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Student Roadmap - Peer Review

What Are Good Reasons for Posting on Another Team’s Project Page?

If your teacher asks you to look at one of the other teams’ pages from your school and do a peer review, that is a good reason to post. Also, say you have some trouble with your project and notice that another group is working with the same seeds or a similar set-up. You can post on their project page to ask them if they ran into the same trouble. Maybe they can tell you what they did to fix it. Or maybe you have some interesting results from your experiment and want to see if other groups with similar projects are getting the same kind of results.

Here’s an example from teams both working on the Wonder of Seeds:

science smashers, have any of your plants died yet? Some of ours have, and I was wondering if it had to do with the water, because, are experiment is testing different waters, so I wanted a different team, who’re using the same plant, to see if its just the seed its self, or something else. Thanx. ~~Jasmine:)~~

No, none of our plants have died yet, but some of our plants didn't grow at all, so we think that we may have accidentally not put any seeds in them. Yes, we do have a surprise. One of our plants, (the one that Devan mentioned), has three different plants growing up out of it. We are not sure how, but we must have put three seeds in that one... :) Angelina

Some of ours didn’t sprout either. We thought we hadn’t planted seeds either, but it might have something to do with the buckwheat seed, considering that we both did it. Jasmine.

Maybe that's it. The buckwheat seed might need a certain amount of everything, so if our groups accidentally gave it more or less of what it needs, then it wouldn't grow...well I guess that that could be another experiment, to be studied at a different time that is not now. ;) Angelina

Peer Review

How Do Scientific Discoveries Become Accepted Scientific Knowledge?

All new discoveries and ideas go through a process of peer review. Before any study is considered sound science, other experts in the field take a very close look at it. They review the entire study, examining the strengths and weaknesses of the ideas, the study design, the data, the interpretation of the results. The peer review process only works if scientists are both critical thinkers and open-minded thinkers. If most experts agree on an explanation for a particular scientific problem, the information becomes part of accepted knowledge.

Scientific knowledge is not static––it changes as new discoveries are made. New information can make previously accepted interpretations obsolete. This is a hallmark of science.

Why Should I Peer-Review Other Students’ Projects?

Peer-review is helpful for everybody. It helps other teams improve their project, and it helps you to practice evaluating a scientific argument. You can use these same critical skills to take a careful look at your own project and make it better. These skills also come in handy when you hear a news story about a new science claim––do you think the claim is justified? Should you believe it?

Peer review in science happens both informally such as at lab meetings and formally at conferences, so sharing and getting feedback on ideas is just a way of life. You don’t have to do a long, formal review of another’s project to be helpful. Sometimes just taking a close look and asking good questions about a project can help another team make their project stronger or help them communicate their results better.

Who Are My Peers on PlantingScience? How Do I Find Them?

Your peers could be:

  • Other teams in your class
  • Other teams in your school
  • Other middle school, high school, or college teams
  • Other teams that are working on a similar question

You can search the current projects gallery by school, by level, or by keyword to find other projects by teams like yours.

OK, I Found a Project I Want to Review. What Next?

It’s a good idea to start out by introducing yourself and letting the project members know why you are posting on their page. Try to make your comment the start of a conversation, not just a random comment. Try to make your comments constructive by suggesting what the other team could do to improve whatever it is you think needs improvement. And remember to be critical of the project and the ideas, but not the team.

“Hi I’m Lacey from Team Germinators (Southwest High School). Our teacher asked our team to find another high school project similar to ours and review your project. Our project is about which seeds will germinate in cold temperatures, so we thought it would be neat to post on your project about what temperature water is best for radish germination. We think you did a really good job making sure that you controlled your variables and measured that the water was the same temperature every time you watered the seeds. We like your graphs and it’s easy to see that the seeds watered with the room temperature water did best.

Here’s what we think you could improve. You say that room temperature water is best for radish germination. But you only tested three temperatures of water…really hot, room temperature, and really cold. Why did you pick those temperatures? We think gardeners and farmers would be most interested to know if water that’s only a little warmer or a little cooler than room temperature is better for plants. It would be a lot of work to make water for irrigating fields really hot or really cold. But it would be helpful to know if cold water from a hose is worse or better than water that’s been sitting in a bucket in the sun.

We don’t think you can say that room temperature water is BEST for radish germination just from your experiment. We think you might want to change your conclusion to say that room temperature water is BETTER for radish germination than really hot or really cold water. Maybe a little warmer or a little cooler water is even better than room temperature water, but those weren’t included so you don’t know. It could be a future experiment…”

How Do I Do a Good Job as a Peer Reviewer?

Scientists use guidelines developed by the editors of a peer-reviewed journal to help them evaluate papers. Here are some guidelines to help you evaluate peers’ PlantingScience projects. To use our guidelines, check if the project you are reviewing meets each guideline and most importantly, be sure to add notes that explain your reasoning. The more information you give, the more help you can be to the project’s team. It’s a great idea to use these guidelines to improve your own project, too.

Is the project:

Valid?

  • Are the results believable? Why or why not?
  • Is the question biologically meaningful (does answering the question tell you something meaningful about plants in their normal environments?)
  • Is the design of the experiment and methodology sound? Why or why not?
  • What claims have the team made, and are their arguments well supported with evidence?

Significant?

  • Is this an important finding? Why or why not?
  • Has the team explained why their conclusions are interesting or who might be interested in their results?

Original?

  • Are the findings new? Why or why not?

Well presented?

  • Does the team tell a good story that makes the whole project easy to understand?
  • Are their data well presented in charts and graphs?
  • Do the images they include do a good job supporting the project?

Well-referenced?

  • Does the project give credit to others for the information it’s built upon?