The Complete Guide to a Geology Research Paper

Writing guide
Posted on January 18, 2019

A research paper is an academic writing assignment that needs students to perform extensive research on a certain topic. Hence, it requires a significant amount of time to collect the required information, analyze it interpret, and present the research findings. Students need to be aware of the steps to write a research paper that is aligned with the best practices in a scientific paper. This geology research paper guide is aimed at helping geology students write an effective research paper. It includes both the general writing recomendations and specific geology research paper writing tips. Make sure to study it before you get down to your assignment.

Start a Research Paper Properly

Assignment Requirements

This is a basic step that needs a student to be aware of the requirements for the assignment as provided by the instructor. It is important to look at the purpose of the assignment and its due date so as to plan and have adequate time to perform research and write the paper. The other information to be aware of is whether the instructor requires a certain number of sources or a particular type of references. Some research papers might need primary sources such as interviews, field observations, and maps. Others might need only scholarly sources such as journal articles and books. Students should also determine whether there are requirements for referencing and the maximum or minimum word limit. Those who are unsure of the requirements can contact their instructor for clarification.

Selecting a Topic

Students are often required to select a topic for the research paper. However, instructors can assign a given topic or provide a list of topics that students should choose from. Nevertheless, they have to make a decision on a certain idea that they will focus on when writing the research paper. When selecting a topic, students should consider their interests, available time, access to enough resources, and the scope of it. Choosing an interesting topic can make the student enjoy the research and writing process. Here are some geology topics that can be discussed:

  • A Study of the Long-Term Effects of Deforestation in South America;
  • The Impact of Coastal Erosion in Indiana;
  • A Study of the Connection Between Diamonds and Kimberlites;
  • Impact of Bauxite Mining on China’s Environment;
  • The Source of Sulfate Ions in Groundwater.

Finding Information

Knowledge and understanding of the topic can allow students to identify sources that they will need to complete the research paper. One of the vital things that they should do when looking for data is the terms or phrases defining their research topic. These terms are helpful in searching for books and articles for the research. Students should obtain information from sources that are credible, reliable, and relevant to the topic. For example, the sources should be limited to coastal erosion if the student is examining coastal erosion in Indiana. Make sure you understand the limits of the paper to avoid straying away from the main idea. Overall, the information should be complete and helpful when completing the research paper.

Organizing Notes

This is simply the process of decoding concepts from the sources to be used in the research. Students are expected to read the sources and take notes on the most salient points in relation to their research. Since it is not often possible to read an entire book, students should go to the table of contents and look for the specific topic or topics that are relevant to the paper. This can make it easier to collect the required information.

Talking about research articles, students can read the entire piece as it is usually short paper. Unlike books that contain general information, journal articles are specific to a certain subject. It is important to include the page number to show where the information is located.

Statement of Purpose

The information obtained so far should be enough to write a research paper. However, it is vital to begin by writing a statement of purpose to guide the reader on what it will discuss. It is possible to revise the statement as the research proceeds. However, any of these changes should remain within the scope and requirements of the research paper. The flexibility can lead a student to the data that is used to support the purpose statement. The statement of purpose should make the reader understand the overall goal of the paper and what the researcher intends to achieve. Only then, the student can proceed with the rest of the paper based on the outline provided below.

How to Meet the Set Structure of a Research Paper

Title Page and Abstract

The title page contains descriptive information about the title, student, course, and date of submission. It is vital to note that the information included in the title page can depend on the formatting style used or instructions provided by the professor. A student has to make sure that all the needed information is included. The abstract page contains a brief summary of the strong points and conclusions from the research. The summary should be completed without repeating information in the introduction or conclusion. The reader should be able to grasp the entire scope of the research paper by just reading the abstract. Since the abstract consolidates information presented in the paper, students are advised to write it after completing all the other sections.

Table of Contents

Since research papers can sometimes be long, they involve the use of headings and subheadings to make them presentable and understandable. The table of contents presents the paper structure providing the reader with the page numbers so they can easily orient within the content. However, this part of the paper has to be placed at the beginning of the piece, it is advisable to compose it when the whole work is done.

Though completing the table of contents manually is quite hectic and time-consuming, there are a lot of apps and software that can do the job for you.

List of Figures and List of Tables

Geology reports often involve figures and reports that are used to illustrate various ideas discussed in the paper. This might not be required when there are only a few tables or figures or if you work on a short research paper. It is rather used when there are many of these components and a research paper has many pages. This section provides a list of all figures and tables present in the paper. Each listing should indicate the figure or table number, a brief description, and page where it can be found. This section can make it easier for readers to find information quickly. Besides, this section also should be completed when the rest of the paper is done.


The purpose of this part is to introduce the topic together with some background information. The information should provide readers with concepts that they need to know so as to understand the rest of the paper. For example, research on the impact of erosion in Indiana can provide background information on the process of erosion. Besides, it can provide some information on how Indiana was prior to the problem. The introduction can also offer an outline of the paper and the main concepts discussed by the student. At the end of the introduction, the student should include the statement of purpose that was developed after organizing the notes. This should show the reader the direction of the paper and the main points discussed. Overall, the introduction should be concise and designed to capture the interest of the reader.


The body of the research paper is where the student discusses all the main points of the paper. The content of the main body can take a variety of formats depending on the information offered by the instructor. However, the content of the report is generally divided into sections and subsections using appropriate headings and subheadings. A research paper usually consists of three main sections, including the literature review, research design, and discussion.

Literature Review

The aim of the literature review is to place the research in the current scholarly context and show how it moves the current scholarship forward. If the research, for example, is about the coral deterioration in a given area, the student should show how the paper will address one of the areas that have not been researched so far. It is important to note that instructors would want a well-written research paper that has many new concepts. The mistake that many students tend to make is to lose sight of the purpose of the research paper. Hence, they should ensure that the review is relevant to the study and organized in a manner that will show the contributions of the research.

Research Design

This section is meant to inform the reader about the approach used to achieve the purpose of the study. For example, a student can conduct a field observation in the area of interest to study the metamorphic layers or rocks that are present. The student should indicate the process and procedure used to complete the observation. They should also indicate the data collection method, especially in relation to the measurement of various variables.

Findings and Discussion

This is where the bulk of the information should be presented. The aim of this section is to discuss the findings from the research within the context of the topic. The analysis can be accompanied by figures, tables, graphs, and many other labels as appropriate. However, figures or tables that take more than one page should be located in the appendix of the research paper. These components should be labeled and referenced to enable readers to easily find them. Generally, students should show the conclusions reached based on the data collected from the research. They should support the findings from research studies where possible.


The conclusion should begin with a summary of the main things learned from the study. Students should show the main arguments and how they were supported by the research evidence. The other aspect that needs to be included in this section is the directions for future research. Students need to show new questions from the research and how they can be answered by further research on the topic. Finally, this section should explain why the research was important and how it advances the current scholarship. In other words, the conclusion should place the research in the larger context of the topic.


Scholarly or academic papers need to follow a certain format that should be applied consistently in the paper. It is important to look at the initial instructions to determine whether the instructor requires the use of a specific formatting style. Ideas obtained from external sources should be cited in the text to avoid plagiarism. Direct quotations should include the page number where the information was obtained from. However, direct quotations should be minimized, and students should paraphrase any borrowed ideas before including them in their paper.

Revising and Editing the Draft

The final step is to read through the paper so as to identify and correct any stylistic and content errors. It would be appropriate to complete the revision after at least one day. In some cases, students can use grammar checkers to identify mistakes that might not be apparent. If possible, it would be better to get someone who would read through the paper to see whether there are any mistakes that the student might have missed.


  1. Bergmann, L. (2010). Academic research and writing. Boston: Longman.
  2. Chodorow, S. (2011). Writing a successful research paper. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.
  3. Eby, E. (2014). College student’s guide to writing a great research paper. New York: Atlantic Publishing Group Inc.
  4. Goldenberg, P. (2010). Writing a research paper. New York: Sadlier.
  5. Werner-Burke, N., Knaus, K., & DeCamp, A. (2014). Rebuilding research writing. New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis.
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