Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Newton Horace Winchell School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Writing and Communication

The Department of Earth Sciences participates in the University of Minnesota's Writing Enriched Curriculum program.  This page provides access to resources around writing and communication that can help students develop their skills and put them into practice. View the Department's Writing Plan.

The Earth sciences are unique in that they require pracitioners to understand the historical background of a system in order to understand its current configuration and behavior and to predict its future behavior. The time dependence of many of the physical, chemical, and biological processes is such that even some modern processes can only be studied completely by including consideration of the geological record. Moreover, the configuration and behavior of the Earth and its biota as an integrated system of physical, chemical, and biological processes has evolved over 4.5 billion years, so even purely theoretical or experimental studies must often consider the temporal dimension. As writers, Earth scientists synthesize the geological history of a topic and place their own scientific examination within the context of this setting, whether the writing is in an academic mode or in the context of clients or stakeholders in the private or state sectors. In any particular instance of writing, Earth scientists commonly draw on concepts not only from many sub-disciplines of the field, but also from disparate other disciplines (e.g., physics, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, evolutionary biology, ecology, computer science). Consequently, writing in Earth sciences frequently is highly integrative. 

Types of Writing Used in the Geosciences

Scholarly journal articles (primary research papers and reviews) ● Research and other grant proposals ● Reviews of journal articles and grant proposals as a referee ● Technical reports following specifications of a company or state agency (e.g., Environmental Impact Statements) ● Abstracts and Executive Summaries ● PowerPoint presentations ● Posters ● Field notes that document original field observations and ideas ● Lab notes that document lab procedures and results and ideas ● Lab report ● Figures and figure captions ● Tables and table captions ● Emails to collaborators/supervisors ● C.V. and Resume ● Job application (academic and non-academic) ● Science blogs



Guidance and Advice

For Use in Teaching

Particularly strong examples of 
several types of writen
communication have been
assembled for use as exemplars.


University of Minnesota Resources

  • UMN Center for Writing - Free consultations are available for students to improve their writing skills and faculty improve the teaching of writing in their courses.  The Center for Writing also maintains a wealth of other resources such as guidance for Common Writing Projects.
  • UMN Library Assignment Calculator - This tool from the UMN Library breaks down research and writing projects into manageable steps based on due dates. Each step includes hints and "how-to" links.

Other Department WEC Programs