debunking aliens

debunking aliensRead the following guidelines on writing your paper. Please note that absolute requirements (things we REQUIRE in or of all research papers) are tagged below with[REQUIREMENT]. Failure to adhere to these fundamental guidelines will result in a loss of points on your research paper. You get the grade you earn, not the grade wegive you.An “A” paper should teach your instructors something they did not previously know. For example, writing the same old tired lines about a topic like the Roswell UFOcrash that has been thoroughly debunked in books and in lectures for this course will not earn an “A”. Instead, find a topic that few have explored (check skepdic.comfor a listing), or come up with a new angle on an old topic.[REQUIREMENT] Paper Template FileDownload this file; it is a template to use for building your paper. USE IT!Give your file a name in the format “Yourlastname.doc” (you better be smart enough to put in your own name). Be sure to capitalize your name.Edit “Paper Title” to put in the desired title.Edit “Date” to show the date the file was submitted.The typeface is set to Times New Roman 12 point. DO NOT CHANGE IT!Line spacing is set to 2.0 in the template. DO NOT CHANGE IT! If we find that the line spacing has been increased, we will penalize the paper by an amount proportionalto the amount of the increase.Page numbering is activated. DO NOT TURN IT OFF!There is a strange line of “T O R A W C Q” at the bottom of the title page. DO NOT DELETE IT!The format for sources separates source of claims from scientific sources. USE IT. Don’t mix scientific sources into the claims section.More Notes on Papers[REQUIREMENT] Make sure that the paper uses or describes pseudoscience, the scientific method (especially where it is misused), or critical thinking so that it isapplicable to this course.Keep the claim or claims as narrowly and clearly defined as possible. Otherwise, you risk writing a tome instead of a paper, or trying to study too many directions allat once. A de-focused or vague paper that trades depth for breadth will not earn you a good grade.Writing about topics such as:a policy debate (where the science is settled and it comes down to values and opinion, e.g. “Coke is better than Pepsi”, or “Wind energy is better than solarenergy.”),a purely theological or religious topic (where scientific tests are impossible, e.g. “Does God exist?”),a purely technical problem (e.g. “Natural gas is a better fuel than coal or oil”),a claim of a future event whose occurrence cannot be tested before it happens (e.g. “Humans will be replaced by robots in 50 years.”),or a topic where few resources are available to support EITHER the claim OR the study of the claimwill earn you a poor grade. Avoid these.A topic that doesn’t focus on a testable, pseudoscientific claim or a clear case of the use/misuse of the scientific method or critical thinking is not an acceptableresearch topic. Here are some things NOT to do.Recite a lot of history about some topic. Use ONLY as much history as necessary to set the scene.Write a broad essay on the subject. This does not amount to assessing a claim.Try to lay out the “pros and cons” in an attempt at “fairness.” Science is fair only in how well it gets at the facts about reality. Science develops knowledge; peoplehave to figure out how to deal with it.Try to prove a negative, like “ESP does not exist.” You can debunk a claim easily if it would violate a well-established physical law, like one of the laws ofthermodynamics. Otherwise, proving a negative is essentially impossible.You are STRONGLY encouraged to discuss your topic with the instructors FAR in advance of submitting your paper. It’s why we have office hours, and it’s why we requireabstracts be handed in weeks before the paper due date. Your paper is your responsibility, and your adherence to our recommendations is your responsibility. That’s whyyou get the grade you earn, not the grade we give you.[REQUIREMENT] Cite evidence, not opinion.[REQUIREMENT] Read the file of required references. If your topic is shown and lists references, you MUST read those references.[REQUIREMENT] Build your paper on a specific testable claim. On the very first page tell us the following:State the claim clearly.Who made that claim?Show the source where you found it. A magazine, TV show, web site, advertisement, etc. will be fine. Cite that source.Give a brief summary of the amount of actual scientific tests of the claim that appear to be available. If very little is available this might not be a good topic.If the claim is “widely believed,” you need to find and cite some evidence of this.These papers are to be exercises in learning how to critically assess and evaluate pseudoscientific claims and the like.[REQUIREMENT] If you use another author’s words (or data or graphics), reference the work in your bibliography. Never plagiarize.If you are unclear on just what plagiarism looks like, then see our NOTES ON PLAGIARISM. Here are some basic rules:If you copy, word-for-word, lines of text from any source without giving credit to the source, YOU ARE PLAGIARIZINGIf you are going to use text verbatim from a source, even if you cite it you should put the text in quotes and use it as either an in-line quote or a block quote. Seea writing handbook for more information. REMEMBER: too much block quoting (which equals not enough original writing) counts against your paper grade.If you are not going to quote the source, but will simply use the text from the source, TRY TO RE-WRITE THE TEXT IN YOUR OWN WORDS.Properly used quotes are fine. They can add clarity or emphasis to critical points. Just be sure to enclose them in quotes and cite the source they come from. Largequotes should be set off as block quotes.Refereed journal articles are the best sources, then books, then the internet. [REQUIREMENT] Your bibliography may not contain more than 25% internet sites.Exceptions: 1) Internet sites of type .gov, .mil or .edu will not count as Web sources. 2) Internet sites which are used as the source for the pseudoscientific claimare exempt; just be sure to clearly indicate this.Be sure to check out any internet sites used for references. Here are some good references on how to do this.Evaluating Web Pages from UCal Berkeley. Note that the alexa.com site referenced is no longer working.WHY? Rationale for Evaluating What You Find on the WebTesting the Surf[REQUIREMENT] The paper MUST have more than one reference.A paper with only one reference is not a research paper; if the reference is a book, the paper is a book review and if the reference is a web site the paper is a website review.We cannot readWordPerfect filesor Macintosh files.pages files[REQUIREMENT] If you are using Microsoft Word, you must use 12-point Times New Roman double-spaced for your type font, with one-inch margins. Any papers which use anyother font or type size will be converted to 12-point Times New Roman. Page count will be determined AFTER conversion. USE THE TEMPLATE LINKED ABOVE![REQUIREMENT] The title page, images or illustrations, quotations, and the bibliography DO NOT COUNT toward the length of the paper. A 15-page paper means 15 pages ofYOUR original text. A 15-page paper with 3 pages worth of pictures will be counted as 12 pages, with a corresponding reduction in the grade. To be sure of your pagecount, activate page numbering in your file. Don’t forget to account for the title page, which does NOT count as text.[REQUIREMENT] Your title page MUST specify whether the paper is intended to be 7 or 15 pages in length. This declaration is final and may not be changed. Papers whichare short of the declared page count will be marked down for shortness.The midterm paper may be rewritten to obtain a higher grade; this means fixing any problems marked on your paper. You may get back one or two marked-up copies,depending on the instructor workload. If you rewrite your midterm paper, you must RETURN ALL PROOFREAD PAPER COPIES and e-mail a new version to pseudo@physics.smu.edu.We will not even consider a regrade without all proofread marked-up copies. NOTE: A penalty for late submission of the midterm paper will carry over to the rewrite. Ifyou don’t turn in the paper, the grade on it will be zero and this cannot be fixed with a “rewrite” later. Moral: Don’t be late!If you add extensive new material to the rewritten paper, please check the grammar, punctuation, and spelling carefully so you don’t repeat the same kinds of mistakesthat you made the first time and lose points.Please proofread your papers carefully before you turn them in. We deduct one percentage point for each error in your paper. Twenty errors will result in a one pointscore reduction (e.g. 5 -> 4). One hundred errors will get you a zero score on the paper.Correct spelling and grammar are essential. Here area dictionaryanother dictionaryRoget’s thesaurusa guide to grammarProofreader’s marksCommon Errors in EnglishEasywriterPocket Style ManualIf your papers come back to you with more red ink than black, consider seeking help with your writing at the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center.You can also find dictionaries and thesauri in the ancient form known as books. Check the library. If you have trouble finding what you need, ask the librarians; theycan help. They won’t write the research paper for you, but they will help you locate sources.If you need some guidance about what makes a good paper, see the page of Good Student Papers (password protected). These were “A” papers. Look at the number ofcitations they have in their bibliographies. Read the papers to see how they are organized. Check out the opening and closing paragraphs.An “A” paper should teach your instructors something they did not previously know. For example, writing the same old tired lines about a topic like the Roswell UFOcrash that has been thoroughly debunked in books and in lectures for this course will not earn an “A”. Instead, find a topic that few have explored (check skepdic.comfor a listing), or come up with a new angle on an old topic.Regarding citations, remember that a paper with only one reference is not a research paper; if the reference is a book, the paper is a book review and if the referenceis a web site the paper is a web site review.Do NOT depend on the spell-checker to catch your errors. We have seen some hilarious mistakes in the form of incorrect words that were correctly spelled. If English isnot your first language, get someone to read the paper with you and help you find mistakes. If English is your native language, get TWO people to proofread it for you!The spell-checker has produced some VERY amusing results in student papers. For one, how about “…let alone be an actual whiteness to the Holocaust.” We think thewriter meant “witness.” Believe it or not, later in the same paper we found “eye-whiteness testimony.”Here’s a particularly choice and amusing example:… Previously in history, an epidemic outbreak was whopping couch. Whopping couch is an infectious virus typically caught by infants and children. ….There was one more occurrence a few lines further on. The “whopping” is almost certainly a spell-checker artifact; if you type “whoping” and then look at the spellingchoices offered by Word, “whopping” is the first choice in the list. It turns out that this student is not the first to produce this gem – a little web searching willturn up a newspaper headline “Vaccination Available for Whopping Couch.”“The The Impotence of Proofreading,” by TAYLOR MALI from YouTubeYour paper should have a definite structure. Begin with an abstract of what the paper is trying to accomplish. Follow that with the body of the paper. Wrap up with asummary and conclusion. Here’s one way to remember this.Tell ’em what you are going to tell ’em.Tell ’em.Tell ’em what you told ’em.The following suggestions are adapted from a page of recommendations given to us by Beth Newman of the SMU English Department. Also note that the last two links above,namely EasyWriter and the Pocket Style Manual, are also recommended by Ms. Newman.1. The paper must articulate a clear thesis; that is, an arguable main point. By arguable, we mean that it is worth arguing; it is neither obvious (“Men are differentfrom women”) nor wishy-washy (“Men and women are different in some ways but similar in others”). We mean that, as an idea, it merits development, elaboration,substantiation, and qualification. Recommended: put your thesis at the end of your introductory paragraph.2. Each paragraph of your paper should add up to a unit that makes a point. This point should support, qualify, refine, consider other objections to, or otherwisedevelop the thesis of your paper. After you draft the paper, reread it, asking yourself after each paragraph, “What is the main point here?” If you can’t say, you needto work harder to make that point emerge. Recommended: articulate this point in a topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph or a concluding sentence at the end.3. Your paper must provide an analysis of the issues involved, and the analysis should be rooted in something specific. Therefore, do NOT write your paper solely outof your own head or even out of your notes – based on an impression of the “general idea” we are asking about. Use your books and references. Study them. Be sure youunderstand the concepts, data and hypotheses.4. When you quote something or someone, introduce the quotation and say something about its significance. Be sure to include the citation indicating the source of thequote.5. Do not assume that meanings of key terms are self-evident (obvious). Your writing should define them as necessary so there will be no confusion on the reader’s partabout what they mean. Be sure to use terms consistently. Also be sure that you understand what each term means.6. Your prose should be as clear, direct, and error-free as you can make it. Read your paper aloud. Do the sentences make sense? Do you stumble over them when you readthem aloud? Would they be comprehensible to an intelligent person who does not know you and your way of expressing yourself? Avoid slang. Look for basic grammaticalerrors such as sentence fragments (not complete), runons, comma splices, failure to indicate possessives, subject/verb disagreement, etc., etc., etc. As mentionedabove, be VERY careful about using the spell-checker. It WILL NOT save you from the incorrect word that is correctly spelled. For example, if you write “there” whenyou meant “their”, the spell-checker is NOT going to catch it.Here’s a suggested process for writing as described by Prof. Newman. This outline assumes that you have already chosen the topic.Brainstorm, meaning collect ideas.Reflect on the ideas.Produce a focus statement. This describes what you are going to concentrate on.Write your thesis statement.Collect evidence that you can use.Produce an outline of the paper.Write a draft of the paper.Edit the draft, fixing errors and cleaning up the structure.Get someone else to read the draft and comment on it for you. Revise the paper as needed to improve it.

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