Research Paper Assignment
The objectives of this assignment are: 1) To investigate and analyze the causes and consequences of a
specific case of environmental displacement and 2) To develop essential skills for researching and
writing excellent college research papers. For our purposes, environmental displacement and migration
may apply to any group of people who have left their homes due to sudden or progressive changes
in the physical/natural environment that sustained their livelihoods or ensured their security. Your
analysis will address the geographical, ecological, historical, social, economic, and political factors
that precipitated the decision to migrate and the circumstances facing the population after leaving
their homes. Final paper should be 5 to 6 pages long, excluding works cited, and in 1.5 spacing.
Good topic selection is crucial. First, sign up for one of four geographic regions for your topic
(North America, Latin America & Caribbean, Africa, Asia). Then begin looking for a topic that
interests you within that region. Topics must be about a relatively recent situation in which a
substantial number of people have left their homes permanently or for an extended period of time
due to an environmental cause. Environmental causes may include natural disasters related to
climate change, sea level rise, land degradation, unprecedented conflicts over resources (land,
water), or a conservation displacement.
Topic proposal due Monday April 25th
Annotated list of sources due Friday May 13th
First draft & conference* by Friday May 20th (*schedule conferences through Course Calendar)
Final paper due Wednesday June 1st
Introduction and research question: Begin with a short description of an incident or news story
about the case you are investigating (i.e. what drew your attention to the topic). This is the “hook”
that sets up your paper and grabs the interest of readers. Then briefly introduce the problem your
paper will address, the question(s) it will try to answer, and how you will go about answering it. A
research question is an interesting and thought-provoking “why” question, the answer to which is
not immediately obvious.
Details of the case study: Who are the people are in your case study? What location, lifestyle, and
physical environment did they leave? What were the precipitating event(s) and other circumstances
that led to their decision to leave? What is their current location and status?
Deeper analysis of causes: Factors will depend on the specifics of each case study. Consider the role
of geographic location, long-term climate fluctuations in the region, historical changes that may
have affected local livelihoods, processes of social or political marginalization, conflicts related to
resource access, and external economic forces (such as land-gabbing, foreign companies,
conservation projects). There may be others.
Considering the future: Your assessment of the future prospects for the people in your case study
and what would be necessary in order for them to be able to return to their original homes.
Maps and illustrations: Include at least one map and one photo or other illustration.
Works Cited: A proper and (nearly) perfect APA style works cited list corresponding to your in-text

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