CHEM 496: Distinction in Chemistry

Reader requirements: Graduate degree in chemistry and scientific research experience.

  1. Course Information
  2. Schedule
  3. Giving Feedback

Course Information:

Instructor: Prof. Christopher Roy and Prof. Steven Baldwin

Course for majors who are candidates for graduation with distinction in chemistry. Includes preparation of the research thesis, preparation and presentation of a poster describing student’s research, and oral defense of the research thesis.

Student Writing Assignment:

What are students writing? Undergraduate theses.

For whom? The department (it will be read by several faculty members) and the student’s research director.

Where would such writing typically be found? As a master’s thesis or a publication in a front-line journal.

Why would someone usually read it? Usually the work is part of larger on-going project. The thesis is read to teach those who follow what was done, what worked/didn’t work, and where to go next.


The are the course deadlines, as they pertain to the Duke Reader Project:

By March 6: Students and readers schedule an Introductory Meeting to get to know one another.

By March 21: Introductory meeting completed.

March 21: Student sends rough but coherent draft to reader when due to professor; reader gives feedback ASAP but within one week.

By April 11: Students and readers to meet in real time (in person or via webcam, Skype, phone…) to discuss revisions and feedback. (May discuss presentations as well.)

April 24: Final thesis due to professor and to reader.


Giving Feedback (general information that will apply to most courses):

Giving feedback is the activity around which the entire project is designed. You may have considerable professional experience giving feedback on writing — whether to colleagues, employees, or other contexts — or perhaps this is an fairly novel experience. Given the aims and nature of the Reader Project, we are hoping that our volunteers engage with student writing in a particular way–one that is quite different from what is conventionally done in other contexts.

The primary aim of the project is to help students really understand what it means to write for readers, rather than as a school assignment. Think about the following when you give feedback, whether in writing or in real time:

  • Respond as a reader rather than as an editor. (They can get basic editorial help from others.) Focus on sharing your reactions to the draft as a user of such writing. What are you thinking as you read? More

Instructor’s response questions (things for the volunteers for this specific course to consider when reading student’s work):

  • Does the student clearly place his/her research in context?
  • Does the student use charts/graphs/illustrations clearly to demonstrate the setup and outcomes?
  • Does the discussion offer a compelling and clear explanation of the project?