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Mammalogy: Contrast Paper

Contrast Paper Assignment

The contrast paper assignment requires students to select two species, research what is known about them, and compare and contrast the resulting information. Students will mimic the process of producing a professional review paper summarizing species similarities and differences. To do this assignment, students must:

  • review information on original scientific research about their species
  • evaluate the retrieved results for relevance to the project and quality of the provided information in order to
  • select appropriate publications relevant to the assignment
  • analyze the information to contrast your species
  • synthesize (produce) a paper communicating this information intelligibly to your readers.

This assignment is similar to work that a professional scientist may be asked to do. A scientist uses primary literature to verify and to explore the limits of known knowledge. Scientists may acquire a reputation of shoddy work if their selected facts turn out to be out of date or wrong. A scientist starting the research project may look at secondary literature summarizing the species but they would not stop there; they would acquire the cited research and look at it for themselves. Encyclopedias, which are considered secondary/tertiary literature, may take years to publish and do not include current research. Ultimately, the scientist must find and get full-text of primary research articles in science to verify what is known about the species.

Find out the scientific name (genus and species) of your species. It is the most precise method to acquire information about a species. But take care. The scientific name may have changed in the past. In the 1990s, many DNA lab techniques were improved and became affordable and plentiful; many scientists used them to sequence the DNA of species and compare them to believed related species. As a result, many species were reassigned within the taxonomic hierarchy and renamed appropriately.

Cite sources you use according to the citation style of the Journal of Mammalogy.


Recommended Sources for Contrast Paper

Taxonomy Sources

Look up the taxonomy (Kingdom, phylum, order, family, genus, species) of your organism in order to search with it.

Use the sources below to look up the taxonomy for a species.

Key Mammalogy Journals

Subject Guide

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