Suggested structure: Case study papers are different than some papers you may write in university because there is not a central thesis that you are trying to develop. There’s no central argument that you’re presenting analysis for; instead, you’re presenting a picture of an event that happened, with an explanation and some analysis. As such, an essay structure is not relevant to this paper. This outline is only suggested – don’t artificially structure your paper to fit this exact form. However, the abstract is required (see below for information about writing an abstract). Please include section headings in your paper as well as a title page. For the purpose of an example, use Hurricane Andrew’s effect on agriculture in Florida as a sample topic.
Abstract (see below)
Introduction (introduce Hurricane Andrew and the sorts of agriculture in its path. Give an
idea of the specifics of each – how big the hurricane was, its path, etc, as well as the types of agriculture, size of the industry, etc. Do not reiterate basic information from class about the type of disaster you are writing about, ie, don’t spend time explaining what a hurricane is and how it forms.)
Description of the effect of the disaster (Was the damage just that the crops were destroyed? Perhaps there are other connections – damaged machinery, no way to harvest and distribute crops even if not totally damaged, etc. Enumerate the damage, but also think deeply about the effect of the disaster. This section should not be just a list of numbers.)
Response to the disaster / Efforts to repair the damage (How did the farmers respond? Was anything salvageable? What issues complicated their response? What problems did they have dealing with the disaster?)
Discussion (Some analysis tying together the pieces of information you’ve gathered in previous sections)
Conclusion (Summarize what you’ve discussed throughout the paper, but don’t just reiterate a bunch of numbers. Depending on the topic and writing style, your discussion may be woven into your conclusions.)
Bibliography (see below)
The abstract: The abstract is a short paragraph that gives the barest of bones (ie, ~ 3-5 sentences) summary of your paper. There should be no information in the abstract that isn’t in the paper, and since it’s a summary of what you’ve written, it’s usually best to write it last. Your
abstract should briefly summarize your entire paper, including any discussion or conclusions you draw. There should be no filler and no unnecessary words; it is not a place for flowery language or convoluted sentence structure. It should be either on a page of its own (not the title page) or in a labelled section above the text. If it has its own page, this page does not count as a full page in your page count.
Figures: Your paper should have 5-10 figures that contribute information to your paper and are relevant to your topic. Images that are merely illustrative or only tangentially related are not encouraged. If your topic is the agricultural damage due to Hurricane Andrew, having a picture of damaged crops to show the scope of the damage would be okay. Using a picture of the damage to a subdivision, even though it gives a sense of the damage, would be less appropriate because you’re not talking about the damage to housing or communities. Images can be interspersed throughout the text, or collected at the end of the paper in an Appendix, but the text itself (ie, without pictures) should still be 5-10 pages long. Your figures should not all be similar. For example, having a single picture of a damaged community, and four other figures with different information is much better than having five pictures of damaged communities and nothing else. All figures should have a caption, and be referenced directly in the text. For example, if Figure 1 is an image of a damaged community, you may have a sentence like: “The community of <place name> was severely damaged in <disaster>; see Figure 1.” and the caption for Figure 1 may read “Figure 1: An image of <place name> shortly after <disaster> hit, causing immense damage.” Your figure sources should also be listed in your bibliography.
The bibliography: Your paper should be well cited, using at least ~ 10 sources. While web sources are admissible, make sure that the majority of your sources are academic (like books, journal articles, or conference proceedings) as well. Academic sources you access through the internet (like journal articles) are counted as academic sources, not web sources. Any web sources used should be retrieved from reputable sources, like government agency sites.
You can use any reference style you’d like, so long as all the appropriate information is given and you are consistent. Use inline citations for citations throughout your text; see below for some guidelines on citing. Inline citations should have a format of (Author’s last name, year); if the author is not given (say on a web page from a government site) use the agency’s name, for example, something from the US Geological Survey would be cited as (USGS, 2003) rather than (Anonymous, 2003). If you have more than one source from, say, the USGS from 2003, cite them as (USGS, 2003a) and (USGS, 2003b) and clearly denote which is which in your bibliography.
For a very thorough list of online sources on style manuals, see this page from Concordia University: http://library.concordia.ca/help/howto/citations.html
What needs a citation? The usual advice on what to cite is “anything that is not your words needs a citation,” which is accurate but not always helpful. Any distinct piece of information you get from an external source needs to be cited, but having a citation at the end of every sentence makes your paper difficult to read. Cite the specific information, then discuss it or elaborate upon it in your own words. If you’re uncertain, find a peer-reviewed paper and see what pieces of
information are cited, and how the author takes that information and discusses and interprets it. It should give you an idea of what needs a citation.
Where to look for information: There are several places to start to look for information. To access these resources, you may need to be connected to a McGill computer, dialup DAS, or VPN DAS.
Natural Disasters site at the McGill Library: http://www.mcgill.ca/library/find/courses/guides/atoc185/ American Meteorological Society: http://journals.ametsoc.org/
US Geological Survey: http://www.usgs.gov/
Geoscience World: http://www.geoscienceworld.org/
Geobase: http://www.engineeringvillage2.org/controller/servlet/Controller? CID=quickSearch&database=8192
Web of Science: http://apps.webofknowledge.com/WOS_GeneralSearch_input.do? product=WOS&search_mode=GeneralSearch&SID=3CN@dfjf@16BfllJM9i&preferencesSaved
Compendex: http://www.engineeringvillage2.org/controller/servlet/Controller? CID=quickSearch&database=1
The course notes are NOT an acceptable source – part of the point of this paper is to teach you how to find information in a variety of ways beyond the classroom.
Be careful about finding information on the internet – while there are many good sources (such as government agencies, meteorological and geological societies, and sometimes non-profit organizations that do disaster relief), there are also many less reputable sources. Make sure your sources are reputable – if you’re uncertain, ask.
Important Note: Papers which use only/mostly materials from the Web will be looked upon unfavourably compared to papers which use materials from a variety of sources. We strongly encourage you to download and read papers from scientific journals. You can access scientific journals at https://www.mcgill.ca/library/find/journals. To access these journals, you need to be connected to a McGill computer, dialup DAS, or VPN DAS.
Formatting: Your paper should be double spaced, with a title page and section headings. The title page does not need to be fancy – just the title of your paper, name, student ID and course information and date. The headings should be formatted in such a way that they stand out from the text so that they are clearly visible. Do not use special formatting like boldface or underlining for emphasis in the text of your paper; this is distracting and unprofessional. Use 1-inch margins, double-space your text, and number your pages. Please staple your paper, so that there is no chance of losing pages.
Writing style: Each paragraph should discuss only one topic, and should contain at least two sentences. Do not assume knowledge on the part of the reader, but don’t get bogged down in small details and tangents. Stay focussed on your topic, and don’t repeat chunks of information from class – this takes up lots of space which can be better used discussing your topic.
Information you present in one section should not be repeated in another section. Make sure that your summary is a real summary and not a repetition of what you already said. Your paper should flow smoothly between sections and ideas.
This is a formal paper, so your writing style should reflect that. Avoid the use of “I”, any colloquialisms, and excessive contractions. Avoid run-on sentences; generally, sentences longer than three lines should be shorted or split. Make sure that your paper is well proof-read, with proper sentence structure and punctuation. If you’re uncertain about grammar rules, this page from the University of Chicago has links to quite a few online guides and resources: http://writing-program.uchicago.edu/resources/grammar.htm
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