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Science Communication in Earth and Mineral Sciences

Guide to help identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use information to communicate science

Why Writing in the Geosciences Matters

students collecting soil samples to understand glacial retreat in the Andes

‚ÄčGeoscience is an interdisciplinary and “socially-minded” area of science. Many aspects of geoscience can impact the general public. Effective written communication is crucial in geoscience because the science needs to be explained to both the public and other scientists. Geoscientists must be aware when writing to these different audiences in order to explain content at appropriate levels of complexity.

Most geoscience writing is about contextualizing data and observations. This means first thinking about what you’re able to observe, then thinking about the processes that led to your observations, and finally putting the observations in context to see the bigger picture.

Geoscience Writing

This section has help for the types of writing assignments that you're likely to have as a student in geosciences. It also includes style guides from key associations in your field. These style guides may help you become familiar with particular conventions of your discipline. 

field notebooks


Assignment types:

Field notes

It’s important to learn how to take field notes so that others can understand what you saw -- and why it matters -- without having to see it for themselves. To do this, pair writing with effective visuals (e.g., descriptions, sketches, and diagrams). You don't need to be a great artist--just make sure everything is clear, labeled, and precise. Also, pay attention to context: consider the geologic setting, likely environments of formation, current weathering, climate history, and biological influence on formation and/or weathering.   


Geological reports

You may use your field notes to prepare technical reports.  Depending on the audience and purpose, geological reports may be brief or very detailed and may include site characterization, illustrations, analysis, and conclusions. Ask your professor about the specific format you should use. Many geological reports use American Psychological Association (APA) style, which you can find at the Purdue Online Writing Lab

Senior thesis

Writing a thesis is the final -- and, often, the most intimidating -- research paper you’ll write as a geoscience undergraduate. Your thesis will include the components of technical writing.

The STEM Graduate Student Research libguide, Although written for graduate students, this libguide gives helpful information for your thesis writing. 

Schreyer Honors College, Includes pertinent information about writing a capstone research paper.

Style Guides

Resources for Further Study

Library guide for the geosciences - this guide provides suggestions for the best resources to use to locate trustworthy information on your topic. 

The guide lists the top places to search such as:  

Online Resources

Print Resources