grasp.   These are the days I wish Chris had written a post that I could simply point the students towards…

The other question that came up that I couldn’t answer was about how to magnetotactic bacteria actually produce magnetite.   If anyone has a good link, I would appreciate it–my biology background is limited to 9th grade & one semester of paleo in German!

Full citation for the paper (which is behind a paywall):

Paasche, O. and Lovlie, R., 2011, Synchronized postglacial colonization by magnetotactic bacteria: Geology, v. 39, p. 75-78.

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My goal with the papers is to find something that isn’t too hard for the students to understand, though most have only had intro level classes so far.   My goal was not to have the students understand everything in the paper, but to start them on the path of learning how to read papers.

For the first week, we read the paper by Amor et al. (2008) paper entitled “A Precambrian proximal ejecta blanket from Scotland.”   Why this paper?   Meteorite impacts are “sexy” and therefore have a wider appeal to the students in general.   Though we haven’t started discussing crystallographic orientations, they are referred to in this paper in a fairly easy to digest manner that hopefully will serve as a “why the heck to we have to learn about Miller indices?” answer.   The paper also demonstrates why carefully looking at data and occasionally re-evaluating someone else’s data may be important in determining how the rocks formed.

Questions I asked the students to consider:

  • make a list of the characteristics of an impact crater vs. a volcanic unit
  • what kinds of data did the authors use to support the impact hypothesis for the Stac Fada Member?
  • why is quartz important for this study?
  • terms you didn’t understand?
  • concepts that were hard to grasp?

I was really impressed with the quality of the answers I got to the questions and the students had intelligent comments and queries during our discussion last Friday.   All in all, I think week #1 went well — not that the peanut butter chocolate chip bars didn’t help loosen their tongues 🙂

Amor, K., Hesselbo, S.P., Porcelli, D., Thackrey, S., and Parnell, J., 2008, A Precambrian proximal ejecta blanket from Scotland: Geology, v. 36, p. 303-306.

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We’ve just finished igneous rocks in lecture & lab, but haven’t gotten far enough into metamorphic rocks to really appreciate a paper yet, so this week we’re reading:

Dufek, Josef and Bachmann, Olivier, 2010, Quantum magmatism: Magmatic compositional gaps generated by melt-crystal dynamics: Geology, v. 38, p. 687-690.

(sorry about the paywall…)

The questions I proposed came from where last week’s discussion went (mainly about why the diagrams were important to the paper & what they were trying to convey):

  • what is their data comprised of?
  • how do their interpretations relate back to the data?
  • are all of the diagrams in the paper needed?
  • would you want another diagram or two?

I was tempted to talk about the England & Katz Nature paper, but I thought that the thermal modeling might be a bit too much for the students.   Maybe when we get to subduction zones in the tectonic portion of the class…

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(Papers of the week took a small vacation while my petrology class & I tried to catch up due to a few unplanned pauses, but now we’re back!)

This week’s paper is:

Martin, V.M., Davidson, J., Morgan, D., and Jerram, D.A., 2010, Using the Sr isotope compositions of feldspars and glass to distinguish magma system components and dynamics: Geology, v. 38, p. 539-542.

(Behind a paywall–sorry.)

This paper went into the lineup due to the fact it combined chemistry (topic from week 4) with magma chamber dynamics (week 5 & 6), so its a final review on the information we just dealt with and a preview of what’s coming.   I took the advice of a number of fellow instructors around the web and choose to post several questions that I wanted the students to answer & send me before our discussion this morning:

  • what kind of data is being used by the authors?
  • why did they choose to work with this type of data?
  • identify for each interpretation the data it is specifically based on

The majority of the data is actually in a figure and not within the text, so I’m going to interested to see what the student’s reaction to that is.

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On Friday of last week I posted about using research papers in an upper level undergraduate class.   There are two comments on the end from Anne & Callan, but I also received several other via other avenues and thought I would share.

From one of the other hard rock grad students who was at Indiana during my masters:

I’m actually considering researching that kind of integration at some point in the distant future. The biggest hurdle student have is getting over all the science vocab strung together and getting at coremeaning. Discussing strategies to understand a paragraph/figure and modeling how they might do it would be less stressful for them. I’d consider starting students off with a question for the first few times you do this, still allowing/encouraging them to come up with a question of their own inspired by the paper, and eventually you might ask the students to develop a question going into the paper instead of you providing it for them. It’s about slowly increasing the critical thinking level. In the beginning, much of their brain energy/focusing is taken up with the “simple” things associated with reading prof articles because it isn’t simple to them yet.

From yet another of my master’s colleagues:

Very cool. I am trying to do the same at the high school level. Of course these are exceptional high school students. I too have them do a summary. I also make them write up 10 “thoughtful” questions about the paper, research, validity of results etc. Then they present their summary and questions. Sometimes other students can anwer the questions. This leads to pretty cool discussions. I will say some of the vocab gives them fits, but if they have to look it up to understand a paper instead of just regurgitating the dictionary I think they get more out of it.

From one of the postdocs at Indiana while I was running around the halls (yes, there was an Indiana-heavy response to this…)

Always challenge your students!
I had to read “real” papers as an undergrad, and it give me a major leg up in grad school. We started off in one class by having each one of us to do a simple summary of a paper (like a shortbook report, just to be sure we grasped the point of the paper). Then, we had to analyze the paper itself piece by piece. Analyze this figure, what does it tell you? What are the data? How did the author(s) analyze them? We then presented our summary and analysis of the paper to the class. This really helps to develop good analytical and critical thinking skills, and I agree with Bridget-ramp it up so before they know it, they are thinking critically about what they read. Questions to focus that for a few assignments are good.
In most of my senior-level classes, we had 10 “great papers” assigned for reading and analyzing throughout the semester. Why are these classic papers? Why are they still cited? Then we had to go find three papers from the last few years that cited a “classic” paper, and analyze those. It made us learn about citations, using the library (old-fashioned, I know), and how people build on previous work.

via twitter, I also received a few shorter responses 🙂

I’ve found it’s good to have undergrads submit 2 questions before class, and/or to write a 1-pg reflection on the journal article (from @JacquelynGill)

I really appreciated the advice and my students will find themselves submitting something prior to our discussion this week.   But, despite my lack of requiring questions in written format, they came up with some good questions and got the conversation rolling along for 30 minutes.

I’ll post this week’s paper later this week along with what I ask them to submit just as an fyi.

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I keep working on integrating recent research papers into my upper level classes to increase the student’s awareness of current avenues of geology research & have them feel more comfortable reading scientific literature.   (Sidenote: I’ve been teaching at undergraduate-only institutions, so for the moment I’m ignoring papers + grad students.)   For petrology this fall, I’ve gone with a model of one paper a week from Geology.   I attempted to find articles from within the past year, but somehow metamorphic petrology research recently does not match well with the weekly subjects listed on my syllabus.   Interestingly enough, igneous petrology was easy to match (in fact, some topics had 2+ papers within the past year).

This week we’re covering intrusive & extrusive field structures along with the IUGS classification scheme.   The latter does not really lend itself to a paper discussion, so I went with:

Schofield, N., Stevenson, C., and Reston, T., 2010, Magma fingers and host rock fluidization in the emplacement of sills: Geology, v. 38, p. 63-66

(it is behind a firewall.   There seems to be one paper a month that is open access, but the rest still require a subscription.)

I asked the students to focus on determining what was data vs. interpretations and how “petrology” was used within the paper.   I have to admit, I’m not sure how this is going to go, but we’ll see if 1) they found the paper interesting and 2) if we can actually have a discussion about it instead of me just lecturing.

My question to my fellow instructors out there is this, how do you integrate research papers into your classroom?  Do you ask leading questions or require the students to turn in questions to spark the discussion?   Things that really work vs. crash & burn?

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