Working with Scientific Literature – Learning Pack

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Developed by Dee McCarthy (ASAB), Dr. Mark Bowler (University of St. Andrews) and Alaina Macri (RZSS-Edinburgh Zoo)

Working with Scientific Literature PPT

Working with Scientific Literature teachers guide – PDF

Working with Scientific Literature – Living Links to Scottish Curriculum – PDF

Research Article 1

Research Article 2 – Short Communication

Newspaper Report – External link

Review Article

Summarised versions of the research and review papers on capuchin anointing behaviours are coming soon! 

This pack provides a stimulating way of learning about scientific journal articles and highlights the difference between ‘research’ and ‘review’ papers (it also fits into the new Scottish Advanced Higher Investigative Biology Unit 3).

It is suggested that students start by watching a silent video (below) showing an unusual behaviour in capuchin monkeys; ‘anointing’, for which there are various hypothetical explanations. Students will first form their own ideas about why the capuchins behave in this way. Then they will be given a real published scientific research paper (with a summary to guide them) describing an experiment on one aspect of the behaviour. Students will discuss whether this research demonstrates what the function of the behaviour is. Students will then read a published scientific review paper that describes a historical body of research and evidence on the subject. Students will then discuss the difference between the two types of paper and how each presents evidence for the various hypotheses.

The popular media often report the findings of new studies out of the context of the larger body of research. In part two of this pack, students will critically examine a short video ‘documentary’ and a newspaper report that interprets some of the ideas on capuchin anointing for a general audience. They should also gather recent reports of scientific studies from newspapers, TV and internet news sites. They will then discuss how scientific ideas, hypotheses and findings are (and how they should be) reported in the popular media.

Note that brown capuchins like the ones at Living Links have previously been known as Cebus apella but their scientific name has recently been changed to Sapajus apella.

Capuchin monkeys ‘anointing’ with onions – silent video



Capuchin monkey self-medication ‘mini documentary’


This mini documentary interprets research papers for a layman audience. Students are encouraged to critically examine the film and discuss how scientific ideas and findings are (and how they should be) reported in the popular media.


If you use any of our materials, please leave us feedback in the comments section below on how they were used, and how they can be improved. Academic levels and student numbers are particularly useful!


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