Behavioural Ecology Article Review Instructions



  1. Goals


The purpose of this exam is to assess your understanding of behavioural ecology by your ability a) to understand and assess the quality of a research article in the field, b) to evaluate the importance of the article to the field, and c) to suggest a profitable direction for future research based on the article.  Your answer is to be presented in a clear, concise, well‑organized essay of no more than 2000 words.  This essay will be evaluated on both form and content.


  1. Approach and Organization


Write your essay as if your reader is not fully familiar with the article but has it available and requires an “expert” evaluation, for example to decide if it should be reprinted in an anthology or cited in a textbook.  The following sections define the areas that must be covered, but the actual weighting given to the different areas will depend on the nature of the article chosen and your own preferences.

  1. i) Overview ‑ State in your own words the logical structure of the article. This should include an explicit statement of the question being asked and what type of behavioural ecology question it is (see Lecture 1 notes; for Questions 1 and 4 be specific about the sub-category), the hypothesis or hypotheses being tested, the predictions made (including specifying the aspect(s) of behaviour being investigated and the actual behavioural measure(s); see Lecture 3 notes), how the predictions were tested, including the general approach (natural or artificial settings; observational, comparative or experimental method; see Lecture 5 notes), and any important but not obvious assumptions that are needed to derive the predictions from the hypothesis. Indicate the principal findings and the conclusions drawn.
  2. ii) Critique ‑ What are the strengths and weakness of the study? How reliable are the principal findings and the conclusions derived from these findings?  Would the study be repeatable?  Would an alternative methodological approach have been preferable and feasible within the general logistical constraints of the study?  Do the conclusions flow logically from the observations?  Is the paper clearly written, well organized and generally free from errors?  What would be the most important area to improve if the study were to be redone? [It may help to review the process of publication, parts of an article and short overview on statistics in the Lecture 5 notes.]

iii) Significance ‑ Was the general topic of this paper covered in the text? Was the specific subject matter addressed? If it was covered, briefly state the view provided.  Does this paper represent a major change in perspective, an important confirmation of theory, an important new idea, a simple extension of previous findings to a new species or situation, or a poorly executed repetition of previous work?  If the specific subject was not addressed in the text, should it have been?  Considering your text, state where your article could be cited, whether or not it should be cited and why, and to what extent it might change any conclusions or generalizations stated or implied by Alcock.


  1. iv) New Ideas ‑ Develop a short proposal for an original research project in the field of behavioural ecology that extends, amplifies, challenges or more thoroughly tests one or more of the conclusions from the study. For your proposal, you should indicate the type of question, the specific hypothesis, predictions, the behavioural (or other) measures involved in the test, the logical basis for the predictions including any major assumptions that might not be true, the approach to be used and how different possible results of your project might affect the conclusions of the article you examined and the field of behavioural ecology in general.


III. Rules of Presentation



  • The maximum length is 2000 words, not counting references. (This is equivalent to 8 typed, double‑spaced pages with 12 font and normal margins, but the length should be based on the word count, not pages.) Please state the number of words at the end of the paper.  (2) Use a clear and lively writing style, but be concise, avoiding redundancy and addressing each of the four major topics listed above as thoroughly as possible.  (3) Typing is obligatory. (4) Double‑space (not 1.5), use font 12 Times Roman, and number the pages.  (5) References to articles and books in the body of your essay should be in the CSE style. (6) Do not include references you have not cited. If you refer to a book or article you have not read, provide both the reference and the source of information in the Literature Cited. In the body of the essay, indicate the indirect source of the information (e.g., “Smith (1996), cited by Alcock (2015), showed that …”). (7) Use quotations only when they are actually needed. If you do quote, provide the page number after the year at the point of citation (e.g., Alcock 2015, p. 409). When quoting or referring to specific statements in the text or your article requiring the reader’s attention (for example, specific errors), identify their location by page, paragraph and line (e.g., p. 520, para. 3, line 5).  (8) Provide a title to your essay that would serve to catch the reader’s attention as well as inform regarding the content if it were a published review.



The evaluation will be based on both content and form, including accuracy, clarity, critical insights (positive and negative), originality, and adherence to the directions. You should strive for a clear, concise essay that demonstrates thoughtfulness, original insight and understanding both of the field and of your particular article. Because of the restriction of the length of your essay, you will have to be selective as well as concise and well organized in your writing.  Do not use this selectivity as an excuse for failing to develop your ideas, however.  I will be looking for a clear demonstration that you understand the importance and implications of your critique, evaluation and new ideas.

The deadline for submission is Thursday, 15 February 2018 in class. You must submit a paper version (except under special circumstances discussed in advance with me). There will be a significant penalty for lateness without valid excuse (10% per day).

Discussion of the papers among groups of students is encouraged, but each student must organize and write his or her essay completely independently. Avoid plagiarism. I will not be surprised if similar ideas appear in different essays on the same article, of course, but the wording and organization of the essay must be original to each student. If you quote the article, use quotation marks; if you are paraphrasing it, write in such a way that your reliance on the author is clear. Avoid ‘soft plagiarism’, paraphrasing an author while making minor changes in wording. Note that it is permitted to ask friends to comment on draft versions of your essay. Indeed, such help can be very beneficial, but each student must be responsible for the writing of their own essay.



A list of suitable papers follows.  The pdfs are available on CMS. It is helpful to look at several articles before making your choice.  There are differences in topic, type of organism, approach and statistical sophistication, as well as length and degree of conceptual difficulty.  The papers are related to studies of foraging, predator avoidance and habitat selection.  I have selected articles investigating a variety of taxa. Experience suggests that you will do better with a topic that appeals to you; number of pages is often an inadequate criterion for “appeal” (or even degree of difficulty). Critiques of weaker articles or more negative comments do not receive better grades than critiques of strong, well written articles!

To help give an idea of what I expect, I have placed on CMS a “Model Article Review” that was produced based on Kildaw (1995) (PDF included on CMS). This is to provide general guidance concerning the expectations and approach, and neither form nor style should be slavishly copied.

If, after careful reading, there are aspects of the article you do not understand, please come and talk to me. I can help you understand the articles by explaining statistical or other difficulties.  However, I will not provide critiques or information about how the article fits into the field.  That is for you to determine.





Articles Acceptable for Biology BIOL 3107 Article Review

  1. Master, T.L., J.K. Leiser, K.A. Bennett, J.K. Bretsch and H.J. Wolfe. 2005. Patch selection by snowy egrets. Waterbirds 28(2): 220-224.


  1. Golub, J.L., V. Vermette and G.E. Brown. 2005. Response to conspecific and heterospecific alarm cues by pumpkinseeds in simple and complex habitats: field verification of an ontogenetic shift. J. Fish Biol. 66: 1073-1081.


  1. Binckley, C.A. and W.J. Resetarits Jr. 2005. Habitat selection determines abundance, richness and species composition of beetles in aquatic communities. Biol. Lett. 1: 370-374.


  1. Wente, W.H. and J.B. Phillips. 2005. Microhabitat selection by the pacific treefrog, Hyla regilla. Anim
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