African rift valley

     Physical Geography GEO1, Spring 2011

                                                                     Instructor: Elena Givental


                     Research Paper Guidelines (100 points)

                  Due May 11, 2011


1. Choose a topic of your interest relevant to Physical Geography problems that we have been or will be studying. It can be a broad topic like, for example, the Atlantic hurricanes or the selected problems of climate change, or it can be a narrow one, like “tsunami”, “caverns” or “hurricane season of 2010”.

  • I would recommend, however, that you avoid broad topics because you will not be able to cover all the aspects of it in a three-to-four-page paper.
  • Another piece of advice is to make your paper less descriptive and more analytical by choosing a topic which involves a comparison of two phenomena, two processes, or two regions. Alternatively, you can analyze a natural phenomenon or a process in terms of its relation to human society (cause-effect relationship).


2. In order to choose a topic, look through your textbook, your lecture notes, or just listen to the various TV programs to find out which scientific and environmental issues attract public attention, as well as yours.


3. Submit a paper proposal no later than April 27 for my approval. This should include the title of your selected topic and a short bullet-point outline of the proposed paper. Speak with me if you have any doubts about the topic. A Wednesday office hour would be the best time for this kind of discussion.


4. Review the origin of the natural phenomenon or the process of your interest, its causes, and effects it produces on the natural environment and the society. Use the materials available in:

  • lecture notes
  • textbook
  • any relevant library book(s)
  • any relevant website(s)


     You may use some web-based non-scholarly sources of

     information but be careful when using them (for example,

     Wikipedia may sometimes give incorrect information so be

     cautious about the quality of your sources ).

5. Write a short essay on the topic of your interest (three, maximum four pages, typed) using all the above mentioned sources of information. Focus on the following:

  • why this topic interests you
  • why it is important to study it
  • which field of science studies it
  • the origin of the process or phenomenon
  • the comparative analysis of two processes or phenomena
  • causes and effects of the process or phenomenon (especially on the other geographic spheres, the environment, and the society)
  • what progress has been made lately in understanding and explaining it (or a short history of the research if applicable).

Remember, this is a research paper, so you should explain causes and  effects of a natural process or phenomenon that you are researching.


6. Formatting: Double-spaced, 1-inch margins all around. Nothing more than your name and the date should be on the top right hand side of the paper. No cover page. A descriptive title should be at the top-center of the first page. Pages should be numbered.


7. Very important: all information sources should be cited both within the text and in the alphabetical order at the end in the form of a reference list.

a). Make a reference list of all information sources you used in your paper and place it at the end of the paper.

For a book, indicate author’s name, book title, publisher, year it was published, and pages cited.

Example: R. W. Christophersen 2010, Elemental Geosystems 6th Edition, Pearson Prentice Hall, p. 326-327.

For a journal article, indicate author’s name, article title, journal title, year published and volume number, article pages.  

For a website, give a complete web address and its title or topic.

b). In the text, you must cite your reference sources at the end of each paragraph where this source was used even if you were not quoting it directly.

Example: (Christophersen 2010)

c). Some examples of correct referencing of the literature sources and in-text citations will be posted on the Moodle class website.


Failure to cite information sources in a research paper is considered plagiarism.   Plagiarism must be strictly avoided (see the syllabus for plagiarism policy).


8. Submit your paper on or before the due date (May 11). It is worth 100 points; however, points will be deducted if you are late. You may lose up to 20 points if you do not follow the reference and citation rules explained above.


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