Geology 140 - Environmental Geology
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Term Paper

The ultimate product of this assignment will be a 6-8 page paper on some issue of public policy and geology. 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: Outline and Bibliography: Due 9/22 - required checklist

By Sept 22 you should have the bulk of your research completed for your paper and presentation. You must find three kinds of resources:

  1. Popular accounts of the issue. These will include newspapers, magazines, and Web sites. You MUST use at least one database that covers these types of media, such as the Sacramento Bee or San Francisco Chronicle article databases, or a general database like Academic Search Premier.
  2. Scholarly research. These are articles in academic journals, or in scholarly books. You can find these by searching Georef or any of the other databases at the Geology and Earth Sciences page of the Library Database site.
  3. Government documents. You can find these by searching the USGS Publications Warehouse (on the Library's Database site), or by searching the Web at a government agency. Agencies that might apply to your topic are the California Geological Survey, California Dept. of Water Resources, California Dept. of Fish and Game, California Division of Dam Safety, California Coastal Commission, U.S. Dept. of Energy, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. EPA. California agencies are listed at; U.S. agencies are listed at

You MUST use the Library databases to research your paper. A paper researched entirely on Google will receive an F.

You will turn in an outline of your paper, and a list of references. You MUST have a minimum of 10 usable resources.

The outline MUST be structured like this:

Part II: Position Paper First Draft Due 10/20, Final Draft due 11/10

Required checklists:

(grading rubric here - Word download)

The final product is to be a 6-8 page paper. The paper should synthesize information about the issue, and analyze any controversy. The paper should conclude with recommendations for future action.

Your first draft should follow this structure:

I. Intro

II. Big Idea #1

III Big Idea #2

  • Assertion
  • Evidence with citation
  • Evidence with citation
  • Evidence with citation
  • Summary and transition
  • Etc. until you get all your Big Ideas out

    IV Conclusion/Recommendation

    Here are some things to pay attention to:

    1. Introduction: Do not ease into the introduction, or try to "catch the reader's interest". You want the reader to think it is worth their time to read the paper, so you need to immediately tell your reader what the paper is about. Put your thesis statement in the first two sentences. The rest of the introduction should be a preview of the whole paper, including the conclusions. The last sentence is a transition to the next section.

    2. Sections: Divide the paper into sections. Give each section a heading (e.g., Introduction, History, Current Problems, Recommendations, or whatever is appropriate to your paper). Every paper needs these sections plus whatever other sections are appropriate for your topic: Introduction, Conclusion (but you can name it something else if you want).

    3. Paragraphs: Each paragraph contains one main idea. If you've got more ideas, they get their own paragraphs. That main idea goes in the first sentence - the topic sentence. The last sentence is the transition to the next paragraph. The last paragraph of a section is the transition to the next section.

    4. Voice and Tone

    The tone should be somewhat formal and definitely authoritative.

    5. Sentence structure and mechanics

    6. Citations and Reference list

    You must use adequate citations. For every piece of information you use you must cite the source, and the source must be in your reference list in alphabetical order. You can use APA style, or you can copy the style of any scholarly journal you use (except Nature or Science - do not use numbered footnotes or endnotes)

    The Citation handout will help you with format.

    The OWL at Purdue has a great resource for avoiding plagiarism.

    7. Tightening things up

    III. Presentation (grading rubric here):

    You will give a 15 minute presentation on your topic on the day already scheduled. You will actually be teaching the class this topic, and they will be responsible for this material on the exam. Please note that your presentation may occur well before the due dates for the paper itself, so you should be preparing your material very early on.

    The presentation should be Power Point, In all cases, you must prepare a handout for the students that summarizes the most important points in outline or bullet list form. You must email both the presentation and the the handout to me before your presentation. You must bring to the presentation enough copies of your handout for the class.


    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 bibliography and first draft 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 submitting your final draft. The presentation session is required, and will be graded on a separate rubric.

    Grading Standard: the specific rubric used in grading is available here (Word document) .

    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 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 minor errors of structure or language.

    The C paper will lack analysis. The paper will summarize rather than analyze, and will be poorly organized. While the paper will still communicate its message, there will be many errors in sentence structure, grammar and spelling.

    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. It will barely communicate due to writing errors.

    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. A paper researched entirely on Google will receive an F.