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Project Assignment

ask that, during the semester, students complete a final project consisting of
the following:

(1) a paper written on a topic of
the instructor’s choosing;

(2) a recorded oral presentation,
including slides made with PowerPoint software.

research question

Students should start this project by
formulating a research question that is to be based upon the broad topical area
to be announced by your instructor. The
research question should be relevant to the course and it should also fall
within the given topic. It also should
be reasonably specific and timely. That
is, it should address a current question within astronomy.


We’re fortunate to have librarians
at Mountain View who are ready to assist you in finding resources (databases
and articles, in this case) that will help you answer your research question
and write your paper. Many resources are
available on-line, or otherwise in electronic form, and you may also use any other resource such as books,
journals, or astronomy magazines.

It is very important to get help
from the librarians, because they are experts at determining the authenticity
and reliability of the many articles that are available to you. They will help you select articles that
report the results of actual scientific research.

When working on this project, please
keep in mind that science relies upon evidence and logic. So, when you’re looking for articles to use,
as yourself: How did they conduct this research project? Can I be confident in their results? Does their interpretation of the evidence
make sense to me?

or print encyclopedias such as Wikipedi
a can help you quickly get
some background information about your research question, and might even help you
find useful articles. But the articles
upon which you base your paper should be original reports of research, not
encyclopedia articles such as Wikipedia.
Even magazine articles are acceptable, as long as they say something
about how the research was conducted
– that way, you’ll know where the data come from.

The MVC library web site can be a
good place to start your research:


will be two important links on the left of the page: “online
databases” and “research tutorials.”

To start your research right away:
click on “online databases,” then scroll down and select your broad
research area (astronomy) in the box with the heading “What subject are
you looking for?” then click on
“Go.” This will return a list
of databases relevant to astronomy. Then
you can select one or more databases and start searching for articles.

In most of these databases, you can
click on a box that will limit your search to full-text articles, which means
that you’ll be able to go directly to an html or PDF document without having to
do any further hunting for it. You may
also be able to limit your search to academic journals, if you need to.

If you want to familiarize yourself
first with some of the databases and other resources (before you start
searching for articles), you can go to the main library web page, and click on
“research tutorials,” which will give you an introduction to doing
research for writing assignments. You
may want to use these tutorials especially if you have not done electronic
library research before.


We ask that students write a paper
of approximately three pages, double-spaced, based on a topic to be announced
by the instructor. In your paper, please
include references to at least three articles
that report the results of
research in astronomy. These articles should
describe the methods used by researchers to obtain their data. Newspaper articles generally do not include
enough information about the methods used by researchers.

Please cite the articles that you
use within your paper, in order to support any statement that is not common
knowledge. You may include quotations
from the articles, as long as you place the quotations within quote marks, and
you cite the source. Please, however,
keep quotations short – the paper should be written mostly in your own words. Even when
you use ideas or information from someone else (not just their exact words),
please cite the source to give them proper credit for their work.

Using your own words is challenging
– we know that! But you can make it
easier by trying to think of your own original way to explain the subject to
someone who is not familiar with astronomy, and who hasn’t read the articles
that you’re using. How would you explain
this clearly to a friend or family member?
That’s usually a good way to write a scientific paper.

Please use standard, formal English,
complete sentences, and include several paragraphs of reasonable length. A paragraph is generally at least two
sentences long, but not half of a page.
Paragraphs that are of reasonable length, and logically structured, make
it easier for the reader to understand you.

Please also remember that thought
takes time. An “A” paper is a
paper that reflects thought. So please
give yourself plenty of time to work on this…the ideas and understanding will
flow gradually, and you can’t really rush that process.

Mountain View College Writing Center

In addition to our library, we are
also fortunate to have a writing center staffed with professionals whose job it
is to help you improve as a writer.
Information about their hours and services can be found at:.mountainviewcollege.edu/Academics/InstructionalSupport/Pages/Writinglab.aspx”>http://www.mountainviewcollege.edu/Academics/InstructionalSupport/Pages/Writinglab.aspx

writing center is open weekdays, evenings, and Saturdays. They’re located in room W-114.

oral presentation

The oral presentation will be a
summary of your paper. Try to make your
presentation interesting and thought-provoking, so that after seeing it,
someone would want to read your paper to find out more about this subject.

Since this is an on-line class,we
ask that you record your oral presentation on video, which you will then submit
to eCampus. As part of your oral
presentation, please use PowerPoint presentation software and make at least
five slides of your own. You will use
these slides as visual aids during your presentation. The slides will also be submitted to eCampus
along with the video recording of your presentation.

Please remember that in any
presentation, the oral element (that is, speaking) comes first. Imagine that you are giving your presentation
to a real audience, and try to really communicate with that audience. I suggest that you give your presentation as
though you were explaining your research topic to a small group of

Please keep in mind as well that you
will need time to make your slides, get your camera ready, outline and practice
your presentation, and so on – and all of this is in addition to writing your
paper. Therefore, I urge you to start
on your presentation.


We ask that you cite (reference) the
three articles in the course of your paper – and you should mention at least
two of them during your oral presentation as well. Please use them as a source of information
and ideas, as a way to support the statements that you make in your paper.

You may use a number in parentheses,
similar to an endnote, to cite an article in your paper; then, list the
articles in that same order in the reference list at the end of your
paper. For example, you might write this

“According to Spencer and
Marshall (1), the core of Jupiter is under extremely high pressure.”

Then, your reference list would
begin with (imaginary example):

Spencer, J. and Marshall, Q. 2011.
Jupiter’s amazing core. Gas Giant Quarterly (June 2011), pp.

In this case, the authors of the
article are Spencer and Marshall – just give their last names and first
initials. List the year that the article
was published, then the title of the article.
Finally, give the name of the magazine or journal (in italics), and
information about the volume (or month and year, as in this case) and page
numbers. This is a relatively simple way
to format your reference list.

in general

All of the necessary identifying
information for your paper can go into the header of the document (in Word,
double-click near the top of the page to type in the header), such as your name
and the name of the class. The title of
your paper should be at the top of the body of the document, not in the header. Your
margins should be about 1 inch (about 2 cm) on all sides of the document, and
your typeface should be about 12 point, in a font that is not hard to

Your name, the class, and the title
must appear on the document. In
addition, your last name must be part of the document’s file name – for
example, “Spears B Phys 1403 proj.docx.” Please submit your paper and the oral
presentation materials on eCampus in commonly-used file formats.

Good luck with your project!

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