NATS1745A History of Astronomy Y2020-2021

Science Communication Assignment
Please read all of the information below carefully before beginning your
assignment. Be sure to refer to the writing tips and submission checklist at the
end of these instructions. If you have any questions about this assignment,
please bring them to office hours.
• To improve scientific literacy by applying techniques for digesting scientific research
• To improve critical thinking by formulating an informed opinion about the value of
astronomical research
INTRODUCTION: You are an astronomer and have recently made a discovery that was
published in various popular science journals. You would like to conduct more research
pertaining to your discovery and must therefore communicate the significance of your
discovery, and the value of continuing your research, to a government-sponsored
funding organization for scientific research (such as NSERC, the Natural Sciences and
Engineering Research Council of Canada). Since your audience is not likely to be a
specialist in your specific area of research, your writing must be in layperson’s terms.
BRIEF Instructions: For this assignment you will choose a news article on a recent
discovery in astronomy. You will put yourself in the role of a member of the research
team, write a summary of your research, and a proposal for additional research funding
to a layperson audience.
DETAILED Instructions:

  1. Choose your article: Choose a news article on a recent discovery in astronomy
    from one of the sources below. Your article must be published between September
    1st, 2020 and the due date of this assignment, and must contain recent research in
    Astronomy on a subject beyond Earth (e.g., research from satellite images of planet
    Earth is NOT acceptable). Note also that the article you choose must be reporting
    results about a scientific discovery. (e.g., ‘Perseverance has landed on Mars’ is not a
    scientific discovery). You are welcome to come to office hours to check and see if
    the article you have chosen meets these requirements.
    Allowable Sources:
    • Astronomy Magazine (Astronomy News):
    • NASA Science News:
    • Astrobiology Magazine:
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    • Universe Today: (be sure to read the full article, not just
    the introduction shown on the title page)
    • Scientific American (space section):
    • BBC (Science and Environment):
    science_and_environment (type ‘Astronomy’ in the Search box to find
    Astronomy-related articles
    • New York Times (Science – Space and Astronomy):
    • Nature: (Note:
    Nature is written for an audience with at least a 1st-year undergraduate level of
    scientific fluency, but if you have a strong interest in science, I encourage you to
    challenge yourself!)
    • Some articles are only a few paragraphs – be sure that your chosen article has
    enough content to sufficiently complete the requirements in the steps below. Or be
    prepared to do research outside your chosen article to determine the required
    • The article must be a text article (not a video clip).
    • All York students have access to all of the above sources free of charge. If you
    access the sources from York’s WIFI network, you will not be asked for
    subscription fees. If you are working remotely, you may need to first login to York’s
    library portal using your Passport York user ID at in order to avoid subscription fees.
  2. Submit the “Your Article Information Form”: Click on the Your Article Information
    Form link in the Science Communication Assignment section of our eClass site and
    complete the form. This form requires you to enter your article’s title, publication date,
    publication source (Astronomy Magazine, Universe Today, etc.), URL and subject (stars,
    exoplanets, etc).
  3. Read your article and define scientific concepts: Read through your article,
    identifying all scientific terms and concepts that you’re either unfamiliar with or that need
    clarifying for a layperson audience. Look up their definitions or descriptions, then create
    a glossary by describing each term or concept in your own, layperson words. Be sure to
    include the web address for each glossary item as you will need to cite it in the Works
    Cited section if you include the term in your final summary (NOTE: Wikipedia is NOT a
    permissible source). This step will not be turned in for marking, but creating a
    comprehensive glossary will help you to retain the information in your article and to
    explain it to a layperson audience.
    © Jesse Rogerson 2 of 7
  4. Write your article summary and funding proposal: Download the Science
    Communication Assignment Submission Template from the Science Communication
    Assignment section of our eClass site. Complete the Template by filling in the sections
    A. Academic Honesty Statement: Read and sign the academic honesty statement
    by typing your name in the space provided. Your assignment will not be marked
    unless this statement is signed.
    B. Scientific Glossary: Choose 5 concepts/terms from the glossary you created in
    step 3 and include your explanations of these terms in the Scientific Glossary
    section of your template, in your own words (NO QUOTES). After each
    glossary item, make sure to cite the source of your information using APA
    reference format. (again, Wikipedia is NOT a permissible source)
    C. Research Summary (500-550 words): Summarize the research being reported
    in your article in your own words with no direct quotes. Make sure that your
    summary at least includes the following:
    Who: The name of the research teams and/or institution(s) which conducted the
    When: A general description of the period of time during which the research was
    Where: A general description of the telescope/observatory/dataset used to
    conduct the research
    What: A description of the object or type(s) of objects being studied, the
    discoveries that were made about the object(s), and the significance of the
    discoveries, as stated in the article. Be sure to include all important scientific
    results mentioned in the article.
    How: A general explanation of the method used to make the discovery.
  • All facts must include an in-text citation so the reader can fact-check your
    statements. Each statement (or block of related statements) should be followed
    by a number in superscript (or brackets). The superscript must correspond to a
    reference in the Works Cited section (described below). (IMPORTANT: Be sure
    to use a superscript (or brackets) number only for in-text citations. Do not use
    any other format.)
    Example of citation:
    You are required to provide in-text citations for sections C and D of your Science
    Communication Assignment1.
    (later, in our Works Cited Section)
  1. Rogerson, J.A. (2021). NATS1745A – History of Astronomy. NATS1745A –
    © Jesse Rogerson 3 of 7
    Science Communication Assignment Instructions. pg 3.
  • If necessary, or if you feel it helps, you should feel free to use other sources
    than just your chosen article to help explain and summarize the work.
    D. Funding Justification (200-250 words): Provide, in your own layperson’s terms
    and without using direct quotes, a convincing, thoughtful and detailed argument
    for why this research deserves more government funding. Here are some
    important things to keep in mind when formulating your argument:
  • Remember that the funds you are applying for come from taxpayers. Your
    justification must therefore explain why you feel that your research is relevant to
    society (and not just to the astronomical community). Imagine you are going
    door-to-door and asking taxpayers to fund your research and they are asking
    you, “How can I, or my family, or my descendants, benefit from this research?”
  • Be sure to address the specific research in your article, as opposed to a branch
    of Astronomy in general. E.g., if your article pertains to the search for exoplanets,
    it is not sufficient to argue that the search for exoplanets is a beneficial cause.
    You need to explain why your specific research is particularly effective at
    achieving those benefits. Consider what it would look like to build on the specific
    research in your article. What questions are still left to answer? Why are those
    important to society?
  • Avoid vague, repetitive and irrelevant statements. Statements such as “This
    research contributes to the important pursuit of astronomical knowledge” will not
    be awarded marks. When writing a funding proposal or similar application, it is
    important to be concise and to ensure that every statement contains a new fact
    or idea.
    NOTE: All facts must include an in-text citation so the reader can fact-check your
    statements. Each statement (or block of related statements) should be followed
    by a number in superscript (or brackets). The superscript must correspond to a
    reference in the Works Cited section (described below). (IMPORTANT: Be sure
    to use a superscript (or brackets) number only for in-text citations. Do not use
    any other format.)
    E. Works Cited: Provide a numbered list, using APA reference format, of the
    resources you used to obtain your information in Sections C and D. The first item
    in your list must be the article on your chosen discovery. It is perfectly acceptable
    if that is the only resource you used. The number of each resource must
    correspond to an in-text citation(s).
  1. Edit your work: When you’ve finished filling out all the sections of the Science
    Communication Assignment Submission Template, make sure to have it spell
    © Jesse Rogerson 4 of 7
    checked and grammar checked and get it edited so that you don’t lose marks for
    poor writing. Both your grammar and your spelling will be marked. Here are some
    ways to get your work edited:
    • Ask a friend or family member with excellent English writing skills, preferably
    someone with no science background so they can confirm that your writing is
    understandable for a layperson.
    • Use an editing tool, either built into your word processor or online (eg,
    Grammarly at
    • Send your work to York’s Writing Center (
    • If you are a student who’s second language is english, make an appointment at
    York’s ESL Open Learning Centre (
  2. Submit your file: Go to the Science Communication Assignment section of our
    course’s eClass site and click on Assignment Upload link, then click on the ‘Submit
    to TurnItIn’ icon to upload your completed Science Communication Assignment
    Submission Template.
    Late submissions will incur a 10% penalty per day. Technical difficulties are not an
    acceptable excuse for missing deadlines. Be sure to attempt your submission at least
    one weekday before the deadline so you have time to resolve any technical problems
    that may arise. Try coming to an office hour if it’s not working for you. If you are 100%
    sure that you are unable to upload your submission and you have exhausted all
    possible solutions to remedy that situation, then you may email your file to before the deadline so it can be time-stamped. NOTE: if you still
    have multiple days before the deadline, then you have not exhausted all possible
    solutions. Emailing the professor is meant as a last-resort solution only.
    Extensions are only granted in cases of serious illness or critical incidences. If you
    require an extension for either of these reasons, submit the Missed Deadline/Exam
    Form in the Need Help? section of the course’s eClass site.
    Plagiarism is a major academic offence and carries serious penalties, ranging from a
    failing grade on the work in question to a failing grade in the course. Students who have
    not conducted University-level writing assignments are encouraged to familiarize
    themselves with the SPARK Academic Honesty tutorial. This is a very useful resource
    for learning the important distinctions between summarizing, paraphrasing and
    © Jesse Rogerson 5 of 7
    • While I appreciate that students are anxious to receive their marks, please be aware
    that high-quality and thorough marking of written assignments is a time-consuming
    process. Students are therefore asked to refrain from requesting their marks. Marking
    updates will be posted via the Course Announcements forum.
    • If you feel that a marking error has occurred (as opposed to a disagreement with the
    strictness of the marking), you can report the error to the professor by completing the
    Marking Error Form in the Need Help? section on eClass.
    • You are given two weeks to do an assignment that only takes a few days to complete.
    If you don’t leave it to the last minute, you’ll have plenty of time to browse for articles
    and complete your submission at a relaxed and enjoyable pace and to turn in highquality work.
    • Summarizing a research article and justifying its value is much easier when you are
    writing about something that you are passionate about. When choosing your articles,
    try to choose something that you feel a strong reaction to when you read it.
    • When constructing your glossary, you can typically find explanations of astronomical
    objects and scientific terms on the NASA web site ( Wikipedia is NOT
    • If you have chosen an article in which the research is not presented in detail, you may
    find it difficult to meet the minimum word count. In this case, you’ll need to look up
    more information from external sources. Details about space missions can usually be
    found on the NASA web site ( or the web pages published by the
    institution involved in the research
    © Jesse Rogerson 6 of 7
    Be sure to check off each item in this list to avoid losing marks!
    You must complete a “Your Article Information Form.” If your form is late or missing,
    a 1-mark penalty will be applied and your work will not be marked until the end of the
    Your files must be submitted using the submission forms provided on eClass.
    Your article must have been published between the date ranges specified in step 1
    Your articles must come from one of the allowable sources listed in step 1 above. If
    this requirement is not met, your submission will receive a failing grade.
    Your article topic must pertain to recent research in Astronomy on a subject beyond
    Earth. If this requirement is not met, your submission will not be marked.
    Your report must be written using full sentences (ie, point-form answers are not
    acceptable) and is expected to be free of spelling and grammatical errors. Refer to
    step 5 above for suggestions for getting your work edited.
    Each section must meet the required word count given in the submission forms.
    Your writing must be in your own words, with no quoting from other sources.
    Remember: your intended readers are not specialists in your area of research. Your
    writing must therefore be comprehensible to readers with no astronomy background.
    All relevant astronomical terms or concepts must be explained in layperson terms.
    Avoid vague, repetitive and irrelevant statements. Every statement should contain a
    new fact or idea.
    In-text citations are required for each statement (or block of related statements)
    containing facts from published sources. In-text citations must contain a citation
    number only.
    The Works Cited section must contain the links to all resources from which you
    obtained information for your summary and proposal.
    Late submissions will incur a 10% penalty per day. If you are not able to upload your
    file to eClass, email your file to before the deadline so your file
    can be time- stamped. Please do not email your file unless you are sure that your
    submission has failed.
    © Jesse Rogerson 7 of 7
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