Geologic Resources & Environment (Geol 2001)

Research Paper

Each student must choose an environmental/geological issue and write a paper between 10 and 15 pages (including figures, tables, and references). See format below.
o The paper may not be the same as the issue debated by the student.
o The paper should be typed double-spaced and stapled together.
o The paper is due on the scheduled week of the semester (as scheduled in the syllabus).
o Choose any topic related to an environmental problem created by or related to humans.
See examples on the course's Web site!

Powerpoint Presentation of Research Paper:
This is optional and adds up to 7% to your overall grade. Past experience shows that students who present their research paper usually add a letter grade! (see Grading System for grades).
Students interested in presenting their research topic to the class must let me know ahead of time.
The talk should be planned for a 10-15 minutes period and use Microsoft Powerpoint.

The talks will be graded based on the quality of the introduction given to the problem, clarity, ability to transfer the ideas, choice of audio-visual means (Powerpoint slides or transparencies are encouraged), level of the understanding of the idea and problem by the presenter, and number of articles studied.
The main point of the presentation is to learn the subject and to teach it to other students.

Format for the Research paper
The paper should consist of four basic sections as follows:

A summary should not exceed 400-500 words. Despite its short length, it is an important part of the paper. Based on the contents of the summary, readers often decide whether to continue reading the article.
A good summary includes concise, to-the-point statements regarding the purpose, results (a statement about the methods of analyses may also be given here) and conclusions of the article in well-structured paragraphs. Short and simple are the key points when writing a summary for your article.

About 1-2 pages long. As the name implies, it introduces the subject to the reader. It should give:
1. A short historic background (e.g. when, and by whom the matter was raised first; connection to people lives; chronology of events if possible).
2. Outstanding questions remaining to be answered.
3. What the paper is set to do (objective).

An introduction usually contains citations from other works on the subject such that the readers are informed as to where they can locate key sources about the subject under discussion. The introduction section should also be the most non-technical part of the paper so that readers can decide whether the reading benefits them. As a courtesy to readers, you may add a paragraph at the end, describing how you plan to proceed with your analyses.

Analyses and Discussion
This will be the bulk of your paper, typically 4-7 pages long, including text, data tables, maps, photos and graphs. The analyses and discussion must be your take from what you have read and researched, and come in your own words. The best approach is to break it down into a number of subheadings so that a reader does not get lost. You may number the subheadings in order of their importance, or just have subheadings. For example if you are discussing future of coal in the Midwest, the matter might be discussed under such headings as: 1. The state policies and economic aspects; 2. Environmental concerns; 3. Reserves and exploration activities. This approach allows the readers to skip unwanted sections as well as letting them see the order and structure of your paper. It also makes it easy for you to keep track of the development of the subject as you write.

It is advisable that you design the paper with all its subsections in mind before you write, but this may not always be possible. If you include diagrams, maps, charts, photos or graphs, they must be labeled and have captions, complete with a figure number assigned at the beginning of the caption, like: Fig. 2. Graph showing decrease in coal prices over the 1972-1995 period (Smith, 1989); Table 3. Coal as a percentage of energy budget in Kentucky (White 1996).

No more than a page, usually one or two paragraphs. Put all the salient points of the paper here. However, you need to present these points in some order of importance commensurate with the way you posed the issues in the analyses/discussion part. Without the conclusion section, a paper sounds like a story or a newspaper article. Do not conclude something that is not supported by what you presented in the discussion. For example, in the future of coal in the Midwest paper, conclusions may be:
1. Coal mining has made significant contribution to the region's economy by raising the standard of living.
2. Coal mining also created some unique regional environmental problems that need to be
considered as soon as possible.

You may have cited a number of scientific articles, books, newspapers or other sources in your paper. Now you need to tell the reader about them in sufficient detail such that if needed, they can locate the sources. There are several standard formats for giving references. You would adopt the following format.

Books: In the text:
Smith (1989) has suggested that..., or ...It was inferred that the natives were capable of defending
themselves (Smith, 1989).

In the reference list:
Smith J. D. "A History of Kentucky", 2nd Edition 1989, Goodwill Publishers Inc. Lexington KY.

Journal Articles, Newspaper Articles:
In the text: Poet & Albridge (1992) contended that Illinois basin was... or: Several communities along the river complied (Poet & Albridge, 1992).

In the reference list: Poet James K & Albridge C. D. (1992), The great mining towns of Illinois, Journal of Exploration, Vol. 132, # 12, 435-455.

Web sites: In the text: ...In this respect the data published by the USDA is conclusive (W5).
In the reference list: W5: US Department of Energy.

Criteria for Grading the Research Papers
Your research paper must be a balanced discussion of different aspects of the environmental issue. The paper is graded based on the following criteria:

Criteria % of grade
Paper follows the format provided above. 20
Paper is divided into sections that make the arguments and interpretations easy and clear. 20
Paper has enough evidence, explanation, previous work, to justify its analyses and conclusions. 30
Paper uses properly captioned graphs, models, maps, tables, etc., with relevant references. 10
Paper is reasonably free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. 10
Paper has an alphabetical list of proper references, that are appropriately referred to in the text. 10
Total 100