Week 5 Team Project: Core Phenotypes

Although behavior genetic methods can be applied to any phenotype you can imagine, some have received more attention than others. This week you will be reviewing the literature on one of the most investigated phenotypes in behavior genetics and producing a summary of what we currently know and how it does (or does not) fit with our expectations based on the Themes in Behavior Genetics.

Team assignments will be posted on Moodle.


  • Become familiar with when and how to use the Empirical Article Summary template and the Review Article Summary template to keep track of key information as you’re reading.
  • Identify common themes across papers.
  • Create a team summary of your phenotype using the Topic Summary template.

Lecture Notes

This week our goal is to learn about some of the most-investigated phenotypes in BG by breaking down some pre-selected papers (for each phenotype, one twin study estimate of heritability, one GWAS, and one or two review papers), finding supplemental papers, and looking at their core conclusions and how they fit into the framework of common themes in behavior genetics (see the very end of Week 1 Lecture Notes).

I was able to get everyone into one of their top 3 preferred phenotype teams, so keep in mind that you and your teammates have at least one thing in common - you’re interested in this topic! That’s the best starting point to build a successful collaboration, even if only for a short time.

Do first:

  • Check your team assignment.
  • Make sure you can access your team discussion forum for Week 5 (posted below your team’s pre-selected readings).
  • Make sure you can access (or request access to) your team google doc (posted below your team’s discussion board; access to the doc does require a login so I can see who contributed what).
  • Skim your team’s pre-selected papers (note: SKIM, you are not expected to do a deep-read of all of these).

This week we will have Zoom meetings on both Tuesday and Thursday (11:00 am - 12:20 pm Central). During these sessions, you will work together to:

  • [Tuesday] Complete an Empirical Article Summary for your twin study and GWAS papers and a Review Article Summary for your review paper(s).
  • [Thursday] Draft a Topic Summary about BG research on your phenotype.

As always, there are four asynchronous options to contribute to your team effort this week. However, I encourage you to attend this week’s Zoom sessions if at all possible, because working through these activities as a group is the easiest way to develop these skills.

As I work through providing feedback on your topic and reference selections, it’s a good time to look ahead to Project Milestone 2: 10 article summaries, which is due at the end of week 8 (Friday, October 16). For that assignment, you’ll be using the same Empirical Article Summary and Review Article Summary templates that you’re working with this week. If you start working on your 10 article summaries this week, you can do 2-3 per week and be done on time.

Prep Work

Below is a listing of materials to review early in the week. Although these activities do not earn points, they will prepare you to undertake the Participation Activities and Course Project assignments.

  • Skim the papers posted on your team’s resources list below
    • Your team will be working together to create formal summaries of these papers during Tuesday’s Zoom session, but you should become generally familiar with them before/even if you’re not attending Tuesday’s Zoom session. Each team starts with one twin study, one GWAS, and one or two review papers.

Participation Activities

You can earn up to 4 points for participation activities each week by selecting and completing tasks from the “menu” listed below. You may complete more than four tasks if you’d like, but the maximum number of points awarded will be 4 per week. Each activity is worth 1 point.

  • Find an empirical article (other than those that have been pre-selected) about the genetics of your team’s phenotype, fill out an Empirical Article Summary template, and post your summary to your team’s discussion forum.
    • Make the subject of your post: [summary] Article title (N = number of participants).
  • Find a popular media piece about the genetics of your team’s phenotype, find the published journal article that it is reporting, and post both to your team’s discussion forum.
    • Make the subject of your post: [scicomm] Popular media piece title
  • Write a tweet thread (4 or more tweets, <280 characters each, link/image/gifs optional) about the genetics of your team’s phenotype (citing the pre-selected readings and/or papers that have been posted to your team’s discussion forum) and post it to your team’s discussion forum.
    • Make the subject of your post: [tweets] First few words of the first tweet.
    • For some inspiration, check out this twitter list of authors whose work you have/will read in this class, plus some of my favorite scicommers.
    • Important: You are not required to actually tweet anything; it’s enough to prepare & post here the text/images in that style.
  • Journal: Editing
    • Do some editing of your team’s Topic Summary draft (in the team google doc, produced during the Thursday live Zoom session). For example:
      • Add information from posts in your team’s discussion forum.
      • Add details about individual studies to existing text: sample sizes, participant characteristics, phenotype operationalizations, effect sizes, replication attempts.
      • Paraphrase direct quotes; only quote something directly if the original phrasing was so perfect and beautiful that to rephrase it would be a crime against language.
      • Work through one or more of the steps of Randy McCarthy’s suggestions for self-editing your writing to edit your team’s Topic Summary draft.
    • For participation activity credit: Write a couple of sentences here reflecting on what you changed or added and how those changes impact the summary overall.
  • Team Learning Project on Tuesday, 11:00 am - 12:20 pm
  • Team Learning Project on Thursday, 11:00 am - 12:20 pm
    • Work together to draft a Topic Summary for your team’s phenotype.

Team Resources

Pre-selected articles are listed below. Team discussion forums and shared google docs are available in Moodle.


Cognitive Ability


Drug Use