Assignment 2, 2020

  • This assignment comprises 14% of the total marks for this subject.
  • Due date: 23:59 pm of 18/5/2020, via Canvas: Assignments: file upload.
  • Please choose one of the following topics. Then follow all the instructions given on the next page onwards, as these apply to all topics.

Topic 1: Glycine betaine and its roles in abiotic stress tolerance of crop plants: Discuss the ‘osmoprotectant’ molecule called glycine betaine, focussing on its biochemical properties, its mechanisms of imparting salinity or drought tolerance to plants, and examples of its applications in environmental biotechnology, e.g., for selection of abiotic stress tolerant crop lines, or development of such lines by transgenic plant technology.

Topic 2: Effects of pharmaceutical wastes and contaminants on ecosystems: There are emerging reports of significant effects of human health and well-being related products disposed into waterways on local species (e.g. fish). Discuss 1-2 specific cases of accumulation or release of pharmaceutical products such as pills and drugs into the environment, and effects on the ecosystem. The assignment must provide event or case-specific information and data on some examples of such contaminant, and effects on the food chain (if relevant), human health and/or nature.

Topic 3: Algal biofuels: With the depleting stocks of fossil fuels, biofuels have been attracting attention of many Governments and companies. Biofuels are being attempted or made from a number of agricultural commodities (e.g., grains) and waste products, as well as from algae. Write an essay on algal biofuels, detailing the chemical principles behind using these small organisms for fuel production, summary of the methodology, types of biofuels produced by algae, and a brief cost versus benefit analysis.

Topic 4: Biodegradable polymers: With the extremely large quantities of plastic waste around the world, lack of efficient degradation methods and effects on the ecosystems, significant efforts are being undertaken worldwide on biologically synthesised and/or biodegradable polymers. Write an essay on 1-2 examples of biopolymers (e.g., those made by certain bacteria), outlining the types, chemistry and biodegradability of such polymers, a summary of methods of production of the polymer, and a brief cost versus benefit analysis.

Topic 5: Greenhouse gases and global impacts: The significantly enhanced production and environmental release of ‘greenhouse gases’ in recent centuries is considered a strong contributor to the anticipated global warming and other effects such as ocean acidification. Write an essay discussing the major greenhouse gases, their origin (industrial as well as biological bases), chemistry, any reported trends of their quantities over many years (providing relevant graphs/figures/images/other data), and the current and/or expected effects of increases in these gases on ecosystems and on life on this planet.

Instructions for all topics

Format: The assignment may be presented in any of the following two formats:

  1. a 1000-1200 word written assignment. This length excludes Figures, their legends including references, Tables, their footnotes including references, and the list of references to be provided at the end.
  2. OR: a power-point presentation, (with OPTIONAL audio recording describing the slides), of no less than 14 and no more than 16 slides for the assignment content including images, tables, figures, their references underneath the figure/tables, PLUS the first slide (topic title, student name and ID) + 1-2 slides at the end for list of references. No smaller than font size 20 for the text of slides. Titles on slides can be bigger: font 30 etc. (not too big: you will have no room for content). The 1-2 list of references slide(s) can have small fonts (size 12-14 Ok). CANNOT define a strict word limit, as Powerpoints are about content as well as presentation.

Structure and content of assignments (for any of the above 2 formats):

  1. Title of topic as given above, unit code and name, your name and student ID
  2. Start with a concise and clear summary of the topic, in no more than 100 words;
  3. Then provide the topic-specific information: introduction to the topic and its significance; critical analysis of contents of the research papers (and/or other sources), summarising all key points effectively, citing appropriate references at all important statements/facts you are presenting. Make paragraphs, subtitles etc. Be creative not just in content but also presentation; ease of reading is important. Read below for essential literature review and referencing information.
  4. Include at least one figure or one table directly relevant to the topic, with their references given in the figure legends or table footnotes (e.g., a figure of mer operon, or map of the bushfire areas, or a table of chemical composition of plastics). Do not include fundamental figures such as DNA structure or a just world map with no relevance to topic.
  5. Finish with Conclusions and future directions: 2-3 lines on the main points that your work shows, the significance of the topic, and any future directions to pursue.
  6. Then provide the list of references. See below for referencing style to be used.

Marking scheme:

The table of marking criteria and allocated marks is given on the last page and there will be a rubric also on Canvas. Please read carefully while preparing your submissions.

Authentic authorship requirements and avoiding plagiarism:

The whole assignment (in any format) must be written in your own words, in a clear, concise manner. Any form of plagiarism, irrespective of how small it is, or whether intentional or unintentional, will be penalised heavily, including applying a zero mark. This includes copying large sections, or several small sections, word-to-word, or nearly so, from any publication/web site/any other source or person, even if you use quotation marks or provide a reference. Plagiarism also includes any practices such as keeping spelling and typographic errors in the document to reduce the % match score, using any past or current student’s work, or asking (or paying) someone else to do the work and submitting it as yours. Please refer to the Uni website and the relevant documents in ‘getting started’ module on Canvas for how to ensure academic integrity and avoid plagiarism. Please seek timely help from the convenor or other teaching staff if you need more guidance.

Instructions for referencing:

  • Refer to the tutorial on Assignment writing (Dr Hayden Webb, Week 4) to learn how to find literature on a given topic.
  • Please ensure that all statements/facts you include in your assignment are supported by correct references given at the relevant lines/statements within the body (the text) of the essay/slides/poster, and not just in a list at the end.
  • Do not give any material as a reference unless you have actually read it yourself.
  • The referencing within the text must be by authors’ names (e.g., Webb et al., 2005; Bhave and Palombo, 2006; McLean 2006), not numbers.
  • For all topics, the assignment must use at least three recent journal articles (2009 to 2020), in detail, not just for the abstract or a few words. Other references can be older and can include more journal papers, book chapters, reputed websites (such as those of Govt. agencies or UN agencies) etc.
  • Keep to moderate levels (5-10 references), as too many references can lead to repeats and just skimming over things. The length of the reference list by itself does not get marks! The depth, clarity, presentation and quality of authorship are important.
  • PLEASE NOTE that if no references are given within the text of the assignment (in any format) itself, it is indicative of not acknowledging the sources of information, which is not acceptable; hence a zero mark will be given for the content-specific criterion. Significant penalties will also apply for other referencing errors, e.g., if too few refs have been used, and/or if a reference given in the list can’t be found in the essay, and/or a reference given in the essay can’t be found in the list, and/or any reference is incorrect, incomplete or can’t be found in searches. Refer to the marking scheme.
  • Provide COMPLETE bibliographic details for all references in the list of references to be provided at the end of the assignment. Read below for the requirements.
  • Style of referencing: Swinburne Harvard style. Refer to the Swinburne library pages or the module in Canvas called ‘getting started’. Be consistent for the whole list; penalties will apply for inconsistencies.
  • Bibliographic details: For journal articles: ensure providing the title of article, initials and last names of all authors, name of journal, volume, page numbers. For books and book chapters: ensure providing title of the chapter, initials and last names of all authors, title of the book, editors, place and year of publication, ISBN, page numbers. For websites (i.e., references which are not journal articles or book chapters): provide the full hyperlink to the article.
  • DO NOT LIST WIKIPEDIA OR GOOGLE etc. as references! Such search engines or sources can be used to get some basic information, but they are not a reference in themselves!
  • NO RESUBMISSIONS WILL BE ALLOWED for referencing, plagiarism, content or any other issues, so please ensure stating early.


Instructions for assignment submission:

First check your work for percentage match to other literature/submissions, and potential plagiarism issues: MUST be done several days before the due date. Please go to the ‘Assignments’ tab on Canvas, click on the relevant assignment number, upload your work as a single Word or PDF or Powerpoint file and submit. Please refer to the next page and the assignment writing tutorial on how you can check the percentage match of your uploaded file to other published/submitted works. The Turnitin parameters will be set up to disregard your bibliography from checking. You need to bring the % match (similarity score) of your work to 20% or less. If this is >20%, your work has significant ‘non-original’ material, indicating potential plagiarism and thus penalties. To address this issue, work on your document again, then delete your first submission, upload the revised one, and check the score again. PLEASE BEWARE the second/third drafts can take much longer time in Turnitin: build this in your planning and start early.

FINAL SUBMISSION: Please check and upload your final version as above. The document found uploaded in Canvas at the due date and time will be used for assessment. If the % match of this submission is >20%, you will be at the risk of significant penalties including a mark of zero for the assignment. No requests for resubmissions will be entertained.

The time of submissions gets recorded in turnitin. Please refer to the unit outline for penalties for late submissions and timely requests for extensions. Unless prior approval has been obtained from the convenor in writing, a late penalty of 10% per working day will apply after 23:59 pm of 18/5/2020. After 5 working days, no submissions can be accepted and a ZERO result will be recorded.