Geology and Environmental Earth Science


Scientists rely on many kinds of writing in order to accomplish their work. Students benefit from recognizing the role of informal writing (like observational notes, data plots, diagrams, field notes, and whiteboard notes) in generating ideas and doing the work of science, as well as engaging in more formal types of writing where they share findings with others.

Overview of Advanced Writing Best Practices

In the Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Science, the Advanced Writing requirement for Geology, Environmental Earth Science, and Earth Science majors is fulfilled through a sequence of at least two courses. There are two tiers of classes, and each student in these majors must take at least one course from each tier; however, most students take at least three of these courses.

Tier 1 includes GLG 204 and 211, and Tier 2 includes GLG 301 and 357. Each of these courses features substantial, direct writing instruction; sustained writing and revision; and more than 30% of instruction time dedicated to writing activities. Additionally, student writing in these courses is not strictly alphabetic and includes creating and revising diagrams and data plots.

This course sequence meets the three major components of an Advanced Writing course and includes excellent strategies for teaching scientific writing:

  • Students engage in many informal and formal writing activities, including producing outlines, reading and writing in different genres, presenting and discussing scientific literature, producing and/or evaluating the efficacy of visual aids (diagrams, data plots, etc.), composing lab and field notes, and presenting critical analyses orally.
  • Students receive extensive feedback from peers, teaching assistants, and the instructor and complete multiple revisions of their work. Classes are limited to 12–24 students per section to ensure that significant feedback and attention can be provided to every student.
  • Students write frequently in a variety of modes and genres:
    • In GLG 211 and GLG 301, students maintain notebooks as a primary text of the course. Students write at least 250 words per lecture, with checks from the instructor, for a total of about 5000 words. Across low-stakes and higher-stakes assignments, students write at least 13,500 words for each course, not including revisions.
    • In Tier 1: GLG 211, students complete a five-part term paper for which they write a proposed topic summary (250 words), followed by a draft outline and annotated bibliography (750 words), and then a detailed outline with a brief explanation of the concepts to be discussed in each subsection of the paper (1000 words). Students receive instructor feedback at each of these stages so that they can revise concepts, organization, and written text.
    • In Tier 2: GLG 301, students complete a final project with two stages. First, they submit full drafts to their graduate teaching assistants and their instructor. After both teachers give students detailed written feedback, the writer then revises and resubmits their paper for final evaluation.