Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Yale Teaching Center

Teaching Journal Articles

In many courses, undergraduates are required to read published empirical studies and to use and analyze the information provided in those articles. However, students frequently struggle to understand the methods and results sections, often relying on the introductory remarks, conclusions, and sometimes only the abstract to extract the critical pieces of information from the study. Teaching fellows are left in a difficult situation; their students need to read journal articles but do not know how. This module is designed to help teachers facilitate understanding of empirical studies for undergraduate students in both the natural and social sciences.

This module will focus on the CREATE method (Consider, Read, Elucidate the hypotheses, Analyze and interpret the data, Think of the next Experiment; Hoskins et al., 2007). Although originally designed to be used in a classroom setting and working with a single journal article over several meetings, CREATE can be adapted to fit several different class activities and outside-class assignments. First the key components of the method will be described, then suggestions for using CREATE in class activities and assignments will be provided.

Students begin with reading the introduction to the article. They are encouraged to Consider the relationships between the key concepts presented in the introduction. They often create a concept map of these ideas (i.e., a figure showing the relationship between the different ideas). Next, students move onto to Read the methods and results sections, including all graphs and figures provided in those sections. In order to make sure that they understand what they are reading, students are instructed to (1) annotate and re-title figures to improve clarity and (2) draw pictures of the methods (i.e., a cartoon) indicating how the study was actually conducted. A worksheet can be used to guide students in their review of the results. After they are clear on the methods used in the study, students Elucidate the hypotheses based on the results and write out the research questions above each figure or table. With questions/hypotheses established, students begin to Analyze and interpret the data. They compare results between groups (i.e., experimental and control) and draw conclusions based on the data. At this point students read the authors’ discussion and evaluate their conclusions. Finally, students are encouraged to Think of the next Experiment, to think critically about the study and generate ideas about future research projects. This may include generating questions to email the author(s) or it may involve designing follow-up studies.

Teaching fellows can use the CREATE method as a way of teaching a series of journal articles coming out of a single lab (as the creators of the method designed it). However, it can also be used in several other class activities and projects. For example, students can be given outside class assignments that relate to either a part of CREATE (e.g., create a concept map, draw a cartoon of the methods and procedures) or they can be assigned to go through the entire process as a homework assignment. Similarly, CREATE can be used for group assignments. Different students groups can be assigned to go through the entire process for different articles. Alternatively, one class can go through the steps for one article, with each group can doing a piece (e.g., Consider, Read).

Hoskins, et al. (2007), Selective Use of the Primary Literature Transforms the Classroom into a Virtual Laboratory. Genetics 176, 1381-1389.


Useful Resources

“Reading the Language of Science: CUNY Prof Models New Teaching Methods for Science,” New York Teacher. Provides a brief overview of the CREATE method and its use in the college classroom.

“Concept Maps: What the Heck Is This?” Reviews concept maps and provides examples of strong and weak ones.

“Hot Off the Press: Using Popular Media in Instruction Using the Popular Media in the College Classroom” Offers suggestions on how to integrate popular media into social sciences classrooms.

Module created by Sarah Rabbitt (Psychology) and Pete Angelastro (MCDB)