300811 SCIENTIFIC LITERACY
Writing Task Part 1
This assessment contributes 15% to your overall mark for this unit.
Writing Task Part 1 develops the scientific topic that will be the subject of Writing Task Part
2. You will choose a scientific topic that is suitable for a popular-level article. A list of suggested topics is provided below. You are encouraged to choose your own topic, in discussion with your workshop tutor. You will write a short summary of your topic before your second workshop (Week 3-4), and discuss this summary with your tutor and classmates. The submitted assessment consists of 1) a 400-word reflection (plus-or-minus 25 words) that includes discussion of group feedback, 2) references for three source articles, and 3) justifications for those articles.
As well as your tutor, Study Smart Officers are available for free 30-minute academic writing and study skills sessions via Zoom. Click to learn more and book a session.
Communicating to a general audience is an essential skill for scientists. Your non-specialist audience might consist of members of the public who need to hear about your medical breakthrough, business and industry specialists who could turn your discovery into improvements in our way of life, or the assessors of a grant application who are deciding whether to fund your research. You need to be able to explain in plain language what you discovered, and why it matters.
Science is also inherently collaborative: your work will build on the work of other scientists. Finding, assessing and citing scientific information is essential to providing a complete picture of the available scientific evidence, and giving due credit to your colleagues. In particular, properly referencing and citing allows readers to check your sources for themselves.
This assessment will also invite you to reflect on your experience of choosing and researching a topic for your writing task. Reflection encourages you to observe your own experiences and beliefs, and link these with the content of this course. It is an important part of learning at University, and an essential part of being a practicing scientist. As we take time to think about what we have done and learned, we organise our thoughts, see the bigger picture, and can see new directions for future research.
What to do
Step 1: Complete the “Successful Searching” Module on vUWS.
A link to the “Successful Searching” Module can be found in the Assessment Zone on vUWS. You must score at least 18/20 on the quiz at the end of the module to receive any marks for this assessment. You can attempt the quiz as many times as you need.
Step 2: Choose a topic that is suitable for a popular-level scientific article.
Choose a scientific topic that interests you, about which you will write a popular-level article. A list of suggested topics is given at the end of this document, but we encourage you to choose your own topic and discuss it with your workshop tutor.
Your topic must be a scientific topic: not engineering, politics, philosophy, history, etc. It must concern scientific knowledge about the physical world. If you are unsure, talk to your workshop tutor. Be specific, but not too technical.
Step 3: Write a short summary of your topic before your Week 3-4 workshop.
Write two or three sentences to summarize your topic. It may be helpful to pose a question that your article will answer.
Step 4: Discuss your topic with your workshop group.
Bring your short summary to your workshop in Week 3-4. As you discuss your topic with other students and your workshop tutor, record their comments and their effect on your choice of topic.
Step 5: Find three articles/websites that will be used as sources for the article.
You are not expected to read and reference published papers in professional scientific journals. These will probably be too technical for you.
Examples of websites with popular-level articles:
If you encounter a paywall (e.g. “Subscribe to continue reading”), you can access articles via the Library. As well as sources, these websites will also be useful for finding examples of popular-level articles, whose style you can learn from.
The Structure of Your Assessment
Submit your assessment as a PDF document that includes your name and student ID.
Structure your document as follows; an example assessment is provided on vUWS.
Section 1: Reflection
In 400 words (plus-or-minus 25 words), answer the following three questions:
• What is your topic?
• Why did you choose this topic?
• What feedback did you get from your discussion group? How did you incorporate it?
Your reason for choosing your topic may be quite personal; it does not need to be sophisticated. We all have different reasons for becoming a scientist, and for our scientific interests. Be honest and genuine.
Reflection requires both describing and analysing your experiences. Reflective writing asks you to make sense out of your thoughts. As such, it needs to be logically structured and readable, using paragraphs to organize ideas. It is not formal academic writing, so you do not need to cite any of your references in your reflection.
Section 2: References
Give references for 3 popular-level articles that you will use as sources for your article.
• Create a properly-formatted list of academic references to the articles, following the Harvard referencing style. Use www.citethisforme.com – a video explaining how can be found in vUWS – and see the example assessment.
• Provide a screen shot/scan of the first page of each article in your submitted PDF document. These should be placed at the end of your document as images (otherwise, it will trigger Turnitin).
Section 3: Justifications
For each of your three source articles, write a short justification: why do you consider this source to be reliable? This should be 3-5 sentences. You may wish to consider the following questions:
• Who runs the magazine/website that you are citing?
• What are the credentials of the author of the article?
• Does the article itself reference reliable sources?
• Does the source show an obvious political, commercial, or ideological bias?
Read the Marking Rubric below.
Read the Example Assessment, on vUWS.
Include the Assignment Cover Sheet (on vUWS) as the first page as an image (otherwise, it will trigger Turnitin).
Word limits: reflection (not including references and justification) should be between 375 and 425 words. If your reflection is longer or shorter than this, you will lose marks.
No images. Text only.
Submit your assessment as a PDF via Turnitin on vUWS.
Provide a screen shot/scan of the first page of each article in your submitted PDF document.
Turnitin similarity score should be below 15%. Check your score and revise your assessment if necessary.
Advice to Students
• Do not copy and paste from the internet. Turnitin will compare your assessment to internet sources, and other submitted assessments. If you plagiarise, you will be caught, and face academic misconduct proceedings. Busyness and carelessness are not acceptable excuses.
• Revise your writing! Write a draft, take a break (for at least a day, if possible) and then read your article again out loud.
• Give your assessment to someone else to read – any adult should be able to understand it and provide comments.
• As well as your tutor, Study Smart Officers are available for free 30-minute academic writing and study skills sessions via Zoom. Click to learn more and book a session.
• If you find an article on a database, you need to reference the original article (i.e. where it was published), which is not necessarily the place you found it.
• The popularity of a source or website is not a sufficient justification. The fact that an article refers to other articles is not a sufficient justification.
• If you fail to attend your Week 3-4 Workshop, you can receive feedback on your topic from any adult non-scientist. Friends and family are fine.
This list gives examples of appropriate topics. You may choose one of the following topics, but we encourage you to find a scientific topic that interests you.
• What’s a flame made of?
• The CSI effect – how TV influences forensic science
• How do ladybirds stay warm?
• Social Media and the modern attention span
• The benefits and risks of tap-water fluoridation
• Is it possible to clone a Neanderthal?
• What is plastic doing to our environment?
• [Science fiction movie] is possible. Here’s
• Do artificial vitamins and minerals really improve our health?
• Physics and the Murder of Caroline Byrne
• Are computers better than humans at police line-ups?
• Will antibiotics still be effective a century from now?
• Designing molecular machines
• How do galaxies form?
• Machine learning is changing how we do science
• How to use bacteria to mine gold
• Why young animals play
• How to photograph an atom
• Video games and teenager aggression
• The physics of tuning a piano
• Capturing carbon by planting trees: how many do we need?
• Choose a science Nobel Prize winner and explain their scientific work.
• Is Google affecting our ability to memorise?
• How animals survive bushfires
• Using science to find unmarked graves
• A Users Guide to Mining the Moon
• How tall could a giraffe grow?
• Should we try to recover extinct species by cloning their DNA?
• Are planets like Earth common or rare in the universe?
• Will computers ever perfectly model a human brain?
• In evolutionary history, how did starfish become -the fittest-?
• The Future of the Sun
• Making an ecosystem in your computer
• What we learn from a dinosaur footprint
• Does the logging of forests affect the risk of bushfires?
• Why farmers need satellites
• Is nuclear power the best way to transition from fossil fuels?
• Of Microbes and Crime-scenes
• Who is keeping an eye out for asteroids?
• Do black holes really exist?
• Using fungi to biodegrade plastics
• Will trains ever run on superconductors?
• How do viruses jump between species?
• Mass extinctions and exploding stars
• Was Venus ever habitable?
• Can renewable sources of energy reliably replace coal?
• How video games simulate real physics
• Are plants intelligent?
• Can psilocybin (from magic mushrooms) treat depression?
• How supercomputers revolutionised [insert field here]
• Nuclear Fusion Reactors and the Future of Power
• How, and why, do some animals glow in the dark?
Each criterion is marked out of 10; total mark will be converted to be out of 15.
Unsatisfactory (0-2) Beginning (3-5) Developing (6-8) Proficient (9-10)
A. Grammar, Layout: Correct spelling, and grammar. Structure as requested, including copies of source articles. Contains numerous errors in grammar, spelling. Structure not as specified. Several errors in grammar, spelling. Structure mostly fails to meet assessment instructions. Minor errors in grammar, spelling. Structure mostly meets assessment instructions. No major errors in grammar, spelling. Structure meets assessment instructions.
B. Content of Reflection: Appropriate scientific topic, addressing the questions asked, authentic reflection on choice of topic. Inappropriate or non- scientific topic, fails to address reflection questions, no reflection on choice of topic. Partly scientific topic, poorly addresses reflection questions, little reflection on choice of topic. Good scientific topic, mostly addresses reflection questions, some reflection on choice of topic. Insightful scientific topic, sufficiently addresses reflection questions, clear and deep reflection on choice of topic.
C. Group Feedback: Evidence of feedback from workshop discussion of topic. No discussion of group feedback. Minimal discussion of group feedback; no evidence of acting on feedback. Sufficient discussion of group feedback; some evidence of acting on feedback. Critical discussion of feedback from group, and how it was incorporated into the topic.
D. Referencing: correct referencing of exactly three sources. Fails to reference sources. Major errors in referencing. Minor errors in referencing. No errors in referencing.
E. Justification: Providing adequate reasons for sources. No justification of sources. Mostly unreliable sources referenced. Inadequate justification of sources. Mostly reliable sources referenced. Some good reasons given in justification of sources. Reliable sources referenced. Convincing reasons given in justification of sources.
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