Research Activities

Mary Armour, York University Canada
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Towards the end of the course, I have students do 2 or 3 short writing pieces that look at topics that will require them to apply the concepts they have learned in class to a specific real world scenario. It is usually one natural disaster- earthquake/volcanic eruption and one resource questions.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

Content/concepts goals
Be able to relate the concepts learned in class to real life situations that a general audience may see in the news. This also gives the students a sense of where to find information about a topics, and addresses the idea of reliable sources.

Higher order thinking skills goals
Being able to see how the concepts relate to natural disasters and resources development

Other skills goals
Basic research and writing skills.

Context for Use

Type and level of course
The course I teach are science for non-science majors

Skills and concepts students should have mastered
they have to have basic geological structures - volcanoes, faults, sedimentary processes

How the activity is situated in the course
I use these late in the course to try to tie together several concepts from the course.

Description and Teaching Materials

For this assignment I will produce a list of acceptable topics. Generally things which have been in the news, or are easily searchable online.

Typically I will give a list of recent earthquakes/volcanic eruptions and require students for these to research the type of structure, the history of the structure, what kind of effects where seen, what the effect on humans were.
For the resource question I will have them research the geological setting and how the resources came to be (i.e. how did the gold end up concentrated in that location). I will ask about prospecting for the resource, how it is extracted, what the effects of that mining are, and what the economics of the situation is.

I will lay out the length, number and type of references students can use.

Teaching Notes and Tips

One of the components I rely on here is a series of short podcasts that one of the science librarians creates for me on proper research and what type of sources to use. They also do a short podcast on proper citation practices and academic honesty. I make these mandatory for the students to view by blocking them being able to submit the assignment until such time as they have viewed these units.


AS I teach large classes, I have to rely on markers to grade the assignments. I will build a rubric into the LMS that the markers will follow. The areas are content (That they have met the requirement of what they are supposed to include and have drawn on what they learned in the course to explain the topic) Organization (that they present the material in a clear and organized fashion) referencing (proper bibliography)

References and Resources