Writing Assignment, Spring 2016
Because all scientific disciplines are changing rapidly, new ideas are commonly presented in journals months or years before they are incorporated into textbooks. In order to introduce you to some of the current or classic ideas in Earth history I would like you to read an article from the recent literature during the course of the semester. Then, working from the premise that one of the best ways to understand something is to explain it to someone else, I also ask that you write an outline and an abstract (concise summary) of the article. Developing the ability to recognize which elements of a presentation provide key support for its hypothesis and then communicate your analysis to others through a well-organized and clearly-written narrative is a skill that will serve you well in whatever work or studies you pursue.
Instructions for articles
- Article: To begin, read one of the articles listed below. If you would like additional background you may want to look ahead at our text's discussion of the topics covered by the article you choose. Remember, however, that your outline is to present information only from the article and not from other sources.
- Outline: Then, write a outline of the article's key points using complete sentences.
A good way to begin organizing your outline may be to imagine that you are telling a friend what the most important conclusions of the article are and which data support them. If you can lay our your statements and data this way you'll be well on your way to writing a good outline.
- Your final version needs to be typed, and you should identify yourself only by typing your class PIN—not your name—on the upper, right-hand corner of the first page.
- Please submit your outline to turnitin.com. Our class ID is 12500262 and the password is the same one you use for Gradeserver.
- The outline is worth 10 points, and will be graded on grammar, completeness and the relevance of the material to the main ideas of the article (focus on major points, not peripheral details) according to the accompanying outline evaluation form. You should also review this sample outline, which was written from an article previously used for this assignment, so that you can see the format I would like you to use for your outline and the level of detail I would like you to include. Because the evaluation form and sample outline (as well as the other sample documents linked below) are PDF files you will need to install a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view them if you do not already have one on your computer.
- Finally, here is a list of the annotations I will make on student writing assignments when I review them.
- Preliminary abstract: Next, prepare an abstract that summarizes the most important observations
and conclusions of the article according to the instructions given on the accompanying instructions.
If you're not familiar with what an abstact is, check out this classic essay on what makes a good versus a bad abstract by Kenneth Landes.
- Your final version needs to be typed using the format given in the instructions. You should only identify yourself by typing your PINnot your namein the space indicated near the top of the right-hand column.
- You will want to work from your outline, but be careful not to paraphrase the article too closely or include text directly from it. Doing so constitutes plagiarism and will result in a loss of points.
- The preliminary abstract will be worth 10 points and will be scored about 2/3 on format (page layout and index terms) and 1/3 on content (sentence structure, narrative coherence and completeness and accuracy of content) according to this abstract evaluation rubric. You may also want to review this sample abstract, which was written from the same article as that used for the sample outline, so that you can see how the narrative content of the abstract is related to the ideas presented in the outline.
- Revised abstract: Finally, prepare a revised abstract that takes into account all of the comments you received on you first version. This final abstract will be graded about 2/3 on content (clarity, originality and coherence of narrative) and 1/3 on form (layout, index terms, grammar and sentence structure) according to this abstract evaluation rubric. Special emphasis will be given to those sections where you were asked to make changes to the preliminary version. It will be worth 20 points.
- Rise of the Tyrannosaurs by Stephen Brusatte, Scientific American, May 2015, p. 34-41.
- Giants of the Sky by Daniel T. Ksepke and Michael Habib, Scientific American, April 2016, p. 64-71.