Astronomy 490            Description of Assignments               Spring 2007


This course includes five types of assignments.  This handout provides a description of each type of assignment and guidelines for completing them effectively.  Please refer to this sheet often.

1.  Reading of and written assignments on journal articles  (weekly) 

Students will be asked to read journal articles in detail.  Expect these readings to take 2-3 hours per week.  You should read the article slowly, gleaning as much as you can from each sentence, even if you don’t (and shouldn’t expect to) understand everything that is said.  Write down your questions and thoughts about the paper as you go along.  Recording these comments and questions will be part of the weekly written assignment (see #2).  

2.  Written assignments on journal articles  (weekly)

These will be short (~1-2 page) assignments to aid reading comprehension and tie the material in the paper to previous course work.  A regular part of the assignment will be to write down your questions and comments about the paper.  Additional assignments include, e.g., analyzing a particular section in detail or performing a short calculation based on data in the paper. 

3.  Oral presentations of journal articles  (approximately 2 times per semester)

These should be short (~5-10 minute) oral presentations aimed at getting the class discussion of a given paper started.  Guidelines for these and other oral presentations are given on the reverse.   

4.  “JournalWatch/NewsWatch” oral presentations  (approximately 2 times per semester)

Each week will start off with an oral report of a recent article from the “astro-ph” preprint server, a recent issue of a journal (e.g., Astrophysical Journal Letters), or from the popular press.  These should be short (<5 minute) presentations to the class using powerpoint.  Students selecting a paper from a journal (“JournalWatch”) are required to read only the abstract, introduction, and conclusion sections of the paper.  Reading more is always helpful.  The title and abstract of the paper should be printed and given to the instructor with the student’s name on it and method by which it was found (e.g., astro-ph).  Students who select an article from the popular press (“NewsWatch”) should select an article in a newspaper, popular magazine, or website that reports on a scientific paper that has been (or is about to be) published.  In this case students should read the full newspaper, magazine, or on-line article.  Students should also print or photocopy the full article, along with identifying information (source and date) and turn it in.

5.  Final paper and oral presentation

You will select a topic on which to prepare a final oral presentation (~15 minutes) in consultation with the instructor.  Ideally topics will follow up on or relate to one of the broad topic areas chosen for the semester and also draw on knowledge from previous course work.  Proposals for these papers will be due mid-semester. 

*** turn over for oral presentation guidelines ***.