Baraboo Field Trip, May 2008

In the spring before senior year you need to create a general idea for the exercise. Discuss your idea with one or more Geology faculty and staff.  Please fill out and submit the comps planning form. If you plan to request funding go to the funding guidelines page for further information. If you expect to collect your comps data over the summer, consider writing a more formal proposal in the spring. You will also want to pick an advisor.


You must write a formal proposal for the project in the fall. The exact format for the proposal depends on what you are doing. Your proposal should have a cover sheet that includes:

  • Your name
  • Tentative project title
  • Carleton Comps advisor(s) and other research advisor(s) name and affiliation
  • Proposed submission of final comps date (either 5 pm Dec. 31 or 5 pm last day of classes winter term)

The rest of your proposal is a narrative:

  • The comps proposal can be organized as a through-going narrative or with subheadings and bullet points (and other organizations are possible, too). The organization should be clear.  Good writing is essential.
  • A proposal for comps need not be as formal (or as long) as a proposal for say, a NSF grant, or a post-graduate fellowship. You can explain what remains to be done in less formal prose than you’d use in another setting.
    • The first paragraph should contain a clear statement of the main goal of the project.
    • Define an explicit question or problem that you are trying to solve. 
    • Consider discussing the geological setting and the controversy or problem together. For example: “many studies have shown …… (background), however, my project will ….. (why this project is important).” Note that this section should be citation rich.
    • Put the question into a larger context or background.
      • Be clear and specific about what your project is, particularly if it is part of a larger research program. Proposal readers will look for your “ownership” of the project.
  • Be sure to indicate your proposed Comps advisor and other advisors.
  • Include a tentative title for your project.
Introductory Geology Classes Take To The Field

The proposal is a contract that you establish with the Geology Department. It will be read and critiqued by at least two faculty members. In many cases we ask people to rewrite proposals before agreeing that they are satisfactory. When the faculty evaluates your comps we compare the written and oral presentations with the proposal. We give grades of distinction to projects that fulfill the goals stated in the proposal as fully as possible. If, as your project progresses you need to modify the proposal discuss that with your adviser.

Evaluation of Comps Proposals

When you submit a proposal for your Comprehensive Exercise project the department will be looking for certain elements in your proposal. These are vital points by which a comps proposal is evaluated. When you are writing your proposal, keep these items in mind:

  • What is the question addressed by the proposal?
  • What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity? (i.e., why is this worthwhile and interesting?)
  • What is/are the broader impacts of the proposed work?
  • Is the project worth six credits? Can the proposed activity be done within 10 weeks?
  • Does the proposal clearly explain what work will be done?
  • Is the proposed work sufficient and appropriate to answer the question posed?
  • What are the data gathered so far? Are they enough? Too much? Not adequate? Will data be gathered during winter break? Have samples been sent for analysis? (Note: It can take 8 weeks to get thin sections made, and more than 4 weeks for some chemical analysis to be done in other laboratories.)
  • Is there enough review of the literature? Are there enough references cited?
  • Budget
    • Does the budget follow departmental guidelines?
    • Are the resources requested necessary for the completion of the proposed work?

Proposal Overall Rating

(__) Proposal is adequate in all aspects.

(__) Proposal lacks some critical aspects and student needs to talk to adviser to rewrite part of the proposal.

(__) Proposal has some serious deficiencies and student needs to talk to adviser very soon to change/improve the project.

Once approval is given begin work on the project. Stay in touch with your adviser and other members of Geology Department who can help you. Some advisers like to see progress reports and rough drafts. Agree to a schedule early in the process. Drafts should be submitted well before the final deadline if you want substantive comments.