Core 160 > Syllabus > Writing project

The final paper

Take advantage of the writing and research help available from GC's writing tutors at the ASK desk in the library.

Final paper - (and grading rubric)

We have started to transform society / technology / the economy to rapidly stop nearly all carbon emissions, much of which come from how we acquire and use energy. Your topics will typically deal with approaches / solutions that might let us conserve energy / generate energy in other ways, or even take carbon out of the atmosphere. We'll also need approaches and solutions to adapt to a climate, changed by our historic carbon emissions.

The approach you research can be primarily technical, or political. They all have economic and atmospheric consequences. Every approach is / will be embedded in a particular geographic and cultural community.

Note to self-- no one project can do it all.

Write up a paper of approximately 9-11 pages (+ references).

(12%) Explain the "issues" related to the approach of your topic - Describe the idea of your topic.

You are choosing one topic to examine critically. State the questions you're investigating and explain (writing for an audience of your peers) what the issues are.

The Library's Credo Reference collection may be useful.

(12%) Context - Provide appropriate context for the arguments you make and facts you cite. Both numerical context and social context are useful.

Percentages frequently contain a comparison by definition. But raw numbers almost always require some context to make them understandable.

Try to provide some estimate of the impact of the topic that you're investigating on the overall energy situation of the U.S. Project Drawdown exists to calculate some of these impacts, costs and benefits. David MacKay Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air does this in the context of the United Kingdom's energy needs and sources.

(18%) Challenges and benefits - Discuss the challenges and benefits of your topic. What are some of the problems that need to be solved yet to make the topic of your investigation more attractive to implement?

(18%) Describe some attempt to actually try out the approach of your topic. What worked and what didn't work? [This requirement rules out a few promising approaches which have not yet been tried, since they have not yet advanced to the point where anyone *can* try them, such as nuclear fusion.]

Ideally, choose a country / city / company / organization which has consciously tried a promising approach. Some of these are listed among the topic suggestions. Write about what from their experience might work well (or not so well) if we were to try that in the United States.

The library's NYTimes search (concentrate on articles from within the last decade) or Lexis/Nexis search may be useful.

(15%) Identify government policies that might foster what you feel are more sustainable approaches with regard to your topic.

The library's "CQ Researcher" may have some good policy-related resources.

(10%) Sources and Evidence Demonstrate consistent use of credible, relevant, quality sources to support ideas in your paper in the context of a scientific view of nature.

Write up your list of sources, and cite them in a consistent system of your choosing (typically APA style or MLA style).

Not an exclusive list.

[*] - may be partially or completely behind a pay wall, but try Google Scholar or Google _cached_ search results for a particular article!

Good library databases. At least 1 of your references should be from Good Library databases. Books and journal articles are authoritative sources and high quality, but may be too long to easily digest, or too specialized. More than one such source is great, but optional

But several journals, in addition to carrying research articles, also carry articles pitched to a wider audience. These might include perspectives or summaries of the latest research written by another scientist in the field,, book reviews, and articles on special topics written by their staff of longtime science journalists and editors.
Nature / Science / The Lancet

News sources that are not journals, but have a long track record of covering science & environmental topics, with reporters on the science beat, editors, and fact checkers.
Inside Climate News / *Science News / *New Scientist / *Scientific American / Smithsonian
New York Times / NPR / Washington Post / *The Economist / *The New Yorker / The Atlantic

News publications (edited) from universities / academia.
Yale e360 / *MIT Technology Review

Non-profit advocacy organizations - Know their perspective--and check if an organization is majority-funded by a corporation or trade group. But many aggregate and cover research, and sometimes commission their own useful studies.
Carbon Tracker / Project Drawdown / ITDP (transportation and urban design) / Savanna Institute (agroforestry) / Union of Concerned Scientists / NRDC / the American Lung Association / Citizens Climate Lobby

(15%) Syntax and mechanics of English Use straightforward language that conveys meaning to readers with very few grammar or spelling errors. Tips:

  • Turn on spell and grammar checking in your word processor and examine every flagged error.
  • Leave enough time that you can finish your writing, lay it aside briefly, then go over it a second time before handing in.
  • Seek out feedback from other folks on any section of your writing, as much as possible.


* Not all of these considerations will apply in quite the same way to the population growth topic, or some other topics you might pick.

* Pieces of the this rubric are appropriated from the AAC&U value rubrics for inquiry and analysis, written communication, and critical thinking.

A sample paper

Here is a sample paper (final draft) from a few years ago.

No paper is perfect! But I thought this one was well organized, and did a very good job of using and handling citations and evidence:

  • Title and introduction (Introduction is not labelled--that's fine).
  • Cites sources as evidence for claims.
  • Cites each source using an appropriate signal phrase and in-text reference (in this case, MLA style) which allow it to be located in the list of Works Cited.
  • Has a list of Works Cited (here called a "Reference") at the end. This is an MLA list of works cited. Includes URLs to material that can be found on the web. (Oops, it's not alphabetized!)
  • Includes some useful comparisons. For example, the land requirements of wind compared to solar panels.
  • Has a case study (on Denmark--a little bit shorter than I would wish. But he also studied the response to wind farms in Monroe County, IN. So that is a further set of concrete examples.)
  • Has a good set of conclusions. (It would have been better to label this section explicity as "Conclusions" or "Discussion and conclusions".)
  • Considers the impacts of wind energy, but contextualizes the risks and problems against the impacts of fossil fuel energy.
  • This is an 8-page paper plus bibliography--that is, the writing ends on page 8. And then comes the list of Works Cited.