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Scientific German--Writing Assignments for the Semester

Rules/Warnings:
1. If you get someone who is proficient in German to proofread your essay, we will consider this cheating. We recognize that you can learn from having someone look over your essay for you, but we have to enforce this rule in order to make the grading fair for everyone. It IS OK for you to ask such a person (or an instructor in the German Lab) 3 or 4 specific questions on how to say something.
2. If you use an online translator for significant parts of your essay, we will consider this cheating. Note that online translators tend to produce noticeably absurd translations. Consequently, even if your instructor is not sure you are using an online translator, you are likely to get a bad grade for your essay if you use one. You also risk becoming a laughing stock in our department, like the student (this really happened!) who submitted an essay on "Ludwig Dienstwagen Beethoven" ["Dienstwagen" is a possible translation of "van," though it generallly means "company car"...].
3. Please give a word count for your essays (in Microsoft Word, you just need to select "Word Count" from the "Tools" menu to do this).
4. The letter and abstract assignments below ask you to devote part of your essay to discussing the relevance to your work of one or more German scientific articles you have read, either in class or on the web or elsewhere. When you do this, you should use your own words as much as possible, and use quotation marks when you don't. Also, you should write about different articles for each essay!
5. Using a German spellchecker for your essay is NOT cheating. In fact, we strongly recommend it!

Fundamental Advice
Please don't write out an essay in English and then try to translate it into German.  This will be an awful amount of work for you, and using a dictionary to try to do a lot of things you haven't learned just leads to lots of misunderstandings.  Doing this often causes students who have worked very hard to get bad or mediocre grades, because the result is often incomprehensible. Click here for advice on writing in German without thinking in English.

Writing Assignments for the Semester
Invent an identity. There is only one restriction: you are a scientist. You can choose a real present or historical scientist and invent parts of his/her biography, or you can just "create" a personality from scratch. If you want to be a mad or corrupt scientist, be it. If you want to switch gender on yourself, fine. Any age, nationality, ethnicity. All fields of scientific or quasi-scientific inquiry are open to you: astronomy, biology, physics, psychology, medical research, etc., as well as astrology, numerology, alchemy, etc. Choose a century -- 20th will probably be easiest. If you want to be a 13th century alchemist trying to make gold, that’s okay, too, but take a good look at how the assignments are worded below and think about how you will be able to make this person interact meaningfully with contemporary scientific texts. Make yourself a complex, dramatic, and possibly disturbing person. Be dangerous or saintly or very, very strange. Acquire odd and intriguing habits. Then write a kind of biography in four essays over the course of the semester, as follows:

Aufsatz 1: a 350-word autobiography [=Autobiographie], including a description of your research interests, a detailed description of your looks, including the way you dress and carry yourself, and perhaps a sketch of your childhood, including formative experiences ("the moment I realized that insects were my future.…")

Aufsatz 2: one letter (400 words) to a colleague or friend (remember you are still writing as the scientific persona you created for Aufsatz 1!). At least half of the letter should be devoted to a discussion of one or more German scientific articles you have read either in class or on the web or elsewhere: you should say what it was you read and how it is relevant to your work. If you write about an article we did not read in class, please include a link to the article, or a hard copy.

Aufsatz 3: an abstract [=Abriss] (250 words) of a scientific publication your chosen personality has authored (You can either make up an imaginary experiment or study, or you can base what "your" scientist "did" on something you read in class or on the web or elsewhere.)

Aufsatz 4: another letter (400 words) as above--see Aufsatz 2.

Free Reading Journals
In the course of the semester, we will sometimes ask you to pick an article to read independently and then to write a short hand-written journal entry in response to the article. These "free reading journals" should be summaries of what you read, and can also include your reactions to and questions about what you read. They will go into your homework grade, and, like all other homework assignments, will be graded on a "check/check plus/check minus" basis. We strongly suggest (but don't require) that you write these journals from the perspective of the personality you have adopted for your essay writing assignments (i.e. how would your adopted personality view the article you read? Could s/he use the information in the article for his/her projects/research?). This should give you ideas for what to write for your free reading journal, and would make it possible for you to use ideas from your free reading journals as a basis for subsequent essay writing assignments.



   
 

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