GEOLOGY & Environmental Science Information for Student Researchers: Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL
What is the difference between BA (Earth Science) and BS (Geology) research?
What is the research requirement?
Why is there a research requirement?
How can I satisfy the research requirement?
What is Geology 499 Honors research?
Do I have to be in the Honors Program to do Geology 499 Honors research?
Can I satisfy the research requirement with an internship?

TIMING
How soon do I have to start working on the research?
How do I start the research project?

TOPICS
What kind of projects are available to work on?
How do I find a professor to work with?

PRESENTATIONS
What is the student research symposium?
Must I participate in the research symposium?
How do I prepare for the research symposium?

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What is the difference between BA (Earth Science) and BS (Geology) research?
There is none! Both Earth Science and Geology students must complete this research requirement.

What is the research requirement?
Both BA and BS students must complete a research course, consisting of taking 3-6 credits of one of the following: Geology 491, Geology 494, Geology 497, or Geology 499.

Why is there a research requirement?
Science is not just knowledge of the natural word, science is a process for exploring the natural world, and that process is research. The research requirement is to give you first hand experience with some of the methods of doing scientific research, from discovering what is already known, to designing how the experiment will be done, to gathering the data you need to run the experiment, to drawing conclusions, and then formally presenting the results of your research.


How can I satisfy the research requirement?
The research requirement is 3-6 credits, and may be satisfied through any one or a combination of the four courses listed here. A presentation at the Student Research Symposium in the spring semester is required for all of these options.

Research Option
Description
Geol 491: Geological Literature Research
3 credits; Offered irregularly in the fall, although final work continues in the spring semester. Literature research may also be done as an independent study under the supervision of any faculty member in the department, but you would then sign up for Geology 497 credit.
Geol 494: Geological Internship

1-3 credits; Offered in the fall, spring, or summer. See the Internship FAQ for more information.
Geol 497: Problems in Geology
1-3 credits; offered each semester. Work and credits may be spread over more than one semester. Work is under the supervision of an individual faculty member.
Geol 499: Honors in Geology
6 credits total, a three-semester sequence. Honors research requires a GPA of 3.25, and application to the Honors Office. Upon completion your diploma will read "With Distinction." Research projects here do not necessarily differ from those done under Geol 497, but are more formal, and result in a bound thesis at the end. In addition, you will have to form a committee consisting of your major advisor, and two readers from either inside or outside the department who will also guide and advise you on your research. See the Honors FAQ for further information.


 What is Geology 499 Honors research?

Honors research requires a 3.25 GPA and application to the Honors Office. Upon completion your diploma will read "With Distinction." Research projects here do not necessarily differ from those done under Geol 497, but are more formal, and require a bound thesis at the end. The project is completed in a three-semester sequence and is 6 credits total. In addition, you will have to form a committee consisting of your major advisor, and two readers from either inside or outside the department who will also guide and advise you on your research. For more details, see your research advisor or the Honors Program Website and Senior Honors Project Handbook (pdf).


Do I have to be in the Honors Program to do Geology 499 Honors research?
No, as long as you have a 3.25 GPA. An application to the Honors Program is required, but you can choose the "Project Only" Honors instead of the Honors Scholar or Subject Area Honors options. The Honors research project is completed in a three-semester sequence and is 6 credits total. For more details, see your research advisor or the Honors Program Website and Senior Honors Project Handbook (pdf).


Can I satisfy the research requirement with an internship?
Yes, but it must be approved by a JMU faculty advisor (in addition to your internship advisor) BEFORE the internship begins. The same requirements as for other research projects apply here, and you sign up for Geology 494 credits.

How soon do I have to start working on the research?
This decision is between you and your advisor. Although the course is typically taken during the senior year it can be satisfied any time. Some projects may not be possible if you start too late; you may have to start in the spring semester of your junior year. This is especially true for projects involving field work. If you have identified a professor with whom you would like to work, it is never too soon to talk with them, even if your research work is a year (or more) away.

For honors projects you should begin EARLY in the junior year. You will need to register for Geology 499 in spring semester of your junior year. Final proposals must be in to the Honors Office by April 1. (See the Honors FAQ for further information.)


How do I start the research project?
As with most things here, the actual timing and procedure for the research depends on your faculty advisor. Advisors will vary widely in their expectations, depending on the nature of the research. Some projects may be fairly wide open, while others will require more planning. As you get started, you should have written down a description of the research, the expectations of the research, any dates or deadlines for completing various parts of the research, and how it is expected you will present your results. Have your advisor approve this to be sure you are both on the same page. Note that Honors Project research has its own procedures and deadlines. (See the Honors FAQ for further information.)


What kind of projects are available to work on?
Problems may involve library research, field work, laboratory experiments, computer modeling, or some combination of these. There are a number of ways to explore for a research topic:

1. In each of your classes think about the things you are learning and if you would like to learn more about the subject. If there is something you really like, ask the professor if they can help you turn it into a research project.

2. Browse the Department Website and look over the types of research that professors are doing. Specific places to look are the faculty pages (listed in the menu to the left) and the Research Page. Talk with professors about problems they have available to work on, or problems they could suggest. Sometimes you and the professor can devise a unique study that is both valuable and interesting.

3. Go to the abstracts of previous years' symposiums to see the kinds of work already done. Knowing the kinds of problems others have done helps you see the range of research possible.

4. Go to the library (or the library's website) and peruse recent geology journals. See the kind of research currently being published and see if something sparks your interest.


How do I find a professor to work with?

If you find a subject you like in one of your classes, talk to the professor teaching that class, express your interest in the subject, and explore the kinds of research that could be done and the kinds of preparation you should begin. Or, just go interview some or all the faculty to find out what they do, and the kinds of research projects they have available. See the Projects FAQ for some more information.

What is the student research symposium?
The Student Research Symposium is a mini-scientific meeting organized and run like those held by all scientific societies. Each person presents the results of their research during a 15 minute time interval, followed by a question and answer period. You will be required to turn in an Abstract of the results of your research several weeks before the symposium.


Must I participate in the research symposium?
Yes. Every person must present the results of their research at the Student Research Symposium held during the spring semester. It does not matter what the nature of your research is, you must give a presentation. No faculty member will assign a grade for the research credits until the presentation is complete. This may mean that you will carry an incomplete until the symposium is over.

What should you do if you are planning to graduate in December? There are two choices:
1: Finish your research and present the results during the spring semester prior to your graduation.
2: Finish your research in the fall semester, and then return to give your presentation the next spring. In this case you will carry an Incomplete for the research credits until that time.


How do I prepare for the research symposium?

One excellent way to prepare is to attend the Symposiums in years prior to the year you will be giving yours. Watching and learning from others and becoming familiar with the rituals of scientific meetings is excellent preparation. You can also go to Presentation Preparation (coming soon!) to get information and guidance you need to prepare.