physics resources

physics resourcescoursesresearch paper


A significant part of this course is an independent research paper on a topic of your choice. This is a scientific paper targeted at members of the course. It should be written so that anyone in the class can learn from your research. You may assume knowledge at the level we have discussed in the course. We will treat it as scientific papers are treated, they will peer reviewed.

As an overview I will serve as the editor for this process. You will be responsible for writing and submitting a paper to me. You will also serve as a reviewer for one of the papers. This will be "single blind" in the same way real papers are reviewed, that is, you will know who wrote the paper you are reviewing, but you will not know who is reviewing your paper. You will submit your review to me which will then be forwarded to the author. Based on the review the paper will be edited and the referee's comments discussed. This will be your final submission. You will be graded on both your paper and your referee's report.

Due Dates


The paper should be approximately 10 pages long if printed double-spaced with 1 inch margins in a 10 or 12 point font. (Approximately meaning about 8-15 pages.) It should be formatted as a scientific paper, start with the title and author, include an abstract, the body should be split into sections starting with an introduction and ending with conclusions, and finally the references should come last.

The actual layout of the paper is up to you. The "correct" way to do things is to write the paper in LaTeX using the style of the journal you are submitting to (Phys. Rev., for example). This is not required. If you are interested in doing this I am happy to help but you must get an early start. Formatting problems is not an acceptable excuse for not having your paper done on time.

Contrary what you may have learned in other courses, there is no such thing as a standard reference format. How you handle citations in your paper is up to, however, it must be clear and consistent. Clearly referencing materials used and where ideas came from is essential!


A list of possible topics is provided below. Early in the process you need to pick a topic and narrow it down as much as possible. Some preliminary research on the topic will help in this regard. I will schedule short, approximately 15 minute, meetings with each of you to discuss you topic and plans for your research.

Draft for Review

This should be a complete version that you think is "ready for publication". Proper grammar, full references, etc. is expected. The review process is meant for refinements, not for wholesale changes in your paper.

The draft must be emailed to me as a pdf. Do not turn in a hardcopy.


Information will be updated when needed.

Final Paper

This version will address comments made by the referee and will be the version I grade. Include with your paper a "letter" addressing the comments made by the referee. You should point out what changes you have made in your paper for the comments you agree with and an explanation of those you disagree with.

The letter should be a separate page (or pages as needed) accompanying your final submission. It can either be part of your paper (put it at the end) or a separate document.

The final version should be turned in as a hardcopy or emailed as a pdf. Either form is acceptable.


Grading a research paper is difficult. Though writing is essential as this is one of the main ways ideas are conveyed even in the sciences, it is rarely taught as a scientific displine. To aid you I have created a grading rubric which I will use when reading your paper.

Possible Topics

Here is a brief list of possible topics, feel free to come up with your own. They are rather general and will require work on your part to focus your research. You can pick your own topic. This list is provided for guidance.