Writing a Magazine Article as a Final Project: the Good, the Bad, but Mostly the Good

Friday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms
Poster Presentation Part of Course-Based Research Projects


David Parr, University of Colorado
Christi Townsend, Texas State University-San Marcos
In this talk, we discuss our experiences with the final project in our classes. The end-of-the-semester project is a staple of the undergraduate curriculum that creates both excitement and anxiety in many students. In many cases, this is the first time students have been tasked with a longer-term, multi-step project. Today's workforce employers need hires who can think across multiple scales, manage information and time, write and communicate well, and are computer literate. To help students develop these skills, we tasked them with writing the final project in the style of a National Geographic magazine article for our introductory statistics and Geographic Information Science classes. For many of us (particularly in the United States), our first exposure to the wider world and many of the concepts in geography and other Earth studies was expressed through the pages of National Geographic magazine and the work of the National Geographic Society (NGS).

Using the model of a magazine article for a final project captured many students' imaginations. Students were given outlines, timelines, and templates for writing and were guided through the process of developing an applied research article for a general audience. Although it requires more work on the part of the instructors, producing a high-quality article for publishing on the web develops planning, writing, editing, and research skills while providing the student with a finished project they can feature in the job market. The magazine also shows off the work of the students in the department and serves as a potential recruiting tool for these classes.