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Choose one topic only from the list to which you can devote a serious effort at “real world” scientific observation / inquiry as a means of practicing your newfound geographic skills and insights. You will then compose and turn in just one 3-4 page Scientific Inquiry Observation Paper on only one of the subjects1 – Choose a Topic and Make Your Observation 2 – Create a Hypothesis3 – Write an Analysis Paper1 – Choose a Topic and Make Your Observation
As a culminating assessment for this Natural Environments course, choose one topic only from those discussed in
class to which you can devote a serious effort at “real world” scientific observation / inquiry as a means of practicing
your newfound geographic skills and insights. You will then compose and turn in just one 3-4 page Scientific Inquiry
Observation Paper on only one of the subjects (grouped into 4 general topics listed on page 3 of this paper).
a. Scientific Inquiry suggests you will first make a personal observation of a physical phenomenon in the natural
world that is covered as one of the four topics of this course.
b. Your observation should ideally take place during this semester so that current knowledge can better
guide what to look for before, during, and after your experience. Check exceptions with the instructor.
c. Students may meet together for the same observational experience, but must turn in autonomously written
work that demonstrates independence of analysis and written expression (in other words; write it in your own
words (“Voice” in the Six Traits of Writing!) and certainly not in the words of another author (plagiarism).
2 – Create a Hypothesis – Use what you have learned in class to make a reasonable guess
Create a hypothesis explaining what you viewed and all the processes you believed caused it based
on knowledge gained from taking this course using relevant geographic terms and processes at
work discussed in class. In effect, this summary statement outlines the rest of your paper!
3 – Write an Analysis Paper – Focus only on the processes that created the event/site you observed
At the conclusion of your experience, write an ANALYSIS (NOT NARRATIVE!) paper that clearly
demonstrates application of the principles and terms your have learned this semester. This
is a university course worthy of serious analysis, reflection and university-level writing!
(90 points of the total score)
Analysis
Write like a
scientist, not like
a blogger or as a
conversation!
a. Be thinking of the many relevant causes and processes that could explain the experience you are observing.
For example, if you chose to observe a cold front pass through the valley, your paper should express in
some detail what you saw, and should then specify all the components of frontal development discussed
in class (such as changes in temperature, air pressure, wind direction, humidity, precipitation, etc.) that
could reasonably explain what you experienced and the processes these components go through during
the frontal passage. (Remember to describe the “Big Picture” that may have created your local experience.)
b. The instructor should sense from reading your paper that you have given your own personal explanation of the
physical processes based on a reasonable knowledge of materials that course attendance could provide!
REMEMBER – this is not a formal research paper written with a great deal of scientific minutia and little or
no personal observation that appears to be a “cut and paste” from some obscure Internet site.
ABOVE ALL – do not use or reference Wikipedia in your writing, as the information may be suspect!
RELAX – you are not expected to be a physical geography expert after just one course!
Formatting Your Paper – These final touches really demonstrate your full scholarship!
Page 1
The paper must be formatted using the following specifications to be considered for full credit!
(10 points of total score)
a. All reports must be a minimum of 3 fully typed pages but cannot be more than 4 typed pages of analysis.
b. All reports must have an additional title page that includes your title, name, course, time, instructor and date.
(It is not standard MLA format to have a title page, but is necessary for the parameters of this assignment.)
c. You must use the amended MLA conventions standard for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and paper format
found on page 5 of this document. Title pages do not have a page number – Page 1 is the first text page.
Assume 1” margins on all sides, double-spaced, and word processed – black ink and each page printed
on one side only, including a header with your last name and page number on each page (see sample).
Font styles: Times 10, Times New Roman 10, Arial 10, Calibri 10.5, with either one or two spaces between
sentences and paragraphs that are either indented (½ inch) or no indent with one space (despite MLA).
d. Pictures/Graphs are not necessary but may be included at the end as additional support pages (not in place
of the 3-4 completely filled typed pages – they are not to be used as “fillers” to take up space).
The final paper is worth 100 points and is due on one of the date found on the syllabus calendar.
Useful Thought Processes and Typical Paper Structure
• “I saw/observed/experienced . . .”
WHAT YOU
OBSERVED
A DETAILED
• “I believe these are the causes/reasons/explanations . . .”
DESCRIPTION
• “This matches what we learned in class . . .”
AND ANALYSIS
✓ Use specific dates/places/data
✓ Use specific and thorough explanations!
About 1 page
OF ALL THE
SEQUENTIAL PROCESSES THAT CREATED
WHAT YOU OBSERVED
About 2-3 full pages
YOU WILL UPLOAD YOUR FINAL PAPER TO THE
CANVAS CARD ASSIGNED TO THIS COURSE UNDER
THE SIGNATURE ASSIGNMENT TAB FOUND IN THE
LEFT-HAND COLUMN OF THE HOME PAGE.
Relative proportion of how to make best use
the limited pages of your paper
Page 2
Suggestions for Possible Scientific Inquiry Observation Paper Project
Pick just ONE of the topics below to write your analytical observation paper!
(Arranged by the Four Major Topic Areas Discussed in Class)
Possible Ideas (not inclusive) for Papers related to Earth-Sun Relationships
❑ Personally observe changes in sunrise/set angles, day lengths, and locations over the semester
o Note lengths of daylight, position of rising/setting sun on horizon, and specific causes that explain the
phenomena such as rotation angle in reference to revolution motion around sun, solstices and equinoxes, etc.
❑ Personally determine your latitude using Polaris as a guide to measure your angle
o Describing how you made a “sextant-like” device to determine your latitude is a relatively short explanation.
You will need to spend most of your paper discussing why different latitudes would experience a different
angle by addressing sphericity, parallax, and the geometry of global angles, among other aspects, etc.
❑ Personally observe how differences in sun angle in your local region affect vegetation on nearby
mountain slopes as well as how sun angles affect man-made structures and property over time.
o A strong paper would show an understanding that you know the geometric reasons for why certain mountain
slopes have no vegetation while others have more or why certain faces of buildings receive more sun than
others. Your paper would also show that you comprehend how Earth’s rotational angle affects your outcome
along with how seasonal variations play into what you observe at times such as Solstices and Equinoxes, etc.
❑ Other possible topics of your choice [check with instructor first]
Possible Ideas (not inclusive) for Papers related to Earth’s Global Climates
❑ Personally observe albedo differences of various surfaces during the same or different times of day
o Beyond describing how you set up your experiment by testing temperature differences over varying
surfaces, the bulk of your paper should explain why the structure, composition, and location of each surface
relative to varying sun angles throughout your experience affected the results you observed, etc.
❑ Personally observe Galileo thermometer differences in outdoor temperatures over the semester
o Describing the changing height of the bulbs in the thermometer will be easy. Explaining the thermal dynamics
of heat expansion and contraction through glass and water will demonstrate that you fully understand the
“why” of how his thermometer works. A discussion of the differences in heat transfer through conduction
versus convection would also be wise, etc.
❑ Personally observe/experience katabatic winds near the mouths of mountain canyons
o This paper would flow best by starting with an explanation of how solar energy causes atmospheric heat
expansion and how this process affects the atmosphere and wind directions (both day and night) within
enclosed mountain valleys versus open plains. Nighttime differences in heat loss combined with an
explanation of how canyon formation and “rivers of air” affect valley atmospheric conditions would continue
showing the reader your understanding of these processes. A complete paper should also address how sun
angle/seasonality and hot summer days versus cold winter days would also affect what you observe, etc.
❑ Personally observe differences in climate and vegetation changes by traveling to different latitudes
o For this paper you would have to be able to know the latitudes of two different locations you have personally
observed along with a brief description of the contrasts in climate, atmospheric conditions, and vegetation types
you have observed. The main focus of your paper would be to explain how solar angle differences, the Coriolis
Effect, different soil types, topography and other factors combined to create the differences you observed.
❑ Other possible topics of your choice [check with instructor first]
Page 3
Possible Ideas (not inclusive) for Papers related to the Local Atmosphere (Weather)
❑ Personally observe temperature changes as you changed altitudes during a mountain hike
o You will likely address the concepts of adiabatic lapse rates, times of day, Albedoes, vegetation, shadowing, and
moisture levels you observed, etc. Please know your abilities and health conditions before considering this topic.
❑ Personally observe a cold or warm front both before, during, and after it passes over your location
o A well-written paper should begin with the mechanics and characteristics of the Coriolis Effect on global low-pressure
development that created the front you experience. You should also address the impact of The Westerlies on storm
progression across your area, changes in cloud cover and wind direction (locally as well as regionally – clockwise/
counterclockwise flow), barometric pressure shifts, and types of precipitation etc. before, during, and after frontal passage.
❑ Personally observe cloud and moisture changes created by orographic conditions near the mountains
o Describe in sequence all the processes that brought this storm into our area and over our mountains and how the
shape and height of local mountains affected the flow of air and moisture over the mountains. You would be wise to
address and apply the concepts of adiabatic lapse rates, Dewpoint, lake effect, and precipitation, etc. in your paper.
❑ Other possible topics of your choice [check with instructor first]
Possible Ideas (not inclusive) for Papers related to Tectonics and Land Formations
❑ Personally observe known fault line sites in canyons or around gravel pits (Must have clearly exposed
breaks)
o Though you will not likely experience faults form as you observe (earthquake!), you should be able to explain the
tectonic processes that were involved in sequence both locally and globally to explain how these shifts in the rocks
you observed were created, etc. With your limited knowledge you could attempt to describe the type of fault you
experienced if you know how the uplifted region was formed (reverse, thrust, strike-slip, normal), but be careful!
❑ Personally observe and describe the plate tectonics and folding processes that created the Z-Fold
recumbent fold in the Ogden River Canyon east of Ogden
o A solid paper will describe the tectonic processes sequentially that created North America and the mountains of
the Wasatch Front including the compression that led to folding, extension that created different faulted mountain
segments into which rivers cut and exposed canyon walls, angle and slope, weathering’s effects on different rock
layers, and current sun angles that create different exposures and vegetation today, etc.
❑ Personally observe and describe the plate tectonics and folding processes that created Devil’s Slide in
the Weber River Canyon east of Morgan
o You would be wise to sequentially describe the tectonic processes that created North America’s rock layers, the
creation of the Wasatch Front mountain groups including compression that led to folding, extension that created
different faulted mountain segments into which rivers cut and exposed canyon walls, angle/slope, erosion’s
effects on different rock layers, sun angles that create different exposures and vegetation, the effects of man’s
use of the canyon, etc.
❑ Personally observe and walk on the various mountain benches of Antelope Island or the Wasatch Front
o A step-by-step description of the processes that created the mountain-basin topography would be a strong way to
begin the explanation section of this paper – tectonics, etc. A clear description should follow that outlines the
climate changes responsible for the formation of Lake Bonneville, followed by the sequences that caused the
beach/bench levels to form; climate changes, drainage breaks in mountains, etc.
❑ Personally observe and describe the causes and creation processes of landforms at just one state or
national park, wilderness region, or another unique local environment, such as; tectonic processes,
landslides, volcano eruptions, major seismic events. [Check with instructor first]
o Explain all local and global processes that created what you observed
❑ Other possible topics of your choice [check with instructor first]
Page 4
Sample Template Format for Page 1 of Your Scientific Inquiry Observation Paper
I will quickly edit your paper to provide
helpful suggestions for future writing.
Use this format for
the first page only!
NOTICE: THIS PAPER DID NOT BEGIN WITH –
“Well, I got up this morning and thought I
better choose a topic but I couldn’t so – I
got my brefas [sic] and work [sic] on some
other homework then decided I better got to
work or my boss would fire me but I really
don’t like that job (just joking)….”
Title of Document
centered on page
[Your Full Name] 1
GEOG 1000 – 32415
Prof. K. Hadfield
Changing Weather
Use specific
My
Experience
with a Cold Front
times & dates
(I have read far too many papers like this!)
Your last name and
page number will
appear on all
subsequent pages!
On Dec. 3, 2014, I was driving home from work when I looked
to the west and saw a large dark line of clouds approaching.
From our class discussion they appeared to be cumulonimbus in
Note: Double-spacing
throughout the paper
1” margins
all around
structure, which can be a common forerunner of an approaching
1”
Left justify:
Left side will have straight edge
Right side will have jagged edge
appearance
cold front. In class I learned the step-by-step processes and
1”
characteristics that create a classical cold front. When I arrived
home I decided to observe these phenomena for the next hour to
Indent paragraphs ½” OR
have no indent and one
double space blank line
between paragraphs:
NOT BOTH!
determine if what I observed was an accurate hypothesis of the
standard for frontal passage as described in class.
As I arrived in my garage and left the door open so that I
Fonts: Times 10, Times New
Roman 10, Arial 10, or Calibri 10.5
Generally speaking, a Works Cited
page is not needed at the end of your
paper because you should only be
using class notes, your text, and your
newly gained knowledge as sources.
could observe what was happening without getting wet. I saw
End of first
paragraph
includes
thesis
statement
that the wind was blowing from the south and seemed relatively
warm compared to when I left my house. The clouds I had first
seen were growing in size….
Sample First Page
in MLA Format
DON’T FORGET: THE PARAMETERS OF THIS PAPER REQUIRE YOU TO WRITE IN DETAIL THREE COMPLETELY
FILLED PAGES OR FOUR PAGES IF YOU NEED MORE SPACE (YOU WILL!) OF OBSERVATION AND PROCESS ANALYSIS ON
JUST ONE FOCUSED TOPIC OF YOUR CHOICE.
I SHOULD BE ABLE TO READ A STEP-BY-STEP EXPLANATION OF THE PHYSICAL PROCESSES INVOLVED THAT ARE
WRITTEN IN A LOGICAL SEQUENCE IN A WAY THAT CLEARLY SHOWS TO ME THAT YOU UNDERSTAND HOW AND WHY
YOUR OBSERVED PHENOMENON WORKS AS ADDRESSED IN THE COURSE!
Page 5

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