Basic advice to undergrads: written assignments

Below is some basic advice I shared with my undergraduate class (Physics majors/Optics). This may be useful to other students here.

  • Do not copy a text verbatim, unless you are quoting the text as it is, with reference at that location.  If you use a source, then write a summary in your own words and cite the original source at the location of your text.
  • In the absence of primary data (which you generate originally), you will be using secondary sources such as research papers, books and internet content. For scholarly purposes (including assignments), it is better to use journal articles and books as references. Wikipedia is essentially a tertiary reference. Although some entries are good, wikipedia content is generally taken from a book or a research paper. Identify that source and use it for your assignment and reference. Directly citing wikipedia (which is usually not peer reviewed by experts) is not a general practice in scientific literature. 
  • When you take a figure or equation from a secondary resource (paper, book, internet), it is important that you cite the source in figure caption/equation location.
  • In an assignment, I am mainly interested in reading what you think about the topic under consideration. Feel free to put down your thoughts and compare and contrast it to the literature you use. This is where the thinking + learning happens.
  • For some general advice on referencing, especially for online communication, have a look at my blogpost.
  • To appreciate importance of written communication in learning, have a look at another blogpost.

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