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ARE WE ALONE: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What does the assessment involve?

An essay (40%), a debate during the weekly tutorial (20%), a quiz (20%) and your participation during tutorial discussion (20%). For details see http://newt.phys.unsw.edu.au/astro/seti/about.php

Where are the tutorial rooms?

The Old Main Building (OMB) can be a bit of a maze. You will be able to select a tutorial class in the first lecture; note down the tutorial room and tutor. BEFORE the next lecture, make sure you know where this room is in OMB! There are maps on all floors, but the first floor especially is a bit tricky to negotiate.

I can't remember my tutor's details. Help?

All your tutor's details are on the website. Even if you can't remember more than "erm, it's a guy...I think..." check their name against the room number you were in. Can't remember that either? Ask Charley, or any tutor you might recognise. We don't usually bite.

What does a debate entail?

The usual format will be two people per side, Team 1 and Team 2. You can see some of the debate topics at http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/astro/seti/dt.php If you like the sound of one of these, put your hand up early. Otherwise, the tutor will select people each week to do the debate in the following tutorial so you should have about a week to prepare. If you want more time, be sure to let your tutor know in advance.

Can I pick who debates with me?

Yes, the tutor prefers volunteers to victims! The debate teams are groups of two - do yo have a friend in class you'd like to debate with? Otherwise, you may be grouped with someone you don't know. Fantastic! This is still cool, you get a new friend, at least for a week. Exchange contact details during the class where you are assigned the debate. It is STRONGLY advisable that you get togther at least once in that week to jointly prepare your debate. It is very obvious when two people on the same team have not bothered to talk to each other about what they are saying.

I've never done a formal debate. How do these debates work?

It isn't too formal, don't worry. Each tutor may differ in how they run their debates, and they'll tell you how they work in the first tutorial. Usually you should have about five, at MOST, ten minutes of discussion material each. Notice "discussion material" not "speech". Reading word for word from a typed page is not fun to listen to, and makes it more difficult to get your opinion across. Try having a number of ideas and topic points instead. The debate is less formal in that you are not there to belittle or make the other team feel stupid.

What does the debate material have to be?

Your arguments have to be based on facts, research and information provided on the web, books , scientific papers and during the lectures, as well as your own opinion. Saying "UFO's are fake, duh!" will not cut it as your debate focus. Your second job, apart from presenting your viewpoint on the topic, is to encourage debate amongst the class, promote discussion and thought. A good debate should involve the entire class by the end of the tutorial.

What do I have to do in a book report?


A book report is exactly like a debate - except it's a one-person show! There are a selection of interesting books on a variety of the topics discussed in lecture and tutes on the website. Or else find your own and get it cleared with your tutor. Then come to the class with about ten to twenty minutes of discussion material about the book you've read to interest, and encourage discussion in the class. This is not a book review! It has the same purpose as a debate, and you should remember that it is still a presentation - do not write five pages of opinion or book quotes and read them out. You will be marked on your research, and your ability to get the class understanding and discussing your book of choice.

How is my participation marked?

Every time you come to a tutorial your presence and your particpation level are noted and assessed by your tutor. Your participation (in part your attendance and part your contributions to discussions) is worth as much as your debate mark, so do not take it lightly. Do you ask questions? Do you give your opinions? Do you think your tutor knows who you are or do you sit at the back (in the three or four tutes you bother showing up to) and hide behind the person in front of you? If it is the latter, and none of the former - you could probably improve your participation mark by changing some of these facts.

What are the expectations for an essay in this course?

Essays are worth 40% of your mark so this is the part to take most seriously. Ask your tutor what they want. They will most likely give you a very clear idea of the level of work expected. GET A PROOF-READER - this is a must, especially if your English is not as strong as you'd like - poor spelling and grammar are easily fixed so there is no excuse for an unreadable essay. References? Yes! This is not a manifesto, or a memo. It is a scientific essay - if you quote sources (websites, books etc - and you should!) reference it rigourously. This means footnotes and bibliographies. OMITTING YOUR SOURCES IS PLAIGARISM. This is the most common problem we have in this part of the assessment. We are pretty good at spotting it, and it is not taken lightly. A number of sources is recommended - so don't cut and paste from a single website. Try and be analytical, skeptical and practical in your essay - this is a science course, and we are looking for your logical and researched presentation of the topic you have selected.

Can I select my own essay topic?

Yes, in fact it is encouraged. An extra mark is given for those students who create their own topic and HAVE IT APPROVED BEFOREHAND BY THEIR TUTOR. You must discuss your planned topic with your tutor, so that they can be certain that it is a reasonable topic, relevant to the course and meaty enough to construct a solid essay on. Is there something in the lectures that inspired you, or you felt was not pursued enough to satisfy your curiosity? This is your chance to find out about it, or to dispell any myths or misunderstandings you always wanted to know about. Be creative!

If I don't think I did well in my debate, what can I do?

Chat to your tutor. Most likely, if there is any huge problem they would already have discussed it with you so you probably did fine if this didn't happen. But if you'd still like another go, there is usually opportunity late in the session to do so - quite often we run out of debaters late in session. You are welcome to do this, especially if a topic set for then interests you. If you do this, the higher of your two marks will be used as your debate mark.

Do I need any background in science?


No, not at all. We do not expect any level of science knowledge coming into this course. In the duration of the course we will try and introduce any ideas or concepts which we find helpful in understanding the material, but it doesn't require maths - just a bit of logic and common sense. Also a good imagination helps, and an open mind!

What happens if I can't make it to a tutorial?

Are you sick? Trapped under something heavy? Good. I mean, these are acceptable reasons for not making a tutorial. Not: "Um, there were free hotdogs and beer down at the Unibar..." Remember missing tutorials without a doctor's certificate will cost you participation marks, so discuss any other problems with your tutor.

I don't like talking in class, is there some other kind of assesment I can give?

No, not really. Please, don't worry about it. Nervous? Try not to be. Tutors don't bite and the class certainly doesn't . We understand it can be nervewracking, but try it and see! With a bit of practice it is a very handy skill to have, and a few minutes of talking and questions and hopefully the rest of the class will take it from there. Get into it, you just might like it!

The Quiz?

Have you turned up to lectures? Tutes? No problems then! It's multiple choice and all the questions are online in the weeks before the date. Check 'em out, turn up, do it. Ta-dah! This should not be a quiz to lose sleep over.

I have some suggestions on the course; who do I tell?

Fantastic. We are always after constructive comments about how we can improve the course or feedback on the topics, what you liked, or found useful, what wasn't, etc. Tell Charley, tell your tutor. It may not necessarily happen in your session, but you will help us make it a better course for sessions to come. So speak up!


Page maintained by Jessie Christiansen.
Comments are most welcome and
should be e-mailed to jessiec@phys.unsw.edu.au