Environmental Studies

Selecting a Topic

You are strongly encouraged to pick an ENERGY topic that is related to your major. For instance, if you are a policy major, your final paper might focus on some policy aspect of a course topic. If you are in business or economics, your paper might focus on the business or economic aspect of energy. If you are in marketing, your paper might focus on a marketing issue related to renewable energy. If you are in dentistry – well, dentists use energy also. There is no major or field of interest that does not have some tie to energy. If you have not yet chosen a major, no worries, think about what major or field you are most interested in and write about a related energy topic. That said, it is not required that you relate your paper to your major. If there is a topic that interests you, go ahead and research it and write about it!

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General Criteria

The following requirements apply to your final research paper:.

Energy: The topic MUST be related to energy!
Your major: We strongly suggest that your paper topic is related to your major or field of study, but this is optional.
Required structural elements: There are some required sections we are wanting to see with section headings–see these below.
Paper length: The paper must be a minimum of 2000 words to get full credit. We will count off points for papers with less than 2000 words (3 points off for each 100 words missing). Papers with less than 1200 words will not be accepted.
Formatting: Spacing should be 1.5 spaced, 12 pt font, and you should use headings and/or subheadings for your sections.
Sample papers: Sample papers are listed in Module 30.
Late Submissions: Submit your paper on time! You will lose 10% for each day your paper is late.

Objectives and Instructions for your Final Research Paper

The objective of this Final Research Paper is to have you present in-depth information on a topic related to energy. This paper is not a persuasive paper or first-person narrative of your actions or thoughts. Consider this a formal research paper that will help you develop an awareness of how your chosen career passion and interest relates to energy. Everything we do has a connection to energy, and we want you to explore this.

Your topic MUST focus on energy and should be related to your major. Here are some questions that may help you think about energy as it relates to your field of interest:

Where is the bulk of the energy being used in your field?
What are some technologies or practices being done to change or reduce energy use?
Are there some start-up businesses that are helping to change or reduce energy use?
What is driving the change? (Is it policies? Economics? Consumers?)
What are some of the road blocks or barriers to adapting changes to reduce energy use?
How can these barriers be overcome?
Strongly Discouraged topics: ATP, energy for the body, internal batteries recharged by the body, water use or water treatment, recycling, general sustainability,


Communication is most effective when you have a specific audience in mind. For this assignment your audience is either peers in your major or professionals in the field. You are writing to inform them of all the cool things going on that connect your major to energy!

Required Structural Elements and Organization

Use ALL of the following headers in your final paper:

Cover Page (10 pts)

Paper title, your name, your major, date
2-3 sentence overview or summary of your topic
Executive Summary (10 pts)

An Executive Summary is a roughly one-page document that presents the most important points associated with a topic, and is intended as a stand alone summary. It is usually written for a manager who is very busy and may only have time to read the Executive Summary (and not the full report) to get all the key points.

Your Executive Summary should be comprised of three parts representing each of the main sections of your report: introduction (including quantified energy context), discussion, and specific future actions. Take a look at this Sample and model your Executive Summary after it.

Introduction and Background (10 pts)

Provide a brief introduction to the issue and tell us why it is important to your field or chosen major. Provide background and quantified energy context for the reader to better understand the issue and its significance for how your topic fits into the larger energy picture. Provide historical information and national and/or global energy data where appropriate. Why is energy an issue for this sector or field? (This is a section where you will likely need citations.)

Discussion of the Issue (25 pts)

Go into more depth about the specifics of your topic. What technologies or practices are being implemented? Likely you will have some examples or case studies in this section about real events going on and the impact they are having. Include quantification as much as you can. Is the technology or practice resulting in major energy savings, cost savings, or reduction in carbon? What is driving the change? Who is involved? (This is a section where you will likely need citations.)

Future Actions Needed (15 pts)

Based on what you have studied and learned, students should provide some specific strategies that need to take place to move this topic forward by the year 2025. Support your ideas with information you have researched for this paper. In other words, your ideas should have some grounding in data and evidence that you found in your research.

Tell us the barriers that need to be overcome in order to advance the topic you have reported on.
Propose some specific strategies or actions that will help overcome the barriers you have mentioned above.
What would need to change to advance your topic for the future and make it more viable?
Bibliography (10 pts)

This final section of your paper should include the references used in your paper. You must also include in-text citations that refer to these references. You must use at least three sources (two of them primary)—see Sources section for more information.

Quality of Your Writing (20 pts)

We reserve 20 points to assess the quality of your writing. See Writing Resources section. Good writing quality includes:

Proper spelling, sentence structure and punctuation.
Use proper tense (third person, except for future predictions section).
Use of required section headings.
Paper flows well between sections and is easy to follow and read.
Layout makes sense and is professional and clear.
Please limit the use of direct quotes. We are looking for assimilation of information by you.
Proofread before you submit!

Paper Submission

Papers will be submitted directly to the Turnitin software on the Canvas course site. Turnitin is a third party system that checks for plagiarism. Students have the ability to resubmit the paper prior to the due date to make certain that all sources have proper citations. Make sure that you have not plagiarized! Papers that have more than 25-30% similarity, even though properly cited, may lose points as we are looking for original ideas. See the section below for more information on plagiarism and proper citations.


To help you identify what is and is not plagiarism, you can go through this tutorial from Indiana University: https://www.indiana.edu/~istd/ (Links to an external site.)

or see this website: http://writing.umn.edu/sws/quickhelp/sources.html Links to an external site.

This additional resource provides background on the rationale for the US culture of citation/academic property used in academic institutions: http://wpacouncil.org/positions/WPAplagiarism.pdf (Links to an external site.)


Paraphrasing properly can be a real challenge. If done incorrectly, it can be viewed as plagiarism.

If you need help determining when to quote and when to paraphrase, see this resource from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. YOU are responsible to make sure you paraphrase and cite properly! For helpful information see: http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/QuotingSources.html (Links to an external site.). (Links to an external site.)

For examples of high-quality papers, see the final paper block 31. For more information on writing techniques and citations, see page 9-10 of the syllabus.

Links to an external site.


Tips for Writing a Good Executive Summary

It is important for you to be able to write a good Executive Summary – at some point in your school and/or work life you will need to write one. An Executive Summary is a short document that presents the most important points associated with a topic. It is usually written for a manager is very busy and may only have time to read the Executive Summary (and not the full report) to get all the key points. Therefore, the Executive Summary should be comprised of important excerpts from all sections of your report: introduction, discussion, and future actions. Take a look at this Sample and model your Executive Summary after it.


Writing Resources

A number of resources are available at the University of Minnesota to help you improve your writing.

Center for Writing: Use the Center for WritingLinks to an external site. for help if you need help proofreading/editing.

Winter and Spring semesters: The University of Minnesota Center for Writing provides information to all students about a wide range of writing assistance resources—including the online UMN Center for Writing where you can send your writing in for tutor review and feedback (allow 1-2 weeks for this). Refer to: http://www.writing.umn.eduLinks to an external site..

Summer semester: Student English Language Support (SELS) provides free, one-on-one consultations to international undergraduates to help them maximize their success at the University of Minnesota. Students can make an appointment via our website to work with an experienced consultant on any English language need, including but not limited to:

Grammar in speaking and writing
Lecture listening strategies
Presentation skills
Strategies for communicating with professors, T.A.’s, and classmates
…Any other English language need!
Year Round: If you live in or near the Twin Cities, consider using the services of the student writing support officesLinks to an external site., which offer free 45 minute tutoring sessions, available by appointment or on a walk-in basis. Call 612-625-1893 or check the student writing support page from this websiteLinks to an external site. for a list of these offices and their current hours of operation. If you live outside the Twin Cities metro area and need writing assistance, you may also contact the UMN Center for Writing or check with local schools, libraries, or other community resources to find out if similar tutorial help is available to you.

Student English Language Support: To learn more, please visit our websiteLinks to an external site.. Please contact us with any inquiries at eslhelp@umn.edu.

University of Minnesota Librarians: Ask a UMN librarian a question about citations or anything else: https://www.lib.umn.edu/#askalibrarianLinks to an external site..Links to an external site.


Documenting and Referencing Your Sources

Use a minimum of three (at least two from primary sources) sources for your paper (English only please!). You can use more, of course. Be sure to include in-text citations for your references. You are encouraged to use peer reviewed journal articles, books, and government sources for the main or primary sources for your paper. Popular press articles such as magazines and newspapers are not considered primary sources. You can use information from “advocacy groups” or non-profit sources, but only to describe their position on the issue. Don’t use these sources to provide key facts about your issue. (We reserve the right to deduct points if non-reliable sources are used incorrectly.)

You can use web-based sources, as long as they are from a reputable source, such as a government entity. Make certain that you use a document or report, and not just a general page from their website. Remember to cite properly, don’t just provide a web URL.

Paper Formatting

Basically, the paper should be 12 point font, 1.5 or double spaced, minimum of 2000 words, and include section headings.

Citation Style

You can use MLA, APA, Chicago or other citation styles that you choose. No matter which you choose, make sure to stay consistent and follow the guidelines for that style. If you simply provide us with web links to your source you will lose most of your 10 points.

Use this linkLinks to an external site. to read about guidelines for the different styles. https://www.lib.umn.edu/howto/citationguidesLinks to an external site.

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