G411/G511 Sustainable Development Systems


Class Participation 10 Insightful questions, comments, contributions to class discussions
Reading summaries 20 Written digestions/critiques/commentaries of readings
Case Study Summaries 20 Small group presentations to class on selected topics
Case Study Critiques 15 1 page critiques of case studies (3)
Semester Project 35

In-depth description and analysis of a specific case study. Draft due November 23, Final version due December 12 @ 2:45pm.

Case Study Summaries

During the semester small groups will present a series of self-designed case studies to the class to enhance the set that are part of the formal readings on the syllabus. The objective of these case study summaries is to apply the concepts explored in class to a new context. The presentations will be roughly 20 minutes in length followed by a question and answer period.

The grading of these presentations will follow these criteria:

Completeness (35 points): Does the presentation adequately summarize the readings?

Organization (35 points): Is the presentation coherent and well organized?

Comments (30 points): Does the presentation address insights and apply concept from the readings to other examples?

The number of case study presentaitons you do will be a function of the enrollment in the class, but will probably be 2-3 during the semester. Groups will be 3-4 in size.

Case Study Critiques

A one-page (single spaced) critique of a group's case study summary. The critique should briefly summarize the topic in the first paragraph, and then discuss the positive and negative merits of the presentation.

Reading Summaries

You will turn in two summaries/digestions during the semester for a week/topic of your choice. In other words, you do not need to turn in a summary each week. It is your responsibility to ensure you have turned in at least two summaries by the end of the semester. Each should have a maximum length of five pages (not including bibliography if included). There are two main tasks with these assignments:

First you should pull out key points and concepts from the readings. Rather than summarizing each reading one-by-one, the best approach is to identify cross-cutting issues that multiple readings address and synthesize this into concrete points in your written document.

Second, you should be adding your own insights that relate to the points you raise from the readings. You may do this by drawing on additional literature you may have read (adding citations/references), or from personal experience. But the idea is to use the points from the readings as a launching point to explore how those concepts connect to issues with which you are familiar. For example, in a reading that discusses the vulnerability of systems to meterological events, you might mention natural hazard events like Hurricane Katrina, or a personal experience (flood, tornado, windstorm, icestorm...). The point is the use the readings as mechanism to help you think about a systems approach to sustainable development.

The grading of these assignments will follow these criteria:

Completeness (30 points): To what degree do you cover the main, salient topics from the readings. You don't have to mention every single reading, but you should go beyond writing about just one or two of the readings. Does the paper address insights and apply concept from the readings to other examples?

Organization (30 points): How well organized is your document. Do subsections of your document relate to each other and have a logical flow (good)? Or does the document read as a loose train-of-thought product (bad)? Do you have a introductory paragraph that briefly identifies what you present later in the document?

Coherence (30 points): How well supported are your arguments? Are the points that you raise from other sources (literature or personal experience) related to the main points covered by the readings? If you make potentially controversial statements you should include a citation (if its supported by peer reviewed literature) or clearly identify it as personal opinion. A statement like: "There is a broad consensus that global warming is the product of human events", or "The rate of deforestation is slowing down in Indonesia" are examples of sentences that need citations.

Grammer/Spelling/Style (10 points): includes spelling and grammer. Assignments need to be error free to get full credit. Style issues also fall in this category: using awkward or informal terms, multiple consecutive sentences with the same opening (e.g. "I think X. I think Y, I think Z").


Semester Project

The project is an opportunity for you to explore a dimension related to sustainability in more depth. Projects will be developed early in the semester. These projects will involve some data analysis and synthesis - the type of data analysis will depend on the topic to be examined (examples could be cost-benefit analysis, GIS analysis, remote sensing analysis, statistical analysis...). But basically the point is that these projects are more than just a literature review. The product of this project will consist of a summary report (length usually ~20 pages) but may also include supplemental materials. You will turn in a draft, receive feedback and then a final version.

If you prefer, you may develop an individual project that is the related to your thesis/dissertation.

You should schedule time to meet with me to discuss your project. I can give you advice on what is below or above the scope of the class, as well as give you suggestions on how to modify your toipc to make your project more feasible.

Here is a recommended rough outline for the summary report (feel free to discuss with me if you want to deviate from this structure):

Literature Review (may be within Introduction)
Study Area (optional)

These projects will typically have some data collection and data analysis component.