University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Geology

Research in Geology (Geol 197 and Geol 198) Guidelines

Geol 197 and 198 are capstone courses wherein the student completes a scientific project, all the way from formulation, to implementation, to communication of results.

All geology majors pursuing a B.S. degree must complete a minimum of one semester (three credits) of independent research (Geol 197, 198). For the B.A. degree in Geology a minimum of one semester (three credits) of independent research (Geol 197, 198) is required ONLY IF the student elects not to enroll in Geol 291 and Geol 292 (Senior Seminar).


Students should sign up for 3 credit hours (Geol 197 if during the fall; Geol 198 in spring) under an advisor after having formulated a research project topic. If a 3 credit hours research project takes more than one semester to complete, students will be assigned an XC grade for the first semester to allow more time for completion of the project. It is possible to extend the scope of the project beyond the minimum 3 credit hours by signing up for research during two or more consecutive semesters (maximum 3 credits/semester).

Appropriate topics

Novelty is a critical component of Research in Geology. The research project should involve looking at a new area or problem with traditional techniques or looking at an old area or problem with a novel technique, or the more difficult enterprise of looking at a new problem or area with a new technique. The investigation may include any combination of field and laboratory work, library research, theoretical modeling, and/or computer analysis. It is important to remember the scale of the undertaking. It should be doable in the time allotment associated with a 3-credit course. Thus, it is important to focus and define the scope of the project carefully. Students must seek the help of an advisor early and select and define the topic with feedback from the advisor chosen.

When and Where to start

Plan ahead! A research proposal (see next section) should be submitted at least two semesters prior to graduation. Typically students follow one of two routes:

1) They can ask the faculty about possibilities. These may be related to a larger faculty project, and faculty can have support money to aid the student, or it may be unrelated to the faculty's research. While the faculty introduces the problem that needs to be addressed, the student is still responsible for developing it, and it is common that the problem to be addressed evolves with exploration. 

2) A student can come to a faculty member with a suggestion or an area of interest of his or her own. Often these areas or interests are more general. Then through discussion with the faculty possibilities are explored, until a tractable problem is at hand.

Research Proposal

A one to two page definition of the problem to be solved and outline of the research method(s) is required to be filed. This will require reading background material and a fairly extensive review of the literature concerning the chosen research topic. The research proposal must be formally approved in writing by the project advisor and the Department Chair prior to registering for Geol 197/198.

Project Report Format

The written report summarizes the nature of the project, its methodologies, and the data collected, and creates a synthesis in which the data are rationalized into a scientific model for the study. Standard scientific notation, citation style, significant figures, etc. must be used. A professional publication should be used as a general guide for style. The report will be returned for revision at least once, and perhaps several times. Students may expect it to take up to two weeks (or longer for long, poorly written drafts) for a faculty member to review the written work. The text must include the following (variations are acceptable if approved by the advisor):

  1. Title Page
  2. Abstract
  3. Table of Contents
  4. List of figures and tables
  5. Introduction
  6. Statement of the problem
  7. Description of geology of the study area
  8. Review of previous work
  9. Methodology
  10. Results (more descriptive)
  11. Discussion (focus on interpretations and significance of results).
  12. Conclusion/summary
  13. References cited
  14. Figures and tables (may be within the text also
  15. Appendices

There is no formal length requirement. The length should simply be determined by what the student has to communicate.


There exist several possible funding sources for research projects:

Departmental Undergraduate Research Awards - David Hawley, Mudge Foundation, and Denise Pieratti Awards

UVM Undergraduate Research Awards - URECA, APLE, HELiX

Existing award to the Advisor - Students can work under an existing grant written by the chosen advisor, where they would take on one part or aspect of the overall larger research project.

Presentation of Results 

The project's results must be presented to the scientific community, either at the Annual Spring Meeting of the Vermont Geological Society or at the Northeast section of the Geological Society of America annual meeting, or some other professional venue.

Submittal of written report 

The process of review and revision is crucial in science. A first draft of the report should be given to the advisor, who will most likely suggest revision. One copy of the completed research report must be filed with the Department.

Note: Students are strongly urged to keep in close communication with their advisor concerning progress on research and writing, timetables, and potential deadlines.


View the evaluation rubric (PDF)

Last modified October 20 2010 10:12 AM