Geology 105 - Paleontology
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Paper Requirements

Minimum Requirements:

If your paper does not meet the minimum requirements it will not be read.  I will give it back to you and count the paper as late.

Writing the Paper:

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.  See the handout for more help with your intro.

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.