Controversies in the Earth Sciences

Paper Assignment


For this activity, you will rewrite the USGS fact sheet you read earlier in the lesson, updating it with the research progress that has been made since it was published.

Fact Sheet Paper

Rewrite USGS Fact Sheet FS-131-02, Earthquake Hazard in the Heart of the Homeland, highlighting the research progress that has been made since 2002, when this fact sheet was published. Specifically, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do a better job than the USGS did themselves when they updated FS-131-02 in late 2009 with this new fact sheet, FS09-3071, Earthquake Hazard in the New Madrid Seismic Zone Remains a Concern. (Maybe they were worried that alums of this course would steal their jobs).

I expect your fact sheet to be well organized and coherent, with none or few grammatical and spelling errors. It needs to be completely rewritten in your own words. All references to the scientific work of others (this includes summaries of their results and/or any borrowed figures) must be properly cited and a bibliography must be included.

This fact sheet is meant to be explanatory and persuasive. It should be written for a hypothetical general audience (i.e., non-scientists). 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.

The successful paper should meet the following criteria (points out of 100 total in parentheses):

  • be approximately the same length as the original (5)
  • be visually interesting (you can use graphics made by others with appropriate citation) (10)
  • be rewritten entirely in your own words without significant grammar/syntax problems (10)
  • include at least three post-2002 sources (10)
  • include at least two estimations of recurrence interval for the New Madrid region using different methods, should include your own calculation (10)
  • include at least two estimates (using different methods) of the magnitude of the earthquakes in the 1811–1812 sequence (5)
  • include some of your original research from the data analyses in this lesson (20)
  • demonstrate your knowledge of the different methods of investigating seismicity in this region (10)
  • demonstrate your knowledge of the different hypotheses for the causes of seismic activity at New Madrid (10)
  • include a bibliography (10)

It is fine to use figures, graphics, and data from other sources as long as you cite them appropriately and include them in the bibliography. It is also fine (and encouraged!) to organize the fact sheet differently than the original or to emphasize different areas of research than the original. Be creative!

The following resources might be helpful to you in your task. (You are in no way limited to these, of course. You may use whatever appropriate sources you want to.) References that are not clickable are linked from the Canvas module for this lesson.

Save your paper as either a Microsoft Word or PDF file in the following format: L4_paper_AccessAccountID_LastName.doc (or .pdf) For example, Cardinal relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal's file would be named "L4_paper_tjr26_rosenthal.doc"

Submitting your work

Upload your paper to the Fact Sheet Paper assignment in Canvas by the due date indicated in the table on page 1 of this lesson.

Grading rubric

  • An "A" fact sheet is well organized and coherent, has no or few grammatical errors, meets the assignment's length requirement, and has been completely rewritten in your own words. Additionally, an "A" fact sheet includes several detailed and clearly-explained examples of scientific studies that postdate the original fact sheet. Examples from your own work on the topic are also included. Figures are easy to read, have appropriate captions, legends and axes, and they support the arguments made in the paper. An "A" fact sheet looks cool!
  • A "B" fact sheet is like that of an "A" fact sheet 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. A "B" fact sheet's figures may have some minor flaws. Additionally, a "B" fact sheet may be an "A" fact sheet content-wise but it has minor grammatical errors or minor organizational problems or looks kind of boring. A "B" fact sheet meets the length requirement.
  • A "C" fact sheet may have organization, coherence, or grammatical problems that hinder a smooth reading of the fact sheet, 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 fact sheet that does not include results and figures from your own work will receive a "C."
  • A "D" fact sheet has severe organizational, coherence, or grammatical problems so that the reader has trouble comprehending what is being communicated. A "D" fact sheet may significantly deviate from the length requirement. A fact sheet 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 arguments are. A fact sheet that fails to include any figures at all will receive a "D."