Hi all,
welcome to our essay writing assignment!
The idea is to write a short essay on a topic of your choice. I will sugest a handfull of topics in the forum, but feel free to think of your own (on this one you have a pretty broad choice, as it is about ecology and ecosystems, but check with me if you are unsure if the topic is suitable). The textbook is supposed to provide a basis, but the essays should also be based on external sources. I can provide some for the suggested topics, but you can look yourself. The more sources, the better, and at least one of the sources should be a peer-reviewed scientific study.
This is also about getting used to scientific writing. There are examples at the end of this module that you can consult. And in general it is helpful to read scientific papers and emulate their style. As always, it makes sense to consult a text book on scientific writing (especially to follow guidelines on best practice of citations, both in text, and the references section). Also, it is best to follow one of the common standards for scientific writing, like MLA. We ran into issues with citing websites, which is not uniformly covered in scientific writing formats.
If you are not experienced in scientific writing yet, it makes sense to consult a text book on scientific writing (especially to follow guidelines on best practice of citations, both in text, and the references section).
This is supposed to be an essay that summarizes a topic and makes some interesting conclusions. This requires an adequate literature review, and understanding as well as prioritizing the information when assembling the bits of information into an essay. The essay should be guided by a major point (thesis) that it is trying to make, which serves as a thin red line (that the readers might not always notice, but the author is very aware of).  You could say it is a “thesis paper” or along those lines. There is no formal need for material and methods and a discusssion. The essay would probably have an introduction, 2-3 arguments, and conclusions. We use the same grading rubric linked in this module. I’d suggest to try to make your questions specific and use quality sources (inculding some scientific papers) to provide a depth of detail beyond what is found on average websites for the general public.
Since you are also graded on the quality of sources, it will be important to resist the temptation to rely on the first three search hits. Good work requires digging a bit deeper. I like finding a good review paper (see the pdf (how do I find papers in this module) and then find the sources they cite. There are issues with citing websites, which is not uniformly covered in scientific writing formats.
But you can cite the author and year in the text as if it was a book or article source. If that is not possible, you can cite the website name (NCCOS Biomapper) in the text.
There always has to be a reference section (“works cited”) after the text though. Here are two examples. And please remember, at least one reference should be a peer reviewed article in a scientific journal. You are being graded on the diversity and quality of the used references as well. In-text citation can use (author year) format, even though this is not MLA (but it’s used in every journal I know). Here are two examples of how you could cite websites in the references section:
NCCOS BIOMAPPER. https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/products/nccos-biomapper/ (Links to an external site.)
 (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)
 (last accessed: April 2019)
Stewart SR (2005) Tropical cyclone report: Hurricane Ivan. National Hurricane Center. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/2004ivan.shtml (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (last accessed: December 2017)
How long should the essay be? Well, that depends on what you want to say… We aim at 3-4 pages, but one of the grading criteria (provide in the module for download) is efficient writing. No points are given for extra length. Instead points are given for deep understanding of the material and the effort to explain it well without excessive length. Someone who is able to explain a concept in 2.5 pages might get a better grade than someone who needs 4, if the extra information in the latter appears distracting. So it is not about listing and accumulating information, but rather showing that you understood a larger body of information and were able to interprete and prioritize information, and then present it. If you have questions, ask them on the forum and we’ll clarify them for everyone.
It is also about how well polished the overall effort is. While the overall format does not bring or subtract many points, a combination of various elements does reflect the effort: quality of essay content (originality and complexity of the topic or how you treat it), the length, and in particular how well the logic flows, how it is structured, if the language is well polished, and if no errors are present. Read through the essay a couple of times (even aloud) to polish and improve it. A first draft is never as perfect as the end result of a polish product.
SUMMARY: So my advice is to 1) think hard about how to focus the essay on an attractive question/thesis/phenomenon. The topic suggestions below are just a starting point. Find your own title for each broader topic named below, or even one in a topic of your own chosing. 2) Find quality sources. Websites for the general public do not impress very much. Classic ecology papers a few decades old that are the basis on what the modern work is conducted are impressive to read and cite. As are major review papers. 3) Observe how your sources use language and emulate their style. 4) read and re-read and perfect your paper before submission.
If you have general questions, you can ask them on the intro forum and we’ll clarify them for everyone. Otherwise message me privately.
Good luck, we look forward to read your essays!
Below are some suggestions for topics:
-The world of plankton and their role in the ocean
-Seaweeds and plants in the ocean
-The biology of jellyfish
-The different life styles of bony and cartilaginous fish
-The diversity of marine invertebrates
-A unique feeding mode: Suspension-feeders and filter-feeders
-Migrations of marine animals
-Adaptations of marine mammals to the life in the sea
-Adaptations to life in the deep sea
-Adaptations to life in polar seas
-What makes coral reefs so diverse?
-Life in the abyss: How can deep sea organisms find food in the deep sea?
-Why do whales migrate and how vulnerable are their routes to diruption by human activites?
-What determines the vertical zonation in the rocky intertidal?
-Kelp forests: Why do we need to protect sea otters for our own good?
-What causes jellyfish plagues and what can we do to prevent them?
-The threat of Crown of Thorn Seastar outbreaks to coral reefs
-What makes life in estuaries so diffiult for marine organisms?
-Coastal upwelling ecosystems: what makes them so ideal for marine life?
-The profound effects of El Niño & La Niña climate oscillations
A tip for writing the essay:
The success of your essay falls or stands with its focus or structure. It is not as powerful a piece if it just recites encyclopaedic knowledge. My goal is to inspire and teach you guys to think and write analytically. That means to examine a question.
I would always start with a simple outline of your structure of your essay, that points to the content of each paragraph. Once that stands, you can start writing, and on the way restructure your essay accordingly, so that each part fits together as a whole.
For example:
Main question/hypothesis: Are volcanoes a major threat?
Title: Effect of volcanoes on the oceans
Introduction: First sentence hooks the reader (curiosity, wow, I must read on!). Basic facts and numbers, geography and historic examples. Finish 1st paragrapg with above question or hypothesis.
1nd para: Threat one: lava, and toxic substances killing marine life during eruption. frequency of disturbance.
2nd para: Threat two. Earthquake impact from eruption on seafloor and coasts.
3rd para: Threat three: Routine impact from seeps (toxic substances)
4th para: Beneficial effects of volcanoes (nutrients and new, fertile soil).
Conclusions: come full circle and provide big picture, summary and answer to main question. End with a bang (last sentence comes full circle with a punch).