The Term Paper (Prof. Eberhard Möbius)
Facts in Brief (Dates change with each teaching term):
- The term paper mandatory for Physics 405 students!! For Phys 405, with
all its tasks it is worth 24% of your TOTAL COURSE grade.
- Term Paper Draft due: Mo, Apr 7, 2014, 11:59 pm on Blackboard. Late Penalties: -5%
for each day late. In addition, for any time late you won't receive any Student Peer Review [50% of the Draft Credit], nor will you be able to provide any Peer Reviews [1/6 of the Term Paper Credit]
- 2 Peer Reviews due: Mo, Apr 21, 2014, 11:59 pm on Blackboard. Late Penalties: -10%
for each day late
- Term Paper, Final Version due: Mo, May 5, 2014, 11:59 pm on Blackboard. Late Penalties: -5% for each
- The paper must be between 5-10 1.5 spaced pages.
- The paper must involve some research from a variety of references, which
may include your textbook. WWW references may be included, but book and/or
journal references are a "must".
- Failure to write and hand in a term paper will result in an F for the class!
- Plagiarized papers lead to an F in the course, followed by a letter to the
- The paper must contain recent material on your topic (from 2012 through
2014), or the paper will at best receive a B+.
- Your paper should involve some research using your textbook and other materials
in the Physics
Library (located on the basement level of Nesmith Hall). You can use online
search engines to locate articles relevant to your topic through the UNH
Library reference system.
- The term paper can be on anything you want to write about, as long as it
has to do with astronomy. The main goal of the term paper is that you learn
- The term paper should be 5-10 double-spaced typed pages, but at least 5
- A list of references, from which the information has been obtained, is
required. At least 2 additional sources should be consulted in addition to
the course book.
At least one of the sources should be more closely related to your topic (not
another textbook). A wide selection of books on various interesting topics
are compiled in the reference list of the Course Review. It will pay off to
draw from a variety of sources!
References may also be from the www, but you must also have book or printed
- The term paper, including Outline, Draft, Peer Reviews, and Final Submission,
will be worth 24% of the course credit, and really good term papers will receive
some extra credit. But getting all tasks in on time is essential; credit will
be deducted for late submissions. No Term Paper at all results in an F in
this class!!! Don't wait for your word processor to crash. Get it done at
least a few days ahead of time. Keep one copy of your Term Paper for yourself!
- Bear in mind that Plagiarism is a serious offense against UNH's rules. If
you get caught plagiarizing your Term paper, this will result in an "F"
in this course and a letter to the Dean of your College. UNH maintains a
website on Plagiarism so that you can gain the full understanding of this
- Keep in mind for your Term Paper that the philosophy in this course is to
learn about how we get the information. Therefore, you should include the
physical principles behind the tools astronomers use and that are behind the
astronomical wonders. Don't just stop with what is seen out there! Describe
reasons behind the phenomena, questions related to them, what we know about
them and what we don't know yet. Show how scientific methods have been applied
to your topic.
Chosing a Topic:
- One easy way to do a Term Paper is to pick a specific group of
objects which were not discussed in your first lab write-up. These
can be objects you saw with the telescope (for example, during the
second observing session). Or they can be other objects which you
simply feel like writing about. For example, you are welcome to write
about dark matter (missing mass), or black holes, or brown dwarfs,
or the sun, or comets, or meteors, or supernovas, or quasars, which
you won't see with the telescope, or you may want to write about the
life cycle of a star (including some examples of what you observed).
- Alternatively, if you are really intrigued about a single topic
in astronomy, you can do a Term Paper on that. (But get your Prof's
or TA's permission first if your topic is not clearly related to the
content of the course. It will certainly be advisable to check with
us, before you write about topics, such as astrology, UFO's, or the
possible contact with aliens. These are not disallowed, but you will
have to be doubly careful with the selection of sources, and it is
more difficult to get real scientific contents into your paper.) A
good idea might be to write about one or two of the unsolved problems
in astronomy, such as the missing mass problem, the solar neutrino
problem, the formation of galaxies and galactic clusters out of a
smooth early universe, the formation of planetary systems around other
stars, or the energy source and nature of the quasars. Another approach
might be to pick a constellation, and write about the different objects
that can be found in that constellation (Orion, Cygnus, or Sagittarius
are good choices).
- If you can't come up with an idea for your term paper, just scan
recent issues of Astronomy,
and Telescope, or Scientific
American; there are always interesting newsy articles that should
intrigue you! Even the Science Section of newspapers such as the New
York Times and the Boston Globe
may trigger an idea (I will bring articles about new discoveries to
class as they appear). In all cases you will have to increase your
knowledge by consulting books from the library on the topic. If you
have problems where to start or you want some advice of any kind,
please come and see me or your TA!
- This is a science course, not a history or philosophy course, so,
while historical information and philosophical insights may serve
to put the subject of your paper into context, the bulk of your paper
should be science-oriented. By science-oriented, we mean that we are
looking for both descriptive information about the object, theorem,
or phenomenon, as well as justifications for that information. How
do we know what we know, and why do we believe what we believe? This
kind of material should dominate the paper, and should, on its own,
fulfill the page requirements. Even well-written papers which do not
include such justification can earn no more than a B. Justifying your
assertions in a scientific paper is just as important as in a literary
or historical paper.
- If you find yourself having to enlarge the font size, play with
margins, or repeat your points in order to meet the page requirements
(remember, your TAs were students once, too!), you probably need to
do more research or look for a new topic. For this reason, you should
start thinking about a topic as soon as possible, and begin reserach
at least three weeks in advance.
- Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Have a friend read your paper to
make sure that it is clearly written and understandable, as well as
grammatically sound. This should also help you catch places where
you haven't defined jargon. Assume your reader is intelligent, but
hasn't necessarily taken an astronomy class.
- If you need Help with your Term Paper, please talk to me, your TA,
and/or schedule a help session with the UNH
Writing Center (Hamilton Smith 7) Phone: 862-3272. It
is a valuable resource for advice on writing papers. Its faculty and
staff will be happy to assist you. They won't write the paper for
you, they will guide you in the right direction. I will dedicate half
of one lecture to a discussion of the Term Paper together with a representative
from the writing center (about Mid Semester). This will make you familiar
with this unique resource. Some more information about this fine service
of UNH is attached at the end of this manual.
Using the Internet:
- You have already visited the homepage for Physics
406 which contains connections to observatories around the world,
NASA educational material and to
homepages of recent spaceflight
- We will visit some of these resources in class when it fits into
- Find the latest news about your topic from Astronomy
magazine or from the WWW!
This will earn you a higher grade.
- Be cautious about what web sites you use! There are a lot of sites
out there that may have interesting information, but which are of
questionable origin. Try to stick with reputable sites like those
associated with NASA and other reliable space agencies. These sites
rely on peer review, a vital part of the scientific process, while
other sites may make unsubstantiated claims that cannot be verified.
This is especially true of subjects like alien visitations, faster-than-light
or time travel, and other such "fringe" subjects.
Structuring your Paper:
- It is important to structure your paper. To show that you have learned
something you should be able to organize the material and your arguments.
Therefore, the paper should have chapters with meaningful subtitles.
- Have all your refernces in the paper. Please place a list of all your references
at the end of the paper with all pertinent information: Authors, title, (in
case of book: publisher, location of publisher, year; in case of journal:
journal, volume, page #s, year). I do not insist on a specific format, but
your list should follow a consistent pattern. See below:
In the text you need torefer to your references either by (a) putting author
and year [A_author et al., 1987] or (b) a number that points to the reference
. In the latter case you need to have all references numbered in sequence
at the end. This makes the two possible ways of your reference list:
(a) A list that is alphabetized according to 1st authors:
A_author, ..., Title, Journal, Volume#, Page#, Year
B_author, ..., Title, Publisher, Location of Publisher, Year
(b) A list numbered in sequence:
1) B_author, ..., Title, Publisher, Location of Publisher, Year
2) A_author, ..., Title, Journal, Volume#, Page#, Year
3) C_author, ...
What do you do to impress the reader in order to get an A on the
you have understood some of the important scientific reasoning behind
you can explain this to your fellow students, high school kids, the
you have researched carefully
you have looked for more recent sources (newspaper or journal articles
[Astronomy, Discover, Sky and Telescope, etc.])
you can ask question on your topic (not necessarily all of them will
have a final answer!)
Do not just describe many facts and features.
Less facts and more questions on:
How this works and
Why this looks like we observe it
Go a long way!
Here is some bulletized advice how you should
go about preparing your Term Paper with some important DOs and DON'Ts:
Sample Flowchart for Term Paper Preparation:
- Stage 1: What should I do? What do I want to write about? (This
stage should be passed by Mid-Semester)
- Ask yourself, what you are interested in!
- You write the best paper about something that you want to learn!
- Stage 2: Searching and Reading of Material
- Reference List in Course Review
- World Wide Web
- Magazines, newspapers etc.
- Stage 3: Great Confusion?
- Organize your material!
- Write down a list of points that you have learned on your topic
- Then structure this material (see sample organization below)
- Stage 4: Outline of Paper
Structuring of paper is very important for a scientific write-up!!!
(see sample outline below)
- Stage 5: Paper Writing
- You may start for example like:
- ...... Several million years ago, in a galaxy far far away
a new star starts its life. .......
- Write your section with a logical flow of arguments
- Stage 6: Critical Reading and Editing
- You want to impress, but not with sloppiness!
Sample Organization of Material for a Paper that might be entitled:
The Life of a Star
- What happens when a star is born?
very dense gas and dust clouds
objects that resemble a disk of a planetary system
gas cloud shrinks under gravity gas cloud heats up, must lose
heat by radiation then shrinks further gets hot enough in
the center that nuclear reactions start
- What happens during the main life of a star?
stars shine steady for a long time
we can observe stars of the same age in star clusters
stars up to a certain mass/luminosity found in the cluster
energy source is fusion of H
massive stars live shorter -> thus heavier stars already died
in a cluster
- How do stars die?
- Observations of dying stars
Supernovae etc. .....more ...
Sample Paper Outline:
Nice introductory theme?
Motivation for topic
.......more ...(early ideas, early misconceptions about topic,
- How a Star's Life Starts
- The Life Span of Mature Stars
- Aging of Stars and Star Death
- This could appear in your Conclusions:
Remarks on the Life "Cycle"
- Supernova blast waves trigger new star births
- Aging stars and dying stars recycle material into interstellar
gas that contributes to new star life
- So the cycle is closed!
- List all the sources you have used
- Books with title, author and year
- Journal articles with title, author, journal, page no. and year
- WWW sources with Web page URL (Web address)
We are not picky as far as the format of the references are concerned.
However, you need to include all the pertinent information, as listed
above. You may want to use a format
similar to the APA format, just for consistency and clarity. Again,
we will accept any clear, complete and consistent. format
- DO NOT just copy a paper from the Internet! This is called plagiarism.
This will result in an F for your non-effort.
- DO NOT copy a paper from somebody else! This is called plagiarism.
This will result in an F for your non-effort! On your job in the future
you can be fired and caught up in legal proceedings. Here it will
lead to an F in the course and a letter to the Dean of your College!!
So, don't try this route!!
- DO NOT just compile quotes from the sources that you found in your
paper. Quotes may be used sparsely, where they support a point that
you are trying to make. Papers that are full of quotes with not much
of your own text and thinking will receive a low grade.
- DO NOT forget the reference list at the end of your paper. Points
are subtracted for a missing reference list.
- DO NOT forget to structure your paper with sub title for the sections.
Points are subtracted for missing sub titles.
- DO NOT forget to keep a copy for yourself, both on disk and on
Happy writing, and happy learning!