Geology 7200 - Spring 2022
Scientific Communication and Visualization
  Tuesdays 10:30 am - 1:20 pm
347 Howe-Russell Bldg

Instructor: Prof. Barb Dutrow
    Rm 203 Howe-Russell Building (Old Geology)
    Office hours: 3:00 - 4:00 W; or by appointment made at least 1 working day in advance
    Class Home Page:
    E-mail: dutrow

Required Text:
Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative (Edward R. Tufte, 1997)
    (these are available on Amazon or through the Tufte website - - electronic and paperback versions available)
    The Elements of Style (Strunk and White)    

Highly Recommended Texts:
    The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, 2nd Ed. (Tufte, 2001)
    Beautiful Evidence (Tufte)
   Reading assignments should be completed prior to class. They are taken from recommended texts (Tufte, 1997),

   peer-reviewed scientific literature, class handouts, and other books.   

Goals: "Soft skills" are necessary in today's workplace. Clear and accurate communication can advance an idea, inform about progress, convince a potential funder and justify an outcome. Communication involves not only written and orall\ presentations but developing the visual displays of information to accompany the words.

Students will: (1) acquire tools to analyze and present quantitative data using correct cognitive techniques and styles; (2) learn to effectively communicate scientific topics in visual, written and oral form including formulation of effective oral and poster presentations; and (3) prepare a written, journal-appropriate research paper and a grant proposal incorporating these techniques.

Course Expectations:

Lecture Schedule
(Tentative - depending on storms and class progress)

It is expected that the students have read the assignments prior to class for the background necessary to properly learn the content, apply the concepts addressed and ask questions for clarity.
Policy states that
for each hour you are in class, you should plan to spend at least two-three hours outside of class (preparing for the next class and completing homework).
 (lecture and activity)
Reading - to be completed prior to class (reading will be sent or available in your book)
Assignments - due dates shown

 Introduction to Class - Syllabus, Requirements

Part I: Visualization of Scientific Data, Visuals

Spatial and penetrative thinking; Vision and Cognition; Why do we visualize?

Chapter 1: Visual and Statistical Thinking; Images, quantities, space

Homework 1:  Due 25 January
    1. Graphics in geologic literature. 
         Summarize quantity, type, style per journal
     2. E-mail research (thesis, dissertation) topic to Dr. Dutrow by 30 Jan. (or make an appointment for discussion of topic).

Tufte (1997) Chapter 1
 26 Quantitative Communication
    Types of visuals used  -
Understanding geologic phenomena  from quantitative graphics, visualization -

Chapter 2: Solving problems with visual display of data - discussion of cholera, space shuttle Challenger (good and bad)

     Discussion: Visuals assessment (Presentation of Hmwk 1)
     Optional:  History of Graphics; Escaping flatland

Read and be prepared for discussion:

Tufte (1997), Chpt. 1 and 2


Fridays (3:30)
Attend lectures throughout the semester - tips for good lectures and for enhancing communication
 specific of critique - handout on Moodle

Graphics as an observational tool (cf. analysis and presentation)

Analysis Graphics
Graphics Tools: data maps, images, diagrams, graphs, f(x,t), f(x,y,z,t) vector fields,  animation + df/dt, tensor fields, multivariate;  2D vs. 3D

Graphics Grammar; nouns/verbs e.g. physical boundaries vs. process

Presentation Graphics - developing effective visuals
Prior knowledge
       Apprehension Principle
    Design Strategies
        congruence principle, smallest effective difference (color)

        design density (maps), chartjunk,
     Design types - specific
         time-space narratives,
         small multiples

      Deriving Meaning
        Color:  use and misuse  (Powerpoint)
            printers vs. computer screens

     Image processing & mischief (graphical integrity)


Read for discussion: Tufte (1997) Chpt 4, 6,

Do you see what I see?  Dutrow, 2007, Elements
EOS 73: Mar. 2, 1992 (Flat Venus society)

Examples of analysis and presentation graphics

Begin development of place map for your thesis research topic. If no place map, develop introductory figure.
No class: Homework: Due 16 Feb.

    Problem Set 1: Analyzing large data sets: example using heat transport near intrusive
(handed out in class, data uploaded to moodle)

Problem Set 2: Presentation graphics for heat transport analyses

 Development of Introductory figure

Problem solving by data analyses; analyze data (analyses graphics), develop presentation graphic

Homework: Due 16 Feb.
Problem sets 1 and 2, intro figure


Discussion of Problem Sets 1 and 2: analysis and presentations graphics homework

Initial review of place/introductory figure

Software: Introduction to xmgrace

Be prepared for presentation of materials to class

Homework: Due 23 February
  Refine place map of research area using principles
learned to date


Presentation of refined introductory graphics/map  for research with class input

Discussion of Problem Set 3: Analyze data sets from thesis research

Data Resolution
     raster graphics (e.g. remote sensed data, hi resolution computing) 
     vector graphics

Visualization and animations in geoscience Do they communicate?

Read and discuss: Tufte (1997) Chpt 5

Bring data set of research materials to class, portable computer, if available. Bring your favorite graphics program

    Problem Set 3: Analyze data sets from thesis research

 No Class - Happy Mardi Gras holiday!
 Quiz - Part I: Visual communication (1 hr)

Part II: Scientific Communication - Technical Writing

    Target audience - Discussion of papers
Journal Styles, Impact Factors,

    Discipline Specific Technical Writing vs.  Thesis Writing (compare)

Writing Constraints:

Titles, Introduction, Methods
Brainstorm points - Outline of Research Paper (in class)

Hand in final presentation graphics for research figure

Homework: Due 23 March
    Find style guide for publication of choice
- print overview
Preliminary Title, Introduction, Methods

For 23 March: Read papers on carbon sequestration - designed for different target audiences.
Scientific American, Physics Today, Geology, Science; answer questions.

 No Class - Spring Break


Discussion target audience papers

Writing, Proofing, Reviewing, Revising:


   Results, Discussion and Interpretations (fact vs. fiction)

   Conclusions; References  

   Putting it all together:   Abstracts

        in class exercise on abstracts

Manuscript for scientific journal, rewrite, revise

Preparing for paper for publication; External Reviews

    External Review of  Manuscripts

Homework: Due 30 March

Writing results/interpretation for thesis/research topic, abstract

continue analyzing data, developing results; 
Part III:  Oral Scientific Communication

Professional meetings, invited lectures, thesis defense
    Dealing with Anxiety
    Target Audience - Analyzing Audience,

Planning Presentation - Stage 1   

     Planning Presentation - Stage 2
        Brainstorming presentation - main points
           for oral presentation on research topic

Visual Aids for Oral Presentations:
     Graphics, Words, Content
         slide prep.
     Review of visuals/ graphic analyses  material

Preparing oral presentation tips
VI - Magic

Read: Congitive Style of Powerpoint (Tufte)

Read: handouts, Chpt 5 - Magic *Tufte 1997)
Read Chpt. 7 AGI

Homework: Due 6 April

Preliminary Oral Presentation on Research Topic

mework: Due 13 April
Review words, figures, graphics, etc for class
Revised research paper


Rock Star Poster


 (EGU week)

Develop oral presentation using techniques learned - work on in oral presentation in class

Discussion: Cognitive Style of Powerpoint

Any questions on research paper - preparing for publication

continue analyzing data, developing results; 

Chpt. 15-17  AGI; Preparing paper for publication:

Read: Congitive Style of Powerpoint (Tufte)

Homework: Due 13 April
Revised research paper, abstract
   oral presentation

Student Practice - practice Oral Presentations  (2 hrs)
(AGU Style practice  judging by students)
Homework: Due 20 April

refine graphics, edit papers;
Edit oral presentation, finish final paper

Practice your oral presentation; use of pointer, precision in wording, etc.

Developing posters: Oral and Written Communication

Preparing, presenting Posters  - in class brainstorming
 (Powerpoint, Illustrator)

Review of  Posters in department - field trip

Developing story board for posters: Poster Draft in class due at end of class

Poster edit - in class - bring portable if you can

Working time, presentations, posters, papers

Discussion - posters, oral presentations, papers; revisions

 Begin poster -

Edit oral presentation according to feedback and review:
Edit paper according to feedback

Make appt with Dr. Dutrow to review oral presentation prior to Final Oral pres.

Homework: Due at the end of class
Preliminary  poster due - print out on 8x11.5" paper
give to Prof. Dutrow


Final ORAL Component: Oral presentations of selected research topics

15 min / presentation

Must meet with Dr. Dutrow to review your oral presentation prior to final presentation.

Oral Evaluations by All Refer to Oral Rubric


4 (final class)
 POSTER Presentations - 1+ hrs

 7 - 10 min oral presentation with poster; encompasses all course components: written, speaking, visual communication
Poster Evaluation by All
Refer to Poster Rubric
9 (Monday)
Final paper due
Refer to Writing Rubric; print out to hand in (mbox or my office)
WRITTEN Component:
FINAL Paper Due- for research topic
; journal article formatting.
14 (Sat)
Final Exam
7:30 am - 9:30 am


last updated: January 18, 2022

Evaluation:  Based on presentations, research paper, mid-term exam,  assignments and quizzes, and class participation.
                    1. Exam 1 - 20%
                    2. Homework, quizzes, participation - 20%
                    3. Oral Presentation Final - 20 %
                    4. Poster Presentation Final - 15 %
                    5. Written Paper Final - 25%

Class Policies:
            Attendance: Mandatory.
If you are going to be absent, you must notify the professor ahead of time for an excused absence.
            Cell Phones: No cell phone use is permitted during class. If you use your cell phone, you will be asked to leave class.
                 Class is a concentrated study time, if you are on your phone, you are distracted.

 Code of Student Conduct: Louisiana State University is an interactive community in which students, faculty, and staff together strive to pursue truth, advance learning, and uphold the highest standards of performance in an academic and social environment. It is a community that fosters individual development and the creation of bonds that transcend the time spent within its gates.  To demonstrate my pride in LSU, as a member of its community, I will:

  1. accept responsibility for my actions;
  2. hold myself and others to the highest standards of academic, personal, and social integrity;
  3. practice justice, equality, and compassion in human relations;
  4. respect the dignity of all persons and accept individual differences;
  5. respect the environment and the rights and property of others and the University;
  6. contribute positively to the life of the campus and surrounding community;
  7.  and use my LSU experience to be an active citizen in an international and interdependent world.

The continued success of LSU depends on the faithful commitment by each community member to these, our basic principles.


There are two areas that we will be particularly alert for in this class:


(1) Plagiarism is an extremely serious violation of academic integrity. The Code of Student Conduct defines plagiarism as “the unacknowledged inclusion, in work submitted for credit, of someone else’s words, ideas, or data.” (8.1-C.6)  


Plagiarism can occur in a myriad of forms and media. Please refer to websites for additional details. We will also discuss in class.


Although most commonly associated with writing, all types of scholarly work, including computer code, music, scientific data and analysis, and electronic publications can be plagiarized. The aim of this section is to help students and faculty deal with the complex and important issue of plagiarism on campus.


(2) Copying - Copying from another student's test paper or assignment.



Students with disabilities: Louisiana State University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for all persons with disabilities. The syllabus is available in alternate formats upon request. If you are seeking classroom accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are required to register with the Disability Services (DS). DS is located in 115 Johnston Hall. Phone is 225/ 578-5919. To receive academic accommodations for this class, please obtain the proper DS forms and meet with me at the beginning of the semester.


Alcohol Policy (PS-67 Illegal Use of Drugs and Alcohol Misuse): Louisiana State University is committed to maintaining an environment which supports the research, teaching, and service mission of the University. Although the University respects an employee's right to privacy, the illegal use of drugs or alcohol within the University community interferes with the accomplishment of the University's mission.  Louisiana State Law prohibits the consumption, possession, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, or manufacture of drugs described as controlled dangerous substances in the Louisiana Revised Statutes 40:964; and other statutes define the illegal possession and/or use of alcohol.  As such, the Department has reaffirmed the University policy of alcohol-free and drug-free environment on University property at all times and in areas and at times and locations where an assembly of students and faculty would be viewed as representative of LSU (field trips and field camp property as both represent LSU).