BISC 656, Evolutionary Genetics, Spring 2015

Finding your article for discussion

You are responsible for finding three articles as possible subjects of your class presentation and term paper. You must pick three articles, on three different topics; I'll decide which one you'll do your presentation on.

The articles must be at least 5 years old (published in 2010 or earlier). An important part of your paper and presentation will be looking at the research done since your main article was published. Did your main article cause a lot of controversy, is it well regarded, or has it been ignored? Did your article make predictions, and if so, what has subsequent research shown? What have the authors of your article done lately? I know some of you will be disappointed that you can't do a paper and presentation on the latest cutting-edge article, but I think choosing a slightly older article will make your paper and presentation both more interesting and easier for you to prepare.

The articles must be on evolutionary genetics, broadly interpreted to include anything about the patterns of genetic variation within populations, among populations, or among species, and the processes that influence that variation. E-mail me if you're not sure whether an article contains enough evolutionary genetics to be acceptable.

Articles must report original results; you cannot choose review articles. Articles may be acceptable that collect data from previous publications and analyze it in a new way (rather than just summarizing it, the way a review article does); e-mail me if you're not sure.

On Tuesday, Feb. 24, you must turn in a typed list of three papers, with the citation information (in the format shown for Literature Cited on the instructions for the paper). In addition to the citation information, you must include the abstract of each paper; you can copy and paste it, you don't need to reformat it in any way. Clearly indicate which is your first, second, and third choice. I'll try to give everyone their first choice, but if there are too many papers on certain topics, I'll tell some people they have to do their second or third choice.

I'll put the topics in some kind of logical order and assign presentation dates for everyone. Let me know if there are any days after spring break on which you absolutely couldn't do a presentation (because you know you'll be absent) and any days you'd prefer not to do a presentation (due to an exam in another class, for example).

You may want to find your article by browsing through your favorite journal. Trends in Ecology and Evolution and the Annual Review of Ecology and Evolution contain review articles that can give you leads on interesting papers on hot topics. Evolution, Molecular Biology and Evolution, the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and BMC Evolutionary Biology are well regarded journals covering a variety of evolutionary topics. The "glamour magazines" (Science and Nature) have some evolutionary genetics, as does Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. There are many other journals that have some papers with enough evolutionary genetics content to qualify for this class; in fact, in the last two years students have presented papers from 32 different journals.

If you have a topic in mind, you may do a topic search in the Web of Science (see the Guide to searching for biological literature for instructions) to find an article. If you're interested in a particular topic, such as moss, or mitochondria, or extracellular matrix, a good way to start is with a topic search for that topic plus "evolution". For example, I did a topic search for moss evolution and got 325 articles. Using the "Refine Results" box to limit it to "Subject Area: evolutionary biology" and "Document type: Article," there were 57 articles, on subjects such as the demographic history of peat mosses, the evolution of TCP transcription factors, and the phylogeny of the Timmiaceae.

If you took BISC495 (Evolution) previously or are taking it this year, you cannot use the same topic for papers in both classes. If you're thinking of somewhat similar topics, ask me ahead of time whether I think they're too similar.

If you've written or are writing a paper for another class, you cannot use the same topic in this class.

If you find out, sometime before spring break, that you've picked a horrible article and would like to choose a different one, let me know and I'll help you pick a better one. If you want to change your article after spring break, you're going to have to convince me that it's really, really horrible.

This assignment is worth 3 percent of your overall grade. You will get points off if it's late, if it's not typed, if the references aren't in the correct format, or if you don't include the abstracts.

Return to John McDonald's home page

Return to the Evolutionary Genetics syllabus

This page was last revised February 7, 2015. Its URL is