A focused assignment encouraging deep reading in undergraduate biochemistry


  • Bryan D. Spiegelberg

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Rider University, Lawrenceville, New Jersey
    • Address for correspondence to: Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Rider University; 2083 Lawrenceville Road; Lawrenceville, New Jersey 08648. E-mail: bspiegelber@rider.edu.

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Encouraging undergraduate students to access, read, and analyze current primary literature can positively impact learning, especially in advanced courses. The incorporation of literature into coursework typically involves reading and responding to full research reports. Such exercises have clear value as students make connections between experiments and are able to probe and critique scientific logic. The exclusive use of full papers, though, may reinforce certain students' tendencies to rely on textual clues rather than a critical analysis of the actual data presented. I propose that structured activities requiring students to focus on individual parts of research papers, even on a single figure, are beneficial in a literature-centered advanced undergraduate course, because they promote the deep reading that is critical to scientific discourse. In addition, I describe how one such focused assignment boosted learning and was well received by students in a second-semester biochemistry course. © 2013 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 42(1):1–5, 2014