IN EARTH SCIENCES
Compiled & prepared by
ABDEL AZIZ A.HUSSEIN
Lectures, discussion and workshops taking place in the geological survey of Egyptheadquarters)
Before you start writing the report, you have to decide on the topics to be covered and the order presenting them. writing without an outline is like hiking across unfamiliar country without a map.
Imagine that you are talking about your project with one or two interested professional colleagues. What questions will they be likely to ask?
List these questions, and your answers will provide preliminary or topic outline of your report.
Questions to be answered might include:
- what did you find out
- why did you on this problem?
- How did you tackle it?
- how do you know your result are valid?
- how do your result fit into the big picture?
- is further work needed?
By writing your answers you will expand your outline to a useful, detailed format for preparing the report.
The normal sequence of subject in a final geoscience report is a follows:
1) Title page.
6) Successive chapters, dealing with a normal sequence of subjects related to the area.
Each of these topics is dealt with in the next section.
A preface by the Chairman or the Director is included in most geological survey publications. Although the writing of this preface is not the responsibility of the author (of the report), a rough draft should be submitted with his manuscript.
The principal purpose of the preface is to indicate how the report helps meet the departmental objectives and to indicate briefly the nature and organization of the report. It should never be more than 250 words. The preface is not an abstract. It also serves to give official approval to the report.
Readers are not interested in a "suspense format" that buries the message under "Conclusions" at the end of the report. Suspense may be all right in a detective story, but it is undesirable in a technical or scientific paper.
Readers want the news up front. This news must be given first in the abstract at the beginning of the paper. Most journals require an abstract and abstracts should be submitted with all geological survey manuscript.
The abstract should be informative condensation of the essential parts of the report and not a mere expansion of the table of contents. It should be suitable for publication apart from the paper and should refer to all information suitable for indexing. The abstract should be written in complete sentences, as simply and concisely as possible with a maximum length of 250 words. The following points should be observed:
1) state purpose, nature and scope of the paper. Do not repeat any information contained in the title, but amplify title if necessary.
2) Indicate treatment of the subject, i.e., brief, exhaustive,theoretical, etc.
3) State methods used (laboratory,field); give basic principles of new methods or techniques,their uses and qualities, their degree of accuracy. Not new apparatus and its intended use.
4) Summarize major points and significant result of the paper, grouping facts systematically.
- New or verified data of permanent value.
- New minerals, fossils, new classification.
- New theories, interpretations, evaluations, if possible.
- Locate local stratigraphic names in the general column.
- Additions, corrections, or any information not contained in the paper or report.
- Reference, figures, tables. They are not intelligible when separated from the paper.
- Detailed descriptions.
- Long list of names.
5) Summarize conclusions and applications; show correlation with earlier work (if important).
The subject matter of the report is divided into chapters. These may be formally designated by chapter numbers or they may be simply major headings of the subject matter.
They normally deal with a conventional sequence of subjects comprising (1) Introduction, (2) general geology, and other chapters on subjects such as Stratigraphy, metamorphism, Economic geology. Some reports are divers in subject, complexity and length and may not conform to any suggested plan.
Logical arrangement of the reports subject matter demands care and thought but time spent in planning will be amply repaid in ease of writing and effectiveness of the completed report.
The introduction orients the reader. It should give the nature and scope of the problem, your purpose in working on it, and the methods you chose in attacking it. The introduction should also serve to define the position and size of the area under discussion and means of access to it and conditions of travel in it, to indicate the significance of the area from an industrial, economic or mining standpoint, and the scope and period of the present investigation; to acknowledge assistance received; to summarize the physical features.
The introduction should include a statement of the results, and some indication of how these add to previous knowledge.
The author may find it advisable to include a brief survey of previous work on the problem or the area. Usually it is not necessary to give an exhaustive discussion, enumerating everything that has ever been done, but he may summarize the conclusions of earlier workers, with references to the literature.
Since we are concerned with reports in geosciences, the chapter introducing the reader to the general geology of the area (geological background) is normally the most significant in the report. It is the one of most permanent interest and value, and the one that the accompanying geological map is designed chiefly to illustrate.
Normally this chapter is divided into three principal parts (a) general statement, (b) table of formation, and (c) description of formations.
(a) General statement. This is normally brief, though in particular instances it may be expanded to advantage. Its principal purpose is twofold:
First, to outline the regional geological setting of the map-area; second, to present in summery a picture of the local geology, with special emphasis on discoveries of outstanding interest. Details should be avoided and conclusions given without supporting evidence.
(b) Table of formations. The word "formation" is used here in a general sense to include rocks of all types , whether sedimentary, volcanic, intrusive, or metamorphic, which together or separately constitute a map-unit. As such it must be distinguished from the word "formation" as more properly employed to designate alithological map-unit of sedimentary or volcanic origin.
All rocks, whether map able or not, should be included in the table of formation, and arranged in their assumed stratigraphic positions. The nature of the contacts between successive rock units as unconformity, disconformity's, intrusive contact, gradational contact, relations unknown etc.
For columns are commonly employed : one for area, one for period or epoch, one for the name of the information, and one for lithology. Where thickness are known or have been estimated, these can be shown in the column containing the formation names.
(c) Formations are described in order from oldest to youngest, and generally in the order appearing on the map-legend and table of formation. Sometimes, however, the sedimentary and volcanic rocks are described first, and the intrusive rocks are taken on succeeding pages. This is common practice where the positions of the intrusions cannot be allocated with confidence in the geological succession, and the same separate arrangement is used on a map legend.
In describing the rocks of the successive units, it is considered good practice to follow the same plan with each. The plan may be outlined as follows:
(i) origin of name of formation, and location of type section, if introduced for the first time.
(ii) Distribution of formation, thickness, etc.
(iii) Lithology, including, first, megascopic description, and second, petrographic account.
(iv) Structural relations, normally in two parts:
(a) internal structural relations, having to do with folding and faulting within the formation, and details of any measured sections; and
(b) external structural relations, dealing mainly with contact relations with other formations.
(v) Metamorphism, if of consequence.
(vi) Mode of origin.
Bed by bed descriptions of sections form an important and necessary part of certain reports. Such described sections should be accurately and carefully prepared. Each unit or bed should be described in a logical manner as follows:
major rocks type, colour, grain size; bedding, other structures; minor constituents; mineralogical, textural and other comments; weathering; relative abundance of fossils.
III-METHODS AND PROCEDURES
Here, obviously, you show the way you decide to attack the problem and the techniques used. Explain why these methods and techniques were chosen, tell how well they worked and give an estimate of their reliability. If you introduced new or modified procedures, explain why and evaluate them. Your information should be precise enough so that a qualified investigator could test or duplicate what you did. In other wards, your results must be reproducible.
If your techniques are conventional, of a kind familiar to your readers, this section can be relatively brief. But complex or highly specialized techniques should be explained. Unusual or unique items of equipment may be shown in illustrations (diagrams, photographs,..). it is important to be precise in such matters as localities from which samples were obtained and the analytical methods used in working on them. If you have a large amount of supporting material, such as statistical data, model analyses, or measured sections, you might consider placing it in an appendix.
Although you have given a brief statement of results in the abstract, a full report in now in order. Show how your results follow logically from the information developed in the investigation. Point out any secondary or unexpected results that may have appeared. If your work failed to show something that you expected if to show, do not hesitate to say so.
This section of the report may be brief, but it must be clear, as it is the most important part. Do not get involved here with a discussion of significance, this will come in the next section.
Quit likely you will need to support your text with tables, graphs, maps, photographs, or other illustrations. Preparation of these materials is discussed on a later page. A word of caution illustrations should supplement, not duplicate, text material. Choose them with this in mind.
At this point it would be well to think again of your readers. They might reasonably be expected to ask, " All right-what does all this mean? " Does you work contribute to the solution of a problem, or solve one? How do the facts or relationships you have discovered relate to other already known? What, in short, do they contribute to our knowledge?.
It is easy to imagine a reader asking these questions, and it should not be too difficult to answer them. But strike to the subject. The heading " Discussion " is not an invitation to lengthy, vaguely thought out conjectures or hypotheses your job is simple: to present your conclusions in such a way that the reader will understand them and appreciate their significance.
A general rule is to keep your acknowledgments brief and in the simple declarative mode. It is not necessary to go on effusively about profound gratitude for important contributions.
Assistance rendered by persons not connected with the Geological Survey should be acknowledged with suitable expressions of restrained gratitude. As a convention, members of the Survey are not thanked but where appropriate their contribution should be recorded in such matters as photographs, laboratory or computer support.
It is unnecessary to mention general assistance by other members of the Survey, every investigation or report is assumed to have had the benefit of suggestions and discussion of the author's boss and colleagues as a part of their routine work, and such contributions need not be noted unless they have been of major proportions.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND REFERENCES
The bibliography or its equivalent is placed at the end of the report. It may carry the title "References", " Selected Bibliography " or " Bibliography" depending on its nature.
The term References is used when the author restricts his list to publications referred to in the text.
The term Selected Bibliography is used when author adds to his references the main additional publications relating to the area or problem.
The term Bibliography is used where the author has attempted to list all references bearing on the subject.
The accuracy of references is the responsibility of the author. He should exercise the greatest care with regard to the spelling and initials of the author's name, the title of the publication, the source of the publication, and the date of printing, as these are details that cannot ordinarily be checked by the report editors. The author should therefore remember that the reader is apt to regard an inaccurate or misquoted reference as symptomatic and dismiss an important and informative report as unreliab. It is wise to keep a card file, each card bearing a separate citation fully written out. A reference to a book or other separate publication should include the place and name of the publisher.
There is no universally accepted order of giving the items in a reference (one bibliographer, who surveyed 52 scientific journals, found that 33 different styles of references are used). Each journal has its own style, nevertheless, most geological journals list references alphabetically by author. This is an easy system for author and reader alike. Citation in the text then refer to a paper by author and year (sharaf, 1969), page number may be included in case of quotations (Sharaf, 1969, P 15). Another method of listing references is by numbering the references, either alphabetically or in the order that they appear in the paper this makes text citations shorter, (Sharaf, 1969) might simply be (29), but as commonly happens, a new reference turns up in the course of writing, it must be inserted in the series and all higher numbers must be changed. This is tedious procedure and greatly increases the opportunities for error.
Many papers are by more than one author. All the authors are usually named in the list of references. Take care to see that all the names are spelled correctly (Fortunately, multiple authorship in geology has not yet reached the level found in some other sciences. A recent paper in physics in cited an earlier one by 127 authors, and all 127 were listed.).
Citation in the text may mention both authors if there are only two (Sharaf and Sherief, 1996), or only the first author, followed by et al, (meaning and others) if there are three or more: (Sharaf et al, 1996), The manner of referring to unpublished material depends on the type of report the following classes are referred to in the text only.
- A paper not yet submitted for publication. Ahmad, in an unpublished manuscript, has shown that the best results are obtained when………
- A letter on other personal communication.
………… but Ahmad (in a letter) maintained that the base of the formation was the shale unit.
The following classes are normally referred to in the list of references:
- A typewritten paper deposited in a library or accessible file.
- A manuscript that has been accepted for publication but which has not yet appeared in print.
Formal reference citations must not be made to official files or other sources to which the reader would not normally have access.
Opinions authors should always be given in the past tense, their opinion as stated at the time of writing may not be the same today. For instance, say Sharaf (1996) believed (not believes) that these rocks are……
An appendix is the appropriate place for detailed information that does not readily form part of the narrative sections of the report. Lengthy stratigraphic sections, locality lists, analysis, tables, of numerical data, are examples of typical appendix material. Proper use by the author of appendices relieves the reader of much tedious detail that may only be needed for reference or as the basis for further research.