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BIOL 230 Staples: Biology 230 research paper

Cell & Molecular Biology

BIOL 230 research paper description and requirements

Find a topic encompassed by cellular or molecular biology or genetics.

A good example is a cellular process, like metabolism, mutation, photosynthesis, a specific molecule (a specific protein, enzyme, RNA, polysaccharide, etc.) or a disease (in animal or plant) and how this disease results from malfunction or damage to the normal cellular, genetic, and/or biochemical processes in the organism.


Sources: scholarly, peer-reviewed, reliable and popular

Your references must include three articles published in the last six years from peer-reviewed scientific journals, at least two from primary literature, research articles with original experiments and data included in the authors’ results.

Scientific articles can come from a variety of sources, and do not all need to be from scholarly journals. Scientific American, National Geographic and Discover Magazine are excellent layman’s journals that are reputable (see box to the right).

Online sources like ScienceDirect can be highly technical but manageable with some effort. Other publications, like Newsweek or Time or newspapers, may be used as supplemental references, but not as the main three references, and may be good starting points to find a topic of interest.

The scientific journals Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Cell are highly technical, but have sections and articles that should be understandable for an introductory cell/molecular biology student (see box to the right).

Source types
Highly technical scientific journals Scientific databases Reputable lay sources Popular
Nature Public Library of Science (PLoS) Discover Magazine New York Times
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences PubMed National Geographic Time
Science ScienceDirect Scientific American Wall Street Journal

For the bold, these are the best, cutting-edge resources for you, and are likely good for some extra credit: PubMed is a good site to find relevant articles in scholarly biological journals. Please cite the authors and the journal, and not PubMed database. 

Look for websites ending with .edu or .org. Websites ending with .com have commercial or business aims, not educational. Wikipedia and other nonacademic websites are not likely to be reliable sources, and you will lose points for using such sites.

Domain names, or website url endings
.edu abbreviation for "education," usually tied to a college or university.
.org abbreviation for "organization," usually nonprofits with a mission or stated goal
.com abbreviation for "commercial."

Detailed Outline: Give a numbered outline in Standard Outline format (eg: Main topics under “I, II, III, etc”, subtopics with “A, B, C….”, supporting information with “1., 2., 3., …..”, and minor points and notes with “a., b., c., etc….”). This should be a complete outline of your entire paper, with as much detail as possible, and with a nearly complete list of references from professional scientific journals.

Final Paper format

I. Include a 1-page introduction on the background of the topic.

  • Why did it interest you?

  • What is the history of the phenomenon or disease?

  • Why is it important to the science of biology and to our daily lives, if applicable?

II. In 2 to 4 pages, summarize the current research that has been done in this area (from each of your References Cited), and explain how it relates to what we are learning in BIOL 230.

  • What question or problem did the scientists address?
  • What methods or strategy did they use to find an answer to the questions?
  • In what form was their collected data, and how did they interpret their data to form conclusions?

III. Finally, write a 1-page conclusion explaining the importance of recent breakthroughs in the field, the future direction of research in the field, what you learned, and any discussion or opinions you have related to the article. Provide a thorough self-reflection, including how you can apply what you learned to your own life and how you see the world around you. Cite specific knowledge or general concepts, or even mental or academic skills that you learned or improved from this research and writing process. See the posted guideline on Canvas, and ask Dr. Staples for help.

IV. Important points:

  1. Keep focused on cells, molecules, or genetics. Minimize discussions of historical, philosophical, political, environmental, patient care, and/or physiological aspects. Spend 80 to 90% of your writing discussing and explaining specific proteins, genes, and other important specific cellular molecules (using their specific molecular names!) or organelles.
  2. Use in-text citations of scholarly journals published within the last six years. Do not use general or public websites as major sources. Focus on scientific journals as sources, and cite each major source that you use. Please see the box to the right about components of a citation.
  3. If you choose a disease (genetic or infectious) and want to discuss treatments, focus on the molecular and cellular strategies and molecular mechanisms of treatments.
  4. Keep your audience in mind: write the report for reading by one of your fellow classmates. So, write for a person with good basic biological knowledge, but little or no expertise on your topic.

Use CSE/CBE or APA 7 citation style. Citations include author, date, title of article and name of publication as well as more information to identify your source. 
For examples, see 

 Here is the basic format for an APA 7 journal article citation:

  • Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages.      

Make your own or copy and cite diagrams/drawings if you think it will be helpful to the reader.

Cite your references in each sentence or paragraph, even if you have paraphrased your source using an in-text citation. In-text citations are included at the end of a sentence within parentheses, like this (Author, year). See the Purdue OWL guide for more detail.

In-text citation formats
  in-text citation format
One author

Include the author's surname and the year of publication in parentheses: (Chavez, 2017).

Two authors Include both surnames and year of publication: (Chu & Jones, 1994).
Three or more authors Include the first surname followed by et al. and the year of publication: (Chavez et al., 2019).

NOTE: Search engines and databases are not journals. PubMed is a database containing a collection of journals and their articles, but is not a journal itself.

A few important points

Proofread your paper for proper grammar. Papers that have obviously not been proofread will lose points. If you cut and paste text, or otherwise copy, directly from the article or any other source you will fail the assignment and receive an F the course. 
Make sure you:
1. Proofread carefully, and have someone ELSE proofread for you as well.
2. Use at least THREE peer-reviewed scientific journals with original research and data to examine 

  • Nearly all referenced journal articles should be LESS than SIX YEARS old!
  • 5 points of grade for each scientific journal article (15 points of report grade)

3. Be sure to cite each sentence that does not entirely contain your own original thoughts and words with an in-text citation that includes the first author's surname and the year of publication in parentheses at end of sentence or phrase, or a numbered endnote notation. In-text citations are preferred.
4. Do not overuse quotations. Paraphrase information in your own words whenever possible. Show your own thoughtful examination of the data and concepts. Your grade is based on this.


Useful keywords for your searches

  • proteins
  • molecules
  • cells
  • genetics
  • metabolism
  • mutation
  • photosynthesis
  • protein
  • enzyme
  • RNA
  • polysaccharide

Recommended Scientific Journals

Recommended Lay Sources

These reputable magazines are written for the average reader interested in science so they are easier to understand than academic, scholarly, peer-reviewed articles.

Recommended Popular Sources

Popular sources vary widely. Cañada College students have access to two national newspapers, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, through their college library.