MAE 124/ESYS 103 Spring 2010

Additional Guidance for Paper 2.

Paper topic:  paper2.pdf
Writing tips from your TAs:  notes_on_writing.pdf
Examples of excellent papers from the first paper assignment: available on WebCT.
(Writing tips from a previous year:  writing_guide.pdf)

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Can you tell me of any good resources for scientific papers pertinent to this paper topic, such as scientific journals that are highly regarded in the field?
This paper topic asks you to think about life cycle assessment as applied to "green" products. We'll continue to talk about this in class, but here are some starting points.

For life cycle assessment, take a look at the links in our suggested reading list. Other good links:

Check out the course-related news links for ideas for other technologies that might merit consideration. You might also look at the San Jose Mercury News' Green Energy section or the New York Times Green Inc. blog, both of which have extensive coverage of alternative energy issues. However, keep in mind that newspaper articles, while helpful as starting points, are not scholarly references, and we really want you to use scholarly references as your primary sources.

A good way to find scientific papers is by using either Google Scholar or the ISI web of science to search by key words for refereed publications pertinent to your topic. If you are on campus or are using UCSD proxy servers, you should be able to click through to the full publications that come up in your search.

Finally, we'll point you to David MacKay's book Sustainable Energy -- without the Hot Air, which provides useful quantitative assessments of energy demand. The synopsis makes a good starting point for reading.

2.  How do we use
See the detailed instructions.

3.  How do I create footnotes? Are endnotes acceptable?
Footnotes and endnotes are both fine. Any consistent format is OK. The Chicago Manual of Style is one standard format, and you can find a detailed discussion of its usage for term papers at this University of Wisconsin writing center site.

You may also use citation methods commonly used for scientific papers, such as numbered references or in line references to author and year, with a full reference list at the end. A sample reference might be "[Smith and Jones, 2006]". In this case, you should be sure to identify specific page numbers where relevant ("[Smith and Jones, 2006, p. 291]"). This Long Island University site explains the American Medical Association style, and this University of Georgia site explains the American Physical Association Style.

4.  How should web pages be cited? What types of web pages are acceptable as sources?
If you use a web page as a source, then you should cite it, providing as much standard reference information as possible: author, web page title, creation date (if available), your access date, location, etc. Keep in mind that web pages vary considerably in credibility. In general, the most credible information comes from peer-reviewed scholarly publications (which could include electronic journals and electronic reprints posted to web pages---if you use a journal article or other publication that happens to be posted to the web, then please cite it the same way you would cite it if you had found it in the library, with standard information such as author, title, publication year, journal name or publisher, volume number, page numbers, etc.) Researched reports (with citations) from environmental organizations are also often fairly reliable, although they may not have gone through a peer review process. Some web pages are essentially advertising brochures for a particular product, and you should probably assume that the authors are presenting a biased view of their product's features. (Much material also appears in blogs, which can be interesting and provocative, but may not have much real research or information behind them. We don't recommend blogs as primary research sources.)

5.  How do I request an extension?
Please contact your TA (before the paper deadline). Note that if we grant an extension for the week 6 homework assignment (though we don't expect that you will need this), that will not extend to the paper deadline.

6.  How should I format my paper?
Please use the following guidelines.
  1. Upload Word, RTF, or pdf documents to
  2. Include your name (First, then Last), PID, course title, TA's name, and date in upper right hand corner, single spaced.
  3. Use 1 inch margins, with 12 point font for the whole document. Double space the main text.
  4. Center your title at the top, but do not include a separate title page.
  5. Clearly label sections (abstract, introduction, etc.)
  6. Include page numbers, centered at the bottom of the pages.

7.  I am confused about the focus of the paper. If we research a life cycle assessment, then will section C of the report (Life Cycle Assessment) be a summary of the life cycle, or the actual assessment that we found copy-pasted?
For this paper you should perform a life cycle assessment yourself. That means that you will want to find as much data as you can about a carbon mitigation strategy, and use the formalism of life cycle assessment to evaluate the strategy. You should not plan to copy/paste anyone else's life cycle assessment (and although life cycle assessments have been completed for many products, it's unlikely that you'll find a life cycle assessment that does exactly what this paper asks you to do.)

8.  Should we focus most of the paper on judging the product, defining the life cycle, or making our own assessment of a product?
The assignment asks you both to complete a life cycle assessment and to evaluate the results. Life cycle assessments always should include an evaluation, and the paper instructions have some specific suggestions of issues you might consider. Sections C, D, and E should form the core of the life cycle assessment. The balance between these sections will depend on the topic you choose and the available data.

9.  What are possible paper topics?
As a starting point, take a look at the list of "green" agricultural products at the top of the paper assignment. Here are some other options.
  1. Worm-bins
  2. Urban compost pick-up
  3. Free-range chicken
  4. Back-yard fruit
  5. Drip irrigation systems
And of course, anything else you can thing of is great, provided it stays within the broad scope of the assignment. For whatever topic you choose, think about materials, production, use lifetime requirements, transportation, waste/disposal. Compare it to alternatives. Think about water and green house gas savings. Consider the feasibility in terms of cost, infrastructure, current resources.

10.  I have a question about the inventory analysis section of the LCA. I'm not really sure about how to implement this component into the assignment. I have some data and outcomes from some papers and a few calculations i want to carry out because they are not covered anywhere but nothing to really fill data collection, refinement and such. How should I go about this?
For the inventory analysis, think about what you would need to do if you were a manufacturer presenting a LCA for your product. You'd have data about the materials from which your product (CFLs in your case) were made, data about energy used for manufacturing, data about energy use during their lifetime, and data about disposal. Although the published literature on CFLs may not cover all of this, you should be able to report as much data as you can, identify areas where data are not readily available and make estimates for these (with large uncertainties).

11.  I'm freaking out a little here and wondering if I should change my topic. Can you help?
We understand that this is a challenging paper topic, because much of the data that you would ideally want access to is proprietary or not easily available or not compiled in a single reference. Do the the best you can with published resources. Explain where you are forced to make assumptions. And don't panic. There are lots of good topics for this paper.

12.  Usually the abstracts have the conclusions and results summed up concisely, but if we haven't written the whole report yet, will we be marked down if the preliminary abstract is not complete?
Abstracts normally do summarize all the findings, but you can probably write a fairly complete abstract that summarizes what you know at this point and skirts around any lingering gaps in your conclusions. (Scientists and engineers routinely do this in order to submit abstracts for conference presentations several months in advance of the conference.)

13.  I was thinking doing a LCA on meat production versus vegetables like soy. The LCA of different types of meats and different types of vegetables are different so should I just choose one type of meat and one type of vegetable and compare?
You'll make your analysis simpler if you consider one category of meat compared with one alternative, so beef versus soy, or beef versus fish, would be reasonable alternatives.

14.  I have some sources that have many authors (some have 5). When I cite them in my paper, is it okay to just use the first author listed, or can I just list the article name, instead? I'm really just trying to save words to keep my word count at a minimim. Maybe just listing last names would be the best, but is that allowed? Or should I footnote? I'm not quite sure how to do that, do I just number my biblipgraphy and reference only the number when I cite?
Please do include full author list in your bibliography. As we said for the first paper, we won't count your bibliography in your word count, since we don't want to discourage you from using a broad range of sources. When you reference the papers in your text, use just the first author's last name, with an "et al" to indicate other authors.

Thus if you had a reference for a hypothetical guide for this term paper, you might have the following listing in your alphabetical bibliography:

Gille, S., S. Taylor, R. Kulin, and B. Maurer, 2008. How to write a term paper on Life Cycle Assessment for MAE 124/ESYS 103, J. Pedagog. Methods, pp. 83-97.

In the text, if you weren't using end notes, you'd reference it as "Gille et al. (2008)" or "(Gille et al., 2008)".

Alternatively, you can use numbered end notes. By most conventions, they are numbered in the order that they are cited. So the first citation is "[1]", even if the author name is Zzwyg. In scientific literature, you can reuse the numbers. Thus you have a citation list numbered in order of first citation, although some sources may get cited repeatedly so that their numbers are reused again and again through your paper. If you do this, it will help us out if you also make a quick alphabetical bibliography.

In the humanities, usually each citation gets a new number, so references are repeated in the end note list again and again. By convention the first reference would contain detailed citation information and subsequent references could have reduced details. This strategy is fine too, but if you do this, we will require that you make a bibliography, alphabetized by author last name.

15.  I've just realized that some of my initial cost information comes from a life cycle cost analysis on rooftop gardens in Singapore. It's a fantastic, detailed article, and I'm just using it for initial costs and the extra weight a garden adds to the roof. The dollar amounts seem to be in U.S. dollars and the article was in Science Direct. Is it okay to use the statistics for my initial cost evaluation in my paper?
The article sounds great, and it's fine to use it. Science Direct might be the web access source, not the actual journal, so make sure that you identify the full publication information.

16.  Can I put graphs in the LCA section of my paper, provided that I cite my sources?
Yes, graphs are a good idea, provided they help you tell your story. As you note, you should be sure to identify the source of the graphs or the source of the data that you use to make the graphs yourself.

17.  Would you like the numbers to be summarized into tables? At this point I think I would rather just integrate the numbers into my paper. Is it okay to put numbers (from different sources) into my paper that aren't exactly the same?
It's your choice whether you present your numbers in a table or in a text. Numbers from different sources are fine, but of course you'll want to convert everything into consistent units so that your interpretation is clear.

18.  Can we copy and paste useful tables into our papers as long we cite the sources?
Yes, you may use tables (or graphics) from other sources if they are properly cited.

19.  Does the work cited section count in the maximum words total? What about the abstract or appendix? I did not realize how quickly 2000 words can be used in writing an LCA. I guess we have to be very selective on what to talk about.
The bibliography and appendices do not need to be included in your word count. You are exactly right that you will need to be selective in what you present.

20.  Can recycled water use in san diego be used as a "green product" for my topic? I am pretty sure I can find data for this.
Recycled water is a possibility, though we'd definitely prefer that your second paper be really distinct from your first paper.

21.  Could I consider health be a type of environmental impact?
Yes, human health is an environmental impact. (Usually we consider this from an epidemiological (or public health) standpoint, so you could consider incidence of asthma, heavy metal toxicity, or cancer related to environmental pollutants. You could also consider changes in disease vectors associated with climate change or sanitation problems.)

22.  Most of the LCA examples that we've seen compare the green product to the equivalent non-green product. But what about something like worm bins? Is a simple analysis of the product OK in that case?
No, do the LCA as a comparison of multiple alternatives. The LCA concept is focused on comparing multiple products or multiple alternate methods in order to find the most environmentally/socially/economically appropriate strategy. So worm bins on their own are not quite sufficient. They can instead be compared with alternatives such as disposing of food in a landfill, or using commercial fertilizer on your tomatoes, or running table scraps through a standard compost bin.

23.  Suppose we want to compare organic and regular milk. Then can we exclude transportation from the analysis, saying that the effect of transportation is not different in the studies? If we instead do and LCA of regular milk then do we need transportation to be included?
An LCA of organic and regular milk can be scoped to exclude transportation. An alternate LCA of milk could be scoped to focus largely on differences in transportation method for different milk products. Alternatively, an organic/regular milk LCA could focus on transportation (though it's hard to believe that would be the dominant environmental impact), and a comparison of two different forms of non-organic milk could opt to neglect transportation. Regardless, please do try to set up your LCA as a comparison.

24.  Are we restricted to agricultural green products? Or can we look into energy efficiency in buildings or transportation like biofuels?
We'd like you to narrow your topic enough so that you're not trying to analyze the entire car industry, for example, and that's why we've specified focusing on agricultural topics this year. Biofuels can definitely be addressed as an agriculture topic, so that's fine. Energy efficiency in buildings seems like more of a reach (though if you have a view on how that relates to agriculture then we're persuadable. Talk to your TA....)

25.  What's the exact policy on working together? Will we get bonus points if we do?
You may work together, and you might manage to get bonus points if your group effort shows evidence that you have successfully integrated your individual research efforts together. Our policy is that we will first grade your individual papers. Then group efforts will be assessed, and the original grade may be boosted up to half-a-grade, depending on the quality of the summary page and on how well the indivudal papers connect together. The maximum grade is still an A+, and the bulk of your grade will be determined based on the merits of your own submission. We won't penalize you if your group does poorly, but there's no guarantee that groups will receive a bonus. In some cases group members' individual papers could suffer because of the shorter word-count limits. Therefore, those who choose to work in groups should plan to take time to work together so that their papers and group synthesis are successful.