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Sample Essay #1

Sample Essay #2

Essay template

Revised essays (along with the originals) are due in Carol’s office on Wednesday, December 20th by 4 pm.

Essay Assignments

A critical part of the course is a paper due on the second class for each topic (Tuesday). The paper can include the next experiment(s) that should be done to expand on the papers; a description of why an experiment or conclusion from a paper was flawed and how to improve upon it; or an analysis of the way in which the science was done and its relationship to other areas of neuroscience, or to the field as a whole.

Some detailed guidelines and suggestions for writing these papers can be found below.

Formal Guidelines

  • Each paper should be two double-spaced pages long, ~12 pt. Times New Roman font or equivalent. One inch margins.
  • You are required to hand in one paper every week.
  • At the end of the course, you are required to revise all papers based on the comments you receive during the semester.

Content Guidelines

The weekly response paper is your opportunity to discuss the aspects the assigned papers that you find most exciting, intriguing, or frustrating. You may critically evaluate a paper's experimental design or conclusions, suggest a set of experiments that build upon or clarify the results of the authors' experiments, or discuss how a paper's conclusions relate to those drawn by other papers or the field in general. No matter what issue or issues that you decide to address, please keep in mind the following advice.

  • Be Critical.

    This is the most important (and sometimes the most difficult) part of writing response papers. For each paper that you read you should think critically about the hypotheses that the researchers have formulated, their predictions based on these hypotheses, the design of the experiments that test the predictions, and the conclusions that are obtained from the results of the experiments. For any given paper there are always other experiments that could have been done (or can still be done) and alternate conclusions that could have been drawn. Your response papers should reflect your own evaluations and opinions of the research that we have read about and discussed in class. That said, the most successful papers are those that propose experimental approaches to solve problems in the readings, as opposed to simply picking them apart.

  • Be Organized.

    You don't need to squeeze every minor critique of an article into your response paper. It is sometimes better to cover just a handful of issues that fall under the same general theme (i.e. “There are methodological confounds in this paper that make me question its conclusions” or “This paper has exciting implications for other areas of neuroscience research”). As a general rule, we would rather read your in-depth opinions about a couple of issues than cursory evaluations of many.

  • Be Concise.

    Sometimes two pages will seem like far too little space to express your opinions- other times it will seem like far too much. In either case, it is important to write clearly and succinctly. Importantly, there is no need to summarize the readings at any length in your response. Rambling or repeating yourself will leave you with even less room to make your points.

  • Be Specific.

    Do not merely allude to an experiment that you think would be interesting; provide details about why the experiment would be useful, what you would expect to find, what techniques you would use, what controls you might need, what technical complications you might face, how you would interpret the results, etc. There is no need for trivial information (use your judgement).

  • Be Creative.

    Don't think that an idea is too crazy to be included in your response paper (as long as you can explain and justify it, of course). Also, don't limit yourself to discussing only the assigned reading- feel free to discuss the assigned papers in the context of other papers from the course or those that you have read independently (please provide full citations).

Good Luck!