Virtual Idea Lab

Research Project & Presentation.

Each student will pair up with one other student, research a topic relating astronomy to one or both of their a/vocational interests, and together orally present their research to the class during a scheduled 15-minute period of class time. Examples of worthy topic categories include: the lives and discoveries of famous astronomers; the politics of space exploration; space commercialization; classes of stars or galaxies; new astronomical discoveries; new astronomy-related technologies; current cosmological theories; space travel; astronomy in the arts/media; spaceflight benefits to humanity; lesson plans for teaching specific astronomy topics to K-12 students; etc. Consult the instructor for topic approval prior to beginning the research project. The presentation should include a demonstration of a relevant concept, as well as a discussion of the importance of this topic to humanity. Do not lecture from the textbook, or cover information we’ve already gone over in class. Do not use any more than one carefully selected or prepared short video clip during your presentation.

Due date: An electronic PowerPoint file containing AT A MINIMUM the following specified elements must be emailed to the instructor on or before the day of the in-class presentation, which may be any scheduled classroom date up to and including the final day of class, one week prior to the final:

1. Title Page: topic, student names, date

2. Content: thesis statement, evidence, arguments, demo description, importance to humanity, conclusions

3. Bibliography: print, internet, expert interview (include details listed below) references; peer reviewer name, date

The presentation should include what you have learned about the topic in doing your research, your personal thoughts about the importance of the topic, and your ideas about what should be done in the future relative to your topic. The presentation must show depth of investigation, and communicate to the audience something about the topic that is not commonly known. Multiple sources must be cited, including AT A MINIMUM:

  • one in-print, non-digital book, journal article, or other publication (not the textbook);
  • one reliable internet source;
  • one personal interview with a non-peer expert on your topic, listing credentials (degree, job title, employer, etc.), date and method of interview (do NOT interview anyone from APU; get started on this early, as it may take some time to coordinate.

Your bibliography should incorporate an accepted citation standard, as well as a notation as to where you found each reference. Include your expert interviewee’s credentials (i.e., what makes him or her an expert?) and the date of the interview in your bibliography. Make sure to thoroughly proofread your document prior to handing it in.


The in-class presentation portion of this project will be evaluated by the audience (other course-enrolled students and the instructor) on each of the following areas:

    1) Introduction (1-5 pts.): is the opening innovative? does the introduction grab the audience’s attention?

    2) Thesis (1-5 pts.): are the presenters clear about what they are trying to show? is it a significant thesis?

    3) Evidence (1-5 pts.): how well does the evidence presented support their thesis?

    4) Engagement/Interaction (1-5 pts.): how engaged/involved is the audience?

    5) Conclusion (1-5 pts.): are the conclusions reasonable? is there a sense of closure? is the audience convinced?

The project will be evaluated by the instructor on each of the following:

1) scientific content/technical analysis (as opposed to merely history, social commentary, trivia, etc.) (1-20 pts.);

2) depth of research (how many and what variety of sources do you use? how deep do you dig?) (1-20 pts.);

3) clarity (how clearly are you communicating your work? – visual aids/demos are helpful!) (1-20 pts.);

4) creativity/originality of your work and its presentation (did you use a novel way to present an important aspect of your work?) (1-20 pts.);

5) thoughtfulness/insight (what does this research mean to you? to humanity in general?) (1-20 pts.);

6) documentation (are all elements listed above included? how well do you address each aspect above?) (1-25 pts.).

Peer review: Please have one of your fellow students read and critique your document, and note his/her name in your bibliography. Make sure to allow adequate time to incorporate the results of this critique prior to turning it in.

Examples of outstanding Research Projects:

"Catering in the Cosmos":


Plagiarism is a serious offense, and must be dealt with seriously. When writing, one must not take another’s work and present it as one’s own (this includes copying and pasting text from the internet). It is not acceptable to just change a few words from a passage then use it. If one desires to use another’s work, one must quote and cite the passage, or explain and present the ideas in one’s own words, and cite the original work.

(Indiana State University offers a nice on-line tutorial on avoiding plagiarism; check it out at this link: