Compare-Contrast Research Position Paper Fall 2005
Objective: Compare or contrast scenery in a movie with real locations,
convincing the reader that the movie is or is not accurate based on your
Length: 2 - 4 pages, double-spaced, 12 point font;
The title page and references page do not count toward the 1 - 4
Format: Formal, Scientific English; GSA format citations and references.
Watching the Video
1. View video: pick a video from the approved list and view it. Just view it for your
own enjoyment the first time!
2. View the video again, observe, and take notes: Note where the movie is said to
take place, then write down any observations that you could research to see if
the location you see is accurate. Describe the appearances of the land,
topography, vegetation, animals, specific landmarks, season, climate, weather,
etc., as long as they are Earth Science related.
Researching the Paper
1. Research and Compare: find photos and descriptions of the actual locations
where the scenes in your movie are supposed to take place. Then compare the
movie scenes to the real locations, and decide how closely they match.
Note: Do not use encyclopedias or film location sites. These produce poor
The actual location is insignificant to this assignment!
2. Point of View: decide whether you want your paper to convince the reader
that the movie is accurate or that it is not accurate. It is typical of movies to
contain both scenes that look accurate and those that do not: you must
choose a position: accurate or not accurate.
3. Choose the scenes that support your point of view that you can discuss the
most effectively, with the most convincing evidence.
Writing the Paper
1. Title page: has the title of your video, your name, and the date. Other
information is optional. Pictures and decorative typefaces are great.
2. First Page: NO title on the first page; the title, date, class, etc. only appears
on the title page. If you want your name on every page, put it in a footer.
3. Writing style: Use third person and passive voice, which means not using
I, you, we, etc. No quotes; instead, paraphrase all information from
reference sources. Paraphrased information is to be referenced. The
Formal Scientific English style is described on subsequent pages.
4. Introduction: State whether the movie scenes looked like the place
named in the movie or not. Then summarize the points you are going to
discuss, in the order they will appear in the paper. Do not state opinions
about the movie, or review the movie. The introduction is basically a
summary of your paper. It is usually easier to write the intro after finishing
5. Body: in each paragraph, describe the appropriate material from a movie scene, then describe your researched information; explain how it is like, or
not like, the movie scene.
Each scene description together with the information on
the researched location should be in a separate paragraph.
6. Conclusion: this is simply a re-statement of your main points. Do not make
additional comments, put in extra information, or make projections for the
future. The conclusion is another summary of your paper.
Do not write “In conclusion” at the beginning of the conclusion, or
anywhere in the paper!
7. Metric: convert all units to metric, making sure to retain significant figures.
8. Citations: You must cite where you obtained the information used in your
paper. Instead of footnotes, use parentheses with the author’s last name
and year in the body of the paper. No page numbers are needed.
9. References: make a separate page for references; use GSA style,
alphabetize and use a hanging indent of about 5 spaces; see examples.
10. Going to a tutor is recommended. The tutors at the writing center can
check grammar and style, but make sure they have seen the assignment
sheet. The Earth Science tutor or your SI can check facts about the
science, logic, and style, and help with references.
11. Rewrite: make any corrections the tutor or SI suggested. Check for
metric, citation format, reference format, confirm your facts are correct and
fit the observations, and any tables or pictures are labeled and cited. Use
the checklist at the end of this handout.
Finishing the Paper
1. Type the paper and title page. Use standard, readable fonts in 12 point size for
the paper and reference page; the title page can be any size or style of print.
2. Check for typos and words missed by the spell checker and correct them.
3. If you put your name on all pages, use a footer, i.e. put your name at the
bottom of the page, not the top.
4. Assemble the finished paper with the title page first, the paper, and then the
reference page. Double check this!
5. Fasten the paper securely in a paper folder, not a three-ring binder. Be sure
that the paper is securely held inside the folder. Make sure that the margins of
your paper are large enough that the typed paper is not cropped by the
folder. Change margins if necessary.
6. Submit the paper on or before the due date. You will have until 4 PM so don’t
skip class to finish typing the paper. You might try to get it finished a day or so
before in case your printer acts up.
Some important instructions for writing the paper:
• If you use a picture or table, make sure to label it “Figure 1” or “Table 1,”
include a caption and a citation at the bottom of the figure/table, and put
“See Figure 1” in your paper at the appropriate place. Place your figure
or table within the text of the paper. These are optional.
• Metric: Always use units with numbers and change any units into the metric
equivalent. There is a metric unit for everything except time. For example,
change “Cones of the Ponderosa Pine are about 3-6 inches long.” to “Cones
of the Ponderosa Pine are about 7-15 centimeters long.”
• Parentheses should only be used for citations or to indicate an abbreviation
that may be used later in the paper. Do not use parentheses instead of
commas or instead of a new sentence.
• Do not allow your word processor to hyphenate words at the end of a line.
Also do not allow the word processor to divide words that are supposed to be
hyphenated; use a hard hyphen. In Word, that is a control, shift, hyphen key.
• Do not put the title on the first sheet of the body of the paper; it goes only on
the cover page.
• Use a footer instead of a header if you put your name on all pages. If the
page won’t print, change your print margins so that it does.
• Follow instructions as outlined in this handout. If in doubt about
anything, contact the instructor or tutor/SI for the class.
• Avoid pink paper or folders. Judy hates pink, but likes yellow, cats and bats.
Formal, Scientific English Style
1. Passive voice, third person is used;
• Do not use I, we, they, or similar types of words. Change a sentence
2. No quotes! Paraphrase; put all information in your own words
such as “We measured the sand and put it in the jar” so that it reads
“Ten grams of sand were placed into the jar.”
3. No opinions: just the facts, ma’am or sir.
4. No slang or contractions:
• use earthquake instead of quake or trembler
• use “cannot” instead of “can’t.”
5. Use words with specific meanings:
• do not use pretty words or vague terms. This phrase is vague: “A
6. Metric Only: convert inches to centimeters, feet to meters, miles to
magnificent skyward effervescence of water”; but this similar phrase is
specific: “15 meters of vertically ejected water.”
• Look up unfamiliar words found during research to make sure you
understand and are using terms correctly.
kilometers, Fahrenheit to Celsius, gallons to liters, etc. Weight is usually
expressed in kilograms, but pounds of force would be expressed in
Newtons. Ask Judy or another science instructor if you are unsure of the
units to use.
7. Use correct significant figures when converting terms to metric. When
converting 200 miles to kilometers, the calculator will read 321.8688, but the
original measurement in miles only had one significant figure, the 2, so the
final conversion to metric is actually 300 km.
You must cite where you obtain the information used in the body of the paper
by putting the author’s last name and year in parentheses, separated by a
comma. There are no page numbers in the citation.
• For example: Long Valley Caldera comprises an oval depression
measured at 15 by 30 km (Long Valley Web Team, 2005).
• You can also use the author in the sentence. For example: Kerr (1997)
reported that picrites contain rounded olivine and are not the same as the komatiites.
• All authors of a cited work must be listed by last names, separated by
commas. For example: There is a marked increase in seismic wave
velocity at the Moho (Skinner, Porter, and Botkin, 2000).
• If more than one source is responsible for the information, separate
each source by a semicolon. For example: Complex volcanoes are
frequently called by the older name, stratovolcanos (Lowman, 2005;
Skinner, Porter, and Park, 2004).
Format for References
Last name, First initials, Year, Title: City, Publisher, total-number-of-pages-in-book p.
Decker, R., and Decker, B., 1989, Volcanoes: New York, W. H. Freeman and
Skinner, B. J., Porter, S. C., and Botkin, D. B., 1999, The Blue Planet: an Introduction
to Earth System Science: New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 552 p.
Skinner, B. J., Porter, C. P., and Park, J., 2004, The Dynamic Earth: An Introduction
to Physical Geology: New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 584 p.
Last name or Organization name, First initials if any, Year, Web page title: web
address (month-you-accessed-the-page year-you-accessed-the-page).
Long Valley Web Team, 2005, Long Valley Observatory: http://lvo.wr.usgs.gov/
Kerr, A. C., 1997, What is the Difference between a Komatiite and a Picrite?:
http://www.le.ac.uk/geology/ack2/komatiite/difference.html (July 2005).
Periodical (magazine or newspaper):
Last name, First initials, Year, Title of article: Name of periodical, vol. #, no.
#, p. pages-the-article-is-on.
Hartmann, W. K., 2000, Red Planet Renaissance: Astronomy, vol. 28, no. 7,
Siegert, M. J., Dowdeswell, J. A., Svendsen, J. I., and Elverhoi, A., 2002, The
Eurasian Arctic During the Last Ice Age: American Scientist, vol. 90, no. 1,
Person or Lecture:
Last name, First initials, Year, Personal communication or Name of lecture:
Person’s Position, Place of Employment.
Koivula, J., 2002, Internal World of Gemstones lecture: Senior Gemologist,
Gemological Institute of America.
Lowman, J. A., 2005, Earth Science (ESC 1) lecture: Instructor, Chaffey College.
Praeman, R., 2004, Personal communication: Lieutenant, Tallville Fire Dept.
Thinking Exercise Checklist Fall 2005
• Title page with name, title of paper, date, and other optional information
• No title on first page of paper; title on title page only
• Page numbers/name if used are at the bottom of the page, not at top
• Intro: topic sentence clearly states the point of view (movie either does look
like the location named in the movie or does not)
• Intro: summary of each point made in the following paragraphs, in same order as in the body of the paper
• Each paragraph: compare/contrast scene in movie with research that supports the point of view (movie does or does not match the stated location)
• Third person and passive voice used throughout, i.e. no use of I, you, we, etc.
• No opinions or comments on the movie or the research
• No quotes: paraphrase all information
• Concise and clear style, no redundancy
• Correct sentence structure, spelling, paragraph structure, and capitalization:
Earth is capitalized because it is a proper name.
• All units are converted to metric and have correct significant figures
• No parentheses used except for citations
• Citations: last name & year in parentheses, separated by comma
• Conclusion: summary of topics covered in paper
• Conclusion: no new material, no comments, no opinions
• Conclusion: do not write “In conclusion”
• References cited: on separate page at end of paper, GSA format as
described in handout
• References cited: alphabetized, with hanging indent of about 5 spaces
Movie List: Spring 2007
• Doc Holiwood
• Gung Ho
• Holliwood Knights
• Lost Horizon
• North to Alaska
• Sand Pebbles - a long movie