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Term Paper Assignment

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Taken from Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway’s course “Astronomy and the Humanities.”

Purpose and goals of the assignment

You are to argue for the thesis you have chosen. To do so, you must demonstrate knowledge of the subject and synthesize information from several references. At least one-third of the paper should concern how astronomy is related to your chosen topic.


Among the skills you should demonstrate with this paper are: clarity, persuasive arguments, and analytical skills.


This is a formal report. You should not use first person constructions, except in your conclusion where you may offer your own opinion based upon your research. Passive voice is allowed, if you wish, but be aware that passive statements are sometimes not as strong in making an argument.


Your audience is a group that is generally knowledgeable about science and humanities, in other words, your classmates.


  • 2 October – topic and one reference submitted to instructor for approval (less than half a page, double spaced).
  • 12 October – References for term paper – an annotated list with at least four scholarly sources, at least one of which must relate to the science.
  • 20 October – Summary paper of one humanities reference for the term paper. Attach Source Analysis Worksheet.
  • 27 October – Summary paper of one astronomy reference for the term paper. Attach Source Analysis Worksheet.
  • 2 November – Four page “research proposal” for term paper
    • Statement of the thesis
    • Outline and some developed sentences/paragraphs
    • List of references (a minimum of four scholarly references)
  • 13 November – an eight to ten page, double-spaced, draft paper is due. Font size should be 12 point and margins may not exceed 1.5 inches on 8.5 by 11 inch paper.
  • 17 November – final paper due


Conferences may be scheduled with your instructor to brainstorm on topics and/or go over rough-drafts. Please make your appointment at least 24 hours in advance. No conferences are available on Nov 4-6 (due to instructor travel).

Reference materials

All references should be scholarly, as per the instructions given at the Library Workshop. NOT wikipedia.


Either footnotes or endnotes may be used. You may use any style of indicating your reference that indicates the exact source used. Exact quotes must appear in quotation marks and be referenced. Paraphrased sentences should also be referenced. If you are using Internet references, they must be scholarly references. The Undergraduate Writing Center can help you learn how to best list these references.


Your writing will be expected to demonstrate the following proficiencies:

  • No run-ons, comma splices, or inappropriate fragments
  • A lean, efficient, jargon-free style
  • No offensive or inappropriate language
  • No subject/verb agreement errors
  • No pronoun agreement errors
  • No pronoun reference problems
  • No misused, dangling, or misplaced modifiers
  • Commas used correctly
  • No spelling errors
  • Final text carefully edited and proofread.

Style Assistance

If you have problems with these areas, please consult a writing handbook, such as:

Hairston, Ruszkiewicz, and Friend. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers (6th ed.). Longman.

Ruszkiewicz, Hairston, and Seward. The SF Writer (2nd ed.). Longman. –

Fulwiler. The Blair Handbook. Prentice-Hall.

Strunk and White. The Elements of Style. Allyn and Bacon.

Aaron. The Little, Brown Compact Handbook. Longman.

DiYanni and Hoy. The Scribner Essentials for Writers. Allyn and Bacon.

Lunsford and Conners, The Easy Writer. Bedford/St. Martin’s


I will be particularly looking for:

  • Thesis clearly stated
  • Main points stated
  • Evidence to support your points
  • Smooth transitions
  • Conclusion that logically flows from the paper
  • Clear and concise
  • No mechanical errors
  • Appropriate references
  • Correct use of footnotes or endnotes
  • Length of paper meets assignment

An “A” Paper

An “A” paper has the following characteristics:

  • The paper has a well-developed thesis with an insightful set of criteria. The introduction establishes the issues at stake and the conclusion indicates what will change as a result of this argument.
  • The paper demonstrates excellent development of each idea and focuses on relevant details. Clearly explained examples support the claims and the topic is thoroughly researched.
  • The author is clearly attentive to the values of the intended audience. The author defends beliefs not shared by the audience and handles counter-arguments with respect.
  • The paper contains strong topic sentences and builds upon the argument suggested in the thesis. Clear transitions connect ideas both on the paragraph level and the sentence level.
  • The paper demonstrates mastery over the basics in sentence completeness, structure, variety, word choice, and punctuation. It maintains a clear and efficient style.