Letter writing assignment for exercise physiology students
Advances in Physiology Education
American Physiological Society
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Letters to the editor are an important part of democratic societies. In academic journals, letters serve as a form of postpublication review and thus permit continued discussion and debate of scientific ideas. However, letters and their importance are rarely taught to university students. Therefore, the aim of the present paper is to propose a lecture and an assignment that introduce the exercise physiology student to letters. The lecture includes an overview of the history of letters, the definition and purposes of letters, letter themes, examples of letters published in exercise physiology journals, and a search method for discovering letters. The student is then assigned a project comprised of two parts. Part 1 requires the student to independently discover a letter exchange in a scientific journal, including the original research article, the letter commenting on the article, and the reply to the letter. The student then writes a report that summarizes the exchange. The report includes an analysis of the letter's themes and the validity of the arguments made. Part 2 of the assignment requires the student to independently discover an article published in the past year that they believe requires comment. The student then writes a letter, commenting on the article. Students who write convincing letters can be encouraged to submit their letter to the journal. The assignment should help prepare the next generation of journal editors, reviewers, and readers for the task of preserving and participating in a practice that serves to refine knowledge.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Letters to the editor are a form of postpublication review and thus help to refine knowledge through discussion and debate, yet exercise physiology students are rarely introduced to letters in their formal education. Here, the author proposes a lecture and an assignment that the university educator can use to help students understand the importance of letters. In the assignment, the student, among other tasks, critiques an existing letter exchange and writes a letter for potential publication.