Igneous Rocks Research Project

Sarah Carmichael
Appalachian State University
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Students work in groups to design a research project on a local igneous rock unit. Students are responsible for project design, sample collection, data collection and analysis, and collaborative writing involving multiple drafts.

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Petrology 3715 (undergraduate Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology course)

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic petrography, quantitative analysis via scanning electron microscopy, field methods, etc.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a group project assigned in the middle of the semester. It is worth a substantial part of their grade.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Scientific writing, meaningful collaborative work, independent research project design, experience using analytical equipment (XRD, SEM, CL, etc.), petrography.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Data analysis, formulation of hypotheses, project design, synthesis of ideas

Other skills goals for this activity

operating analytical equipment, scientific writing, working in groups

Description of the activity/assignment

In this project, students work in small groups to formally characterize an aspect of a local igneous rock, based on petrography, hand sample descriptions, and SEM and/or CL analyses. Students have two lab sessions and a field trip dedicated to working on this suite of rocks: one for detailed petrographic analyses and another SEM or CL imaging and analysis. The field trip is the field component of the project. The individual labs are ungraded, but all are required for completion of the project.

Papers must include the following sections:
Introduction, Geologic History, Petrography, Chemical Analysis, Discussion, References, Appendix (contains copies of ALL notes, calculations, drafts and revisions)

Determining whether students have met the goals

This project is worth 150 points in total.

The overall paper quality (group grade) is worth 90 points.
This grade includes quality of petrographic analyses, SEM calculations, grammar and spelling, layout, clarity, readability, critical evaluation of your data in comparison to data in the literature, proper captions and labels for your images, graphs, and figures, etc. Of this, thirty points will be based on presentation (spelling/grammar/etc. via a strict rubric), and sixty points will be based on the scientific integrity of the paper.

The quality of a student's individual input is worth 40 points. Students must include copies of all notes and calculations, as well as all the drafts and revisions of the paper. The instructor uses the provided lab notes, calculations, and edits on the drafts of the paper to evaluate how each student contributed to the effort. If students do not provide the instructor with multiple sets of drafts and revisions (i.e. they stay up in the student lab and write the paper the night before), they will receive a 0 for this part of the assignment.

Confidential Peer Evaluations (passed in separately) are normalized to a 20 point scale. Students are asked to evaluate each other's contributions (on a % scale) to the project for:
1. petrographic analysis
2. fieldwork
3. SEM and/or CL data collection and analysis
4. literature review and background research
5. overall involvement in the formulation of the group's hypothesis
6. writing, editing, and formatting of the paper
Students are not permitted to give all members equal weight on more than one contribution, as this is unrealistic in the real world.

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