Research Paper

One of the requirements in this course is completion of a Research Paper in which you cover a topic of your interest in sedimentology and/or stratigraphy.  Here are the details –

Dropbox system.—Each of you will have a Dropbox folder shared with me in which you will keep a Microsoft Word version of your paper. Only you and I will have access to it. You will update it with new writing and images as you go, and I will occasionally put papers and other helpful items in your folder. To get started, please go to this site and sign up for a free account:

(Some of you may already have accounts.)

After you’re signed in, make a shared folder with your last name followed by “sed folder”. (“Randall sed folder”, for example.) The final step is to share that folder with me, using my email address:

Please share the folder itself — don’t just share a link to the folder. I will then accept that invitation, your folder will appear in my Dropbox account, and we’re in business! Please do this before class on Tuesday, January 21, so that I can see all your folders in place by then. Your folder will hold your writing portfolio for this course.

Paper topic.–Please download the list of 2020 Potential Research Paper Topics and the included form to turn in to me during your lab on January 23.

Resources.–As you begin the more detailed research on your paper topic (including those critical first references), you will want to visit the excellent Earth Sciences Library Guide. I’m a big fan of GeoRef and Google Scholar, which has all sorts of devices for improving your literature searches. For all format and style questions, please see our departmental writing website. Alexis Lanier has kindly allowed us to use her paper as our example research paper.

Writing workshops.–Twenty minutes or so of each lab session will be devoted to some aspect of your writing. We will take this time to discuss techniques (like making a proper citation or drafting an abstract) as well as answer any questions you have about your writing assignments. Expect also to do various short writing exercises, including peer review. Please bring your laptops to each lab session for these writing discussions and exercises.

Note added April 8 (emailed to you as well):

We want these papers to be the best ever, especially since the assignment is 20% of the final grade. Under ordinary conditions we would be having writing workshops in lab, but we are instead suspended in cyberspace. So here is the new procedure —
1. Write as much of your research paper as you can, in as close to final format as possible, and email it to our trusty TA Evan (his address is above). Do this by midnight on Monday, April 13. The more you have in this draft the better.
2. Evan will then peer-review your paper and give you suggestions and observations to make it better. Evan is not grading this draft, and he is not reporting anything to me. Evan will get the reviewed draft back to you on Tuesday, April 14.
3. Make whatever improvements you can to this reviewed manuscript, delete Evan’s comments, and then submit a second clean draft to me through email or Dropbox by noon on Thursday, April 16.
4. I will review this draft, make comments and suggestions, and put this version in your Dropbox. I will not be grading these drafts. This double-review process is purely designed to improve your papers.
5. You will then have almost a week to finish your final version and get it into your Dropbox by April 13 at 7:30 am. That final version is graded, of course.
Throughout this whole process you can ask me questions by email, text or phone. We can even set up a videoconference. I will make time during our class sessions to answer your questions. Again, this system is designed to get you good advice early so you submit the best paper ever.


Length.—I will expect each paper to be approximately 15-20 pages long in word-processed paper form (although you will never need to print it). This includes illustrations and references. The length is approximate because my primary concern is that you cover your chosen topic in adequate detail. Some subjects may require more writing for completion, whereas others may appropriately be shorter.

Format.—The format will be demonstrated primarily by examples following instructions in our departmental writing page. You will have considerable latitude within this framework, but I still expect standard headings, subheadings, paragraphs and the like. (See our example research paper.)

Reference style.—Please use the standard parenthetical scientific citation system, not footnotes nor “MLA” nor any other system you find in other journals or books. The required style is that used by the Geological Society of America in its publications (pdf). You will find our expression of this at our departmental writing page.

Deadline.—The final research paper is due in your Dropbox folder by Thursday, April 23, at 7:30 a.m. (Note that this is a week before the last day of class.) Late papers are not accepted. Early papers will be graded and returned as soon as possible.

Grading.—Below is a “Research Paper Assessment Sheet” to show you the features I will be evaluating in your paper, along with their relative weights. My goal, which I’m sure is yours as well, is that you will have considerable feedback and advice during this whole process so that your final paper grade will be very good indeed.


Research Paper Assessment Sheet
(Department of Earth Sciences)

Organization of paper:

Title (clear, concise, informative):   1  2  3  4  (circle one)

Abstract (effective summary of the paper’s thesis, evidence and conclusions):   1  2  3  4

Introduction (provides context and purpose for the paper):   1  2  3  4

Summary (the paper’s primary points are briefly restated):   1  2  3  4


Content of paper:

Importance and interest of the topic is clear:   1  2  3  4

Useful new insights (additional ideas the writer introduces):   1  2  3  4

Citation of sources (all borrowed ideas and words adequately cited):   1  2  3  4

Figures (clear illustrations that help the reader understand the material) :   1  2  3  4

Logical flow (it is easy to follow the points of the paper through the prose):   1  2  3  4

Topic adequately covered:   1  2  3  4


Format and Other Issues:

Proper format followed (meets the requirements outlined in our style guide):   1  2  3  4

Spelling & Grammar (proper punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, etc.):   1  2  3  4


TOTAL: __________ (48 points is the highest)     LETTER GRADE:______

(The letter grade is not a result only of the numerical total; it also includes effective use of content and rhetoric.)


Rubric scoring key:
4    Virtually no problems in this area.
3    Some problems, but they do not detract from the readability of the text.
2    Sufficient number of problems so that the reader has difficulty understanding the writer.
1    So many problems that the readability of the text is severely undermined.

1 Response to Research Paper

  1. Pingback: Sediments and Sedimentary Processes II (January 20 & 22) | Sedimentology & Stratigraphy at Wooster

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