Major Paper

All MESM students are required to prepare a written Major Paper.  The following overview is designed to help you understand the scope, scale, content, and format of a Major Paper.

Scope and Scale

Major Papers are typically written in a single semester.  Students register for EVS 598 the semester they write the major paper.  Major Papers should be focused and have clear objectives.  All MESM students must know:

  • Who is the audience for the Major Paper?
  • What is the goal of the Major Paper?  What do you want the reader to learn from your work?

Some Major Papers are based on results that are obtained in advance of taking EVS 598. Other Major Papers are done wholly within the semester the student takes EVS 598.  Consult your mentor and CELS faculty advisor over the timing and duration of the Major Paper project.

Choosing a Topic
Your Major Paper should answer a question or provide information to an audience who will use the document for environmental management or decision making.  You should have a mentor who will guide you on developing the topic and the approach for the Major Paper.  The mentor can be a URI faculty or staff member, or someone outside the University.  If you are going to work with a mentor from outside URI, your Track Chair and/or the MESM coordinators should be involved as you develop your goals and approaches. If you have an outside mentor you also need a CELS faculty member to read and approve your Major Paper so a grade can be filed for EVS 598.  The following suggestions will help you identify a topic for a Major Paper.

  • Choose a topic that you are interested in and know something about (or want to learn about).
  • Affiliate with someone or an organization who has an interest in the topic.  They can provide valuable mentoring.
  • Be attentive to Major Paper discussions in EVS 502, where much of the semester is devoted to designing major papers.
  • If your mentor is not affiliated with URI, identify a CELS faculty member who will be your Major Paper reviewer.  This can be a Track Chair or any other member of the CELS faculty.
  • You need to enroll in EVS 598 with the section number that is linked to the CELS faculty member who will review and approve your Major Paper.
  • Have a clear vision for the goal of the paper.
  • Know your audience for your Major Paper.
  • With your mentor/URI faculty member, develop a presentation format for the Major Paper that is most useful for the intended audience.

Doing the Research
All Major Papers must demonstrate a high level of scholarship.  Plan on spending time reviewing the literature on the topic and include literature citations in the Major Paper.  This conveys credibility and shows that you have read and understand the most recent science on the topic.
Format of the Major Paper

The format and length of your MESM Major Paper should be appropriate for the intended audience and stated purpose of the document.  Most Major Papers range from 20-45 pages in length.   You can find examples of different examples of Major Paper formats and styles in the MESM website under the Resources link.  The structure and format for your Major Paper should be discussed with your Track Chair and Major Paper Advisor before you begin writing.  You will need to explore different Major Paper formats when you develop and present your Major Paper proposal during your first-year MESM seminar (EVS 502).

All MESM Major Papers share a number of common elements.

    • High Quality. The MESM Major Paper is a reflection of the quality of your educational experience.  All Major Papers will be reviewed and edited by an Advisor and/or Track Chair. This review process is often an iterative process that might include several rounds of changes, so plan accordingly.
    • Scholarly Rigor.  The Major Paper should be grounded in the seminal concepts and findings found in published literature from refereed sources.  Your Major Paper worksheet will require you to generate a 3-5 page literature review to address this requirement.  The Major Paper should include complete references in a standard format (Lit Cited or Footnotes) to the peer-reviewed literature.
    •  A Cover Page (click here for the template and a sample)
    • A one page Abstract
    • An Acknowledgments section

Timetable for Submitting Major Papers

  1. EVS 502.  As a culmination of exercises within EVS 502 you will generate and present a PowerPoint presentation to classmates and the MESM track chairs in the final month of class.  The PowerPoint document should be shared with your mentor and faculty advisors. It will be the key vehicle for feedback on the goals, scope, approach and structure of your Major Paper project.
  2. The Major Paper proposal (click here for instructions) should be completed before you sign up for EVS 598, or at the latest, two weeks into the semester.  You will complete this form with your EVS 598 CELS faculty advisor and your Major Paper mentor (if you have a mentor who is someone other than your CELS faculty advisor).  The worksheet will help you articulate your objective, become aware of key literature, highlight methods, and develop a timetable.   Please note that if your Major Paper project involves surveys on human subjects or animal experiments approval must be obtained from the URI Institutional Research Board (IRB) before any data are collected.
  3. All major papers are carefully reviewed by a peer reviewer and the designated reader (major paper mentor). It is imperative that Major Papers not be turned in at the very end of the semester. Please follow this time schedule during the semester the Major Paper is completed:
    • Six weeks before the end of the semester, student has a fellow MESM student provide a peer review of the Major Paper.
    • One month before the end of the semester: First complete draft of Major Paper submitted to faculty mentor. The mentor will strive to complete a written review in 7-10 days.
    • Student makes corrections based on first review.
    • Last week of the semester: Final complete version of Major Paper turned in to faculty mentor.
    • Final Exam Period: Major Paper is read by faculty mentor and a grade for EVS 598 is posted.
    • The Major Paper is officially done when the EVS 598 grade is recorded by the registrar.

Instructions for the Major Paper proposal are here.

Examples of Major Papers can be found here