The Guide on How to Write a Capstone Project in Geology: A Manual for Newbies

Writing guide
Posted on June 23, 2020

It’s a must of geology majors to write a capstone project. This task is supposed to give students a chance to apply their theoretical knowledge to practice and show the skills that, eventually, will prove the great significance of geological studies. Supervisors differentiate several types of capstone projects in geology:

  • Summer research is undertaken during the senior fall;
  • Literature-based research examines all geology-related topics that might pose interest;
  • January and study-away researches often become parts of the winter-period trip.

The time of the year when they are conducted is the main difference between these three types.

The Key Aspects of How to Write a Capstone Project in Geology

The first and foremost problem with students trying to write a capstone project in geology is that they have little idea of what this project really is. Here we have six key aspects that make this type of academic assignment differ from the rest:

  • One — It is similar to a thesis statement: the research is profound, the skills must be properly demonstrated, the knowledge you’ve received while studying the course should become the basis of the project.
  • Two — The minimum number of pages is 40 and the minimum number of data sources that you need to address while researching is15.
  • Three — The paper should be properly formatted and structured: the cover page, abstract, contents, introduction, the body, conclusions, reference page. If the requirements demand, add appendices.
  • Four — All cliched phrases are to be thrown overboard.
  • Five — References must be organized according to one of the formats (Harvard, Chicago, APA, etc).
  • Six — Check your capstone project in geology more than one: it shouldn’t have any punctuation, grammar or spelling mistakes.

Two Types of Sources for How to Write a Capstone Project in Geology

Whatever academic work you are now researching, you need to use two types of data sources: primary and secondary. And though some professors turn a blind eye to the absence of one type in the case of one of the multiple essays, both types are necessary for the capstone task since they make the project complete.

What’s a primary source? It is the original material found in personal letters, speeches, maps, or diaries. In the case of the field of geology, a primary source is a sort of an artifact from the period being researched. Some other primary sources are filmed eyewitness accounts or photographs.

If the question you are working on lacks the above-mentioned primary resources, go with your own surveys, questionnaires, interviews, and observations.

What’s a secondary source? It is a scholarly material type that is hidden in journal articles, government reports, books, and newspapers. At the capstone project proposal phase, you are to present around three of the secondary sources and the same number of primary ones.

Can the information that is published on any website without the list of references be a source? Hypothetically, it can. But in real life, you need to avoid using websites that offer biased and unreliable data.

Your Guide for How to Write a Capstone Project in Geology

The structure. This is exactly what we believe you should highlight during the writing process. Many students tend to make the same mistakes omitting important structural points and then get surprised why their grades are so low. It’s obvious: a proper structure is a half success.

Go with the topic
Your first step pre-determines the outcome. The topic or subject of your capstone project in geology is chosen by analyzing your own interest in various topics of the course. Surround yourself by textbooks, be attentive to what your lectors say and what other students discuss between or during classes.

Ballpark, these are the top 13 most discussed topics in the field of geology. Look through the list. It may include the topic of your capstone project:

  • Chemical vs Physical Weathering;
  • Earthquakes. What Are the Causes, Distribution, and Types?
  • The Earth and Its Internal Structure;
  • How Does Weathering Influence Soil?
  • Types and Characteristics of Natural Rivers;
  • What Does the Rock Cycle Notion Cover?
  • The Pacific Ring of Fire and Its Immense Importance;
  • Volcanic Eruptions and Hazards That They May Become the Reason For;
  • What Is the Role of Oceans in the Water Cycle?
  • What Is Geological Evolution?
  • How Does Climate Change Affect the River System?
  • African Rivers and Their Huge Importance;
  • The Key Aspects of the Continental Drift Theory.

After the topic is successfully chosen, proceed to write a proposal (abstract).

Abstract (Proposal)
The fact you’ve come up with the topic doesn’t mean that your supervisor will approve it. To convince him/her that the chosen subject is both interesting and important, write a capstone project proposal that answers the following questions:

  • Why did you decide to go with this very topic?
  • What are the goals and motifs that you have the intention to chase while working on the project?
  • What research methods and methodologies are going to be used during your study?
  • What types of resources will become the basis of your work?
  • What are your predicted outcomes? Will you be able to explain whether or not your goals and motifs are reached?

In this project proposal, you must include all the necessary points of your capstone. However, the paper should not be long — 1.500-2.000 at most.

Context page
The context page is the title of the project that uncovers details about each of the parts of your study with the number of the page where this very part begins. Many students apply to this page as the outlay.

Any supervisor will tell you that by writing an introduction part to your capstone project in geology, you explain the issues of the topic you have chosen. The introduction highlights what you will do with the issue(s) and described the aspects of the issue(s). In this part, briefly talk on previous researches conducted by other scientists or students. However, you need to point out that you are not intending to copy-paste what others have already proved. Your task is to show the in-depth search you will conduct in relation to study gaps.

Here are the few essential things you need to remember while working on the introduction part:

  1. Remember that research is your main focus.
  2. Find what others have researched on your topic and use their knowledge as the ground of your introduction.
  3. Develop a few arguments, set some goals and objectives.
  4. Finishing the introduction, form your own ground, your own point of view that you are going to research and prove.
  5. Do not make the introduction part too long. Let it be comprised of five sentences, yet they should be relevant and interesting.

Now proceed to literary review or, in other words, — the analysis of sources that you’ve used while researching the issues.

Review of studied literature
In this part of your capstone project in geology, you share the personal perceptions of the researched topic. But these personal perceptions aren’t yours. They belong to those, who’ve studied the topic before and have already published the results. By reviewing the data sources, you are sharing a blunt look at others’ perceptions. It is done to make sure that your work is accompanied by reliable proofs.

Jumping ahead, every issue your emphasize, describe and analyze must have a backup represented by good reasons from others’ researches.

Methods and methodologies
This is perhaps the toughest part of the whole capstone project in geology. The matter is that here you can’t just enumerate the methods. By naming a method, you need to explain why it was chosen and what results it brought to.

There are different types of research methods you can choose for your capstone paper. The two top popular ones are quantitative and qualitative. If you decide only on one method, mention it in this part. In case you are trying to apply both methods, you need to illustrate them more specifically: for example, at what stages of your projects they were used.

Plus, in this part, you are also expected to write research points that were collected from both methods. Knowledgeable completion of this section is the guarantee of the capstone project’s success.

Results analysis
You are starting analyzing which means that you are getting closer to the finish line. As you have developed arguments and researched the area, start the conveying the critical subjection of the researched issues.

What does it give you? It shows the new direction of the chosen topic. By providing various personal perceptions, you show that this very subject can be presented and viewed from very different points. You will succeed in analyzing only if the critical skills are commendable. This part will be exceptional only if you have experience in writing any type of academic assignment.

Take your time to write this section: you need to get focused as this part will demonstrate the overall significance of your capstone project in geology.

Note that many students make the same idea when completing this very part: they show that their general idea about the project is very vague. Don’t go this way. Instead, use several essential questions that may be helpful in analyzing the support of your work.

Now, when almost 90% of the job is done, the conclusion must be the easiest part, mustn’t it? Well, don’t count on that! In conclusion, you briefly talk about the entire capstone project. In 2-3 middle-sized sentences, you need to describe the goals you have initially said and whether or not they were justified in the two final parts of the project. The conclusion becomes really strong when you use citations supporting the main arguments of the written word.

We’ve decided to place citations into a separate paragraph. Why? It’s because the adding of citations to the text is allowed and even encouraged. Nevertheless, this allowance affects the plagiarism check results. You can use citations in the proper format (APA or MLA) but limit their number.

By being willing to present others’ ideas without changing the essence, paraphrase those ideas. Then, your work will be not only interesting but also original.

How to Write a Capstone Project in Geology: Final Recommendations

Upon reading all of these suggestions, students start having doubts about whether writing a capstone project in geology is even possible. It is very real! If you want to make the process easier and faster without affecting the quality of the capstone work, you need to:

  1. Find, read and reread examples of capstone projects. Your supervisor must have dozens of them if not more! Plus, there are many free samples online. By reading them, you grab a better understanding of the structure, learn wise words and phrases, know how to smoothly transfer from part to part.
  2. Ask for help when you need it. The wisest option is to contact your supervisor for support. It doesn’t mean that he/she will write a part of a capstone project for you. But he/she can give valuable advice and show the direction.
  3. Seek help among graduates. Having this writing experience under the belt, graduates know the stumbling blocks of the process and fails that you can prevent. If you have a few graduate friends, ask for their advice.

But, perhaps, one of the main things you need to realize is that your project requires your time. Make a schedule with tasks and their deadlines. Finish each stage according to the schedule and make a pause in 1-2 days to let your mind have a rest. As this is your major paper, you have no right to write it willy-nilly. Do it perfectly!


  • College Geology. Thomas C. Chamberlin , Rollin D. Salisbury. (1910). The Journal of Geology, 18(1), pp.103–103.
  • Lutgens, F.K. and Tarbuck, E.J. (2003). Essentials of geology. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
  • Williams, H.S. (1893). Geology as a Part of a College Curriculum. The Journal of Geology, 1(1), pp.38–46.
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