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Critical Dissection of the Scientific Literature: Taking the Scalpel to Journal Articles


East Baltimore
3rd term
Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
3 credits
Academic Year:
2019 - 2020
Instruction Method:
Class Times:
  • Thursday,  3:30 - 5:20pm
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor:
Margaret Wear



Do you sometimes struggle to understand the deeper meaning of the scientific literature across the biomedical and public health disciplines? Do you find yourself having trouble identifying the underlying reasoning of an experimental design in some journal articles? Did you ever wonder how some authors arrive at their conclusions based on the data presented? Would you like to learn how to better articulate your literature critique? Join us and learn about the anatomy of the modern journal article from the ground up. We emphasize critically-evaluative thinking about scientific practice through the lens of interdisciplinary literature discussions from the biomedical and public health sciences.

Challenges the classical format of a journal club by preparing students to critically evaluate literature across the science disciplines. Acquaints students with concrete applications of the 3 R’s of good scientific practice: rigor, responsibility, and reproducibility. Discusses techniques for effective research literature analysis and evaluation. Emphasizes in-depth understanding of journal article preparation, data evaluation, and the context of conclusions and discussion points within a given research field.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the elements of a well-constructed journal article publication
  2. Analyze the experimental strategies and techniques, as well as the corresponding data presented in scientific publications in the light of the norms of good scientific practice
  3. Evaluate the claims made and conclusions drawn in journal articles from epistemological and logical perspectives
  4. Formulate constructive critique of the research presented in the interdisciplinary primary literature
  5. Propose recommendations for improvement of the critique points found
  6. Recognize the broader significance of the work presented in the scientific context of the field.
Methods of Assessment:

Weekly online and onsite discussion contributions. Presentation of assigned article including critical peer feedbackis the final project

Instructor Consent:

No consent required

Special Comments:

This course is part of the R3 Science Education Initiative series ( May be taken as a companion to PH.260.700: How do we know what is true: Theory and Practice of Science, or on its own. PH.260.700 is not a prerequisite.