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Describing and Suggesting Solutions

Organizational Format
Use the organizational format described below. The first four sections described below cannot be any
longer than 4 pages. Use 1-inch margins, 12-point font and 1.5 line spacing throughout your paper.
Be concise. Include your name in the page header and in the filename. Number your pages in the
footer of each page.
Label the first section of your paper, “General Description”. Its contents should be: What issue are
you examining? Define the issue clearly, including the scope of the issue as you intend to examine it.
Why is the issue important? Include as much contextual information about your issue as you can, but do so concisely.
Label the second section of your paper, “In-Depth Description”. For this part of your paper, assume
the reader has enough knowledge of environmental science to understand any technical aspects of
your issue. Fully describe the state of your issue. What is known about the issue? What questions are
still unanswered? What progress has been made in solving problems related to the issue? What
challenges exist in solving remaining problems?
Label the third section of your paper, “Possible Solutions”. Develop and describe two solutions to
one or more components of your issue that incorporate the best available scientific and technical
information. You should focus on elements of the “Tools for Change” exercise we did in class. You
must identify the specific problem(s) you are addressing, the approach you are proposing to solve the
problem(s), and the expected outcomes. It is important that your solutions are realistic. Do not
propose solutions that rely upon very unlikely events, highly speculative technological developments,
or unreasonable/one-sided agreements between interested groups. Please don’t suggest that simply
more awareness of your issue will solve its problems. Do describe aspects of the overall issue not
addressed by your solutions and/or ways in which your solutions might prove complex or
problematic. Speculate on how progress might be made to address unresolved challenges. Note: We
understand that this is an introductory course and that you may not know all of the details of your
issue. That’s ok. Your solution won’t be graded so much on whether it will succeed – just that it’s a
well-thought-out approach to solving the issue.
Label the fourth section of your paper “Synthesis”. Synthesize the information you have provided. A
synthesis is an analysis of information that answers the question, “What does this mean?” Avoid
repeating themes and information from the first two paragraphs in favor of critical examination of
them. For example, I might present a lot of information about climate change and its possible
solutions, but my synthesis is an opportunity to put that information in a wider context and/or to
highlight why readers should care about the issue. This is also an appropriate place to identify
research questions you would like to see explored on this topic in the future. There is no “right”
answer in this section, so long as you are engaging thoughtfully with your topic. (Tip: Don’t add a lot
of new information here. Instead, this is an opportunity to integrate the different perspectives on your
topic discussed above and to present a more complete understanding of the issue and possible
You must cite all non-original information. Nonoriginal information means anything non-obvious
that you learned from another source. So you would not need to provide a citation for a statement
like, “the sky is blue,” but you would need to cite any nonoriginal opinions, data, or other
information about your topic. Citations are not subject to the 4 page limit. Use the style guide
developed by the American Chemical Society (ACS Style Guide available at: for all citations.

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