California state university, chico

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Course Schedule



Assignments or Activities


Week 1

Jan 24, 26, 28

The Geographical Approach:

  • Place

  • Location

  • Visualization

  • Scale

#1 (2, pg.11)

Wednesday: “Your Information” Sheet due (see Handbook)
Friday: Guest speaker John Cloud, NOAA “The life, death, and re-birth of American indigenous cartography”

Read Ford and Brady in Readings on Vista

Read National Research Council Report in Readings on Vista

Week 2

Jan 31, Feb. 2, 4

The Geographical Approach, continued:

  • Region

  • Environment

  • Movement

  • Pattern

  • Diversity

Library: Introduction to Resources (Friday—to be confirmed)

Look at AAG Specialty Groups:
Read Parsons and King in Readings on Vista—by Monday

Start reading Lost city of Z

YouTube for class viewing:

Week 3

Feb. 7, 9, 11

Making Posters

Using the Internet as a Research Tool

Geography Themes Book Report due Friday

Keep reading Lost city of Z
Turabian part 13.3, Posters

Week 4

Feb. 14, 16, 18

Foundations of research resources III

Local data

Ethics and research: Human Subjects

Library tour (to be confirmed)

Read Helzer in Readings on Vista

Turabian Ch. 3,Finding useful sources

Week 5

Feb. 21, 23, 25

Research methods: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed approaches


Research Exercise I due: A Local Issue (Friday)

View first two Youtube videos on human subjects in research:
(Note that these videos are dealing with medical research; however, ANY research requires that human subjects receive INFORMED CONSENT)
Consult Turabian Ch. 18, 19 for referencing format
Read Chase in Readings on Vista

Read Knigge in Readings on Vista

Week 6

Feb. 28; Mar. 2, 4

Data: Census and other government data

Read Allen in Readings on Vista

Week 7

Mar. 7, 9, 11

Applying your knowledge

Use of tables and graphs

Research Exercise II due: Exploring the Census (Friday)

Turabian Ch. 8, Presenting evidence in tables and figures and Ch.26, Tables and figures

Read Hankins and Crooker in Readings on Vista



Week 9

Mar. 21, 23, 25

What is a research paper?

Starting your research

Statement of Research Proposal due Wednesday, including a question;

Turabian Ch. 1,What research is, how to think about it; asking questions

Week 10

Mar. 28, 30; Apr.1


Collecting and documenting your research

Avoiding plagiarism I

Read the U of Arizona’s document on plagiarism:

Turabian Ch. 4, Engaging sources

Week 11

Apr. 4, 6, 8

Using note cards


Avoiding plagiarism

Submit outline and 5 sources on Monday

Turabian Ch. 5, Planning your argument; page 330 for example of outline format

Week 12

April 11, 13, 15

AAG Wed, Fri

Format and Documentation

Turabian Ch. 18, 19, Parenthetical citations and references

Be familiar with Turabian Chapters20 and 21 and Appendix: Paper Format and Submissions Turabian

Week 13

Apr. 18, 20, 22

Writing abstracts

Style—avoiding jargon

Submit complete draft Monday with 30 note cards and ten sources. Send draft also to Vista Turnitin

Turabian Ch. 6 and 7, writing a draft

See handbook section on Your Writing Style

See sample abstracts in handbook

Week 14

Apr. 25, 27, 29

Exploring careers in geography and planning

Matt Weber, graduate student (TBA)

Chris Lewis: GIS instructor (Wed)

Ken Naas, Career Center (Fri)

Careers in Geography AAG website:

Week 15

May 2,4,6

Doing oral presentations

Prepare for your presentation

Turabian Ch. 13.1, 13.2

Presentations Friday

Week 16

May 9, 11, 13

Jury Duty Monday

Presentations Wednesday and Friday

May 16, 18

Presentations Monday 10-11

Paper--due Wednesday, May 18 --- by 5 p.m.

Themes of Geography Book Review

You will write this review on The Lost City of Z. This is a non-fiction account of exploration of the Amazon in search of a mythical city by an early 20th century explorer. The book is not a textbook, nor is it written by a geographer, but it is saturated with geographic themes. Pick one or two themes that stand out for you and write a well-crafted 3-4 page paper. The paper should have a clear and engaging introduction and a conclusion. You should use examples from the book, and quotes (when appropriate) to strengthen your argument. The paper should be typed in a font size of 12, with 1-inch margins all around. It should have page numbers. Include a cover page (see Turabian p. 378). Because you are writing on just one book, you do not need to provide a list of references. Write in complete sentences, in good grammar, and pay attention to the spelling and writing tips included in this handbook.

In-Class, Lab, Library Assignments

Students will work on these exercises in class, in the library, or in the lab. These exercises, when completed, will contribute to your 100 points for Weekly Activities and Class Participation. I will announce when we are going to do these activities, but please always bring your handbook to class just in case. We may not complete all the exercises, we may not complete them in order, and other exercises may be introduced. Some of these require that you go somewhere or do something outside of class.

  1. Make a list of 5-10 geographic questions about things that you’d like to learn more about. Be as specific as possible and avoid asking hard-to-answer rhetorical questions. For example, instead of writing “Is population growth on the planet sustainable?” you could ask “Where is population growth decreasing, and why?”

  1. Make a list of places you would like to visit, and explain what you’d like to learn from visiting them.

  1. Write a page on how you went about solving a personal geographical problem. For example, you could talk about how you went about deciding where you were going to live when you came to college, or which college you chose to attend. What were your sources of geographic information? Where they reliable?

  1. Write an essay on what kind of geographic education you received as a student in elementary, middle, and high school. Not all of your geographic education took place in a class called “geography,” of course, so think about how your experiences with geography might have taken place in other disciplines and activities outside the classroom.

  1. Describe a trip you took as a child.

  1. Did your family instill an appreciation of geography in you? Please explain and use examples.

  1. Describe the neighborhood you grew up in with as much detail as possible. You might close your eyes to conjure it up.

  1. Take a short 20 minute walk with a partner and come back to class. Do not collaborate except for deciding on where you will walk. Write quickly about what you saw. Compare your paper to your partner’s.

  1. After visiting the campus library, write a short “insider’s guide” that could help a new geography student to this university use the library more effectively.

  1. Find an archive of a newspaper that is published in or close to where you lived when you were born. For example, if you were born in Vacaville, you could choose the Vacaville Reporter, the San Francisco Chronicle, or the Sacramento Bee. Look at the issue of the day you were born and write an essay saying how the place has changed since that day based on the news you read.

  1. Go to Special Collections in the library. Find out about what they have that could help a geographer in his or her research. Describe this holding and say what makes it special for geographers.

  1. Return to Special Collections and look at one historical map. What is the map about? What is notable about the map? What can you say about the place shown in the map as a result of how it was depicted?

  1. Interview someone from class and find out something about him or her that is not obvious (such as that they are a geography major).

  2. Find four web pages on the same topic that differ in that one URL domain is a .com, one is a .edu, one is a .gov, and one is a .org. How does each of these websites differ from the other? Do the websites seem trustworthy? Why or why not?

  1. (Start work outside of class.) Read an academic article of your choice in geography that you will use for your paper. Write a paragraph on what makes the subject of the article geographic. See list of journals in the handbook for a place to start. Bring to class for discussion.

  2. (Start work outside of class.) Use the templates in this handbook on page xxx to analyze two articles in geography journals of your choice that you will use for your paper. Bring to class for discussion Write quickly about something that really interests you in geography. Can you pull a geography paper topic from this exercise?

  1. On separate note cards, write three direct quotes from one or more articles you are using for your paper. Paraphrase the quote on the corresponding note card. Exchange note cards with classmate. Use the check list in this handbook to access paraphrasing and completeness of information on note cards.

  1. Summarize a scholarly article in one page. Bring the article of your choice to class.

  2. Freewrite your first very rough draft of your paper in thirty minutes. I will be your timer.

  1. Write a draft of your first paragraph. Exchange with a classmate for a critique.

  2. Bring your reference list to class. Exchange with a classmate. The classmate will try to identify which kind of source each entry is (i.e. a co-authored journal article, a book, a single-authored journal article, a website, etc.). Peer review for formatting.

  1. Exchange drafts with a classmate. Circle words in the introduction that refer to key themes of the paper. Circle those words or words like them throughout the paper. Underline what seems to be the claim in the conclusion.

Two Research Exercises

The instructor will grade these papers on content, format, clarity, grammar, and spelling according to rubrics provided in this course handbook. Use same format as in your other paper: 12-inch font, 1-inch margins, double-spaced, page numbers, and a cover page. You will include a reference page in these papers.

Research Exercise I. Local Issues—A Land Use Controversy in Chico or Butte County, with poster
Select a recent controversy in Chico or Butte County over a proposed land use. This controversy will be a geographic problem, so you can use this as a way to practice recognizing and coming up with geographic problems. You can find out by reading recent issues of the Chico Enterprise Record or the Chico News and Review and by interviewing a knowledgeable source.
In a 2-3 page paper (not counting references, or attachments) describe the controversy, and address the following questions based on local news articles, planning meeting minutes, and interviews with at least one knowledgeable informant:

    • What part of Chico or Butte County is involved?

    • What are the development and environmental issues?

    • What groups have expressed concerns, and why?

    • Who are the key players in this controversy?

    • What conclusion do you draw about this geographic problem?

A 2-3 page paper is about eight paragraphs. Write in well-developed paragraphs that relate to one another. A paragraph should have at least three sentences. One of these paragraphs should be an introduction, and the last paragraph should be a conclusion.

On a separate page, list your references. There should be several sources, and they should not all come from the same place (i.e. do not just cite the Chico Enterprise Record). (We will go over this in more detail, but see Turabian Ch. 18 and 19 and the quick guide link).
Provide a map that shows the location of the area or place under discussion. The maps should be well done. Fine a good base map from the City of Chico or Butte County. Maps and tables should not be in an appendix, but should be integrated into the paper. Use the insert function of Word to accomplish this.
Provide other images such as photos of the location. These should be inserted into the main body of the text. Cite your source for images, even if they are yours.
Attach other materials (i.e. minutes to planning meetings, copies of news articles, interview questions) as appendices. See Turabian, Section A.23 for how to create appendices.
Create a poster: Posters should be between 36x36 inches and 36x48 inches. They must be produced using Power Point or other software for posters. Please do not glue pictures onto a poster board! Please see the lab monitor or Cathie Benjamin for further help on printing your posters. The poster should include images and text. The text can be taken from your paper. I expect a layout that is well thought out. See examples on the internet, below, and look at Turabian Ch. 13.3.

See these websites for help in putting together a poster:

A great 10-minute introduction using PP to make a poster

Provides examples of geography posters

To acquire the CSU, Chico logo for public presentations of posters

Steps for Printing to the Plotter in GEOP Lab Using Adobe Acrobat
For more information please see Cathie Benjamin or one of our lab monitors.

  1. Click File then Print to bring up the Print dialog box.

  1. For Printer Name, choose HP800 in the pull down menu.

  1. Click on the Properties tab to bring up the HP800 on Zenith Properties dialog box.

  1. Under Paper Options, click the Custom tab to set a page size. Use 36" as the width (the max for our paper rolls), and a height that will allow the entire file to be printed with a one-inch margin on each side (e.g., 24" wide x 36" high print would need a paper size 36" width and 24+1+1=26" height in landscape mode, and a 36" wide x 48" high print would need a paper size of 36" width and 50" height in portrait mode). The idea is to choose a measurement that will accommodate the final print in the most efficient manner.

  1. In the same dialog box, click Autorotate and for Roll Size choose the 36 inch roll.

  1. In the Effects tab, under Resizing Options choose Actual Size if your document is indeed appropriately sized, or Print Document On with Scale to Fit.

  1. In the Finishing tab, under Orientation choose Portrait or Landscape.

  1. In the Color tab, under Color Management choose the following:

a. For Color Matching Method choose Managed by


  1. Do a Print Preview if possible to make sure that it will be printed correctly.

  1. When the plotter begins printing, check to be sure that the file is being printed in large scale. If you see a problem, press the cancel button on the plotter.

Research Exercise II. Exploring census data and doing field observations/presenting census data in tables and figures-- adapted from Kuby, Michael, John Harner, and Patricia Gober. 2010. Human geography in action. 5th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons.
Read through these instructions and take time to get familiar with the US Census website before you start your assignment. Think about themes that you’d like to explore before you plunge in. This assignment is designed around the availability of the 2000 census only and it may be altered slightly if the 2010 census is available by the time you start the assignment. Actually, the 1990 census is also available for those of you who might want to make comparisons over time.

Part I—Census Analysis

  • Select a census tract in Chico by using American FactFinder at Once at American FactFinder, go to Reference Maps, click on 2000 Census Tracts and Blocks, and select a zip code. There will be more than one census tract per zip code in Chico. Look around the map until you find a census tract to work with. Write it down. Consider studying a census tract that is NOT the same as the one you live in.

  • Once you have found a census tract, go back to the again and go to American FactFinder again.

  • Click on Data Sets and then click on Decennial Census. You will first get demographic statistics from Census 2000 Summary File 1. For social, economic, and housing information, you will go to Census 2000 Summary File 3.

  • Click on Quick Tables. Your Selection Method will be Lists. Choose Census Tract from drop-down list in Select Geographic Type. You will have to choose your state and then the county before you see a list of census tracts. Scroll to your chosen tract. Click the Add button to list the selection in the box below, and click on Next button.

  • In the Select One or More Tables box, pick Profile of General Demographic Data, and 1-2 other variables that seem interesting to you, and Add them. (Keep note of what you are selecting as you will need to repeat these steps for Chico.) Read the list carefully before selecting, and make sure you understand what you are selecting. Many of them sound alike but have subtle differences.

  • Click Show Results button.

  • At the top of the page, choose Print/Download and pick Download. Choose Microsoft Excel .xls, and press OK. It will take some time to load. Save the tables as your own files on your computer or thumb drive. You will want to edit them and clean them up before you include them in your assignment.

  • Scroll to the top of the page and select Data Set. Go to Summary File 3. Choose Profile of Selected Social Characteristics and 1-2 other variables that seem interesting to you.

  • By now you will have two sets of profile data and 2-4 tables with variables of your choice.

  • Repeat the entire process for the Chico, CA Urbanized Area (choose this under Geographic Type).

  • Compare selected data from your census tract with that of Chico. Only select data for which meaningful comparisons can be made (for example, do not try to compare population size because Chico’s population will always be larger than that of your census tract). Use data in percentages instead, so that they can be compared across populations of different sizes. For instance, instead of reporting on the actual number of Hispanics in the census tract and in Chico, you would report on the percentage of Hispanics relative to the total population for both geographic areas. Please be aware that Hispanic is not a racial category. There can be white, black, and Asian Hispanics.

Part II—Field Observation

You will visit the census tract you chose and observe how the census data you have compiled “fits” what you see. For example, how does information on income, the prevalence of young college-age students, or the high proportion of rental properties seem to “show up” on the ground? Do field observations support what you found in your census analysis of the tract? If you don’t see a “match,” you might comment on whether the tract appears to have changed since 2000—maybe you see a mixture of housing that might not have been there ten years ago. Don’t just describe everything you see in the tract in great detail. Instead, focus on the elements of your analysis and describe these in detail.
To find the boundaries of the tract, return to the census website and look at the map you used to determine your census tract. Your walk does not have to cover the entire tract, but you should try to stay within the tract as much as possible as you walk through it. Take field notes (these should be handed in with your paper) and take photographs. These should be included in the paper as “figures.” Your notes should include the time of day you went to the neighborhood and how long you stayed there.

Writing it up: Write a paper that includes an introduction, method of data collection, and a summary of your findings, starting with your census analysis and ending with the field observations section. Your total text should add up to 3-4 pages, not including tables, graphs, or photographs. Put your data in tables and graphs, and incorporate these and photographs in the paper. Use at least one of each: A table, graph, map, and photograph. These must be properly formatted and you should reference them in your narrative. Maps, graphs, and photographs will be called “figures,” and tables are just called “tables.” These should be integrated into your paper, and not located at the end of the paper in an appendix. See Turabian Ch. 8 on conventions.
Provide a reference list (we will go over this in more detail, but see Turabian Ch. 18 and 19, and the quick guide link).
Research Paper
There are several steps to completing this assignment. Please note that I will not accept the final paper without the completion of # 8-10.

  1. Choosing a geographic topic I and II

  2. Compiling a bibliography

  3. Organizing you research

  4. Using sources

  5. Analysis of articles

  6. Starting to write

  7. Citing and formatting

  8. Statement of proposed research

  9. Outline of research

  10. Complete draft of research paper/note cards

  11. Final research paper

Information on what is expected for other steps is in the grading rubrics for the assignments, below. What follows in this section are general guidelines for the whole paper, as well as formatting requirements. Under most circumstances you may NOT change your topic after you have handed in your statement of proposed research.

Choosing a topic involves asking a geographic question and exploring some popular but mostly academic (scholarly) literature for answers. Your question may be too broad or otherwise not appropriate, but you will improve on your research question as you read more about your topic. You should show that the topic is current and important, and for this you may use literature such as articles from the news or secondary data you can find in reliable sources such as the U.S. Census. This is also useful to help you decide on a question to research. You will practice writing this question in your proposal. You will compare and contrast, group, and critically analyze the different approaches and findings that help you answer this question in your research paper. Think of the research paper as a solid introduction to what authors have already said about a topic that you might want to explore further using your own primary research someday.
Your topic should not be so broad that virtually any literature would fit the topic (i.e. “Sustainability”) and not so narrow that there would be no literature on it and no one would really care about it anyway (i.e. my cat’s spatial sleeping patterns). These kinds of narrow topics can be examples of larger and relevant research questions (spatial orientation in the brain of the common house cat), but this paper will not be the place to explore this approach to research.
What field(s) or sub-field(s) of geography does your question fit into? What themes of geography does it explore: Place? Region? Movement?
Why does the research you are going to do matter? Who should care? What current events or pressing issues can you find on the Internet, newspapers, or magazines that show how important this topic is? Although your paper should be mostly based on scholarly sources, it is fine to refer to non-scholarly sources as evidence of how important the topic is.
Are there other secondary sources such as federal statistics, local documents, archival material that will help you develop your research? You will have worked with a couple of kinds of data sets earlier. If relevant, use these sources in your paper.
Is there someone you can interview on the topic? Is there a specialist in our department, on campus, or working in the community who knows a lot about your research question?
When you read the scholarly materials on your topic, think about the methods the authors you reviewed used to explore the topic that you are interested in. Did they tend to use qualitative or quantitative methods, or a mixture of these? What did the authors you studied use as evidence? At what scale did they study their material? For example, someone can study urban segregation at the neighborhood, city, metropolitan, or global scale. A biogeographer may study an organism in a Petri dish or in a larger ecosystem. This close reading will help you choose which sources are most relevant.
How did the findings by different authors agree with each other or not? How can you group the conclusions by the different authors? Are the differences important? In other words, what difference does this difference make? Is there an unresolved controversy?
This paper will be based on at least ten published scholarly articles. We will talk about acceptable sources and how to find and reference them. See list of suggested journals, below. Visit the Meriam Library link: to learn more about what defines a scholarly source.
You will learn to use note cards: See Turabian Section 4.2 and website:

The paper should be well organized: The reader knows from the first introductory paragraph what the paper is about and what question you are asking. It is clear why the question is geographic, and why it’s important. The paragraphs express development of your ideas and there are clear transitions between ideas. You should write a conclusion that sums up your findings, and that takes the reader back to your original question. Your conclusion should include the most important points of your paper. It should mention the important variations in the literature you have reviewed. Note possible future directions in your research, but do not simply say “Much more needs to be done…” Be specific.

Provide an abstract with keywords.
Use tables and figures correctly (see Turabian Chapters 8 and 26).

You should be able to provide at least one map to illustrate your topic. These materials should not be put at the end in an appendix; they should be integrated throughout the paper.

Use parenthetical reference system (see Turabian Chapters 18 and 19). Do NOT use footnotes. Use at least 10 references from scholarly from journal articles in geography or related disciplines.
Use quotes when necessary, but do not overly quote your sources. Learn to paraphrase. Always use quotation marks or block quotes when directly quoting an author, and provide the page number(s) from where you got the quote(s). Make sure you provide information on your sources even when you are not directly quoting them, but using their ideas.
Formatting guidelines:

    • Paper should be 7-10 pages long.

    • Provide a cover sheet with the title, your name, and course information. The information should be centered horizontally and vertically. See Figure A.1 in Turabian for an example and page 386 for more information.

    • Cover sheet should be followed by an abstract on its own page

    • In a short paper such as this, you do NOT need a table of contents.

    • Number all pages except your cover sheet and abstract page. Do not use roman numerals.

    • Use Times Roman font 12.

    • Use 1-inch margins all around.

    • Use headings or sub-headings.

    • Your reference list should be on a separate page at the very end.

    • See Turabian Appendix: Paper Format and Submissions.

  • Write with correct grammar, spelling, and style (see Turabian Chapters 20-21).

    • Use paragraphs to express main ideas. Paragraphs should have at least three sentences.

    • Use transitions and “sign posts” about where you are headed.

    • Use complete sentences (no fragments or run-ons).

    • Spell correctly (see my list of common confusions)

    • Avoid jargon, clichés, wishful thinking, general ideas that cannot be proven, personal opinions, etc. Jargon can be ok if you take the time to thoughtfully define and discuss words such as “globalization” or “sustainability” that people too often use as shortcuts (see section on writing and speaking clearly, in this handbook)

    • Because this is a formal paper that follows scientific research guidelines, avoid use of “I” or “We.” However, this “rule” is not steadfast and there are times when it makes sense to use the first person singular, especially if it means you can avoid using too much passive voice that way.

    • Do not use contractions (they’re, isn’t, it’s, aren’t, can’t, etc.).

    • Write concisely. You use the fewest words possible to express an idea. (See section of this course handbook on writing and speaking clearly.)

You will turn your paper into Vista electronically and in hard copy format.

Suggested Journals in Geography and Related Disciplines
Your paper should have at least two references from geographic journals. This list is not comprehensive. Geographers are not limited to geography journals or articles written by geographers, but geography students should be familiar with the geographic literature. Meriam Library owns subscriptions to many of these journals. You can go to the library’s Research Station online and do a search for Journal Articles by Subject. You can pick Geography, and then go to “multisearch” for a more specific topic or keyword, such as “urbanization,” “planning,” or “climate change.” Your results will indicate which journals are peer-reviewed. Because you will be handing in drafts of your work, I can assess any articles you might want to include from journals that are not on this list.

  • California Geographer

  • Geographical Review

  • The Geographical Journal

  • Annals of the Association of American Geographers

  • Focus on Geography

  • Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers (APCG)

  • Progress in Human Geography

  • Progress in Physical Geography

  • Journal of Planning Education and Research

  • Journal of the American Planning Association

  • Professional Geographer

  • Journal of Geography

  • Geoforum

  • Applied Geography

  • Society and Natural Resources

  • Ecology

  • Ambio

  • Land Use Policy

  • Habitat International

  • Ecosystems

  • Biological Conservation

  • Planning Perspectives

  • World Development

  • Journal of Environmental Management

  • Population and Environment

  • Gender, Place and Culture

  • Antipode

Formatting Information for Citations using Turabian

You will be using Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (7 edition)--which is a version of the Chicago Manual of Style reference list citation style . This means that in the text you will cite your sources using parentheses (author date, page) and you will be following a specific format to list your sources at the end of your paper. The two chapters in Turabian (7th edition) where most of the information on reference list style formatting is found are Chapters 18 and 19, but you will find information scattered throughout the book that is helpful. You will NOT be using bibliographic style and footnotes. Do NOT use Chapters 16 and 17.
The link below is a quick guide for most citations. It does provide information on both citation styles, but you should pay attention to the examples that are labeled “P” (for parentheses or parenthetical) and “R” (for reference list).

Also see Figure 18.1 in the Turabian book on pages 218-19 for a summary of how to format and reference books and articles in the reference list format.

Template for Analyzing Articles

This template is adapted from Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools (published in 2010 by the Foundation for Critical Thinking).

State clearly the author’s purpose for writing this article (why does the research matter?):

What is the main question the author is asking?

Describe the information used, and its source(s):

What are the conclusions of the article?

Can you identify the author’s point of view?

What concept(s) do you need to understand in order to understand the author’s reasoning? Are these concepts clearly defined by the author?

How is this article geographic?
Template for Analyzing Articles

This template is adapted from Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools (published in 2010 by the Foundation for Critical Thinking).

State clearly the author’s purpose for writing this article (why does the research matter?):

What is the main question the author is asking?

Describe the information used, and its source(s):

What are the conclusions of the article?

Can you identify the author’s point of view?

What concept(s) do you need to understand in order to understand the author’s reasoning? Are these concepts clearly defined by the author?

How is this article geographic?

Internet Resources for Geography and Planning
You should use the Internet to explore possible research topics, to find data, to find articles, and to explore careers in geography/planning.

Association of American Geographers: This is the website where you can find links to conference, scholarship, geographic advocacy, and many other topics of interest especially to academic geographers. There is a very comprehensive link to careers in geography. The AAG publishes the Annals of the Association of American Geographers and Professional Geographer.

American Geographical Society: From the AGS’s website: “As a ‘learned society’, the AGS has continued to be the traditional link between geographical scholarship and the outside world, especially the business sector. For that reason, the AGS provides research-based, internationally circulated publications, written by professional geographers but carefully edited to be understandable to non-geographers as well as to geographers.” The AGS publishes the Geographical Review and Focus on Geography.

Association of Pacific Coast Geographers: This is one of the regional divisions of the AAG. This organization holds annual conferences (many students from our department have attended and presented at this conference) and it publishes the journal APCG Yearbook.

California Geographical Society: The state division of the AAG. Many of our students go to the yearly conference. The organization publishes The California Geographer.

Perry-Castañeda Map Collection: This is one of the most comprehensive sources for outline maps and other basic political and physical maps of places around the world.
Geography and Map Reading Room of the Library of Congress: The site provides an abundance of historical and contemporary maps and documents. Focus is on maps and cartography. This site has links to many other map sites.
National Geographic Society: The magazine on your parents’ coffee table! This site goes well beyond the magazine. It provides engaging images and information. This is good to start exploring your research but it is not considered a scholarly source.
US Geological Survey: An interdisciplinary site focused on geospatial information, including natural hazards and natural resources.
US Census Bureau: You will need this to complete one of your assignments. Go to the American Factfinder resource to look up data on Chico and other cities.
US National Archives: The National Archives provide you with documents from the federal government. Only documents of wide interest are kept (maybe 1-2% of all documents ever created). If you type in “geographical” in the search engine of this website you’ll see how this archive can support possible research topics in geography. If you type in “environment” you will get a huge list of documents on federal policy on parks, dams, and many other environmental topics. You might find it really helpful for research on the US government’s role in shaping geography.
Butte County: For your local research.
City of Chico: For your local research.
American Planning Association: The top professional organization for planning in the United States. This site has links to literature, current events, conferences, and jobs.
Associate Collegiate Schools in Planning: This is a consortium of credentialed planning programs and departments in U.S. universities. It is a great gateway to scholarly literature in planning, to academic planning conferences, and to jobs.

Your Writing Style

Common Confusions
Notice that spell checking you work will not fix most of these sins.

  • It’s vs. its: The apostrophe marks a contraction of "it is." Something that belongs to it is "its." You will probably not need to use “it’s” in your papers because formal writing should not use contractions.

  • Affect vs. effect. Affect is an action word! Something affects something else. Effect is a noun.

  • Versus (not verses)

  • Their, there, they’re

  • Proceed vs. precede

  • Principal vs. principle

  • Privilege, not privledge

  • Separate, not seperate

  • Weird, not wierd

  • Lose vs. loose

  • Compliment vs. complement

  • Accept vs. except

  • Than vs. then

  • Past vs. passed

  • Lead vs. led

  • Dessert vs. desert

  • Discrete vs. discreet

  • Torturous vs. tortuous

Write and Speak Clearly: Wordiness, Fancy Words, Passive Voice, Jargon, Clichés
Examples of Wordiness

  • In the near future

  • As a means of

  • As to

  • At the present time

  • At the time

  • At this point in time

  • Because of the fact that

  • Notwithstanding the fact that

  • Due to the fact that

  • Future plans

  • The fact of the matter is

  • In actual fact

  • At the exact time

  • Comprised of

  • Despite the fact that

  • During such time

  • In closer proximity

  • During the course of

  • In addition (to)

  • It would appear that

  • The question as to whether

  • My personal opinion

Use Simple Words—Avoid These

  • Modification

  • Absolutely (instead of “yes”)

  • Ascertained

  • Determined

  • Accomplish

  • Anticipate

  • Concept

  • Comprise

  • Cease

  • Evidenced

  • Currently

  • Contain

  • Demonstrate

  • Indicate

  • Heretofore

  • Frequently

  • Utilize

  • Mitigate

Examples of Passive and Active Voice
The article was written by Jessica vs. Jessica wrote the article

The research was done by Manuel vs. Manuel did the research

The location of the study is shown by the map vs. The map shows the study location
Examples of Jargon in Geography/Planning—some are also clichés

  • Sustainability or sustainable (also a cliché)

  • Globalization

  • Watershed

  • Climate change

  • Diversity

  • New urbanism

  • Smart growth

  • Urban Sprawl

  • Community (also a cliché)

  • Mitigate

Some Clichés

  • Passionate (do not use on your résumé)

  • At the end of the day

  • The almighty dollar

  • The bottom line

  • Cutting edge

  • Drill down

  • Unpack

  • Green

  • End result

  • On the same page

  • Raising the bar

  • Think outside the box

  • Trials and tribulations

Revision Checklist for Quoting and Paraphrasing
To ensure that you are using your sources correctly and unambiguously, use this checklist before handing in your final draft and paper.

Adapted from Davis, James. P. 2007. The Rowman and Littlefield guide to writing with sources. 3rd edition. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, pp.52-3.

  • Have you written your paragraphs in your own words, and have you supported them with evidence? Is all the information that is not common knowledge supported with references?

  • When you paraphrased an author, did you make it clear who it is from? Did you include parenthetical referencing?

  • How closely does your paraphrasing sound like the original? If you have just changed a few words here and there, you may be inadvertently plagiarizing someone else’s ideas.

  • Are all your exact quotes either within quotation marks in block quotes, followed by author, date, and page number information? Is it clear that you are intending to quote the author to illustrate an idea? Have you been careful not to just string together quotes (also known as “quilting”)?

  • If you shorten a quote using an ellipsis (…), have you kept the essential meaning of the quote? In other words, be careful not to subvert the original meaning by leaving out words, even if you show that you have left out words with the ellipsis.

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