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Cluster 70: Evolution of Cosmos and Life

This quarter's final assignment is a little different from your Fall quarter assignment. Instead of investigating a topic based on a popular paper in your field, you're going to focus on an existing debate in the scientific world. These debates fuel the progression of science -- ideally, the strongest arguments with the best evidence rise to the top. It's a never-ending cycle: science becomes an iterative discussion as claims are considered, refuted, or upheld. Through this examination, you're going to walk through this conversation with a topic of your choice introduced on your writing assignment.

A copy of this checklist is available as a Google doc if you would like to make a copy for your own records. 


Step 1: Choose your research topic

Decide which topic you would like to focus on. Before you make your final selection, read through some preliminary research on your top choices. Wikipedia is a great place to get some background info to see if this is something you're really interested in. 

Confused? Talk to your TA about the topics, or check out this video: Mapping your Research Ideas 


Step 2: Break down the prompt

Break down the prompt for the assignment into its primary components. Make a plan! What are your instructors asking you to talk about? Highlight key concepts from both the prompt and descriptive paragraph for your topic. Use this handout to help you brainstorm.

Confused? Talk to your TA, Kate, or Shelby. Use what you learned in background research on Wikipedia or an encyclopedia to translate jargon and key terms. Remember, Wikipedia and encyclopedias are great for context, but you'll want to go deeper and read the primary literature for your paper.


Step 3: Look for evidence

Search Web of Science and other databases like PubMed using the synonyms you brainstormed in Step 2. Remember that the search is iterative - this means you'll want to run multiple searches with different combinations of terms to achieve a thorough search. What fields of study could be involved in your topic? Check out the "Finding Articles" portion of the research guide to narrow down which databases are best suited for your topic. 

Confused? Talk to Kate or Shelby! You can also check out these videos: "Crafting a Savvy Search Strategy" Part 1 and Part 2.


Step 4: Create an annotated bibliography

As you find articles, take notes on them while reading. Then use that information to create your Annotated Bibliography. Don't forget to use Zotero! 


Step 5: Create your paper outline

Now it's time to organize the articles you've found and start incorporating them into an outline of your paper. Make sure you keep track of the prompt as you outline. 


Step 6: Create your summary of the current debate

Building a summary of the current debate allows you to hone your understanding of what is most important in the field right now. It will also help you develop your argument. Use the assignment prompt as a guideline and use the unique articles you've found to make your argument more interesting. Then, use your annotated bibliography to pull key ideas from the most current research in the field. As you research, pay attention to the introductions of peer-reviewed studies. They almost always review relevant literature and put their own study into context relative to the broader field, much like you're being asked to do. 

Confused? Go to office hours, or talk to Kate and your TA. 


Step 7: Start writing!

Using your outline and keeping your argument in mind, start writing your research paper.

Rough Draft Checklist:

  • Do you have all 5 primary research articles?
  • Do you have your bibliography in order?
  • Has every point made in your summary been included and expanded upon in your paper?
  • Did you meet with your TA and Kate?
  • Do you have questions prepared to ask for feedback with your grader? Do you need clarification on their feedback?

Final Draft Checklist:

  • Incorporate any feedback from your instructor, peers, and Kate
  • Double check that you've fully answered the prompt
  • Proofread your paper
  • Not sure about your writing strength? Go to the Undergraduate Writing Center.
  • Meet with Kate if you want additional feedback.