Improving Critical Thinking and Writing Through Scientific Literature Review

Improving Critical Thinking and Writing Through Scientific Literature Review

Kellie Walters and Roberto Lopez

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

1425 Biomedical and Physical Sciences

Lunch Provided


Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are an integral part of a degree assessment and evaluation plan. These are concise statements that indicate the skills, knowledge, and abilities that students in an undergraduate degree program are expected to demonstrate at the end of a course. Similar to many other STEM majors, one SLO for the horticulture major at Michigan State University is for students to use multiple sources, including both primary and secondary literature, to find, evaluate, organize, and manage information. Though students gain an understanding of concepts by reading literature and writing summaries in many courses, they may not be readily able to interpret data, apply concepts, and make recommendations from the literature to practical situations. These skills are especially important for students to improve their critical thinking, interpret written information, and have confidence in their recommendations. Therefore, we implemented a literature review project in a two hundred level greenhouse production course involving reading a series of primary greenhouse production articles related to course content, writing summary papers, and discussing the articles. The objectives were to increase students’ confidence in and ability to critically analyze primary literature, formulate practical recommendations from the literature, and communicate those recommendations to industry professionals. To assess the effectiveness of our primary literature review project, we administered a series of ten pre- and post-reading surveys to track student content knowledge and student confidence over the semester. We also analyzed the article summaries based on a rubric emphasizing the importance of providing accurate, complete, and practical recommendations to a greenhouse industry professional. In this workshop we will discuss the results of our scholarship of teaching and learning research and experience implementing this project in our course and lab. We will also give pointers on implementing a primary literature review project into your course or improving your current course project(s) to promote higher order thinking.


Kellie Walters is a Ph.D. student in horticulture working with Dr. Roberto Lopez. Currently, her research focuses on the physiological responses of hydroponically produced culinary herbs to environmental factors. Throughout her college career, she has been involved in many teaching experiences including serving as a teaching assistant for multiple courses, teaching a hydroponics laboratory, participating in master gardener training, and teaching horticulture classes in the Virgin Islands.

Roberto Lopez is an assistant professor and controlled environment extension specialist. His research focuses on energy-efficient propagation and production of floriculture crops, leafy greens, and herbs in greenhouses, growth rooms/containers, warehouse-based plant factories, and vertical farms. He teaches an introductory level course on principles and practices of greenhouse construction, operation and management and an intermediate level course on the commercial greenhouse production of herbaceous perennials and annuals.

Video of Session