2 Jul 2015

Peer Review - How does it work?: A literature discussion with a focus on scientific communication

Literature Discussion

Submitted by Michael Norris, University of Washington

This learning object is based on discussion of the literature, but it follows a paper through the peer review process.  Students first read the original submitted draft of a paper to ChemComm that looks at photochemical reduction of methyl viologen using CdSe quantum dots.  There are several important themes relating to solar energy storage and the techniques discussed, UV/vis, SEM, TEM, electrochemistry, and catalysis, can be used for students in inorganic chemistry.

Unlike a typical literature LO where students discuss only the current science, this LO contains the actual reviewer comments to the original submitted manuscript as well as a link to the final version that was published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

DOI: 10.1039/C5TA03910J

Learning Goals: 

Students will be able to...

·  Communicate the main ideas of a scientific research paper to classmates.

·  Identify the research area, importance of the research, and background information provided in a scientific paper.

·  Discuss areas of a paper that may be improved through revision.

·  Compare their views of necessary revisions with actual anonymous reviewers on a scientific paper and the eventual publication.

·  Understand the importance and shortcomings of the peer review process using an actual publication from the literature.

Implementation Notes: 

The LO has multiple sections which may be discarded or edited depending on the particular learning goals desired.  While the chemistry may be difficult for lower level students, the discussion of the peer review process may be valuable to students across multiple levels and even in writing courses.  Also provided are the authors' actual responses to the reviewers comments.  It should also be noted that the original article was submitted to ChemComm, but the subsequent revised article was submitted and accepted to Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

Time Required: 
Homework Assignment + 1 h in class
Evaluation Methods: 

Students can hand in tthe first set of questions as homework which may be evaluated.  Class participation and group work may also be graded appropriately.

Evaluation Results: 

This is an untested LO.

Creative Commons License: 
Creative Commons Licence


I modified this module for an upper level (master students + advanced undergraduates) inorganic course that focused on spectroscopic and hands-on computational methods (using ORCA). The article and questions were not assigned as homework, but were used as a starting point for an in-class discussion. Students were each assigned one highlighted section and had approximately 20 min to read the article and the reviewer’s comments. I generated a new short worksheet with questions for the students to answer. While the students were working, I walked around the classroom to help answer questions. This worked very well because the topic of the article was more removed from topics students had learned about previously.

This was successful in teaching students about the peer-review process (none of the students had previous experience) and students were surprised by both the formality and ambiguity in the process. They were particularly interested to see the draft and final article along with the reviewer’s comments.

Following this activity, students conducted their own internal peer review of written final projects for the course submitted by their classmates. I was highly impressed by the quality of their reviews and students put a lot of thought and effort into their responses. 

The VIPEr community supports respectful and voluntary sharing. Click here for a description of our default Creative Commons license.