Skip to Main Content

Geology Writing Guide



  • Introduce the problem/topic - the problem/topic needs to be well defined
  • Your goal here is to tell the reader about a particular topic in order to give them the background they need to understand the problem/issue you are going to use the paper to address.
  • Provide background or context that shows the importance of the problem/topic - through the use of cited references (information should be relevant to the thesis - see below - Wells rubric)
  • Background info presented should give context to the thesis
  • Present thesis statement - link to an example (Thesis should be stated in clear, concise manner, should be original, engaging, and thought provoking)

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement tells the reader what your motivation for writing the paper is (no, it’s not that it was assigned by your professor). The following is an example of a good thesis statement:

Based on an increase in seasonal rainfall over the past fifty years in New York State and the tendency for waterfalls to erode their capstones at rates proportional to stream flow rates, this paper attempts to predict the fate of Niagara Falls, Kaaterskill Falls, and Taughannock Falls.

Notice how the thesis statement...

  1. is written as a statement
  2. is based in facts - if you are having trouble writing a good thesis statement try starting with the phrase “based on”
  3. is logical
  4. ends with a phrase that hints at the content of the rest of the paper
  5. limits the extent of the argument

Because this thesis statement is based in facts, obviously you need to present these facts to your reader before you can use them in an argument. This means that you would likely have to have a paragraph in your introduction that defines how climate has changed over the past fifty years. To do this, you’ll need to use the Geology Research Guide to look up relevant references and use the Citing Sources Guide to cite those references in your text. Do not copy from a reference. Even if you cite a reference, it’s still plagiarism (see definition for plagiarism in the campus policy in Intellectual Integrity) if you don’t use your own words.  Also, as a general rule, we do not use quotations in geological papers - so avoid them at all costs. You’ll need to paraphrase your references. One great way of doing this is to read through several references on the same topic and then summarize what you have learned being sure to cite any reference you used.

Be sure to present your argument in a logical way. Fact A + Fact B → Argument/Focus. You don’t need to lay out every fact - you might come up with some new connections as you write your paper! You should introduce the topic in enough detail that the reader can understand the paper’s focus and direction.

The thesis statement helps you to restrict your paper’s focus. In the example above, the author does not need to talk about every waterfall in NY or in the world (although some could be brought in as supporting evidence). Instead the author tells their reader that this paper will focus solely on three waterfalls across New York State.

Geologic setting - If your topic centers on a particular location, you should consider having a geologic setting section that describes the geology of the study area (if there is one) and any previous work relevant to the thesis including cited references

Ask a Librarian