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

Writing Assignments

The major writing assignments for the course are made up of required essays (RE2–RE4 require peer review and must be revised), the research paper (really, a sequence of connected assignments that culminate in a research paper), and optional extra-credit essays (see the schedule below). You may also expect to complete minor writing assignments during your weekly writing labs, as practice toward completing the major assignments, which are introduced and discussed there. Please see links below to assignment prompts, given in the Details column (prompts will be posted as the semester progresses). 
Late Papers: Late papers will be accepted only until 5pm on Fridays. 15 points (15%) will be deducted from the score of the paper if it is late. Late papers require both electronic and paper submissions. The paper copy should be placed in the Physics 280 homework box, located on the second floor of Loomis in the corridor that connects Loomis and the Seitz Materials Research Lab.
Missing Paper Drafts: Missing paper drafts (both initial and revised) are assessed a 5% penalty (assuming the electronic draft has been submitted on time).
Shared Writing: Please expect that your writing for the course may be shared with other students, either through workshopping and peer review (you will be identified as the writer) or in whole or part to support writing instruction (you will not be identified as the writer; your privacy will be protected).
Below, you'll find information on how to submit your written work and how your written work will be assessed, and a schedule for when work is due that includes a link to assignment details (i.e., assignment sheets that provide specific requirements, including the assignment rubric).


Good writing requires revision, which means rethinking and reworking your initial draft (see the Resources page for more). To improve your skill in revision, two submissions are required for all major writing assignments (except RE4v0, RPCR, extra credit essays), and some initial submissions will require peer review and a writer's memo. Revisions may also require a writer's memo and/or peer review.

Initial Submissions:

  1. Electronic submission on Wednesdays at 10pm. You can use this link or the "Submit Assignment" tab in the banner. Only .doc, .docx, or .pdf file types will be accepted.
  2. Paper submission in class on Thursdays at 2pm. 5 points (5%) will be deducted from the score of the paper if a paper copy is not submitted by the deadline. If you cannot attend class on a Thursday when a paper is due, please arrange with your writing lab TA, before that Thursday, an alternative way to submit your paper copy.
Revised Submissions: For the second version of assignments (RE2v2,3v2,4v2 and RPPv2, RPv2), you must staple the first, graded version to the back of the second version when you submit it in class. For RE2v2, 3v2, and 4v2, you must staple your peer's review of your paper to the back as well.
Writer's Memos: All writing assignments (except RE4v0 and extra credit essays) require a writer's memo. In general, a writer's memo gives the writer the opportunity to reflect on the challenges of a given writing situation and the rhetorical strategies and content knowledge required to address it, assess his or her own effectiveness in addressing these challenges, and request specific feedback. Your writer's memo will be targeted for each assignment—see the assignment prompt for instructions (Details column, below). Important: Because our submission system accepts only one uploaded document per assignment, you must submit the assignment and its writer's memo together in the same document file.

Originals/Originals with Feedback: We ask that you retain originals of all work, including work returned with feedback, until you have received your final grade in the course (very important). You may be asked to resubmit this work (and lose points if you cannot provide it). Also, reviews of how your work has been assessed may not be possible without your original with feedback.


Your writing assignments will be assessed using the same rubrics you are given at the start of each assignment. We encourage you to use the assignment rubric to guide your drafting and revision process, to share the rubric with others as you seek feedback on your work, and to explore writing concepts further on your own and with course staff in office hours (see the Resources page).

The assessment of writing can seem subjective, especially to writers who are used to working with problems that can be answered with either correct or incorrect solutions. Writing solutions to real-world problems can be described not as right or wrong, but as qualitatively better or worse than other solutions to the same problem (or situation that prompts a response in writing as one possible way of addressing it). Our shared vocabulary for talking about writing concepts will develop over the semester, but you will find a good start below. What counts as effective technical writing can vary by discipline, industry, and situation, but professionals usually agree on a small number of shared characteristics. In general, good technical writing is

In Approach

  • Audience-Centered (considers the audience’s needs and perspectives)
  • Community-Embedded (is informed about others’ work, acknowledges others’ contributions, makes a contribution to others working in the same area/on the same problem)
  • Purpose-Driven (accomplishes the writer’s and his or her organization’s goals, makes the purpose clear and is organized to accomplish that purpose)

As Text

  • Clear (begins with clear thinking, uses words the audience will understand or defines them, structures sentences so they are easy to follow and follow sound logic)
  • Concise (expresses ideas directly and simply; focuses on what is relevant; avoids unnecessary modifiers, prepositional phrases, negatives, repetition, weak verbs, dummy subjects, etc.)
  • Precise (makes an effort to be exact, given some external standard of measure) and Accurate (makes an effort to be correct, given the facts and accepted methods of their construction and interpretation)
  • Coherent (provides explicit transitions between sentences, paragraphs, sections; establishes effective organization in terms of logic, rhetoric, and genre)
  • Conventional (conforms to accepted conventions of professional language use and document design such as vocabulary, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and format) – In particular, our course places a high value on your ability to follow format instructions exactly, as a demonstration of professionalism.


Required Essays

Essay Assignment Code 
Date Assigned
Due Date
Jan 15
Jan 23
Jan 28
Jan 30
(includes peer review)
Feb 04
Feb 06
Feb 18
Feb 20
(includes peer review)
Mar 04
Mar 06
Mar 11
Mar 25
Mar 25
Mar 27
(includes peer review)
Apr 08
Apr 10

Research Paper

An overview of the research paper sequence can be found here. You should choose the topic for your research paper from this list, or receive permission to write on a different topic. The research paper will follow style guidelines of the Illini Journal of International Security (IJOIS), which can be found here. Please consider submitting your Phys/GLBL 280 paper to this journal.

Assignment (Assignment Code) Date Assigned Due Date Details
Research Paper Sequence Overview N/A N/A Details
Research Paper Style Guide (IJOIS Style Guide) N/A N/A Details
Research Paper Proposal Verison 1 (RPPv1) Feb 4 Feb 13 Details
Research Paper Proposal Verison 2 (RPPv2) Feb 18 Feb 27 Details
Research Paper Collegial Response (RPCR) Feb 25 Mar 11
Research Paper Version 1 (RPv1) Mar 11 Apr 03 Details
Research Paper Version 2 (RPv2) Apr 15 Apr 24 Details

Extra-Credit Essay Opportunities (Overview)

Opportunity  Date Announced Date of Event Due Date Details
ECEO-A Feb 12 Feb 19 Mar 1 Details
ECEO-B Feb 12 Feb 20 Mar 1 Details
ECEO-C Mar 26 Mar 28 Apr 5 Details
ECEO-D Apr 1 Multiple May 1 Details
ECEO-E Apr 15 N/A May 1 Details