PHYS 280 :: Physics Illinois :: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Your course progress will be assessed through a writing component and an exam component, tracked in the online gradebook (scores will be posted as soon as they are available—those in the gradebook are considered “official”). If you have any questions about how your work has been assessed, please make an appointment to visit with your assigned teaching assistant soon after your work has been returned. The professor regularly confers with the instructional staff about course grading practices and standards, as well as particular assignment responses. Course grading complies with University policy as given in Article 3, Part 1 of the Student Code.

Academic Integrity

PHYS 280 / GLBL 280 is committed as a University of Illinois learning community to the highest standards of academic and professional ethics. We ask that you demonstrate the utmost integrity in demonstrating your knowledge as well as creating and sharing knowledge with others. Students may expect serious penalties for submitting work that violates our community standards for academic integrity. The good news is that, as a student of advanced composition, you have an excellent opportunity to secure your understanding of communicating ethically within a profession.

Throughout the course, we ask that you

All papers submitted in this course are reviewed for ethical issues as they are assessed. They are also scanned by plagiarism-detecting software, and the results are carefully reviewed by the instructional staff. Our plagiarism-detecting software will compare your paper with all papers submitted in Physics/Global Studies 280 during this semester and previous semesters, as well as a large collection of other writings (books, articles, essays, papers, etc.) by professional authors and students at Illinois and elsewhere.

Peer Review

We believe that peer review improves your understanding of the subject matter and your skills as a reader, writer, and editor. We ask that you devote substantial effort to peer review, to ensure that you are providing constructive, focused feedback. You will receive points for your peer review work; these will be factored into the grade for the assignment for which peer review is being done. When your initial draft of that assignment is returned, you will receive the feedback and points associated with your work as a writer. When you receive feedback and points for your revised draft, you will also receive the points associated with your work as a peer reviewer.


We believe that revision (from substantial rethinking and restructuring, to copyediting for clarity and style, to proofreading for mechanics) is essential to good professional writing and technical practice. We expect that you will reflect on the feedback you receive from instructors and peers and use what you believe is of value to improve your work.

The feedback your TA provides will not be comprehensive; that is, your TA will not mark or comment on every place in your writing where you succeed or struggle. Instead, he or she will concentrate on providing feedback on key issues that we have targeted for you to work on for the course (such as following professional conventions) and for a specific assignment (these will vary). You will find these issues highlighted in each assignment rubric, which will be provided when the assignment is introduced and again when your response to the assignment is assessed. We encourage you to speak with your TA if you would like additional feedback or have questions about the feedback you receive.

Here are some tips for improving your ability to revise:

Revision Checklist: Some writers find it useful to keep an ongoing checklist of issues they or others have found in their work, so that they can evaluate each new draft to see if these are continuing to occur (for example, eliminating unnecessary adjectives).

Technique List: Some writers also keep a list of writing techniques that they have found useful or want to try out (for example, reverse-outining each completed draft to ensure the progression of its ideas makes sense or checking the start of each paragraph and section for an effective transition to ensure the whole tells a coherent story or makes an argument where the logical relationships between major claims are clear).

Late Papers, Missed Turn-In, and Missed Exams

Students should make every effort to keep up with the course material and assigned work, since knowledge of the course concepts and writing skills builds incrementally throughout the term.

Writing: Late papers are accepted only until 5 p.m. on the Friday during the week in which they were due and (just as with on-time papers) must be submitted in both paper and electronic forms. Late work is assessed a penalty. For details, see the Writing Assignments page.

Missing paper drafts (both initial and revised) are assessed a 5% penalty (assuming the electronic draft has been submitted on time).

Exams: If you anticipate that you must miss an exam or turn in late work, please speak with your TA in advance whenever possible. Conflict exams are provided in accordance with university policy, as detailed on the Exam Information page.

Grade Re-Evaluation

  1. Bring any concerns about grades to your TA. Grade inquiries must be made within 1 week after a paper and 2 weeks after an exam is returned.
  2. If you are unable to resolve your concerns with your TA, contact Professor Perdekamp.

Course Components

The work in this course is divided into two components: writing and exams.

Writing Component:

The writing assignments in the course—five required essays and a research paper sequence with multiple components ending in a polished final draft—will help you learn about the subject matter and develop writing skills for producing technical writing at a professional level. The assignments will ask you to complete professional tasks in real world writing formats, such as a CIA brief or NSF proposal narrative, and target specific writing skills. 

Writing assignments will include specific and detailed instructions for elements and their formatting (follow these closely) and may also include other activities and components, such as a writer’s memos and peer review (these are required, not optional) as well as revision based on feedback. See the Writing Assignments page for more details.

(5) Required Essays 34%

(1) Research Paper Project 30% (a sequence of connected assignments)

(Weekly) Writing Lab Participation 6%

(2) Optional Extra Credit Essay 4% (2% each)

All Required Essays will be graded by your writing lab TA. The Research Paper and Extra Credit Essays will be graded by a member of the course staff, who may or may not be your writing lab TA.

Exam Component:

The lecture-discussion quizzes, midterm exam, and final exam will assess your retention and understanding of material in the reading and writing assignments, slides and videos shown in lecture-discussions, and discussions in writing labs and lecture-discussions (including current events). See the Exam Information page for more details.

(1) Midterm Exam 10% (length: 80 minutes; location TBA)

(1) Final Exam 15% (length, time, and location: official schedule)

(4) Lecture-Discussion Quizzes 7.5% (via app, in class)

Grading Scale

Letter grades will be assigned to all course work and to your overall course performance based on percentage scores, as follows:

Writing Component Minimum Grade: This is an advanced composition course; therefore any student who does not achieve a score of at least 50% on the writing component of the course may be given a failing grade in the course.

Grade Scaling: All work will be graded using an absolute scale, not a curve. Consequently it is possible for every student to receive an A grade. This grading philosophy is in keeping with the goals of the course, which are to help you improve your writing skills and understand the course material well. How other students perform is not relevant to these goals. Grading on an absolute scale also encourages discussion and cooperation among the students enrolled in the course, since helping another student will not lower your grade. In fact, experience shows that both students in such a discussion usually learn something, which leads to an improvement in the grades of both. Keep in mind, though, that the University's rules on academic integrity require that all writing you submit be your own work.

Final Course Grade

Your final course grade will be computed as a total course percentage score (capped at 100%) that combines your percentage scores on the writing and examination components. We will use the following formulas to arrive at your final course grade:

Total Course Percentage Score = 0.7 x (writing component) + 0.3 x (examination component)

Writing Component Percentage Score = (34/70) x Average Required Essay Score + (30/70) x Research Paper Project Score* + (6/70) x Writing Lab Participation Score + (2/70) x Extra Credit Essay Score

*Research Paper Project Percentage Score = 0.05 x RPPv1 + 0.05 x RPPv2 + 0.10*RPCR + 0.40 x RPv1 + 0.40 x RPv2

Exam Component Percentage Score = (1/3) x Midterm Exam Percentage Score + (1/2) x Final Exam Percentage Score + (1/4) x Quiz Percentage Score*

*Quiz Scoring


# Assignments # Dropped Max Points
Essays 7 0 34
Research Paper 4 0 30
Labs 14 2 6
Lectures 29 5 7.5
Exams 2 0 25