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GEOL 360: Fundamentals of the Lithosphere: A Survey of Geologic Literature

Spring 2021

A survey of geologic literature

Joining geology's scholarly conversation

A comic titled "Types of scientific paper" with scientific crossed out and "Geochronology" written above it.  The comic shows  drawings of 12 research papers, only the titles are legible.  The paper titles, listed left to right, top to bottom are: "We dated this iconic geologic event!" "We dated the same iconic geologic event, and got a slightly different answer. Here's why WE ARE RIGHT." "We dated the same event and did a MUCH BETTER job but got roughly the same answer as everyone else." "We found THE OLDEST ROCK!!!" "NO you didn't. We found one that is older and you dated yours the wrong way." "That rock is younger than you think it is." "We gave bits of this reference material to all of our friends. We all got the same answer." "We got a fancy new instrument. It took years for us to set it up because things kept leaking. But now we can do cool stuff." "We measured the age of this rock several different ways. The chronometers didn't agree." "We measured something but it didn't make sense so we had to collaborate with our petrology colleagues." "We tried to measure this isotopic system in a different material than usual. It was a lot more difficult than we expected." "We think everyone does a bad job reporting their data. Here are some RULES."This is a recent comic tweeted by Emily Mixon, a PhD student in geochronology.  She was inspired by an earlier xkcd comic on types of scientific papers.  While the titles presented in this comic are funny, they are based on the fact that geology research, like all scholarly research, is really a conversation.  Geologists join that conversation by publishing their ideas and responses to others' ideas.  The conversation is conducted over years, through research articles, as well as conference presentations, reports, books, and websites.  

No research is done completely on its own, it is all building upon or in response to previous research.  In order to be part of that conversation as a geologist, you need to understand this information landscape, including:

  • The processes involved in creating, reviewing, and publishing research
  • The types of publications and what their purposes are
  • How to find different types of sources on a topic
  • How to follow the threads of the conversations


Image Credits

Image from Twitter: @emilyemixon. "I took the bait...#xkcd #geochronology edition." 11:12 AM, May 2, 2021.  This  is a rework of the original xkcd comic: Munroe, Randall, "Types of a Scientific Paper.", April 28, 2021.

Guide Credits

This guide is adapted from the guide GEOL 355: Structural Geology and Tectonics by Valerie Lookingbill at the University of South Carolina Libraries.  Used with permission.

Associate Director | Research, Education & Engagement

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Karen Brunner
O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library |
Room 118