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Seismological Research Papers

Jim Hoffman

Franklin Central High School





Given an eighteen-week semester, the student will conduct a seismological research project and successfully present the results in the form of a written scientific paper and/or participation in the local science fair.


Given an entire school year, the teachers involved in the PEPP program will convince their students to write scientific research papers that will be submitted for publication in the ìPEPP Journalî.


Given a willing group of science teachers and an entire school year to prepare, Michael Hamburger, Gary Pavlis, et al. will referee student research and return the edited papers to the students to be resubmitted within two weeks for final publication in the ìPEPP Journalî.



The following standards will be met in any science class that gives the students the appropriate background information and allows the opportunity for original seismological research.  Standards from other disciplines will also be met through the use of technology and the writing of a formal scientific paper.


Standard 1

Principles of Earth and Space Science

Students investigate, through laboratory and fieldwork, the universe, the Earth, and the processes that shape the Earth. They understand that the Earth operates as a collection of interconnected systems that may be changing or may be in equilibrium. Students connect the concepts of energy, matter, conservation, and gravitation to the Earth, solar system, and universe. Students utilize knowledge of the materials and processes of the Earth, planets, and stars in the context of the scales of time and size.


ES.1.10 Recognize and describe that the earth sciences address planet-wide interacting systems, including the oceans, the air, the solid Earth, and life on Earth, as well as interactions with the

Solar System.


ES.1.22 Compare the properties of rocks and minerals and their uses.


ES.1.23 Explain motions, transformations, and locations of materials in the Earthís lithosphere and interior. For example, describe the movement of the plates that make up the crust of the earth and the resulting formation of earthquakes, volcanoes, trenches, and mountains.


ES.1.24 Understand and discuss continental drift, sea-floor spreading, and plate tectonics.

Include evidence that supports the movement of the plates such as magnetic stripes on the ocean floor, fossil evidence on separate continents, and the continuity of geological features.


Standard 2

Historical Perspectives of Earth and Space Science

Students gain understanding of how the scientific enterprise operates through examples of historical events. Through the study of these events, they understand that new ideas are limited by the context in which they are conceived, that the ideas are often rejected by the scientific establishment, that the ideas sometimes spring from unexpected findings, and that the ideas grow or transform slowly through the contributions of many different investigators.



ES.2.6 Describe that early in the 20th century the German scientist, Alfred Wegener, reintroduced the idea of moving continents, adding such evidence as the underwater shapes of the continents, the similarity of life forms and land forms in corresponding parts of Africa and South America, and the increasing separation of Greenland and Europe. Also know that very few contemporary scientists adopted his theory because Wegener was unable to propose a plausible mechanism for motion.


ES.2.7 Explain that the theory of plate tectonics was finally accepted by the scientific community in the 1960's, when further evidence had accumulated in support of it. Understand that the theory was seen to provide an explanation for a diverse array of seemingly unrelated phenomena, and there was a scientifically sound physical explanation of how such movement could occur.




By gaining background information through lessons and class activities, the students will be given the opportunity to choose an area of research.  The students will be required to use data from the PEPP stations or other sources of seismological data such as the IRIS Data Management Center.  Geology and Independent Study students will be participating in the PEPP research program during the first year of implementation.  Subsequently, this opportunity may be expanded and offered to students enrolled in Earth/Space Science. 


Geology students will be required to complete their research in a semester, and first-semester students will participate in the local science fair.  Independent research students will conduct their research throughout the school year, but must have enough completed by the end of first semester to participate in the local science fair.  Some geology students may choose to conduct their research in the field of hydrology due to previous ìworkshop experienceî of their teacher.


All students will be required to submit a scientific paper of their results that will be refereed and resubmitted for publication in the ìPEPP Journalî. 




The following are examples of projects that students may choose to pursue.







Final Thoughts:


It is my desire, and that of many other science teachers, that the students will excited by the prospect of conducting scientific research and that they will choose research topics that are of interest to them.  Allowing students to choose their own projects gives them ownership in their work and should ensure the highest quality work.


Finally, I challenge all PEPP teachers to require their students to submit their research results/papers to the PEPP coordinators who will referee each paper.  The students will then be given an opportunity to rewrite their papers taking the suggestions into account and resubmit the papers for publication in the ìPEPP Journalî.  Each student who is published in journal, along with the studentís teacher, will receive a copy of the journal and be invited to a reception where the top five (5) submissions will be honored and awarded appropriate prizes.  The journal will be saved into Acrobat Reader format and posted on the IU PEPP website.


A sample of a student scientific journal (RBSE JournalóResearch Based Science Education) is found below.  Teachers are encouraged to show students examples of scientific papers and follow the appropriate format for writing and citing a scientific journal.



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