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Geology Writing Guide

Early in your academic career you will undoubtedly have papers to write for which you know little about the topic and are relying on your sources for all of your background understanding. This is very common. When you begin writing your paper you will likely need to cite sources in almost every sentence you write (especially in the Introduction). This is also normal.

Professor's Tips:

  • Don’t rely too heavily on any one source. Find other sources to back it up and then you can cite both!
  • Avoid using direct quotes. If you look at any scientific paper you won’t see the authors using quotation marks except possibly for new or obsolete terminology that isn’t in common usage yet/anymore. In these cases, the usage of quotes is only for one word or phrase. You could alternatively use italics or simply define your terms and avoid quotation marks all together.
  • When proofreading prior to submitting your paper, slow down. Read each sentence and then stop and think, “Did I learn this information from one of the papers I’ve read?” If so, you need to cite that work. If, however, you are describing something new (an analysis, material, or interpretation), there is no need to cite other sources for that. It takes time to go through a paper in this way, but you’ll never get busted for plagiarism!
  • It’s generally bad form to start a sentence with “Author X (citation year) showed that terrestrial paleoclimate of the Eocene was 7°C warmer than modern conditions.” Instead, try just saying what you want your reader to know and then citing the reference at the end. For example, “Paleoclimate of the Eocene was 7°C warmer than today (Author, year).” It’s cleaner, smoother reading, and you often sound smarter!
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