CIITN Group Project - Fall 2005

CHEM 2020U Introduction to Organic Chemistry

Why do we have to do the Chemistry is in the News program?

Modern life as we know it would not exist without our understanding of organic chemistry - it is everywhere - and to prove it, and at the same time learn a little more about organic chemistry, we are going to be undertaking a group project through the Chemistry Is In the News web program (CIITN).  You see, everyday topics related to CHEM2020U Introduction to Organic Chemistry pop up in our news media; so without even knowing it, we all learn a bit of organic chemistry when we read the newspaper.  Our job is going to be to help people (your classmates, and the world) get more out of the news articles they read by guiding them through - and expanding on the details of - the organic chemistry they may be struggling with over breakfast.  As I have already mentioned - this is a group project, so your TA will be assigning you into a group and elaborating on the CIITN program in your first Tutorial session. 

What will the final project look like?

In the text that follows I will be explaining in detail how to go about being successful at this project.  However, to quickly familiarize yourself, go to the CIITN website and look at some past student project at the University of Missouri where they have pioneered, and continue to host, this program [click on Student Projects and scroll down to the last entry of Year 2004 - Dr. Rainer Glaser Chem 210] .  After looking at a few projects you will see the pattern - you will write an editorial section on your newspaper article [200-500 words], it will contain embedded links to further information, and some sort of reaction schematic or chemical structure drawing; after this you will write a series of questions that to help shed more light on the topic and you provide some representative answers to these questions. 

How will I be graded if this is a group project?

The CIITN project is worth 10% of your final grade.  Your individual final grade will be calculated based on your the Peer Review mark your group receives and the Intragroup Peer Review mark you, as an individual, receive.  If you decide to not help your group with this project, it is entirely possible to receive a failing grade while your group members go on to gloriously high marks because of the excellent project they created without your help. More specifics on how the different review process take place follows under the more details heading. 

Your final score will be calculated by multiplying the group grade (out of 100) by your intragroup review grade (out of 100) and dividing by 100.     

Important dates for your calendar

Friday October 14th Decided on group name (give to TA), cleared article/topic with TA

Sunday November 13th

First Draft Posted

Friday November 18th

Peer Review 1 completed

Friday November 25th

Final Draft Posted

Friday December 2nd

Peer Review II completed

Tuesday December 6th

Intragroup Peer Review Completed

A brief summary of what you will be doing

Working as a group you will:

[1] Read online newspapers and search for articles whose content in some way is connected to organic chemistry. Consider only top-notch well-recognized news sources to assure the highest quality.
[2] Identify one article that illustrates an important consequence of organic chemistry well. Identify the key organic chemistry topic the article touches upon and identify the chapter in a textbook that is most relevant. Identify keywords that best describe the issues raised by the article. Identify keywords that best describe the most relevant chemistry topics related to the article. Your Group must have decided on a group name, chosen an article and cleared the topic with your TA for by Friday October 14th, 2005.
[3] Create editorial comments with links to useful online resources, pertinent references section, and questions & answers in CIITN web tool.
[4] First draft must be posted by 1100 PM, Sunday November 13th, 2005
[5] Peer Review I: Constructive peer review must be complete by 1100pm  Friday November 18th, 2005.
[6] Revise your item considering the commentary and recommendations made in the constructive peer review. Post changes by 1100pm Friday November 25th, 2005.
[7] Peer Review II: Final evaluation & grading by peer review due on 1100pm Friday December 2nd, 2005.
[8] Intragroup peer reviews. Post by 1100pm Tuesday December 6th, 2005.

Instruction in online searching of news media, accessing the professional literature, questions on using the CIITN webtool, and for the peer review can be directed to your TA or your instructor.

More detailed instructions - including the Peer Review marking scheme for the projects

Guidelines for Newspaper Article Selection

You are not limited to any particular online news services, you can use any online newspaper that you can find on the WWW. Let's restrict ourselves, however, to English language newspapers for now. So, where to look? The New York Times and the Washington Post make a good start; as well, try Canadian sources such as the Globe & Mail, the Toronto Star, CBC, and Get the West Coast view from the Los Angeles Times. But then again, don't limit yourself to the US and Canada, take a look across the Pacific and browse the Japan Times. Why not. In fact, let's think global and find a newspaper by way of an online directory service, e.g. Online Newspaper Directory, World Newspaper Directory, NewsDirectory, NewsLink, ScienceDaily, PressDisplay, ... You might also want to visit the newswise web site, a search tool for reporters, or WurekAlert!, the media advisory service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Also, try searching some of the databases available online through the UOIT library - use organic chemistry key words to search LexisNexis or for specifically Canadian news articles, try the database, Canadian Newstand.

Your selection of topic and of its connectedness to chemistry will be judged by your peers. To further increase the quality of your selections of topic, the instructor will award 10 extra points to each member of three groups that, in his view, have done excellent jobs in article topic selection.

The URLs of newspaper article sometimes change and that can be a problem. Some online providers use a different link for their current editions and their archives. Use an online provider that does not change the URL. Also, use only an online provider that is accessible free of charge.

Make sure you have the text of the article stored in electronic form. If there are problems with the direct link, we can always make the article available via a local link. If that becomes necessary, please upload the html file of the news and name it as group#_article.html. A local link needs to contain href="../2004001/group#_article.html". The absolute URL of the article is

Every news item should be connected to one of the book chapters covered in the course. As much as possible, let's try to get an equal distribution.

There will be three top project awards; these awards give 20 extra points to each member of these groups. Two of these awards will be made by the instructor. One of the awards goes to that project that wins the highest peer review score.

Guidelines for Interpretative Comments and Links

There are many approaches you may take in writing the interpretative comments. Make sure that you realize at all times for what audience you are writing.

Embedded Link Requirements and Construction. The interpretative comments should contain between 4 - 8 links to sites that provide information that deepen the understanding of the subject matter of the newspapers article and provide the best possible context definition. Several issues need to be considered in selecting these links. [a] Quality. Is the information provided by this link pertinent? Is the information presented well? Are layout, graphics, and animations used in the best possible way? How much can one learn from this site? [b] Credibility. Is the information provided by this link credible? Who wrote the link and what is the authors' agenda? A link written by the tobacco industry telling you that smoking is good for you might be suspicious. [c] Stability. Will this link exist in future? This question is much related to the quality issue. You should only use links that are likely to be stable.

To construct an embedded link you need to supply the URL of the site to which you want to link. This information is provided in a so-called "a-tag". The "a-tag" starts with <a> and ends with </a> and the word that will serve as the link will be between these tags. The URL is provided as part of the <a> tag in the "href" qualifier in the format <a href="URL">link-to-this-text</a>. The web site of CNN for example is located at and a link to this web site could be provided by the statement <a href="">CNN</a>. When you enter the text of your project in the online database, please do provide such "a-tags" whenever you want to embed a link.

Inclusion of Reaction Diagram Requirement. The interpretive comments section should contain one reaction diagram. Prepare the reaction diagram with the program ChemDraw and save the picture as a "gif" file. Name your gif file group#_rxn.gif or group#_pic#.gif (e.g. for group 9 the filename should be group9_rxn.gif or group9_pic1.gif) and upload your gif file to the CIITN web site. You should include the instruction <BR> <BR> <CENTER> <img src="../2004001/group#_rxn.gif"> <CENTER> <BR> <BR> in your interpretive comments at the place where the structure diagram should be inserted.

You can insert other images as well, e.g. other structure drawings, pictures of molecular models generated with Chem3D, sketches as part of Q & A, ... If you have several images, insert the others in the same fashion and again use a name of the type group#_whatever.gif.

Inclusion of 3D Molecular Model. (Not Required.) If you want to be really cool, include a molecular model in 3D (e.g. as in the visualization centers). Create the model in Chem3D and store it as a PDB file and name it for example group30_ASPIRIN.pdb. Upload this PDB file to the web site. Then create the file group30_ASPIRIN.html as follows and upload that file to us as well. Change the name of the PDB file, adjust the height and width percentages (percent of display screen covered by model window), play with the other qualifiers as you wish.

Include this link:

<a href="../212w03%%PR/group30_ASPIRIN.html">Model of Aspirin</a>

The link will then call the following html file and display the model:


<body bgcolor=white>

<embed src="group30_ASPIRIN.pdb" frank=no name="molecule"

startspin=no height=100% width=100% display3D="ball&stick" bgcolor=white

palette="foreground" script="zoom 150; set specular on; set ambient 40;

select *.h; color atoms [196,209,146];

select *.c; color atoms [26,80,70];

select *.n; color atoms [92,180,220];

select *.o; color atoms [220,37,110]; select all">


Connection to Professional Chemistry Journal Requirement. One of your links should lead to an article that has been published in a professional chemistry journal. (In some cases, the project might profit from a link to an article published in a professional scientific journal rather than a chemistry journal.) You will learn in one of the Collaborative Learning sessions how to access and search the professional chemistry journals published by the American Chemical Society. Do provide the full citation to the article as well as the link so that people off campus also can access the article (in their libraries) if they do not have online access privileges. The full citations contains the authors, the abbreviation of the journal in italics, the year of publication in bold, the volume in italics, and page numbers (e.g. Michael Lewis and Rainer Glaser J. Org. Chem. 2002, 67, 1441-1447.).

Guidelines for Questions and Answers

Asking good questions is not a simple task. In fact, to ask a good question about a problem leads halfway toward its solution. Asking questions is a key problem-solving skill and schools critical thinking.

You need to write 5 interesting questions. The questions should include as many of the following types as possible and question 5 has to be of the PSP type. You should identify the type of each of your questions by providing the type abbreviation in parentheses after the question.

You also need to provide answers to your questions. Answers to questions 1 - 4 will be rather factual and should be given as brief and concise as possible. Question 5 should be answered by a 1-page essay and this essay should be the result of a collaborative effort. There is no one correct answer to PSP questions and instead the quality of the essay will be decided by the depth of the analysis and the number and quality of arguments in favor and against the thesis. Note that you are answering your own question and you are in the wonderful position where you might consider improving the question as you work on finding an answer.

Identification of Components and Relationships (ICR) Questions in this category seek to emphasize pertinent pieces of information in the assignment. Questions of this type require the reader to identify essential pieces of information and identify their logical value (hypothesis, assumption, deduction, rationale, ...).
Seeking Clarification (SCL) Questions that fall in this category seek closer definition of material or clarifying background information.
Reasoning Using Quantitative Data (RQD) Questions in this category require the interpretation of graphs, tables, and figures or the manipulation of data therein.
Evaluation Process (EVL) Questions in this category require judgment as to whether the conclusions are justified by the evidence and whether the given interpretation is the only one interpretation possible. Questions in this category assess credibility.
Flexibility and Adaptability of Scientific Reasoning (FAR) Questions in this category require the extension of concepts and information presented to unfamiliar situations. Questions of this sort often are useful to assess whether "the point really came across".
Reasoning about Philosophical, Societal and Political Implications (PSP) Questions in this category usually will be open-ended and subjective. Questions in this category are meant to create discussion and not necessarily to lead to an immediate answer. Answers to questions of this type might be subject to ideology. Every news items is required to contain one such question as the last question.

Categories for Peer Review

The evaluations of the Collaborative Group Projects will be carried out by public and collaborative peer review. Each group is required to evaluate the projects of three other groups using the CIITN web tool.

Every group can assign up to 100 points to a project. The web tool will request you to assess various aspects of the group projects. For each criterion, you need to supply a number grade and a brief justification. More detailed justifications should be given if the assigned score is either very high or very low.

(1) Is the selected news topic a significant real world issue? (0-10 points): Is the selected topic of interest to broad segments of the audience in their everyday lives? Does the topic have continuing significance?
(2) Is the topic connected in a substantial way to Organic Chemistry? (0-10 points): Was the key organic chemical issue made clear? Was sufficient background provided to understand the chemistry? Have important compounds been described and characterized sufficiently. Is the pertinent reference section complete? If not, what additional references should be given?
(3) Is the news selected from a highly credible news source and is it timely? (0-10 points): Was the newspaper article published in a high quality newspaper? Did the author seem qualified to write on the science? Was the article published within the past year? Is the article too long or too short? Is the article exciting? It it too sensational?
(4) Do the editorial comments provide pertient information? (0-10 points): Do the editorial comments help to place the article in the greater context? Do the comments help to crytallize the key issues in a clear and authoritative manner? Is the reaction shown in the reaction diagram well selected? Is the chemical information provided pertinent?
(5) Are the editorial comments well written and organized? (0-10 points): Is the editorial written in good English (grammar and style) and in a well organized fashion (appropriate number of paragraphs of appropriate lengths and so on). Has a reaction diagram been included? Is the reaction diagram of good quality and chemically correct?
(6) Judge the quality and selection of the links embedded in the editorial? (0-10 points): Do the links satisfy the requirements for relevance, quality and stability? Did you learn something useful while visiting these links? Are the links embedded well into the editorial comments. Is it clear what the function of each link is and why these links were chosen to be included in the editorial comments?
(7) Do the questions address central issues rather than marginal details? (0-10 points): Does the project contain 5 questions? Are the question types specified? Do the questions vary as far as the categories of the questions are concerned. Is the last question a PSP question? Are the questions useful to deepen the connection between chemistry and the real world? Or are the questions bizarre and far-fetched?
(8) Are the questions written in an understandable and clear fashion? (0-10 points): Is it clear what is being inquired? Is it possible to work the problems in a reasonable time?
(9) Are the answers easy to understand and convincing? (0-10 points): Are the answers correct and complete? Could the answers be improved to be more useful? Half of the points in this category should be assigned based on the quality of the essay.
(10) Are all components integrated into an interesting and constructive project as a whole? (0-10 points): Would you consider this problem set fit for publication and use as an educational material by others elsewhere (most points), a useful assignment after some adjustments, or unfit for distribution and general classroom use (few points)?

A detailed rubric is provided on the webtool.

The evaluations from all peer evaluations will be averaged. Do take these evaluations seriously, you are affecting the grade of your fellow students. Try to be fair and objective. You must be comfortable with your judgment and be able to stand by it and defend it in public. Your evaluations have to be made in writing and they will be made public on the web.

The peer review will proceed in two stages. In the constructive peer review, your should focus on pointing out the strengths and making suggestions as to how the project could be improved. The projects will then be revised. The second peer review evaluates the revised and final version of the project. Usually, the scores of this second peer review will be higher than those of the first. Only this final score counts for the course grade.

Inter-Group Peer Review

You will receive via email the numbers of the groups to review. Group Numbers refer to the group numbers used in the CIITN database.

The basic idea is that most groups are reviewed by 3 other groups - the averaging will take the edge off of individual judgements - and that groups never evaluate their own evaluators - revenche is a bad strategy. Some groups will benefit from 4 reviews and some groups will have to prepare 4 reviews.

The more everybody browses all of the entries, the better the quality of the grading. Evaluations of small subsets without having a view of the overall quality inadvertantly distort the evaluation.

Intra-Group Peer Review

After project completion, you will be asked to fill out an online questionnaire about each of the other members of your group. The intragroup peer review webtool was developed by instructional designers Ms. Kathleen Carson and Mr. Brian Hodgen and implemented by database programmers Zhengyu "Martin" Wu and Yongqiang "John" Sui. The intragroup peer review tool will be introduced to you by your TA.

For intragroup peer review, each person is given 100 points to divide as they see fit between their group members, not all points have to be assigned. Your intragroup peer review score is the total of the points given to you by your group members. Your final score for CIITN will be computed by multiplying the group grade by your intragroup peer review score and division by 100. For example: Student A was in a group with 4 other people. They gave Student A 20, 18, 19, and 22 points respectively. The group as a whole received an 80 on their group project. Student A's grade would be (20 + 22 + 21 + 23)x(85) / 100 = 73.1. Theoretically, if all group members contribute their share, they should receive credit for the quality of the product they produced.

A detailed rubic for intragroup peer review is provided on the CIITN webtool. Categories to being thought about are:

(1) What was the group member's level of performance? Did (s)he fulfill what was required of him (her) toward completing group projects? Did (s)he go "above & beyond" or did (s)he fail to contribute adequately to the group project?

(2) Did the group member fulfill a variety of roles within the group? Did (s)he attempt all of the roles (Facilitator, Proposer, Supporter, Critic, and Organizer) or did (s)he only attempt 1 or 2 roles?

(3) How well did the group member fulfill each role?

(4) How much time did the group member devote to group activities? Did (s)he attend all the meetings and do significant outside work? Did (s)he miss meetings without having made prior arrangements?

(5) Did the group member contribute his (her) share of the workload?

(6) Did the group member have a clear understanding of the requirements of the assignment? Did (s)he contribute innovative ideas? Did (s)he attempt to find answers to questions the group had?

(7) Did the group member provide the group with chemistry knowledge necessary to do well on the project and assignments? Did (s)he work to clarify questions?

(8) Did the group member collaborate with the group?

(9) Did the group member show enthusiasm for group work?

Absolument mon ami, l'excellence est une habitude.