In this section, Prof. Aram Harrow describes the term paper assignment in 8.06 Quantum Physics III and shares its two-fold purpose.
Students in 8.06 Quantum Physics III are expected to research and write a short paper on a topic related to the content of 8.05 Quantum Physics II or 8.06 Quantum Physics III. The paper can explain a physical effect or further explicate ideas or problems covered in the courses. It can be based on students’ own calculations and/or library research. The paper should be written in the style and format of a brief journal article and should be aimed at an audience of 8.06 students.
8.06 Quantum Physics III is the final course in the undergraduate physics sequence. By the time they take this course, students have learned enough to be able to independently research and write about a quantum physics topic. One of the goals of the term paper assignment is to demonstrate for students that this is possible.
Another goal is for students to experience writing a polished essay. It’s a process. It starts with the students choosing a topic. We give them suggestions, but also encourage them to come up with their own topics. The students then develop proposals. Students write multiple drafts of their term papers and receive feedback from peers, professors, and teaching assistants exclusively hired to support students in their writing. There’s a lot of revision and feedback that go into the papers. At the end of the course, students receive a bound copy of all the final papers.