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PROJECT WORK IN ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTRY

(KJM3700/KJM4700)
Spring 2006

Rolf D. Vogt, Tone C. Gadmar and Thorjørn Larssen

When we speak with students that are taking this course, the project assignment is frequently
mentioned as especially interesting and educational. The assignment gives you the
opportunity to read yourself up and meditation on environmental issues that interest you. In
due course of the task you learn how to:
● seek and find information about your subjects
● use web based literature search tools as Sci-Finder
● use different governmental and semi governmental organizations and specialized library
● reach the professional people in the university, other research institutions, environmental
organization or the source of pollution.

For many of you, it is a challenge to work in a group at the same time it is very important to
adapt yourself on that. Especially it is difficult to coordinate information that is collected
from every member in a group and write a proper assay that takes into account both the
content, related information and style of writing.
Here we are going to discuss the formal requirements that are demanded to write a report in
environmental chemistry. In addition we will attempt to provide some guidance to the
practical task of the assignment.

Report contents

1. PURPOSE...........................................................................................................................2
2. SELECTION OF A PROJECT THEME.............................................................................2
2.1. Theme...............................................................................................................................2
2.2. Case study........................................................................................................................2
2.3. “Communal work”...........................................................................................................3
3. FORMAL REQUIREMENTS............................................................................................3
3.1. References........................................................................................................................4
3.2. Layout..............................................................................................................................4
4. DISPOSITION OF THE REPORT.....................................................................................5
4.1. Abstract............................................................................................................................5
4.2. Introduction......................................................................................................................5
4.3. Main part..........................................................................................................................5
4.4. Conclusion.......................................................................................................................6
5. GENERAL GUIDANCE....................................................................................................6
5.1. Structure and distribution of the work.............................................................................6
5.2. Literature collection.........................................................................................................6
5.3. Writing process................................................................................................................7
5.4. Group work......................................................................................................................8
6. SUPERVISING...................................................................................................................8
7. DEADLINES......................................................................................................................8
8. EVALUATION....................................................................................................................9

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1. PURPOSE

Many of you will be in a work situation where you are requested to investigate the
consequences of future or existing environmental problems. Although you have taken a course
in environmental chemistry, it is not expected that you have enough knowledge to elucidate
by yourselves all the scientific aspects of the environmental problem. Therefore it is important
to realize that there is a range of available sources for information which you can turn to.
Experience from such investigation is desirable. There is not given much practise on writing
at this faculty and this assignment constitutes therefore a good opportunity for you to improve
your writing and investigation skills. There appears especially to be a large challenge in
writing references and we hope that this project task can help you to overcome this problem.
The intention of the project assignment is to use already existing and available literature, not
to relate to raw data.

The report is to be handed in through Classfronter. You are recommended to ask your advisor
(see chapt. 7) regarding comments to the report after the evaluation.

2. SELECTION OF A PROJECT THEME

Unfortunately there is no lack of contemporary environmental problems which are


worth a close study in a project assignment. The main problem is to limit the extent of the
study. The project work can generally be classified into two major types: Theme and Case
study.

2.1. Theme
This type of study addresses a general environmental problem such as: acid rain, green house
effect, ozone layer, radioactive waste, radon gas, heavy metals, eutrophication, pesticides,
chlorinated organic compounds, dioxin, organic micro pollutants etc.
Also it is possible to focus on possible solutions of environmental problems. For instance:
Alternative energy forms, alternative production processes, waste recirculation, sewage or
waste water treatment etc.

Here there is often unlimited literature, and it will be quiet necessary to choose only a small
part of these issues. In case of acid rain one could for example choose a subject such as fish
death or forest death and/or limit the problem geographically to Norway, southern Norway or
Finnmarksvidda.

2.2. Case study


This is a study that concerns a specific emission source or recipient. Examples for such
studies are VEAS installation, Tofte factories, Norsk Hydro in Herøya, a limited oil leakage
from oil carrier or a platform, Akers river, Klemetsrud installation, Gardermoen, waste deposit
sites, air pollutants in Oslo etc.

In a case study the extent of the problem is often restricted by its context. The magnitude of
the available material is often limited and therefore become more treatable. We have seen
many good reports based on case studies.

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2.3. “Communal work”
An example of both theme and case study can be a certain environmental issue in a local
commune of which you have a good knowledge. Such a theme must be about something that
represents a environmental problem for the commune administration. It can then be dresses
which consequences it has and how it has been handled. Furthermore, there must be some
ongoing or previous investigation so that there is a fair chance to find literature and
information about this issue.

Themes of interest could be:


● Vehicle traffic/transport, emission, possible procedure
● Household waste
● Energy consumption in households
● Sewage treatment
● Industrial waste
● Industrial emission to air
● Industrial emission to water
● Pollution status in natural areas, fjords, streams etc

One can choose other themes that are of interest.

3. FORMAL REQUIREMENTS

The assignment should be answered in groups consisting of 2-5 students. Only in


special cases the work could be answered by individuals. There will be made an attempt to
join together individuals or small groups that request to write about similar subject.

The group is at the onset quite free to choose a theme for the project assignment. Since this
work is about environmental chemistry, the selected themes should be chemically related. If
the work contains few chemical details, more emphasis will be set on how the issue has been
investigated and elucidated. I.e. Subjects such as economy, ethics, religion and politics can,
and should often be mentioned in the report, but must not appear as a main part. The indoor
work environment is not considered as a part in this course. It is therefore requested not to
deal with such problems as well as issues related to professional exposure.
The title of the work should be formally approved by the advisor (see chapt. 6) as early as
possible during the semester and before starting the writing process. The report should be at
least in 10 machine written pages and not more than 20 pages. A report more than 20 pages is
considered unacceptable.
We focus on the quality of the work, not the quantity. A short good report is considerably
better than a long poor report. Correct use of the references and references citing will be taken
into due consideration during the evaluation of the report. References should be as up to date
as possible and contain relatively new research reports and/or articles. A balanced usage of
different sources of information is desired. The report should have a “red thread”, preferably
in the form of a specific problem or issue that is answered or responded to in the conclusion.
The text should be focused on the issue at hand. Include only relevant material and investigate
only the information that is related to the problem.

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3.1. References
What are group thoughts, point of views, ideas, and what information was brought in by the
references should be made clear and obvious. Refer precisely from where the information was
found. This is not easy but it is an important part of the assignment. This is solved in the text
by referring to a literature list. All the references cited in the text should be enrolled in the list.
There are many ways of referring to references; e.g. giving the name of the author and
publishing year or by using index numbers. We use author’s name and publishing year as
shown in the example below, since the numbering type is not practical in a group work.

Examples for using of author’s name and publishing year:


Sullivan et al. (1986) pointed out in an investigation that Al chemistry in fact has more
aspects than what is commonly relayed in text books (see Stumm and Morgan, 1981). A
number of articles also pointed out that the soil characteristics is important (Nørdo, 1997;
Sullivan et al., 1986). Our opinion is that the coffee price in Denmark is important in this
context. But R. Vogt (pers. comm.) does not agree to that. He refers to a report prepared by
Norwegian pollution control (SFT) which obviously concludes that the coffee price in Norway
is of no importance to the Al chemistry (SFT, 2003).

We see that only the family name of the author is used. When there are two authors, both their
family names are used. When there are more than two, only the family name of the first
author is used followed by et al. One can use the name of the institution in charge of the
publication if the author’s name is not given. If there are many articles published in the same
year for the same author, one can use a, b, c etc. after the year. Remember that this should be
done in agreement to the literature list. All references that are mentioned in the text should be
written the literature list and vice versa.

Literature list (arranged in alphabetic order)

Article in book:  Nordø  J., 1977.  En statistisk undersøkelse av surheten i en bekk nær


Birkenes i Aust­Agder. In: Rosenqvist, I.T. (Ed.) Sur jord ­ surt vann
(Acid soil ­ acid water), Ingeniørforlaget, Oslo.
Report:  SFT, 1996. Utredning av effekter av kaffeprisen i Norge og i utlandet
på Al kjemien. Resultater 1980­1996. Statens forurensningstilsyn (SFT)
Oslo.
Textbook:  Stumm,   J.H.   og   Morgan,   J.J.,   1981.  Aquatic   Chemistry.   Wiley
Interscience, New York. 780 pp.
Scientific paper:  Sullivan,   T.J.,   Christophersen,   N.,   Muniz,   I.P.,   Seip,   H.M.,   and
Sullivan,   P.D.,   1986.   Aqueous   aluminum   chemistry   response   to
episodic increases in discharge. Nature, 323: 324­327.
Per. comm.: Vogt, R.D., Dept. of Chemistry, Univ. of Oslo, P.b.1033, 0315 Oslo.

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3.2. Layout
The front page should contain the title, name of authors and the publication year. The text
should be typed using Times New Roman 12 point, single line spacing, on numbered pages.
Text should be written in plural form- or passive tense. Tables and figures are to be inserted
into the text and made understandable by means table or figure text alone. The figure text
should be written below the figure while the table text should be placed above the table.

4. DISPOSITION OF THE REPORT

Usually a scientific publication has a structure that is different than that in a criminal
novel. Here the evidences and solutions should be uncovered as early as possible.

A report should in content begin more generally (wide) and finish rather specifically (limited),
while in term of extent, it should be begin with little text and end with much text. This is an
advantage both for you who are going to write the report and for the reader. If the report is not
limited enough before discussion, the group will soon drown in literature searching. 

Key words
Provide key words or short phrases (maximum of 6), in alphabetical order, suitable for
indexing.

4.1. Abstract
Provide a short abstract of 100 to 250 words. The abstract should not contain any undefined
abbreviations or references.

4.2. Introduction
Here the problem should be defined and the topic should be delimited. How the problem/topic
fits into a large perspective and what it is that render it to be important or interesting should
be explained and clarified. The introduction should contains a short summery of the given
problem/scientific field by quoting central literature. This may be managed in a chronological
manner. In the introduction the theme may be dealt with in a general manner, but the amount
of text should not be more than 20% of the report. The literature that is used for writing the
introduction is usually taken from review articles, text books and reference books. Since the
content of the introduction is usually generally accepted facts, one can generally use “The
material is mainly collected from Hansen et al. 1990 and Olsen 1991”. It can be assumed that
the reader has a general knowledge about the problem. An extensive introduction of textbook
knowledge is therefore not required.
The introduction should be ended by a short text that describes the purpose of the report.
What is the new information in this report that does not exist in other available reports?

4.3. Main part


The main part should contain compiled material from reports, web pages, investigations and

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research articles. Information should include results from research front, but at the same time
it should be understandable by any person that has some chemical education.

One  should  only include  material  that  is  relevant  for the issues  of the report  so that  the
mentioning of the “coffee price in Denmark” is avoided. Some reports tend to just be lists of
facts without any obvious aim or goal. This is not good as the reader can not absorb such
information. The text should only handle the most important and relevant information. The
purpose is to compile all relevant information for the topics under consideration. Reports that
lack   central   parts   of   the   problem   picture   and   instead   focused   on   facts   that   are   of   less
importance, express poor investigation work. Therefore it is significant for the group to define
a “red tread”. Sometimes the group face failure when the group members do not agree on the
delimitation of the subject. It is better that every group summarize the limitation of their study
and then collect and interpret the information from different sources. The group should be
objective. Large tables can be put in an appendix. In the text only a subset of the data should
be presented. 
It is important for the reader that the material is logically built up. The line of arguments
should   be   discussed   clearly   in   the   group   before   distribution   of   work   between   the   group
members. 

Every environmental problem has many different sides and aspects. We should focus on the
environmental chemical aspects of the problem. The political, economic and ethical aspects
can be discussed, but should not dominate in the work. Chemical equations which related to
the discussed theme can be added to the text.

4.4. Conclusion
One should try to answer possible problem aspects in the conclusion. The group may try to
evaluate   the   problem   based   on   information   from   reports   considered   together   with   new
information  from  research reports.  The group should be neutral  and not dogmatic.  Every
member can contribute with their own speculation but without giving daring conclusions that
can not be proven or documented thoroughly.

5. GENERAL GUIDANCE

5.1. Structure and distribution of the work


Begin by dividing the report into relevant sections. Give each section a title. Arrange these
titles in logical order and so that some of them are sub-sections. You have then made an
outline or framework in the form of a table of contents. To distinguish between chapters and
sub-chapters, we suggest that you use the system used in this document. The report usually
should consist of three main chapters that were described in chapter 4.

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5.2. Literature collection
The most time consuming part of the work is getting assistance from specialist and collecting
all the relevant literature. Our experience tells us that there are many similar classes that are
dealing with project studies related to environmental problems. This has made scientific
experts in the governmental offices such as SFT, Statistical central bureau (SSB) and Ministry
of environment (MD) to try to avoid students asking questions. This is not good, but nothing
you should care about because their role as governmental employees is also to provide you
with the information you request. They will help willingly if you know how to contact them in
suitable time. Remember that these experts are busy people, so do not waste their time. To
prepare for a good visit you should make a list of useful and interesting questions. This will
motivate the expert to provide you with the required information. Start early with the
collection of information for the assignment. It may take some time to order reports.

Information collection plan:


1- Define the problem or subject area.
2- Contact the lecturer or other scientific expert in the field of the subject. See in the
lecture plan if there is a lecturer that covers your subject. You can also ask the persons
responsible for the project assignments or at the reception desk of the dept. of
Chemistry about who covers the relevant field of chemistry.
3- Contact the relevant lecturer and ask him/her for interesting angels to the subject and
ask for articles or references which are related to your subject.
4- Before indulging in an extensive literature search you should delimit your study.
5- Use the Sci-Finder and libraries both in the university and in the research institution
that are specialized in your subject (e.g. SINTEF, NIVA etc.). Study the reference list
in the articles that you already have. The university library and the library at the Dept.
of Chemistry subscribe to most online scientific journals. By use of e.g. Sci-Finder
you can seek out relevant literature and download pdf files of articles dating back to
1997. If what you are seeking is older then that you may be lucky and find that the
local libraries also subscribe to the paper copies, dating further back. If you still did
not find what you need in the institution library, the librarian can help you to find them
in other libraries. By using internet sites; http://www.ub.uio.no and
http://www.bybsis.no can you search for relevant books, reports and journals.
http://www.scholar.google.com is also a good searching site for interesting subjects.
6- Read only what is relevant to your work.
7- Prepare a list of questions and then contact the relevant lecturer or expert again. Ask
also whether he/she know other people that can help you getting the information you
seek.
8- Before visiting an expert outside of the university you may ask them to send you
articles, reports etc. so they need not spend time to explain the material in these
documents. If you are able to present yourself well, you will receive a good response.
Remember to mention to them that you are a student at the Dept. of Chemistry at the
University of Oslo and that you are taking an environmental chemistry course, and
that YOU HAVE SELECTED the theme.
9- It is advisable to choose a subject where someone in the group has special contact or
first hand knowledge.

5.3. Writing process


In addition to communication, writing has an important function as a tool for structuring your
thoughts - idea writing. Writing lets you develop and clarify the ideas. A written paragraph is
not only a product of ideas but it is an access towards new ideas. It is wrong to think that a

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good writer is one that first think the though through and then translates the thoughts into a
proper written text. Writing is a non-linear process. The writing process is a reiterated and
cyclic process, where there is continuous exchange between planning, writing and rewriting.
These processes are taking place all the time and on different levels, from spelling and word
choice to the content and build up of the text. Rewriting is a consequence of the development
of thought and thereby an integrated part of the writing process.
Think thoroughly through paragraphs classification. A paragraph constitute an idea block; to
write a paragraph is important for developing and building up thoughts, and the paragraph
gives important signal to how the reader should interpret the text.

A common problem is that one becomes lost in the material one is writing, without knowing
where one has been or where one is going. A good solution is to prepare a short outline (not
only key words) that is used during different stages of working with the text.

As a writer we read our own text with comprehension. We read in the text our intentions and
logic – not necessarily what we actually have written. I.e. we see blind to ourselves. It is
therefore always good to get an outsider to read the text to see what knowledge and
information that can be difficult for the reader to understand and where in the text we need to
express our meaning more explicitly. Another option is to let the text rest for a while before
approaching it again. Write the first draft of the text. Then read through the text and correct
any mistakes. Read the text again next day to cheque if it still makes sense. After a week the
text should be read again so that biased reading of the text is avoided.

Strive to write in short concise sentences, though avoid a Ernest Hemingway style. In that
way one avoids ambiguous and circumlocution formulation. Do not copy-paste a large part of
other’s work in your text. Write down instead the meaning with your own words.

Although the text delivered to the group is just temporary, it should look good and be easy to
read. The content, outline and literature references should be presented in their right places.

5.4. Teamwork
Cooperation does not function without making an effort. When you all agree on a certain
subject, you should arrange a “brain storm meeting” to develop ideas about what you are
going to write and what points that are of interesting to focus be on. Every group member
ought to think on their own about what the outcome of the meeting was and then the group
should have a new meeting where you make a plan. Many of the original ideas should be
dropped in order to stick to the issues relating only to the central topic. Discuss the most
relevant aspects of the subject. Agree on the line of arguments and make sure that everyone
concurs to the red thread. It is important that all group members see eye to eye and that they
really realize what they are going to write about.

After the outline of the report is prepared, you may agree on the division of writing the
different parts of the report. You should still collaborate together during literature search. It
may be a good idea to define a deadline for each of you to write a draft of their part. In that
way you may assure ample time to do the necessary changes. Compiling the different parts
will be easier if you talk together during writing process so that you know what the other
members are writing about. When all the members have written their drafts, all group
members must read all parts and give comments. It is important now that everyone is open
for constructive criticism. Then you must meet again and go through the different

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contributions, and eliminate the overlapped parts and establish a more co-ordinated style. It is
significant for evaluation that the report resembles a whole and not as a collection of
individual contributions.

6. SUPERVISING

Approval of topic, supervision and assistance is provided by Rolf Vogt, phone


22855696, E-mail: rvogt@kjemi.uio.no.

There will be help to set groups together.

7. DEADLINES

Deadline for subject approval is 18 february.


Deadline for delivery is 15 april.

The report is delivered electronic through Classfronter, preferentially as Word file or as pdf.

8. EVALUATION

First the report will be assessed for approval or not. You will be notified about the
outcome of this within 14 days after delivery deadline. Without approved report you can not
sign up for the final exam. The report will count 30% and examination 70% of the grade.

Some factors that are considered during the evaluation:

● Does the title reflect the content? The title should clearly inform the reader what the report
is about. It is an art to write a good and comprehensive title. It should not be too long nor too
short.

● The report should include 10-20 machine written pages (12 point Times Roman, single line
spacing) + graphs, figures and tables. Evaluation is focused on quality, not quantity.

● Outline and consistency: The “red thread”. There should be a good flow in the story and
build up of the arguments in the report. Is the sequence and distribution of the chapters and
sub-chapters ideal? The finished report should carry the common thoughts of the group from
the beginning to the end, not 4-5 loosed chapters that are not related to each other. Does the
report have a table of contents?

● Professional overview and understanding: Does the group possess an overview of the issue?
Does the report express an in-depth handling of the theme? Is the information updated?

● Chemical content: KJM3700/KJM4700 is a course in chemistry. The problems should


therefore be chemically relevant. Relevant chemical information should be included in the
work and this information should be scientifically correct.

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● Introduction/conclusion: Does the introduction give a clear definition, limitation and
introduction to the theme? Is there a paragraph that clearly summarizes the findings and/or
provides any conclusions in the end?

● References and reference list: Are all literature sources referred to? (remember also figures
and tables)? Is the reference list and all references complete? Are the journals name
abbreviated correctly?

● Figures, tables and graphic forms: Readable, relevant, uniform expressions. Is it easy to
understand what the figures and tables illustrate? Do the figures express what they are meant
to show? Are all the numbers in the tables used in the text necessary?

● Language expression, style consciousness: Good language. Objective. Did the group
understand what a scientific report is? Spelling control is recommended. Irrespective of how
good one writes, there is always some mistakes that need correction.

Good luck!

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