Course Content and Format

This is a 1 academic credit course primarily intended for students who have begun research and wish to prepare themselves for presenting the results of their research in public forums and for those students who have an interest in discussing literature relevant to their field with their peers. Although labelled "environmental analytical chemistry", the papers selected for review could come from any aspect of environmental, analytical, or chemistry but should be selected to maximize interaction among the class participants. In effect, this means that the focus of this aspect of the class could change each semester depending on the backgrounds of the participants. In any case, the course will be broken down into 3 components described below.

Rather than meet once each week for 1 hour, maximum benefit is likely to be achieved by a longer meeting (2 hours) once every 2 weeks conducted in a mostly informal, roundtable format. Although a formal class meeting time had to be selected ahead of the class registration period in order to secure a classroom, if this time slot is not convenient it can be changed based on mutual agreement among the registered students.

In order to maintain an intimate feel to this class and to maximize student participation, the class is limited to a total of 10 students and it is hoped that this interdisciplinary course will appeal to students from a variety of fields including, but not limited to, Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Marine Sciences, Epidemiology, Toxicology, and Public Health.

Component 1 - Learning the Art of Publishing

We will review the criteria for selecting the journal(s) where you would want to publish the results of your research and compare these to the criteria you might use to select journals that you would seek out to help you with your research. We will look at the whole process promoting your work through the various media and weigh the advantages/disadvantages of each resource. With input from various journal editors, we will learn from the inside out how the publication and peer-review process work and what an author should know to maximize the chance of publication in their chosen forum. We will hear perspectives from reviewers and understand the significance of their role in making the whole process work.

Component 2 - Critiquing current papers in the field orally and through discussion

In our first class meeting, each participant will introduce themselves to the class and specifically outline their career to date, research focus, background and experience. While we are engaged in component 1, each student will be asked to select 2 papers from their field and published in the peer-reviewed literature during the past 3 years which they believe to represent the best and the worst of overall presentation. Papers should be selected that will be understood by all participants. Copies of these papers will be handed out to each class participant at least 2 weeks ahead of the day scheduled for discussion. Each student presenter will also provide a list of 4 or 5 questions arising from the paper that the class will address during discussion. Participants will be expected to have prepared their responses to those questions and present those in the class discussion. Each student presenter will be asked to prepare a description of the paper and comprehensive review that should last at least 20 minutes. Depending on the topic and the backgrounds of participants that we will have learned from our first meeting, students may be asked to provide background to the subject of the paper. All participants will have been expected to review the paper prior to the presentation and be expected to be a full participant in discussing its merits and deficiencies. The presenter will be expected to retain the salient points in the content of the discussion.

Component 3 - Composing written critiques that could be submitted as rebuttals to published papers

Following the discussion of the presenter's paper, the presenter will be expected to incorporate the content of the discussion into a fully comprehensive review that will be submitted to the instructor no later than 2 weeks after presentation. As part of this written component of the course, the student should use the material in the review of the poorer of the 2 papers selected to write a short correspondence to the author of the paper using the criteria for submitting such correspondence by the journals in which the paper appeared. In order to make this an effective component of the course, presenters should attempt to select a paper that is a good candidate for such correspondence.