Physical Geography Term Paper and Presentation
Writing an essay or taking an essay exam is not the same as taking a multiple-choice exam. The purpose of a multiple choice or true/false question is to test your knowledge on a specific topic, term or concept. The purpose of an essay topic is to test your knowledge of the topic and your understanding of the topic. You may know the terms, be able to spout off the definitions, but do you understand the concepts behind the terms or how events are related to one another? These are questions that are difficult to assess in a multiple choice question. An essay topic, however, does allow this sort of assessment. The purpose of an essay is to show the instructor that you understand the topic.
Physical Geography comprises the study of natural patterns and processes at the Earth’s surface as well as the interactions between people and their environment.
• You are to write an 8-10 page research paper exploring a topic from the realm of physical geography and how humans have been, are, or will be affected.
o Choose a topic from the list below
o Give a description of the topic
o Discuss how your topic influenced humanity in the past, is currently influencing humanity, or could potentially influence humanity. Be specific to an area and/or timeframe.
o You must reference Jared Diamond’s Theory of Societal Collapse.
• Conduct research, write and submit a properly-referenced term paper, and present your findings in class in the form of a poster.
• You should reference a minimum of eight (8) reputable sources. Resources you can use include (but aren’t limited to):
o At least three (3) peer-reviewed journal articles (i.e. Science, Nature, Climate Research, Climate of the Past, etc…)
o News articles (i.e. Los Angeles Times, Science News, New York Times, etc…)
o Class resources (i.e. class supplemental readings. Important: the textbook is not a valid source for the purpose of research.
o Websites from reputable sources (i.e. NOAA, NASA, USGS, etc…)
• The following sections must be included in your essay: Title page, Abstract, Introduction, Description of the Topic (Background), Data/Figures/Tables, Analysis of Data, Implications (Discussion), Conclusion, and Works Cited
• Never use Wikipedia, other encyclopedias, or references such as dictionaries as sources of material for your paper
Topics must center on a physical geography concept or process and how it impacts and/or is impacted by humans. Relevant concepts/processes include (but aren’t limited to):
➢ Civilization collapse (climate-related): Anasazi (ancestral Pueblo), Khmer Empire of ancient Cambodia, Norse Viking of Greenland, Indus Valley civilization (Harappan), Mayan civilization of Mexico, Tell Leilan (Akkadian), Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, Late Bronze Age (LBA) civilization in Eastern Mediterranean, Tang Dynasty of China, Tiwanaku Empire of South America, Ming Dynasty of China, Modern Syria
➢ Civilization collapse (volcano/earthquake/landslide): Minoan civilization, 6th c. collapse of Roman Empire, Pompeii, Laki eruption (1783-1784), Mt. Tambora (1815), Sanxingdui civilization (China), Mount Pelee of Martinique, San Francisco earthquake (1906), Managua earthquake (1972), Haiti earthquake (2010), Great Lisbon earthquake (1755), Krakatoa eruption (1883)
➢ Generic topics related to climate change (you will need to narrow the topic): melting ice caps, desertification, drought (water scarcity), flooding, monsoon, thermohaline circulation, melting permafrost, methane clathrate release/warming ocean, deforestation, hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons, El Niño/La Niña, ocean acidification, Little Ice Age, Medieval Warm Period, Climate change and impacts of introduced species on ecosystems, Climate change and the spread of disease
➢ General topics: Air pollution, Hydraulic fracturing (fracking)
General Essay Guidelines
1. Text should be in Times New Roman 12-point font with 1-inch margins. I am looking for 8-10 pages of text (not including bibliography)
2. The paper should be double-spaced and have page numbers at the bottom each page (except the title page).
3. The paper should have a title page with pertinent information: title, student name, department, school name, and date
4. The paper should be organized using sub-headings for sections and sub-sections. They may be numbered if you like.
5. Maps and graphs should be labeled as figures (Figure 1, 2, 3, etc.) and tables should be labeled as tables (Table 1, 2, 3, etc.).
6. Figures and tables must have captions that explain what they show and what data or sources of data are used.
7. Figures and tables must be referred to in the text indicating what information we should be getting from them and how they are relevant to whatever is being written about.
8. Spelling and grammar should be checked carefully. Papers with many errors will not be graded.
9. Check spelling with spell checker and by reading and using a dictionary. Many errors are not found by spell checkers e.g. there – their, affect – effect, its – it’s, and other words that are spelled correctly but not for the way they are being used in the sentence.
10. Check capitalization. Find out whether words are capitalized or not. Look in textbooks, web sites, and the dictionary. Be consistent throughout the paper.
11. Read it over yourself. Ask someone else to read it. Use the Fullerton College Writing Center.
12. Citing sources: Proper citation of sources is essential; use American Psychological Association (APA) formatting. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a fantastic resource. Located at: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/
Some Hints on How to Proceed in Writing the Essay
1. You need a topic but a topic is not enough. You also need a theme, thesis, problem or purpose.
2. To identify a theme or a purpose, answer the following questions: What do you want to tell? What makes your paper different from what is available elsewhere? How does the paper reflect your take on the topic?
3. Write down your thesis idea and make an outline of what you want to cover and in what order. Show the outline to your instructor. Use the outline as your writing plan.
4. Collect information and read it.
5. Take notes and keep a list of sources for your References section.
6. Use reliable sources.
7. Use original sources whenever possible.
8. Encyclopedias and textbooks are not acceptable sources of information; you should avoid using them for this assignment.
General Poster Guidelines
1. Content: Your poster should include (1) author and affiliation (your name, professor’s name, class name and number, and the Geography Department); (2) title; (3) background and introduction; (4) data/figures/tables; (5) analysis and implications; (6) conclusions; and, (7) acknowledgements. I am looking for a 8-10 minute oral presentation.
2. How to create your poster: You can use a variety of software programs to create your poster, including PowerPoint.
3. The following website is useful resources: Creating Poster Presentations for the Sciences — https://library.wlu.ca/services/course/creating-poster-presentations-sciences