Lab Info / critiques

Scientific writing assignments

This semester you will complete two scientific writing assignments. Choose two of the four topics described below. Here is a guideline for critiques.

Monitoring program critique guidelines

There are thousands of avian population monitoring programs around the world. Their size and objectives range from the Breeding Bird Survey in North America to regional species specific programs such as the Nightjar Monitoring Program in the eastern U.S. to small-scale surveys in individual parks and natural areas. Select a monitoring program (other than the BBS) to evaluate, and write a short critique (1000 words including literature cited) of the program. Succinctly review the history, objectives, methods, assumptions, and results of the program - this should only take perhaps two paragraphs. Then, evaluate the effectiveness of the program and offer recommendations for improvement. This evaluation and your recommendations should be the majority of your paper.

A summary of a recent program to monitor mountain birds in the northeastern U.S., and new guidelines for bird monitoring programs developed by the American Bird Conservancy are provided to stimulate your thinking. A review of the BBS published in 2000 is also provided as an example of an in-depth program review.

Scientific paper critique guidelines

Choose a full length article about birds from a professional ornithological or ecological journal that was published within the past 12 months. Write a review (maximum 1000 words) summarizing the strengths and weakness of the article and make recommendations for improvement. Follow the reviewer guidelines provided by the Ecological Society of America. Assess how well the article meets these guidelines. As the reviewer guidelines state, be specific in your comments and provide supporting evidence for your assessments. Also assess how well the article meets the mission and scope of the journal in which it is published. Most journals provide a mission statement, which can be found on their website. Here are two example mission statements: Ornithology and Ecological Applications.

Do NOT write a "book review" of the article. A short summary of the article is appropriate, however this should be a very minimal portion of your paper (one paragraph should suffice). You are writing a critique of the article.

Wikipedia contribution

Contribute to a Wikipedia account of any bird species. Your contribution should include a minimum of 500 words of new content and 5 new citations.

In order to be able to contribute to/edit an existing Wikipedia page, you must first have a Wikipedia account. In order to create an account, click on the “Create Account” link at the very top right of any Wikipedia page. You will then be directed through the steps to sign up. If you already have a Wikipedia account, simply sign in.
A good place to start your search for species pages to which you can contribute is the WikiBirds Project. To get updates and information, you must join the WikiProject Birds page. How to join: After navigating to the WikiProject Birds page -> Members (tab) > Edit (top right next to search bar) > add name to members list.
Now you’re a member of the page. You’ll have access to edit updates, the Talk Page, and the Watch List.

For this assignment, you are simply asked to add content to an existing page, but if you feel capable, you are also able to create a new page.
How to create and add content to a new page: Write body copy (in a word doc) > In Wiki -> Tools (left hand column) > Upload File (this is only allowed once you have a confirmed account).
Now you have your own Wiki contribution that can be edited by the world! Edits and posts about your content can be tracked on the Talk Page and Watch List.

For more information about the merits of contributing to Wikipedia, please read Bond 2011: Why ornithologists should embrace and contribute to Wikipedia.

Blog post entry

Develop a blog post with a goal of synthesizing an avian research article or project to reach a target audience (e.g., birders, gardeners, backyard birders, anglers, hunters).

For this assignment, you are asked to identify an avian related research article since 2019 or current project (something related to North Carolina is preferred), write a 600-800 word synthesis of the topic tailored to a specific audience, and include a simple infographic that explains the main finding of the paper. BioRender is a great option for infographics. The blog post should follow science communication principles of synthesizing a topic for highly interested but non-expert audiences and promote engagement by citizen scientists. Efforts should be made to identify and connect with the values of your target audience (e.g. birders value accessible habitats, gardeners value biodiversity, etc.). Exploring wildlife, ecology, and bird blogs is a great place to start this assignment. Examples include the NCSU Applied Ecology blog, Wadertales, The Applied Ecologist, American Ornithological Society, NC Audubon Blog, and The Wildlife Society.

Some writing advice

Scientific Writing

Passive Voice

from the Writing Center at UNC-CH