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Astronomy paper help - professor doesn't understand my wording

  1. Feb 28, 2013 #1

    First off, I'm not sure where to post this topic. I was thinking either the homework section, or General Astronomy, but I chose to put it here because my question relates to a research paper in Astronomy.

    Let me discuss the basics of the paper. We have to pick a topic in the 1920s that we're interested in and for me I chose Astronomy because I enjoy Astronomy and Physics. Anyway, we have to pick 6+ sources and write summaries on all of them. (This is the basis of our rough draft.) The paper itself has to be 7-10 pages long.

    I'm doing fine on the research thus far, I'm primarily going to focus on Edwin Hubble and his findings and various other things; however, Hubble seems like my best bet because his impact on astronomy in the 1920s was huge.

    Anyway, my English professor doesn't seem to understand my summaries. She is not a science person (obviously), nor is she math oriented. I handed in one of my summaries to her and she said it was confusing to her. I tried making it as simple as possible, but explaining dark energy to an English professor can be quite difficult without getting all wordy. :uhh:
    I'm not sure if it's primarily my fault, for not making it simple, or the professor's fault for not understanding any of it. It's just making me stressed because she is so confused by science.. She isn't up to date it seems like on science.
    (Of course I hand in the articles along with the summary.)

    Also, any info / tips on sites to look at regarding astronomy in the 1920s would be useful.

    This is why I'm a Physics major and not an English major. I'd rather do math than write an English paper. :wink:

    On a side note: I love the Physics Forums! I enjoy reading these threads! Especially the math section and the physics. :smile:

    Thanks in advance,
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2013 #2


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    If your subject is astronomy in the 1920's, how did dark energy (discovered in 1998) come up?
  4. Feb 28, 2013 #3


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    There are several terms that are often used interchangeably, depending on who is talking and where you are: Summary, Descriptive Abstract, Informative Abstract, and an Executive Summary. In my opinion, the best solution to getting a satisfactory response from your professor is to ask her for examples of what she wants. Dissect them, analyze them, and use them as your guide. One other option: A Google search brought many writing tutorials for you to choose from. These three looked like they could be useful:


    http://www.tu-chemnitz.de/phil/english/chairs/linguist/independent/kursmaterialien/TechComm/acchtml/abstrax.html [Broken]


    Cheers, Bobbywhy
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Feb 28, 2013 #4
    If your looking for 20' s viewpoints in physics your on luck. As I have a 1929 physics book. I judge it to be senior high oriented as a school text taught in Canada.
    Some of the misconceptions Hubble had to deal with during the time included the following.
    In this book the general populace are still being taught that the universe contains eather. Also they are also taught that the atom consists of protons and electrons, no neutron.
    GR and SR were not in this book, probsbly due to its level for the teachings age group.
    Just some ideas for descriptives
    for your paper.

    Edit I forgot to add that Hubble was aware of Einsteins work.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2013
  6. Feb 28, 2013 #5

    D H

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    This isn't a general astronomy problem. This is a how to write good (sic) homework problem, and we don't have a homework help section on that topic. We're a bunch of hapless, helpless nerds! What do you expect? :biggrin:

    Actually, we're not a bunch of hapless, helpless nerds here. Learning to write well (not just good!) is a very important skill. Even as a hapless, helpless nerd, that skill will show itself when you write grant proposals, technical papers, and responses to RFPs. Look at the way many of this site's members write. They did not garner this skill by solving math problems. They learned this skill by writing papers for English professors that compared and contrasted characters in Shakespeare plays, or that discussed taking a walk around Dublin, with nothing much happening. The better members at this site write clearly, succinctly, and regularly draw your interest.

    About your paper: Seven to ten pages, even double spaced, is more than enough space to prove to your English professor that you indeed are the hapless, helpless, non-communicative nerd that deep in her heart she knows is the defining characteristic of those science and engineering majors, or it is more than enough space to make here rethink those stereotypes. Your choice.

    Do you have a central thesis? Do you have an outline that will help you expand on this thesis? You may not need those if your writing skills are on par with James Joyce, Thomas Mann, or Thomas Pynchon. If not (and they aren't), you should develop that thesis, then develop that outline. Try to express in seven words or less what your paper is about.

    One last comment: A picture is worth a thousand words. Oftentimes, it's rather cheesy to throw in a picture or ten to meet that page limit. In this case, it's not. How can you not throw in one of those (nowadays) low resolution pictures that led Hubble to see that the Milky Way was but one small corner of the universe, side-by-side with the Hubble deep field image?
  7. Feb 28, 2013 #6


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    I read somewhere that Hubble, after discovering the red-shift-distance relationship, said: "As for why this it true, I leave it to others to explain why." The "expanding universe" paradigm was actually brought by others, and not Hubble himself.

    Cheers, Bobbywhy
  8. Mar 4, 2013 #7
    Hi,Lyrassia I think you would be very misguided if you felt you had to "dumb down" your work because of your teachers lack of understanding! Perhaps you could politely suggest that one of your schools science teachers mark it up.
  9. Mar 4, 2013 #8
    I thought about doing that, and I probably will.

    As for the other responses, thanks. I'll gladly look into it. I've been getting some research done and probably will just mainly focus on the people in Astronomy, what their discoveries were, etc.
  10. Mar 4, 2013 #9


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    You still have not answered the question posed in post #2
  11. Mar 4, 2013 #10
    Thanks, forgot about that one.

    Sorry if my first post was a little unclear. In our assignment, we can also have secondary sources, not just primary. I was looking through New York Times historical index and I typed in "Astronomy in the 1920s", and it popped up. I'll probably just scratch it completely and find something else, because it seems irrelevant.. (Sorry if I misguided anyone.)

    Here was a similar article:
  12. Mar 4, 2013 #11


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    The neutron was not observed until 1932.
  13. Mar 4, 2013 #12
    The great debate took place in the early 20's Here is a paper that derived from that.




    the third link is the site itself the second link is The great debate what really happened.

    One of the items they were adressing concerned galaxies which at the time were considered Nebulae. You will also notice that their measurements were extremely off the mark.

    This site should provide lots of insight into the 20's
  14. Mar 4, 2013 #13
    Many thanks. :smile:
  15. Mar 4, 2013 #14

    D H

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    I was going to suggest that very thing, the "Great Debate".

    What is the central thesis of your paper? Can you summarize it in one sentence?

    Are you writing on astronomy in the 1920s (broad), discoveries by Edwin Hubble during the 1920s (narrow), or something in between? An overly broad thesis runs the risk of your paper being encyclopedic, disorganized, and boring; an overly narrow thesis runs the risk of how not being able to write seven pages without being repetitive and boring.
  16. Mar 4, 2013 #15
    I've been thinking about it and will probably be doing discoveries by Edwin Hubble during the 1920s. Our professor always does a thesis check before the paper is due, so we can discuss it. I don't have a firm thesis yet, but I will have a talk with my professor about it tomorrow.

    Our rough draft isn't due until March 14th.
  17. Mar 4, 2013 #16
    I should have mentioned on those links I provided read the glossary first. The link to the glossary is on the bottom of the mainpage link I provided. It will help in understanding the paper itself as some terminology is not the same as it is today. One notable example is Universe.
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