24 Jan 2014

Student choice literature-based take home exam question

Literature Discussion

Submitted by Hilary Eppley, DePauw University

During my junior/senior level inorganic course, we did several guided literature discussions over the course of the semester where the students read papers and answered a series of questions based on them (some from this site!).  As part of my take home final exam, I gave the students an open choice literature analysis question where they had the chance to integrate topics from the semester into their interpretation of a recent paper of their own choice from Inorganic Chemistry, this time with limited guidance.  I also included a number of questions that required them to make use of various literature search tools to show that they had mastered those skills.   I gave them a list of topics that they could incorporate, but based on the poor quality of the responses I received, I encourage you to be more specific in your instructions.  I'd love to see some new versions!      

Microsoft Office document icon Final ExamTakeHome.doc35 KB
Learning Goals: 
Students will
  • choose a recent paper that interests them from Inorganic Chemistry
  • summarize why a particular paper is important to the field of inorganic chemistry
  • use literature search tools including Web of Science, Cambridge Structural Database, and SciFinder Scholar to find information aobut cited references, structurally similar compounds, and the authors of the paper
  • integrate ideas such as bonding models, symmetry, spectroscopy structural data, and chemical reactivity from class into a detailed analysis of aspects of the paper

The instructor will

  • get up to date on new literature for possible new literature discussions
  • get a chance to stretch his/her own intellectual muscles on some papers perhaps outside of his/her area of expertise
Implementation Notes: 

The students were given the take home exam about 1 week before it was due (but that was during the final exam period).   The format of the chemical information questions were similar to things they did earlier in the class, however the analysis of the paper was much more open ended, giving them the freedom to choose a paper that interested them and to presumably focus on concepts from the class that they felt comfortable with.   I gave them a date range from April 1 - April 30, 2012 for their paper because those were the most recent issues at the time.  If you use this LO, you will probably want to change those dates to more recent ones.   

Time Required: 
at least an hour, possibly more depending on the student
Evaluation Methods: 

This question was 30 points on a 100 pt take home exam (the year I did this, there was also a 100 point in class exam as well).   I've included the title page of the take home exam as well as this question.   

The grading scale allowed most of the points for the student chosen course content to highlight.   Of the 30 points, 10 focus on chemical information skills, 20 on summarizing the article and analyzing it using concepts from the class.   

Evaluation Results: 

I gave back a number of the exams before I was able to tally, but of the ones I had remaining: 

60% got full credit on the part a (those who missed neglected to include a summary) 

100% got full credit on part b

60% got full credit on part c (those who missed searched by formula rather than connectivity or provided an insufficient explanation of what they searched on 

100% got full credit on part d

On part e, answers varied widely from 7/17 to 15/17, with an average of 12/17 or a 70%.  

In some cases they lost points for just repeating things verbatim from the paper without explaining them to show they understood the concepts.   The main reason for loss of points however was just a lack of effort at picking apart the paper for parts that were relevant to the course content.   

They were able to successfully apply things such as electron counting and mechanism identification in a catalytic cycle, point groups, descriptions of sigma and pi bonding in ligands.   


Creative Commons License: 
Creative Commons Licence

The VIPEr community supports respectful and voluntary sharing. Click here for a description of our default Creative Commons license.