|Geology 105 - Paleontology|
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The ultimate product of this assignment will be a 6-10 page paper analyzing a current controversy in paleontology. It will be submitted as a printed paper, in electronic form (by e-mail) and as a poster presentation. The first two parts of the assignment are designed to help you keep on schedule and produce a well-researched, well-written paper.
Part I: Topic. Due 2/16
Write a one page proposal of your topic. You may choose from the list provided, or any other paleontologic topic that interests you. Your topic must be centered on a controversy in paleontology and very specific (i.e., "paleoecological evidence for warm-bloodedness in dinosaurs" is okay, "dinosaur extinction" is not). Explain what topic you have chosen and why you have chosen it. Mention what you already know (or think you know) about the topic. The purpose of this installment is to help you clarify your ideas about your topic before you start your research.
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Part II: Outline and Bibliography. Due 2/28
To help you start your research, we will have an introduction to using the Library databases and some internet resources given by a science librarian.
You may use two kinds of resources for your paper:
There are a variety of other resources you may use for background on your topic, or to introduce yourself to the topics, but these MAY NOT BE CITED in your paper as sources. Instead, look up the original research articles. Uncitable sources include:
Internet resources are acceptable under the provisions above. So a USGS open-file report from the Web is acceptable; discussions from talkorigins.org are not. If in doubt, see me.
This part of the paper will consist of a number of attachments:
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Part III: Paper. First Draft Due 3/29, Final Draft Due 4/19
Write a 6-10 page paper analyzing your issue. You may buttress your arguments with the observations or analysis of other people (properly credited), but the paper should not be simply a summary of other people's arguments. You should analyze the issue, showing why some arguments are correct and why counter-arguments are not valid. The tone of the paper should be formal and in the third person. Note the style used in journal articles. Do not reach for fancy vocabulary. Write directly, in the active voice.
Remember that you are not a paleontologist (yet), so you are not qualified to make your own arguments without evidence. You should critique the ideas of the paleontologists, but don't invent anything - you're not ready for prime time yet.
Be sure to properly cite other people's work. See the citations handout for correct form. Remember, it's always better to use too many citations than not enough (just ask Vice President Joe Biden - sloppy citations got him tossed out of the 1988 presidential race).
Use this format for your paper:
1. Title. This should be succinct but convey the essence of the paper. Dull but informative is far preferable to clever. It's okay for the paper title to be more than a few words long, as long as it conveys the necessary information, e.g., "A critical review of explanations for the North American Pleistocene mammal extinction".
2. Abstract. The abstract is a short synopsis of the paper, between 250-500 words long. The abstract should include all the important pieces of the paper, including the conclusion. The abstract is a time-saving device that allows the reader to see at a glance if the paper is relevant enough to be worth reading all the way through. For guidance on writing your own abstract, pay close attention to the structure of the abstracts in the papers you read in your research.
3. Introduction. The introduction should set the stage for further discussion. Describe your problem, including references to the early researchers who identified the problem. Assume your reader has no previous knowledge of this topic, but does have a working vocabulary in paleontology. Because this is a technical review, it is not appropriate to use many of the ways your English teacher may have taught you to start a paper (e.g., no clever anecdotes, no suspenseful statements, etc.) Instead, you will state the thesis of your paper almost immediately (e.g., "While a wide variety of explanations have been posed for the extinction of the dinosaurs, none is better supported by the evidence than the impact hypothesis."). Then preview the structure of the paper and the critical arguments. Then provide a transition to the body of the paper.
4. Body of the paper. The bulk of your discussion belongs here. This is where you will explain and contrast competing theories on the issue you have chosen. Organize this section by categories of theories, not by individual authors. Do not just list each author and their arguments. Instead, group authors and studies with similar approaches and focus your discussion on the argument, not the authors. Here are two examples.
DO NOT do this: "Jones (2006) says that life originated on Mars and fell to Earth on a meteorite. Smith (2005) argues that life began inside the earth and moved to the surface. Goober (2003) says that life originated in pools at the Earth's surface."
DO this: "There are three major theories on the origin of life: that it originated in space and traveled to Earth on meteorites or comets (Doily, 1999; Jones, 2004; Zeon, 2006); that life evolved in geothermal environments inside the earth and later moved to the surface (Smith, 2001; Tootsies, 1999); and that life originated in pools on the earth's surface (Goober, 1997; Smartguy, 1990). There are serious questions remaining for each of these models. If life originated in space....."
DO use headings in the body of the paper. Your headings could be the category of theory you are discussing, or they could be geographic regions (if appropriate), or any other organization that helps the reader easily understand the structure of the paper.
REMEMBER that you must cite evidence for your arguments, and that every use of someone else's arguments must include a citation.
5. Conclusions. This is where you summarize the status of the different theories on the issue and make your arguments as to which is best supported by the evidence.
6. References Cited. Include an alphabetical list of the references you have cited in your paper. Do not include references you did not directly cite.
You will write the paper in several drafts. Start with a rough draft that just gets your ideas on paper. Rearrange the ideas, clean up the sentence structure and grammar, and produce a typed first draft to bring to class. Be sure to include signposts for the reader - transitions that keep the reader oriented to the structure of the paper.
Technical Writing assistance: Try these web sites for information on writing your review paper. Don't worry that they are not about geology - they each have some useful things to say: Writing Review Papers, Writing a Biology Review Paper
Peer Editing: You will bring three copies of your typed first draft to class to share with your discussion group. Your colleagues will help you edit your paper to produce a final draft.
Final Draft: Rewrite your first draft. Pay careful attention to the feedback you receive on your first draft. Find someone you trust to read your final draft to help you find writing errors and proofread.
Your paper will be returned the following week. If you are dissatisfied with your grade, you may rewrite your paper once more and resubmit it in the last week of class. Your grade for the paper will be the highest of the grades on the final draft and the last rewrite.
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Part IV: Poster Session. Due 4/12
Distill your paper down to its most important points. Put them into bullet charts or brief paragraphs, along with useful graphs, maps or diagrams. Assemble these on a large piece of poster board. These poster displays will be displayed at a poster session on April 14. Each author will have 5 minutes to describe his or her project, and then the class will circulate through the displays, discussing them with the authors. You may do a Power Point presentation if you prefer, but remember that it's content, not the technology, that counts.
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If any part of the paper is turned in late (including the first draft), the grade on the paper will drop by a whole grade (from A to B). The first three parts of the paper will not be graded at the time they are turned in. They will, however, receive comments. You should note these comments and make any recommended changes before resubmitting these sections with the final draft for final grading. The poster session is required, but will not be directly graded. However, failure to participate in the poster sessions, or a very poor presentation, will result in the grade on the paper dropping by one whole grade.
NOTE: I will not accept any papers with significant errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar or sentence structure. I will stop grading when I reach the third error and return the paper to you for rewriting. The paper will not be considered late if I have returned it to you to clean up the writing. However, if you fail to produce a paper essentially free of mechanical writing errors by the last day of class, you will receive an F on the assignment. Please use a spell checker and a grammar checker, proofread the paper at least once, and have at least one other person read the paper before you turn it in.
The A paper will be well-organized and free of errors of grammar, spelling and sentence structure. The paper will analyze issues and offer evidence in support of its arguments. It will use an appropriate format and properly cite references. It will be a pleasure to read.
The B paper will be well-organized and will communicate well. The analysis may be flawed or be insufficiently supported by evidence. There may be small errors in format. There may be minor errors of structure or language.
The C paper will lack analysis. The paper will summarize rather than analyze, and will be poorly organized. There may be significant errors in format. There may be significant problems with organization and communication.
The D paper will be poorly organized with no analysis and poorly executed summary. The paper may simply be a collection of unsupported opinions or descriptions. There may be significant errors in format.
The F paper will fail to meet the assignment requirements. The paper may fail to communicate, or it may be off-topic. A plagiarized or purchased paper will earn an F.
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1. You can try Eureka (CSUS library catalog) for books and government documents on your subject, but be warned: books will probably be less useful to you than journals and government documents. Not all of the library's documents are listed on Eureka, so you may want to follow up with a visit to the documents librarian.
2. Use the library's on-line databases to find references. You may be familiar with the general databases like Academic Search Premier; these will not be so helpful on this assignment. You may find some general background this way in popular magazines such as Discover or Scientific American. This is a good way to get a general sense of your topic, but you may not use these magazines as references for the paper. What you can use them for is to develop a list of search terms to use with the library's technical databases.
The primary tool for geological library research is GeoRef, the online index of geology. You may also find that some of the biological databases give you information. You will get an in-class introduction to GeoRef and other databases and tips on how to search a database.
3. You can try a Web search (such as Google or Yahoo), but don't expect much. The only sources you may find through a Google search that you can cite in your paper are:
You may NOT cite most sources you find on the Web, including Wikipedia, Palaeos, the UC Museum of Paleontology, talk.origin, or any of the many dinosaur sites. Again, these sites may provide some useful background that helps you intelligently search the technical databases, but they may not be cited as primary literature.
You can sometimes find useful sources by looking for the Web page of the authors of a useful journal article to see if the author has a publication list on their Web site - you may find additional articles on your topic that way.
You can try a search in Google Scholar (find it by using the "more" button at the top of the Google page. Google Scholar is most useful for citation searches. Enter the title of a paper you found useful, and Google can show you other papers that cited your paper.
4. You are expected to do what it takes to find the necessary literature. This means that it is not sufficient to simply use journal articles that are available on-line at CSUS. You must be prepared to find articles in print in our library, to go to the UC Med Center Library to find articles on line through the UC library system, and to use interlibrary loan to borrow journal articles from other libraries.
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Use of another person's intellectual product without proper permission or credit is the academic offense of plagiarism, and is a very serious offense. Plagiarism can and will result in an F on an assignment, may result in an F in the course, and can even lead to suspension or expulsion from CSUS, depending on the severity of the offense. Here are some simple guidelines: