Geography 596A: Individual Studies - Peer Review (Fall 2018)

This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to “jump” to a specific section. That being said, it is essential that you read the entire document. Together these serve the role of our course "contract."

Dr. Justine Blanford (
2217 Earth-Engineering Sciences Building
University Park, PA 16802

E-MAIL: Please use your PSU e-mail address in all correspondence about this course.

AVAILABILITY: Students are welcome to contact me by email anytime; I usually am able to respond within 24 hours. Although e-mail correspondence is preferred, students may also contact me by telephone.

Hello! I'm Justine Blanford, instructor-of-record for GEOG 596. I have hopefully met you already through my role as Advising Coordinator for the MGIS program or through the courses that I teach. This is an individual studies class and, as such, has very little in the way of formal on-line instruction as most of you are used to with World Campus Courses. My role as the "instructor-of-record" with this course is to make sure that you're connected with a faculty member as you're doing your independent study and to set up the end of term seminar where you, in the case of peer-review, present your work to the others in the class.

Most students will utilize their independent study credits in this course to work on their proposal for their capstone project.

Information for Students Who Are Working on Their Project Proposal

Since the project proposal forms the basis for your capstone project, each of you will be working with your program advisor on your proposal. Therefore, proposal formats will likely vary, as each advisor may have different requirements for the length and format of the project proposal.

A typical proposal format would include the following sections:

  1. Background
  2. Goals and Objectives
  3. Proposed Methodology
  4. Project Timeline
  5. Anticipated Results

While your work schedule for the course will vary depending on what is agreed upon between you and your program advisor, here is a typical course schedule:

  • Part 1 (Weeks 1-3)
    A. Refine the problem - Narrative discussion of research to be conducted and why it's important
    B. Conduct literature review
    Deliverable to advisor: 2-3 page narrative identifying significant literature, including identification of major issues discussed, approach used, lessons learned, history of issues, and future of the issues, include formal reference citations
  • Part 2 (Weeks 4-6)
    A. Identify research approach
    B. Identify research steps/methods
    C. Identify anticipated research results
  • Part 3 (Weeks 7-9)
    A. Develop rough draft of consolidated narrative
    B. Develop PowerPoint presentation
    C. Instructor review and comment on narrative and presentation
  • Part 4 (Week 10)
    A. Present via Adobe Connect
    B. Collect peer review comments
    C. Revise narrative and presentation based on peer review

Check with your advisor to see what requirements s/he has for your project proposal and evaluation and grading.

NOTE: Canvas is NOT used for GEOG 596A or 596B.

Information for Students Taking GEOG 596 to Meet the Peer Review Requirement

You will use GEOG 596 credits to meet your peer reviewed requirements and you will use this opportunity to present preliminary work or a project proposal for your capstone project. We'll plan to have a term-ending virtual seminar where you present your preliminary work or capstone project proposal to the rest of the group. That will usually take place the week AFTER the course officially ends, in order to give you 10 full weeks to work on your proposal.

What will this all look like? By the end of the term, you'll have completed a PowerPoint presentation that summarizes your work and that can be delivered in 25 minutes. 5 minutes at the end of the presentation is reserved for questions. You will present your work in a live Web conference, using Adobe Connect (a collaboration tool that includes video conferencing, application sharing, live polling, chat, whiteboards, and presentations). Depending on the number of students registered for the course, we'll likely need to schedule more than one date/time to give these "live." While I hope that you will be able to (virtually) attend all of the presentations given in this course, presentations will be recorded and made available on-line for later viewing, as well. That way everyone will have an opportunity to provide feedback, either live or via the Web, on the presentations. Everyone in the class is required to provide feedback to each of their peers in the class.

I want to maintain as informal a process as I can in this course--really modeled after our independent studies in-residence.

Technical Requirements

Equipment requirements: High-speed internet access, webcam optional (See

Not sure if your computer is set up correctly? You can use the links below to test your settings:

  1. Adobe Acrobat
  2. Frames
  3. Java [This may take a minute to load.]
  4. JavaScript

If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the World Campus Help Desk.

Deferred Grades: If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by email or US post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If for any reason the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.

Academic Integrity: It almost goes without saying that "successful completion" of this course involves doing one's own work. Unfortunately, there have been rare instances in which individuals have attempted to pass off other students' assignments as their own. To minimize such incidents, I make it a habit of stating the academic integrity policy up front.

Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly project in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting other's work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other student's papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure.

You will find Penn State's academic integrity policy here.

Accommodating Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 814-863-1807 (V/TTY). For further information regarding ODS, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site at

Disclaimer: Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes.