for a list of possible topics on which to write your papers.
Guidelines to writing the papers
- The midterm paper should be roughly 10 typed double-spaced
pages of text, and the final paper 15 pages. Feel free to include
figures as appropriate. This is only a suggested length; think of
this as your target length, to astronomical accuracy. Thus I will not
be too happy with a paper that is only 5 pages long, and will be
exhausted if I have to read a 30 page tome!
- Each student should make sure to talk to me directly about their
choice of paper topic for each paper. I will give suggested
readings. Each student must turn in a proposed outline of each paper,
on the dates listed in
- Your paper should include a paragraph-long abstract, summarizing
the main point of the paper.
- Write the paper in such a way that your fellow students could
read and understand it. That is, assume a level of knowledge
equivalent to the students in the course, but no more. A common
mistake, after burying oneself in one's reading, is to assume as too
trivial to mention all sorts of facts that the rest of us are not
familiar with. That is, make sure your paper will be self-contained
and comprehensible to someone who has not taken this course, but has
the same basic science background as the others in the course.
- The paper should make clear what your sources are. If the ideas
you present are directly from the reading, give references. Feel free
to quote directly from text you have read, if appropriate, again with
references. Do include a bibliography of the reading you found useful
in preparing your paper.
- It goes without saying that you should make every attempt to
write papers that not only filled with fascinating content, but that
are well-written: the sentences should be grammatical, the logical
flow of your ideas should be smooth, and so on. Write a paper that
your high-school literature teacher would have been happy with! I will
be happy to help you on this if you would like to. For example, I
could read a first draft and give comments; just let me know.
- If appropriate, of course feel free to use equations, and show
the results of calculations, in your text. If your word-processor has
trouble with equations, you can always enter them in hand after the
fact with pen.
Guidelines to the Oral Presentation
- The oral presentation should be on the subject of one of your two papers.
- You will quickly discover that 15 minutes is a very short amount
of time within which to cover a topic! You will not have time to
discuss everything that is in your paper; thus be sure that you do not
spend too much time on details and side-issues.
- Practice your talk to friends, or to yourself, and time
- We will leave time for questions and discussion following each
talk. People should ask questions during the talk for clarification,
but let us leave the big questions to the end.
- As with the paper itself, remember that your audience has not
spent the last few weeks studying your subject matter intensively, and
thus needs a proper introduction to the material.
- Keep the talk focussed; summarize the basic points
both at the beginning and the end of the talk.
- Put your material in context; make sure
the big picture is clear before going into details.
- You may find it useful to use viewgraph transparencies in giving
your talk. If you are interested in doing this, I can supply you with
transparencies to write on. You may also want to do a powerpoint
presentation; that is fine as well.
- Keep the number of sentences, and number of ideas,
per viewgraph, small.
- Feel free to use the blackboard when lecturing.
- Do not show viewgraphs you do not intend to explain.
- Remember to speak slowly, loudly, and clearly; do not mumble.
Look out to the audience.
- As for your paper, make sure to give references to your reading
- Make sure that the axes of all plots are labelled
clearly, and visible to the audience.
As always, let
me know if you have
any questions or wish to discuss any of this.