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Reading Digital Content: Journals

This guide will help you identify different types of information you are likely to find online

Journal of Chem. Ed. - HTML

The Kitchen Is Your Laboratory: A Research-Based Term-Paper Assignment in a Science Writing Course
Clinton D. Jones
Journal of Chemical Education 2011 88 (8), 1062-1068


A term-paper assignment that encompasses the full scientific method has been developed and implemented in an undergraduate science writing and communication course with no laboratory component. Students are required to develop their own hypotheses, design experiments to test their hypotheses, and collect empirical data as independent scientists in their personal laboratories—their kitchens. Motivating students to use food preparation as a chemical experiment does more than just provide them with adequate data for their term papers. Students develop a new awareness for experimental variables, acquire experimental planning and development expertise, and gain an enhanced set of independent thinking skills. This inquiry-based assignment requires students to treat edible ingredients as a chemicals and kitchen equipment as scientific instrumentation. Students are required to provide correctly formatted scientific terms for all consumables and equipment, and they are encouraged to bring experimental results into the classroom to gather statistical taste-test data. Students submit their term papers as communication-type manuscripts, formatted using the communication-style template for The Journal of the American Chemical Society. The details and outcomes of this assignment are described along with sample excerpts from student papers over the past few years.

Learning proper technical writing and presentation skills is an important part of an undergraduate education in the sciences. Students will use these skills as professionals in science, engineering, law, and medicine. Furthermore, the process of writing engages students in active critical thinking and advances a more complete understanding of scientific principles.(1-4) A typical undergraduate education inevitably requires students to compose term papers and essays in courses outside the sciences with an emphasis on the Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting style. Courses in the core curriculum such as history, philosophy, and English teach students to propose claims and successfully support their ideas in a cohesive manner; these courses serve as a foundation for fostering critical thinking while enhancing writing skills.
Although more technical in nature, writing assignments in the sciences often require empirical data and are not always practical in every course. A majority of chemistry undergraduates gain their first experience writing full-length lab reports in quantitative analysis and organic chemistry lab courses. Students have enough expertise at that level to successfully analyze their results and support their conclusions with known scientific theories. Ideally, the students realize the important role of written communication in science through this process, which is to pattern the flow of discovery and to provide a written account to the scientific community.(5)
This Journal contains a number of excellent writing assignments for use in chemistry courses, including a complete bibliography of those published between 1980 and 1990.(6) Writing assignments that promote understanding of the material have been incorporated into introductory and advanced-level laboratory courses.(7-9) Some assignments have incorporated the process of peer review, enhancing a realistic scientific publishing process for students.(10, 11) For lecture courses, previous articles illustrate creative approaches for writing assignments that do not require students to include their personal experimental data as in a laboratory course,(12-14) while some target traditionally difficult lecture topics.(15)

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Journal of Chem. Ed. - PDF

The Kitchen Is Your Laboratory: A Research-Based Term-Paper Assignment in a Science Writing Course
Clinton D. Jones
Journal of Chemical Education 2011 88 (8), 1062-1068

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