Geographers are interested in two basic questions:
where are why? For this paper you will use critical thinking and perform in-depth research to
analyze the physical geography of a specific location on Earth.
STEP 1 - Select a natural, physical area/feature on Earth to research. This may be a location
you have or haven’t visited before and/or something you are interested in learning more about.
These must be related to physical geography. The scale of the features is up to you. Examples
include: an entire country, a specific feature such as a mountain or mountain range, a plate
boundary, an aquifer, a valley, a volcano, a river, a lake, sand dunes, rocks, a forest etc. National
and state parks are excellent options since a lot of information will be available. Your instructor
and the textbook are excellent resources if you are struggling to pick features/locations.
Here are some examples of features/locations students have used in the past:
• Mountain or mountain range (such as the Sierra Nevada, Mt. Whitney, the Himalayas,
• Plate boundary (such as the San Andreas Fault, the Great East African Rift Valley, etc.)
• Aquifer (such as the Central Valley Aquifer in California)
• Volcano (such as Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Kilauea, Yellowstone, etc.)
• River (such as the Colorado River, Mississippi River, Russian River, etc.)
• Lake (such as Lake Tahoe, Lake Baikal, the Salton Sea, Lake Merritt, etc.)
• Rocks (a former student did a great project on Yosemite granite)
• Forest (someone last semester did a great project on the Petrified Forest in Sonoma
County, you could do a project on the Amazon Rainforest, Coastal Redwoods, etc.)
• Coral Reef (such as the Great Barrier Reef)
• Karst Topography (a former student did an excellent project on sinkholes in Mexico)
• Hurricane (a former student did a great project on Hurricane Katrina. Students have
also done really interesting projects on specific tornadoes and “tornado alley”)
Note: the list above is not a complete list, just some examples to help you get started. You can
research any feature/location, as long as it is related to physical geography. Be sure to avoid
cultural features, such as cities, museums, etc. Needless to say, it will be difficult to explain the
physical geography of cultural features.
STEP 2 - Research your physical areas/features. If you have any questions about how to conduct academic research, please feel free to contact me or the COA Library for help.
STEP 3 - Write an 8-10 page paper – typed, double-spaced, 12-point font, with heading.
This paper need to answer geography’s two basic questions:
1. Where?: Provide an introductory description of your feature. Be sure to provide its
location. You must include both the absolute (longitude and latitude) and relative
(bordering countries, landmarks, etc.) locations of you feature. (Should be about 2-3 pages)
2. Why?: This question is going to be the bulk of your paper. Based on what you have learned
in this course, explain why your feature is located where it is. In other words, what
processes or mechanisms have occurred to form this feature? Is this feature unique to this
one specific location? Why or why not? Supplementary questions can be addressed as well,
such as, how have human beings impacted or affected this physical feature? (Should be
anywhere from 6-7 pages)
3. Include at least one images and/or diagrams of the features/areas. This will aide in your
description of the feature as well as your discussion of why. You may include as many
images/diagrams as you wish. You must also include one map of the area/region. Note:
these are separate and do not count towards the 2-3 pages.
4. Lastly, you need to include a Works Cited page with all of your sources. You should have
at least four sources. The Works Cited is also separate and does not count towards the 8-
10 pages. Works Cited page should be in MLA format.
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