Controversies in the Earth Sciences

Paper assignment


Should the nations surrounding the Atlantic Ocean cooperate to form a tsunami warning system for the Atlantic Ocean?

Your final task for this lesson is to write a paper. This assignment is due at the end of this lesson. The "Additional Resources" page for this lesson contains some links to articles and Web sites that you may find helpful. You are in no way limited to those resources, however.

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PDF Download of Directions

Write a paper that defends or attacks the following statement: The nations surrounding the Atlantic Ocean should cooperate to form a tsunami warning system for the Atlantic Ocean.

The successful paper should meet the following criteria:

  • This paper should be approximately 1500 words in length.
  • At least one potentially tsunamigenic site in the Atlantic Ocean should be identified.
  • You need to calculate an estimate -- not just a quote an estimate from another source -- for how long it would take a tsunami to travel from this site to several major coastal cities.
  • You should find at least one source that estimates the likelihood of a tsunami being generated at this site.
  • No need to debate or guess about politics among countries. Just imagine that you are a disinterested scientist make a recommendation. Whether or not you can foresee cooperation among countries in terms of constructing a tsunami warning system is not something you need to speculate about.
  • Include a brief summary of the history and responsibilities of, as well as the technology employed by the various tsunami warning programs that already exist.
  • Background information about how tsunamis are generated should be included.
  • All sources must be cited. This includes any borrowed figures. Please follow the citation convention discussed on our course syllabus (see the Course Policies section).
  • Save your paper as either a Microsoft Word, Macintosh Pages or PDF file in the following format: L2_paper_AccessAccountID_LastName.doc (or .pages or .pdf). For example, Cardinal catcher Yadier Molina's file would be named "L2_paper_ybm1_molina.doc"

I expect your essay to be well organized and coherent, with a thesis statement at the beginning of the essay; topic statements at the beginning of every paragraph; smooth transitions between paragraphs and ideas; few or no grammatical and spelling errors; and properly cited, detailed explanations of the results of scientific studies to back up every assertion you make.

As the reader, I should both understand what you are talking about and be convinced that you have made a strong argument for your case. It should be clear to me that you understand the significance of the results of all the scientific studies you refer to in your paper (including your own). See grading rubric below for more details. Your grade will be dependent upon all of these elements. Content and organization are the most important elements, but if your grammatical/syntax errors are significant enough to distract me from the content of your argument, then this will affect your grade. Make sure you read the assignment carefully and understand it before you begin.

Submitting your work

Upload your paper to the "Tsunami Warning System Paper" assignment in Canvas. The due date for this paper is given in the assignment table on the first page of this lesson.

Grading rubric

  • An "A" paper is well organized and coherent, with a thesis statement at the beginning of the essay, topic statements at the beginning of every paragraph, smooth transitions between paragraphs and ideas, no or few grammatical errors, and meets the assignment's length requirement. Additionally, an "A" paper includes several detailed examples that clearly explain the results of other scientists' work on the topic, as well as examples from your own work on the topic. Any included figures have appropriate captions, legends and axes, and they support the arguments made in the paper.
  • A "B" paper is like that of an "A" paper except that it may refer to scientific studies to back up most but not all of its assertions OR its assertions may only rely on the work of others and not on your own work. Additionally, a "B" paper may be an "A" paper content-wise, but it has minor grammatical errors or minor organizational problems. A "B" paper meets the length requirement.
  • A "C" paper may have organization, coherence, or grammatical problems that hinder a smooth reading of the paper, but not to the extent that the paper is incomprehensible. A "C" paper may also not meet the assignment length requirement. NOTE ON ASSIGNMENT LENGTH: Papers that significantly deviate from the length assignment by being too short (half as long as the assignment length requirement or less) OR too long (twice as long as the assignment length requirement or more) will receive a "C." A paper that has excellent organization and content, but fails to address the topic of the assignment will receive a "C."
  • A "D" paper has severe organizational, coherence, or grammatical problems so that the reader has trouble comprehending what is being communicated. A "D" paper may significantly deviate from the length requirement. A paper that does not refer to the results of any specific scientific studies at all will receive a "D" no matter how well-written it is or how good its argument is.


If you cringe and procrastinate at the thought of writing a paper, then you may submit this assignment in the following way instead. You may use the Prezi program to create an interesting presentation of your persuasive essay. Prezi is a free web tool.

The Prezi website explains how to use their tool so I won't try to do it for them.

If you choose this option:

  • You must adhere to all the same criteria as for the paper that I listed at the top of this page
  • Your choice of presentation style will not affect your grade (i.e. you won't get extra points for using Prezi, nor will you lose points)