Nsc8211: Developmental Neurobiology

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Term Paper

Each student is to write a term paper proposing a study dealing with any aspect of developmental neurobiology (approximately 10 pages, typed, double-spaced, 12 pt font, 1" margins). The first and major part of the paper should be the 'Background' section. This is typically about 6 pages. This section should first define a question. Typically this would ask what mechanism is responsible for some aspect of development of some part of the nervous system. Then a hypothesis should be developed based on what is known from the literature. The hypothesis is a possible answer to the question posed. The background section would more appropriately be titled the 'rationale', which is meant to convince the reader that the problem is important and that the hypothesis is reasonable. Important references should be cited (by authors' names and year), but it need not be an exhaustive review of the literature. The second part of the paper should be the 'Methods' section, typically about 4 pages. This should briefly outline one or more experiments designed to test the hypothesis. A complete step-by-step description of the methods is not appropriate. Give just enough detail that it is clear what methods will be employed. Essential controls also should be mentioned. Possible results should be given, and it should be indicated how each possible result would relate to the hypothesis posed in the background section. The final part of the paper should be a 'Literature Cited' section, which should give the complete citation for each reference.

Each paper will be reviewed by at least two students in the class, and in turn, each student will review at least two other papers. Reviews are to be 1-2 pages (typed, double-spaced). Reviewers should expect to do some background reading for each assigned term paper. Reviewers will also meet with authors to discuss each paper. The reviews should address several questions. First, does the paper clearly present a problem and state a hypothesis? Second, does the background provide a compelling rationale for the stated problem and hypothesis? Third, does the proposed study or experiment test the hypothesis, and are the potential outcomes of the project clearly tied back to the hypothesis? Fourth, are essential controls adequately addressed? Finally, are there any major problems with the writing or other aspects of the presentation?

Based on the reviews, students should revise their papers to address the major problems. [Suggestion: Reviewers are always right! Even though you might think that you covered something adequately, if the reader does not see it that way, then you did not do a good enough job.] Grades on this part of the class will be based on the revised paper and reviews.

NOTE: Papers submitted for review that the faculty deem to be incomplete or a rough draft will have the final grade reduced by one point (equivalent to one letter grade).