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HELP! for Junior Science and Humanities Symposium
Posted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 2:28 am
I am about to start on the JSHS application which requires a 5-20pg paper explaining my research. I already have a head start because I am half done with a paper I am planning to submit to a scientific journal. However, the instructions on how to write the paper on the JSHS website is vague and I do not know how in depth I will need to go. Here is what they've included:
Therefore, student presenters are reminded of their responsibility to communicate their results so that they may be understood by both the non-specialized audience and by the judges. Judges are selected also for their interest in encouraging the studentsâ€™ interests and future development in the sciences, engineering, or mathematics.
Specific judging criteria includes...
â€¢ 15 points - Statement and identification of research problem
â€¢ 10 points - Acknowledgement of sources and major assistance
â€¢ 15 points - Creativity and originality
â€¢ 15 points - The research or engineering design, procedures, results
â€¢ 25 points - Discussion and conclusions
â€¢ 20 points - Skill in communicating the research results (oral presentation and written report
That consisted most of the guidelines and I'm perplexed. How am I supposed to show creativity in a paper? And what makes a badly communicated written report? And how much theory should I explain? Do I assume that the Judge will understand the theory, which requires knowledge of fuel cells AND stress/strain/deformation of materials, of my research? Or should I give a brief explanation of fuel cells and deformation of materials? Should I stress why fuel cells are duds right now and how my research on the mechanical properties of a fuel cell electrolyte might change that?
Sorry for all the questions, but if someone can answer them all it would help a lot because I am a little lost. My mentor told me to leave things out when I was writing the scientific journal, so I don't know what to emphasize.
Also, JSHS provided a sample http://www.jshs.org/forms/Sample%20paper2.pdf
that won in 2003. I have to admit, I am lost halfway reading the abstract. I have no idea how a judge would be able to use the judging criteria above and decide that this is a 1st place paper. Should I write my paper in that way?
Thanks, I know this will take a long time to write, so I'll need all the help I can get!
Posted: Wed Dec 27, 2006 4:04 pm
These are very good quesions to be thinking about before submitting a paper to a peer reviewed journal.
"How am I supposed to show creativity in a paper?"
Creativity in a scientific paper can take many forms. You might have some unusual experimental design or interpretation of results. You might use some innovative figures that do an especially good job of conveying your results. From what I have heard of your experiments, you don't need to worry about this. Just make sure that you do a good job of explaining your work so that a reader will be able to understand the validity of the more creative aspects.
"And what makes a badly communicated written report?"
Avoid the tempations to create appearances of intelligence or sophistication. Rather, strive to be as clear and simple as possible in your explanations. A well written paper should answer most of a reader's basic questions, avoid any confusion, and provide references for relevant material that is beyond the scope of the paper to explain in detail. Although the 2003 winning paper is very complicated and specialized, it uses fairly clear language, and it provides references to peer reviewed articles that would be useful to a reader who is interested in the topic.
Before you submit the paper, ask for a review by an experienced scientist. If they are confused about any part of the paper, make every possible effort to fix and/ or clarify. Even if their critique is off the mark, the fact that they stopped to make a comment is a good indication that something is amiss in that part of the paper.
"And how much theory should I explain?"
Give the readers the essentials, so that they can understand the premise of your project. Do not distract them with theories or information that are not central to your work. The more basic the theory, the less space you should devote to it in your paper.
"Do I assume that the Judge will understand the theory, which requires knowledge of fuel cells AND stress/strain/deformation of materials, of my research? Or should I give a brief explanation of fuel cells and deformation of materials?"
Not sure about this. I'll defer to those who have more experience with JSHS judging.
"Should I stress why fuel cells are duds right now and how my research on the mechanical properties of a fuel cell electrolyte might change that?"
Yes. This is a good way to begin an introduction. Keep in mind: it appears more objective to emphasize how a particular branch of research (in which you happen to participate) will improve things, rather than how you, or this particular project, will improve things.
Good luck. I hope you'll keep up updated with your progress.
Posted: Sat Dec 30, 2006 11:49 am
I've done JSHS for four years. I worked with judges, organizers, and student presenters. Here's my advice:
At the regional semifinals (where you first present your research to judges in a 12 minute oral presentation) your going to be talking to a bunch of people who really have no clue what you are talking about. You need to avoid jargon, and define it when you have to use it. Focus on the purpose, procedures, analysis, conclusions, and implications of your research. Remember the KIS principle: KEEP IT SIMPLE!
The judges at the regional finals will be more knowledgable than those at the regional semi-finals, but still keep it simple. The judges are more impressed by a student who can explain a complex project in a simple manner than they are by a copmlex project explained in a complex manner. If you can explain your project in a simple way, it shows the judges a deeper understanding than if all you do is reguritate facts from a journal article.
In your paper, explain the same things that you do in your presentation. Yes, you should explain why fuel cells are duds right now (this gives you a reason to be doing your research. It's important to communicate why your research is important). I would also stick in a brief exlanaition of fuels cells and other pertinent things. A lay person should be able to understand your paper, and a professional with experience in that area should be able to understand the paper and its importance. It's a fine line to walk. Just do your best.
But really, don't stress so much over your paper. At JSHS, the presentation is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than the paper.
Posted: Sat Dec 30, 2006 12:17 pm
oh wow thanks terik and chris. your advice was very helpful! Now I gotta finish the paper because it's due on the same week as finals.
well here's part of my intro, which I also plan to use in the presentation as well:
Although a hydrogen economy has not yet materialized and its prospects are currently dimmed by other alternative options, the development of a new breed of low cost solid acid fuel cells (SAFC) may provide a much needed revolution in the lucrative energy industry, where the economical viability of a technology equates to its feasibility. The full range of materials science has been exploited in recent years to develop numerous types of fuel cells, and though these alternatives have been extensively researched, none have the same low cost potential as those of SAFC. However, there is one major property that prevents the widespread commercial production of SAFC: solid acids such as cesium hydrogen sulfate (CHS) deform plastically, a poor mechanical property that undermines fuel cell stability. Characterization of these properties not only provides knowledge that may be applicable to all solid acid compounds but also lead to the development of environmentally and consumer friendly fuel cells. # 4,5
A fuel cell is a device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy through a series of electrochemical reactions, generating heat, electricity, and water (Â½O2 + 2H+ + 2e- â†’ H2O).
Then I devoted 10-15 similarly sized paragraphs (about 2-3 pages double spaced) explaining essential material. Any comments?
Thanks a bunch,
Posted: Sat Dec 30, 2006 8:41 pm
It looks good. I can understand the need for your research and why we need to know about plastically-deforming compounds in a SAFC.
Just one comment (and this is a style thing, not a science thing): Never ever use the word THERE aa a pseudo-subject. (e.g. "There is one major property that prevents the widespread..." is no good, but "I threw the ball over there." if fine.) You might want the re-phrase your sentence to read: "however, solid acisd, such as cesium hydrogen sulfate (CHS) deform plastically, which has prevented the widespread commercial production of SAFC."
Using "there" usually creates passive voice and is prone to wordiness. If you get rid of "there", you'll be more concise and your writing becomes more interesting.
Posted: Mon Jan 01, 2007 6:03 pm
My comments and questions:
"Although a hydrogen economy has not yet materialized and its prospects are currently dimmed by other alternative options, the development of a new breed of low cost solid acid fuel cells (SAFC) may provide a much needed revolution in the lucrative energy industry, where the economical viability of a technology equates to its feasibility."
This sentence is very nice, but is a bit too long and complicated for an opening sentence. The first sentence should grab the readers attention with a brief and simple statement that sets the stage for why your work is important (and does not get into peripheral topics or issues of why your work might not be important). I suggest removing the clauses starting with "and its prospects are dimmed. . ." and "where the economical viability. . ."
"The full range of materials science has been exploited in recent years to develop numerous types of fuel cells, and though these alternatives have been extensively researched, none have the same low cost potential as those of SAFC."
Very nice. I suggest considering revisions for "full range", which sounds like an overstatement, and "exploited" which can have negative connotations. Those are minor suggestions and the sentence reads well overall.
"However, there is one major property that prevents the widespread commercial production of SAFC: solid acids such as cesium hydrogen sulfate (CHS) deform plastically, a poor mechanical property that undermines fuel cell stability."
I would remove the word "poor". How does plastic deformation undermine fuel cell stability? Can you be a little more specific without adding a lot of text?
"Characterization of these properties not only provides knowledge that may be applicable to all solid acid compounds but also lead to the development of environmentally and consumer friendly fuel cells. # 4,5"
A comma is needed before "but." What are "these properties"? If it is plasticity, then say so. If your project goal is to characterize the plasticity of CHS, this is a great ending sentence for your first paragraph. If your research goal is different, make sure you tell the reader what will be the focus of your paper in the final sentence of the first paragraph.
"A fuel cell is a device that converts chemical energy into electrical energy through a series of electrochemical reactions, generating heat, electricity, and water (Â½O2 + 2H+ + 2e- â†’ H2O)."
This sounds like the start of a new paragraph. is it?
Very nice writing! It keeps the reader interested and engaged.
Posted: Mon Jan 01, 2007 7:04 pm
oh thanks again for the advice!
This time I have a question about the organization of the paper. From JSHS, they want the result to:
â€¢ summarize the data collected, point out the important
features, and connect the results with one another.
â€¢ not interpret the results and discuss the conclusions
of the results (a trend can be mentioned, but no
interpretation or extended discussion occurs in this
the JSHS guide IMPLIES that the discussion & conclusion needs to be separated.
BUT I want to combine the results and discussion because I feel like it's more logical that way. I've looked at some past papers and they are organized that way. The reason why I want to combine the results and discussion is because I did 3 separate experiments on different instruments and analyzed the 2 experiments 2 different ways, giving me 5 result topics. Each of the results build on top of each other and it would be hard to understand the next result if the past results were not discussed.
So I want to state results 1, discuss, explain how that led results 2, and how result 2 explains more and agrees with result 1, and so on.
I fear that if I I do separate the results and discussion, my discussion might be more convoluted although it is possible. IF i do combine my results and discussion sections, will i lose points?
Posted: Tue Jan 02, 2007 2:57 pm
You are not going to lose points for combining Discussion and Conclusion.