Sunday, October 19, 2008

Refereed journal articles may be a mouthful...

Here's the opening line of the abstract from, "Patrick J. Neale, Anastasios Melis' article on a small green organism: "Chlamydomonas reinhardtii was grown at photon flux densities (PFDs) ranging from 47 to 400 μE.m-2 s-1." Now, unless you are a phycologist (double-click any word for the meaning), then you've probably found three or four words you don't know, even if you are a great reader, right in the first sentence. This "jargon" is typical of refereed journal articles, by the way. A poor reader might become discouraged with the words found in journal articles, but, those of you familiar with my, "Reach Reading tm" technique, or, with Einstein's ability to stay on one paragraph till he figured it out, know that that is just a challenge of reading in science. You won't let yourself worry about a new set of vocabulary! As my sister, a reading specialist, says, "No one knows all the words."

The abstract continues, "The total cellular content of chlorophyll (Chl) was twice as high in the low light (LL) versus high light (HL) grown cells." Phew, you got some of that! I mean most of us learn the simplified equation of photosynthesis when we are children and we can recognize light, cells, perhaps chlorophyll, and, other words here. We can also get the gist of the article...A ha! We are reading about plant response to light... I mean, there might be more, but, there is something we can get.

Let's try some reach reading and look up some words. Let's see what else we can understand. In this way, reading an article becomes like finding treasure in a computer game. Let's see who can find the most treasure. Try to then use the words to paraphrase what you think the authors are saying.

In this way, elementary and secondary school, children and teens (and for that matter, adults), can build technical reading skills. They are playing a game.

Let's look at the ending of the abstract, "Thus the stoichiometry of electron transport complexes changes in response to growth PFD and this change is correlated with the response flexibility of algal photosynthesis in diverse light environments." Though there are difficult words, we're not afraid of them now. It is a challenging game, perhaps, but, it is fun. High school students should recognize, "stoichiometry," from chemistry classes. Here they get to see it in a, real "laboratory report," the refereed journal article.

I hope reading just this tiny bit of the abstract of the article has gotten you interested in reading more. You might be interested in contacting a phycological society, or, getting the full article via inter-library loan, or, you might wonder about plant pigments, or have other questions that could become wonderful experimental designs. Typically students winning science fairs use such journal articles, even in elementary school.

Try reading more of these authors' works. Do you know how to find them? Please feel free to ask questions in the comments. Jargoning is typical in many fields outside of science, too. So, what you learn about "playing" with science words in journal articles is applicable in all subjects.

Dr. J

[under development]

Patrick J. Neale 2 1 Anastasios Melis 1. 1986. Algal photosynthetic membrane complexes and the photosynthesis-irradiance curve: a comparison of light-adaptation responses in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (Chlorophyta)1. Journal of Phycology. 22:4. 531-538 (1 Patrick J. Neale 2 Anastasios Melis 1
1 Division of Molecular Plant Biology, University of California. Berkeley, California 94720) DOI: 10.1111/j.1529-8817.1986.tb02497.x"

Links to Phycological Societies and Information:
Phycology Section of the German Botanical Society

Asia Pacific Phycological Association (If this doesn't open, click it, then, delete the http:// and then hit enter) Or, try this one.
(c) J S Shipman

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