Research Paper Assignment

(Final paper now due in Dropbox folder on FRIDAY, December 7, 7:30 a.m.)

One of the requirements in this course is completion of a Research Paper in which you cover a topic of your interest in invertebrate paleontology.  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, and some of you already share Dropbox folders with me. If we share a folder, please now rename it as below.)

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

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 Thursday, August 31, so that I can see all your folders in place by then.

Resources.–As you begin the more detailed research on your paper topic (including those critical first references), you will want to visit the excellent Geology Library Page. I’m a big fan of Google Scholar, which has all sorts of devices for improving your literature searches. Here is our Sample Paleo Research Paper.

Length.I will expect each paper to be approximately 10-15 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 material for completion, whereas others may appropriately be shorter.

Format.—The format will be demonstrated primarily by examples following instructions in our departmental Independent Study Manual. You will have considerable latitude within this framework, but I still expect standard headings, subheadings, paragraphs and the like.

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. You will find our expression of this at our writing page:

Deadline.—The final research paper is to be completed by December 7th at 7:30 a.m. Note that under this system I no longer have to worry about late papers. I just grade what you’ve completed and placed in your Dropbox folder by the required time.

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 and that your final paper grade will be very good indeed.

Research Paper Assessment Sheet
(Department of Geology)

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    A 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.



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