GEOL 1122 Extra Credit Exercise
Professor: L.B. Railsback


      Some* GEOL 1122 students in Railsback's lecture sections can boost their course grades by 3.00% by satisfactory completion of the following exercise prior to the last regularly scheduled meeting of this GEOL 1122 section (not the final exam)**. Satisfactory completion requires submission of a double-spaced typewritten essay at least 250 words in length and no more than 500 words in length, with the student's name visible on that essay, and meeting the requirements described below. The essay should be submitted as a .doc or .pdf file to

The essay should answer, and justify its answers to, the following questions about A Debate About the Shape of the Earth:

1. Which of the two debaters was more effective in presenting her side of the argument?

2. Which of the two debaters was correct?

3. Does this debate, and the strategies used by the debaters in it, have any parallels in the contemporary debate in America about the acceptability of evolution as an explanation of biological diversity?

      The answers given to these questions will not determine whether the assignment has been completed satisfactorily. Essays that do not answer any one of the three questions above, or that have more than four grammatical or spelling errors, or that are incomprehensible in whole or in part will be deemed unsatisfactory and will be be returned marked with a "U", and no credit will be given. Revised essays can be resubmitted, but all submissions and resubmissions must take place by the deadline given above. A wise student submits her or his essay long before the deadline.


Errors frequently encountered in and requiring revision of the submitted essays include . . .

>>> 1. Absence of a descriptive title. Any document needs a title that tells the reader what the document is about. Readers with little time on their hands (virtually all readers) are unlikely to decipher the topic of a document; instead, they move on to another document. This is why news articles have headlines.

>>> 2. Failure to provide any context in its first sentence or paragraph. An essay that begins "Debater 1 said" gives the reader no idea of the context.

>>> 3. Use of gender-specific pronouns that examination of the text of the debate shows are incorrect.

>>> 4. Failure to capitalize designations like "Debater 1". Such constructs refer to specific persons and therefore are proper nouns deserving of capitalization, just as "the President" is used when text refers to a specific president of a formal body.

>>> 5. Generation of a one-paragraph essay. From a conceptual standpoint, change of topic deserves a change of paragraphs, to signal that there is a shift of topics. From a practical standpoint, text running to more than one page is more than most readers can comfortably digest in one unit, and a break between paragraphs will help them.

>>> 6. Inconsistency of tenses, as in "One debater said . . . . the other debater says . . . ".

>>> 7. Submission of files electronically with filenames that do not include the student's name. "XC" for "extra credit", a real example of a past filename, is not a unique identifier and easily leads to mis-assignment of credit to another student. When dozens of people are submitting files to one person, filenames without the names of the submitters inevitably create confusion. Filenames with course numbers, years and semesters, and student names are much more effective.



* This exercise is open only to students who have at least one GEOL 1122 exam grade less than 90.1. It is not open to students who have grades of 90.1 or more on both exams. The latter students are referred to the other extra-credit opportunity. No student may use both opportunities.

** For CRN 35645, the last regularly scheduled meeting of this 9:30-10:45 Tu-Th class in Fall 2019 will be or was Tuesday, December 3, 2019, so the period "prior to the last regularly scheduled meeting" will end or ended at 9:29:59 am Tuesday, December 3, 2019.

** For CRN 13799, the last regularly scheduled meeting of this 11:00-12:15 Tu-Th class in Fall 2019 will be or was Tuesday, December 3, 2019, so the period "prior to the last regularly scheduled meeting" will end or ended at 10:59:59 am Tuesday, December 3, 2019.

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