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Writing Assignment : Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami

Module by: The Cain Project in Engineering and Professional Communication. E-mail the author

Summary: This assignment was given in Rice University’s ESCI 102: Evolution of the Earth. The assignment requires freshmen (non-major) students to gather information, analyze the facts, and report the science behind a major news story (the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami).

On 26 December 2004, an earthquake triggered a catastrophic tsunami that caused enormous destruction. This natural disaster was described in news reports and scientific commentaries on television, on the Internet, and in newspapers. For this assignment, your job is to write about how this event relates to plate tectonics. Imagine that your audience is a high school science teacher and you’re explaining to them the science behind this event.

Please write no more than 500 words describing the earthquake and tsunami in terms of plate tectonics. The paper will be graded on a ten-point scale. Please use a standard font (Times, Times New Roman, Helvetica, Geneva) and size the text at 12 points.

  • Paper format (1 pt): Paper must be typed with 1-inch margins; name, date, ESCI 102, and assignment name must be at top of paper. Include the honor pledge text (On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this assignment), signed on the bottom of your paper.
  • Peer-review (1 pt): Paper must be reviewed by your writing mentor; you must turn in a copy of the paper with your mentor’s reviews and signature to receive this point.
  • Facts (3 pts): Who, what, where, how, why and when of the events; the more descriptive the facts, the more useful they are; numbers are better than words.
  • Analysis (2 pts): What did you learn from these facts? What data are missing? What data are reliable? What data are subject to change?
  • Organization, clarity, and style (2 pts): Make sure that the paper has logical organization; one suggestion is to use headings such as Introduction, Earthquake Data and Tsunami Data, Relation to Plate Tectonics, and Conclusions.
  • References (1 pt): Include the sources of information (web sites, books, articles, etc.) you used in your research. Use at least 3 references and cite them. If you use URLs, please also cite the date accessed. Some places to start include:
    • http://iri.columbia.edu/~lareef/tsunami/
    • http://earthguide.ucsd.edu/tsunami/tsunami/links.html
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake

We will spend a few minutes discussing this topic in class on the due date. Please prepare for discussion by writing down one interesting thing you’ve learned and one question you had.

Late assignments will have a 30% penalty. If something prevents you from turning in the paper by the due date, please let us know ahead of time.

Notes on plagiarism:

Plagiarism is the undocumented inclusion of someone else’s work within your work. In the context of this assignment, plagiarism means using someone else’s ideas without citation or reproducing someone else’s sentence structure and word choices without using quotes and citation. Accepting proofreading help from your writing mentor or anyone else does NOT count as plagiarism or an honor code violation – in fact, we encourage you to have your work proofread by your colleagues! This only becomes a violation if someone else writes sections of your paper for you.

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