- Start with something you're interested in, "surf", don't be afraid to get away from your initial question. Learn something.
The objective of this assignment is to give you the opportunity to explore/learn about topics in biology of particular interest to you, and for you to further develop your skills in
- assimilating scientific observations and perspectives
- connecting them to your own interests and experiences
- conveying your unique understandings to others in ways that will be helpful in their own explorations.
- Include searches on Serendip in your explorations. This will help you get started on particular topics, and give you a sense of style, as well as of what prior material on things interesting to you already exists on Serendip. No one has ever said the last word on any topic so you can/should build on available material if it is relevant to what you're interested in.
- Poke around enough to evaluate whether what you've learned is "mainstream" or "controversial", and know why. Do not rely too heavily on single sources.
- Once you've learned something, figure out what the question is to which what you've learned is the answer. That is often (always?) not your initial question.
- Get beyond giving "report" of what you've found/learned. Think about it, react to it, question it, find some for you new ways of thinking. Make connections to other things, worry about what YOU think/understand/wonder about, be critical both of other peoples' work/understandings and your own. It is fine to end with new questions that new understanding raises.
- Be organized in your writing. Start with what you think is important (a question or assertion), organize everything else in relation to that (leaving out what you may have learned that isn't relevant), conclude by showing how what you've talked about relates to what you started with. Do not write about your explorations but rather about what you've gotten from them.
Papers will be evaluated in relation to
- evidence of engagement and creativity
- sophistication in relating observations to interpretations
- success at communicating to a general audience
- Avoid excessive use of quotations. Put things in your own words unless what you want to call attention to some particular way of saying things by some particular person.
- Be sure to include a good annotated list of references, including web references. This provides a "window" that will help your readers do their own further exploring.
- Enjoy learning new things, and trying out new ways of communicating them. Remember that you are helping others to better understand biology, and to contribute to better understanding it themselves.
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