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Volume 25 Issue 10 (October 2015)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 42–43 | Full Text | PDF (105KB)

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Introductory geology: Is there a common language?

Karen M. Kortz1*, Amber R. Caulkins2

1 Community College of Rhode Island, Physics Dept., 1762 Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, Rhode Island 02865, USA
2 University of Rhode Island, Dept. of Communication Studies, 101 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, Rhode Island 02881, USA


Geologic terms provide a common language for communicating geoscience concepts. Because introductory geoscience students can learn only a limited number of these terms, questions arise about which terms are essential to learn and if there is agreement between geoscientists on these terms.

Students are frequently exposed to terms through their textbooks, and previous studies have examined vocabulary in texts, although not college-level geology textbooks. In a high school earth science textbook, Groves (1995) found a rate of 4.45 scientific terms per page. Zechmeister and Zechmeister (2000) compared ten college-level introductory psychology textbooks and counted 2,505 unique terms in the glossaries, with <3% of terms common to all ten glossaries.

Manuscript received 25 Nov. 2014; accepted 17 Mar. 2015

doi: 10.1130/GSATG236GW.1