Category Archives: Class Notes


Reflections on my ‘This I No Longer Believe’ paper submission…

  • What did I learn about myself? I realized in the process of writing this paper just how therapeutic writing is for me. I knew this was always a tool I had relied on in the past to manage my stress and anxiety, but I kind of fell off of the wagon so to speak. Formerly, I was quite diligent with keeping a journal. After writing this paper, I think I might make it a point to return to journaling. This might be what is lacking in managing the chaos in my day to day life at this point!
  • What did I learn about writing? I learned that writing can be messy- AND THAT IS OKAY! Re-reading and revising drafts, gaining feedback from peers, and taking time to reflect is SO important. Perfectionism is a myth. It does not exist. I think we could all do with putting a little less pressure on ourselves…
  • What was easy, what was hard? What was new/different? The easy part for me was deciding what I wanted to write about. As soon as this topic of our first assignment was given, I instinctively knew what I wanted to write about. The difficult part for me was trying to nail down getting my points across as to what information I specifically learned that shaped why my viewpoint changed. It is hard to not get emotional about traumatic things that have happened in our lives, and it is hard to prevent those emotions from taking over when presenting information. Also, as per the usual struggle for me- writers block happens! Sometimes you just need to take that break and stretch,  grab a coffee, go on a short walk, and then re-visit the work.
  • What did I gain from the assignment, or what did I hope to gain but didn’t? Not to sound cheesy, but writing this paper gave me so much strength and courage- and that is exactly what I had hoped to gain from this assignment. I chose my topic for this assignment knowing that it would be difficult for me to tell the story, but also feeling that this was a necessary story to tell. There wasn’t a particular aspect of my writing that I had hoped to improve on, because I do feel that creative non-fiction is a strong style for me. However, this writing journey was more emotionally eye-opening than anything else.  Additionally, I learned that I spend so much time worrying about grammar (which evidently I don’t really have an issue with?) while all along I do struggle with verb tenses! This paper highlighted that weakness for me, and it is definitely something I will be working on moving forward.
  • What additional support would have been helpful for me? I would have liked to review more exemplary samples of previous students work with our class prior to doing this assignment.
  • How do I think our peer review process went? What should we change for next time? Overall, I would say the peer review process went well. I think everyone was able to work in whatever capacity they were comfortable in, which is important. However, I do think that next time we should consider the following: Initially, reading multiple students papers and providing feedback proved to be a useful tool; but I feel it would be more beneficial if during the second round of peer review we worked specifically with ONE students work (again, in whatever capacity each person is comfortable with). I feel like there was not enough time to give sufficient feedback to multiple people, especially as the papers grew more in depth. I think it would be a more beneficial experience if, for the second round of peer review, everyone was assigned ONE specific paper to focus on. 

Module 8 (May 12-May 20): The Finish Line

Well, we’re almost done with the Semester from Actual Hell. Between COVID-19, global economic collapse, murder hornets in the Pacific Northwest, and a literal plague of locusts in Africa (can you believe that’s a true sentence??? I still can’t), mass CUNY confusion, and all of the societal and personal struggles we had already, please be kind to yourselves and forgive yourselves for any academic or emotional difficulties you’ve been having. I know each and every one of you is doing the best you can under these circumstances, and whatever your best is, that’s okay.

I am very happy to tell you that we have Only One Assignment Left, and it’s mostly stuff you’ve already done.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will be able to use web design software (WordPress) to showcase their work
  2. Students will apply their rhetorical knowledge to display their work in a way that is both professional and personally expressive (whatever that means to them)
  3. Students will reflect on their learning this semester, evaluating their own work and the structure of the course

Overview of Tasks:

  1. Compile your final portfolio (Due Wednesday May 20 by the end of the day)
  2. Watch instructional videos as needed to learn WordPress skills
  3. Write your final reflective letter and answer a short prompt. Put these into your portfolio too.
  4. Complete OPTIONAL sharing and reflection activities
  5. Make sure Olivia has access to your portfolio.
  6. Complete any missing assignments, late work, and revisions of previous assignments.

Step 1: Compile your Final Portfolio

The full instructions + rubric for the portfolio are here. 

Most of the portfolio is actually just stuff you’ve already written. Decide how you want to arrange them on your portfolio website and upload them. (See Step 2)

Step 2: Watch Instructional Videos as Needed

I have made screencast videos for you on the following topics:

Please watch only the ones that you need.

Step 3: Write The Remaining Pieces of your Portfolio

These are the Reflective Letter and answering the short prompt on the assignment sheet. Shoot for at least 3-4 pages for the letter– you should be doing deep reflection on the entire semester, the writing you have done, what you’ve learned, what you still want to learn, how you would do things differently now, etc.

Then add these things to your portfolio.

Step 4: Complete OPTIONAL Activities

Again, this step is optional, but I will give you participation points if you do it. No one will be penalized for not doing it.

Optional Activity 1: Sharing Your Work

Normally, I have everyone give an informal presentation of their final paper at the end of the semester, so that you get to share your research/findings + hard work with people besides just me. If you would like to give some form of digital presentation, you are welcome to do so. This is NOT a Zoom call. It could take the following forms:

  • Posting your final draft to the course site for others to read
  • Making a video, Powerpoint, still image, or other kind of visual presentation that shares the main ideas from your work
  • Writing an informal summary post of what you learned/which pieces you want to share with the class
  • Really, anything else you’d like to do to share your work.

Optional Activity 2: What’s Going On/Where Are We Now?

Originally, before the pandemic, we were going to spend a day analyzing and discussing how our studies on algorithms and rhetoric relate to current events. If you want to write a comment or post along these lines– perhaps finding a news story or other coverage of a current event and sharing your thoughts on it– please do.

Step 5: Make Sure I Have Access To Your Portfolio

If your privacy settings on your site are set to public, all you need to do is email me the link to your site (or post it as a comment here if you want to also share it with your classmates).

If your privacy settings are set to something else, it’s a little more complicated, because you have to add me as a member of your site. See the video linked to above (once I’ve made it).

Portfolios are due on WEDNESDAY, MAY 20 by the end of the day. 

Step 6: Complete All Missing Work + Revisions

If you are missing other assignments that you would like to get credit for, now is the time to work on them.

If you would like to revise a previous assignment that you already completed for a better grade, you can also do that.

Everything can either be emailed to me, posted here on the course site, or resubmitted on Blackboard.

All missing work is also due by the end of the day on Wednesday, May 20. Because I need to grade everything quickly before final grades are due, this deadline is not very flexible. If you need a little bit of extra time beyond that, here’s what I need you to do:

  1. Send me an email detailing exactly which assignments you are going to complete AND which day in the week after the 20th you will send them to me.
  2. Follow through on your deadline.

If you do not meet the deadline you told me in your email, I cannot guarantee that I will be able to accept your assignment(s). This is because once I upload final grades to CUNYFirst, I cannot change them.

What is an Abstract?

An “abstract” is a short summary of an academic paper. You may have seen/read some of them already while doing research. It’s a paragraph that comes before the essay itself– in APA style, it comes after the title page but before the introduction. It lives on its own page.

It’s similar to the blurbs you find on the back of books, but with one important difference: book blurbs want to hook the reader (to get you to read the book) and don’t spoil the ending. Abstracts spoil the ending. A reader should be able to read your abstract and know what the entire paper is about, including a one or two sentence summary of your findings.

Click here to see an example. On this example, ignore everything above the part that says VARYING DEFINITIONS OF ONLINE COMMUNICATION. That part in all caps is the running head for the paper. Everything above it was added by Purdue OWL just for the purposes of this example.

Notice that after the abstract, there are a few keywords. When researchers publish in scholarly journals, they are asked to choose up to 5 keywords that the paper will be sorted under, to help people find it when searching online or in libraries. Choose some words (almost always nouns) that encapsulate the main concepts involved in your paper.

My Tips

Only write about the most important details for someone to understand your paper. You may be able to steal some language from your proposal, with small revisions.

  • What is your general topic?
  • What is your main inquiry question?
  • What are the main arguments or pieces of evidence you discuss?
  • What is your answer, conclusion, or findings?

Try to have only 1-2 sentences for each one.

For more guidance, check out this Powerpoint by Dr. Edward Kennedy, another English professor here at John Jay.

What’s the Point of an Abstract?

So readers can know what your paper is about without having to read the whole thing!

Also because most scholarly articles exist behind paywalls. You can read the abstract for free, but you have to pay money (or belong to a university whose library has paid money) to read the whole thing.

That’s why you have to go through the library website to find most scholarly articles– in addition to the many helpful search functions the library site provides, you wouldn’t be able to access most of the articles if you found them through Google! Academic articles are very expensive, and none of the money goes to the author.

For example, here is an article I wrote. You can read the abstract for free on the site! However, it costs $44 for someone to read it without library access. But if someone buys it, I get $0. The abstract is a teaser!

FUN MONEY-SAVING FACT: Often, if you want to read an article, but can’t figure out how to access it for free through the library, you can google the professor and email them asking for a PDF. They will probably give it to you.

Module 7 (May 2-11): Drafting and Revising the Final Paper

We’re so close to the end that I almost included the entire rest of the semester in this module alone. This week, just keep working on your final papers (full first draft + final draft) and do the last set of rhetorical devices.

By the end of this module, you will be DONE with your final paper!!!!!

Learning Objectives

  • Students will practice synthesizing research into an academic report
  • Students will critically analyze their own writing to improve their previous drafts
  • Students will apply their rhetorical knowledge to real life situations to discover how appeals to patriotism are used to persuade

Overview of Tasks

  1. Orient yourself with a Writing into the Week prompt
  2. ReadWhat is an Abstract?” 
  3. Complete a full draft of your final paper, due Monday May 4 by the end of the day, or as soon as possible after that.
  4. Read about Appeals to Patriotism. Find two examples of appeals to patriotism, share them and analyze them as a comment on this post.
  5. Write feedback for your peers (for those doing peer review) by the end of the day on Thursday May 7.
  6. Once you receive feedback from me/your peers, continue working on your paper. “Final” drafts are due by the end of the day on Monday, May 11, although you are free to revise again after that anytime before the portfolio is due.

Step 1: Writing Into the Week

Please just take 5-10 minutes to collect yourself and write about whatever comes to mind. This time is for you. As always, I recommend you set a timer and push yourself to write the whole time. You may find it beneficial to freewrite about your writing and research so far, if you want to remind yourself of where you left off as you get ready for writing, or you may find it beneficial to write about something else that’s on your mind, to let it out a bit.

Step 2: What is an Abstract?

I want to remind you that in the final draft of your paper, I am looking for several aspects of APA formatting.

  1. APA-style title page, header, and page numbers (see our APA Lesson class video)
  2. An Abstract with keywords.
  3. Your essay
  4. A references page, formatted in APA style. You do not need to include the annotations from your annotated bibliography here– just citations for whatever sources you use in your essay.

Read more about abstracts here.

Step 3: Full Draft

If you have already turned in a partial draft, expand and revise that into a complete first draft. Or, if you did not write a partial draft, please write your first draft now. 

Full drafts are due on Blackboard by the end of the day on Monday, May 4. This deadline gives me time to give everyone feedback before the final drafts are due on Monday, May 11.

If you are unable to finish your draft by this deadline, please upload it as soon as possible afterwards.

Step 4: Appeals to Patriotism

Please read about the rhetorical strategy of Appeals to Patriotism. Then, find some examples in real life (this should be easy if you watch/read political speeches or watch/read political news), post them as a comment on this post along with the context of the example, and analyze how the speaker is using appeals to patriotism to persuade their audience. (And, what are they trying to persuade them of?)

Step 5: Peer Review

For those of you who have chosen to participate in peer review, please give comments to your peer review group by the end of the day on Thursday, May 7. This will help give them enough time to incorporate your comments into their final drafts.

Step 6: Revise and Finish!

Use feedback from me + your peers, plus your own analysis of your work, to continue revising your paper! Double check yourself agains the rubric.  Have you followed all of the instructions and done all of the things I’ve asked for?

“Final” drafts are due by the end of the day on Monday, May 11. Once I receive them, I will write feedback and grade you using the rubric. Then, you are free to revise again (only if you want to!) anytime before the portfolio/late work/revisions deadline.

When you finish this step, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re done with your final paper! All that’s left now is the portfolio, which is mostly just putting together + reflecting on all of the work you’ve already done. Give yourself a congratulatory treat, whether it’s a snack, a present, a fun activity, etc.

Module 6 (April 25-May 1): Writing Time!

This week, we’ll be drafting our final papers!!!

There are several different due dates within this module, since there are several components. Feel free to turn things in late if you are not able to complete them on time, with no penalty. However, those of you who have chosen to participate in peer review should honor your commitment to your groupmates and prioritize giving them feedback above other work for this course, because that impacts others, not just yourself.

Goals and Learning Objectives

  1. Evaluate different methods of outlining a final paper and create your own
  2. Begin synthesizing information learned through your research into a form appropriate for sharing with others! (In this case, an essay.)
  3. Practice critically evaluating writing through peer review and self-revision
  4. Practice your rhetorical skills by offering feedback to peers in constructive , clear, yet polite ways.

Overview of Tasks

  1. Orient yourself with a Writing Into the Week prompt
  2. Explore examples of real outlines that real undergraduates used to write final papers
  3. Outline your paper using one of the styles you looked at or by inventing your own outline form (due Monday April 27 by the end of the day)
  4. Read or Skim resources on MEAL Plan paragraph structure and incorporating evidence into paragraphs.
  5. Using your outline, begin drafting your paper. Turn in a partial draft via Blackboard. (Due Wednesday April 29 by the end of the day.)
  6. Attend optional Zoom class on Wednesday at 4:30 or watch the recorded video afterwards. I will be discussing introductions and conclusions and answering any questions you may have.
  7. For those of you doing peer review, write feedback for your classmates by the end of Friday May 1st. 
  8. Read about two more rhetorical strategies and post examples/analysis of each. (Due Friday May 1 by the end of the day.)

Step 1: Writing Into the Week

Please write for 5-10 minutes on the following prompts. I encourage you to leave your response as a comment on this post.

  1. What aspects of writing a paper do you often find challenging? (In other words, what are your sticking points?)
  2. What would be helpful to have or think about in advance in order to make these aspects easier?
  3. Are there any particular writing topics (some aspect of grammar, or paragraph structure, style, etc.) that you would like to learn more about/get extra guidance on?

Step 2: Explore Examples of Outlines

Some of you may have already looked at these when I posted them earlier this week. For those who didn’t, please review the examples now. Decide what seems helpful or unhelpful to YOU and how YOU prefer to work as a writer.

If something seems too stressful and overwhelming? Don’t do it. If something seems like it will make writing easier for you? Do it! These are all examples, not the One Right Way to write an outline.

Step 3: Outline Your Paper

Following the instructions, write an outline for your paper. It can take any shape you want. Make something you think will HELP YOU as you begin drafting your paper. If it’s not going to be helpful, what’s the point?

It can be messy. You can write things like “Say something about ______ here.” Whatever works for you.

Step 4: Read Or Skim Resources

Some of you may already feel comfortable structuring paragraphs and incorporating evidence. Great! Some of you may be less sure. Please look over the following resources with the level of detail that you think is necessary:

MEAL Plan Paragraph Structure
Incorporating Evidence

Step 5: Begin Drafting Your Paper

I recommend you write until you feel Stuck, or write until you feel like you need a break and/or some feedback before you can continue. A partial draft can be as many or as few pages as you want, but it should be more substantial than your outline.

If you don’t feel ready to write the intro, that’s okay! Skip to the first body paragraph. Write what you can. This makes less work for yourself later.

When you decide your draft is as done as it’s going to be at this stage, please do the following:

  1. Turn it in using the Partial Draft link on Blackboard.
  2. If you are participating in peer review, share it with your groupmates. The form this takes will depend on the method for peer review your group has chosen. (I will be in touch with everyone who signed up soon about their groupmates and the form that works for everyone.) You may also want to include a note for your readers with specific questions you would like feedback on.

Partial drafts are due by the end of Wednesday, April 29.  This due date is especially important for those doing peer review, so that you give your peers enough time to give you feedback.

Step 6: Attend Optional Zoom Class (Or Watch Video Later)

I will host another optional Zoom class on Wednesday, April 29 at 4:30pm, our usual class time. I will be discussing tips for Introductions and Conclusions as well as answering any questions you have.

I will also post a video of Zoom class to Vimeo for anyone who wants to watch it later.

Step 7: Write Feedback For Your Classmates

I will email suggested peer review prompts when I send out the group information. Please give your feedback to your classmates by the end of the day on Friday May 1, unless you and your groupmate(s) agree on another deadline amongst yourselves.

Step 8: Rhetorical Strategies

Read about the Scarcity Appeal and How To Spot Fake News (as well as any of the links in the sidebar that interest you). Post 2 examples of each one + analysis as a comment on this post.

Note that emotional news is not the same as fake news, but news may play to your biases/emotions (appeals to pathos!) to convince you of something that is false or misleading.

Module 5 (April 20-24): Just Keep Swimming

This week you’re just working on your annotated bibliographies and doing another set of rhetorical devices! Thanks to everyone who has turned in their Imaginary Interviews and Cognitive Biases examples.

Please complete the Peer Review Survey asap so I can put people into groups.

Rhetorical Devices Readings:
“Euphemisms” and “Transfer”

Examples/Analysis due as a comment on this post by the end of the day April 24.

Annotated Bibliography Instructions/Rubric
Also due by the end of the day April 24

See Module 4 for instructions on formatting and citations.

As always, you can schedule a time to chat with me here.

Module 4: Citation Styles and APA Formatting

This week, we’ll be learning about citing, why citation styles are the way they are, and APA formatting more specifically. Tasks are due by the end of Monday, April 20, with an optional Zoom class on Wednesday, April 15.

You will also complete another one of your Required Portfolio Assignments, the “Imaginary Interview.” The citation activities will prepare you to write the “bibliography” part of the annotated bibliography, and the imaginary interview will prepare you to write the annotations.

Learning Objectives

  • Students will understand the value of not only citing, but citation styles
  • Students will be able to critically evaluate the features and purposes of different styles
  • Students will be able to apply APA Style to their own research sources
  • Students will continue their rhetorical study by learning to identify cognitive biases in the world

Overview of Tasks

  1. Orient yourself with a Writing Into the Week prompt (share only if you wish)
  2. Play a citation explorer game to learn your Citation Style Match
  3. Watch a YouTube tutorial on APA style paper formatting
  4. Attend an optional Zoom class on Wednesday, April 15 OR watch the recording of Zoom class on your own time to learn about APA style citations
  5. Read about cognitive biases and share two examples + analysis
  6. Write an “imaginary interview” with two or more of your sources (due Monday April 20 by the end of the day)

Step 1: Writing Into the Week

Spent 5-10 minutes freewriting. Freewriting means writing about whatever you want, as meandering as you want. But make sure you keep writing the entire time– I recommend setting a timer.

Step 2: Citation Explorer “Game”

Play through this Citation Explorer “game” to discover what citation style best fits YOU and why. Make sure you read the introduction and the explanatory material at the end.

Step 3: Watch a YouTube Tutorial

On the final page of the Citation Explorer, there are links to two YouTube tutorials for APA formatting (one for Google Docs and one for MS Word). Please watch whichever one matches your software– you can also follow along by doing the steps while you watch. I recommend doing this if you can, so that you don’t have to do it again when it’s time to write your annotated bibliography. Go ahead and get this part out of the way.

If you write using another program, watch either video just to learn about the different formatting elements. Most text editing applications (like Pages, etc.) will let you do all of the same things– the menus will just arrange things differently.

If you mostly do your work on your phone/a tablet, but you do have limited access to a computer, I recommend you just do all of the writing first, like normal, and then do all of the formatting at the end on the computer.

If you don’t have computer access, I think all of the same features in Google Docs can be used in the mobile app– it just might be a bit of a pain. Just do your best.

Step 4: Attend Zoom Class or Watch the Recording

I will be hosting class on Zoom on Wednesday, April 15 at our normal class time (4:30). We will definitely end “early” (before 5:45), though. The YouTube tutorials introduced you to APA paper formatting, but the purpose of this Zoom class will be to walk you through how to do APA-style citations.

If you’re not able to attend class live, that’s fine! I will be recording the class session and uploading it to YouTube, so just watch the video when you can.

Step 5: Read About Cognitive Biases and Post Examples

Read the Overview of Cognitive Biases  AND read through each of the 5 pages in the sidebar about specific biases (anchoring, sleeper effect, repetition, reactance, and declinism). Then, find 2 examples of people exhibiting these cognitive biases and post the examples + context + analysis as a comment on this post.

Step 6: Write an “Imaginary Interview”

The full instructions are here, but the general premise is this:

Pretend you are interviewing the authors of two or more of the sources you’ve found in your research so far. Ask them 3 or more questions about the topic you are researching. If they don’t directly address the question in the source, use the source to imagine what the author would/might say.

Both authors should respond to the same questions, and should also respond to each other at least once.

Do not spend more than 1 hour working on this step. 

Normally I would have us do this as an in-class activity with the option to finish it at home, so we would not spend more than 1 hour on it. I would rather you complete all elements of the assignment in a fast, not-very-detailed way, than have you only get part way through because you’re trying to be very detailed and do your best work. Please don’t do your best work. Just complete it.

This is due Monday, April 20 by the end of the day, submitted on Blackboard.

Instructions for Module 3: April 3 through the End of Spring Break

For the next week and a half (today through April 12/13), we’ll just be focusing on learning research skills and then doing research for our final projects.

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will become adept at navigating the John Jay library website and the many kinds of online resources available
  2. Students will learn research skills relevant to the beginning of a project and apply that knowledge to explore their own inquiry questions
  3. Students will create a base of background knowledge on their topics and a preliminary list of sources to reference as they compose their projects

Overview of Tasks

  1. Orient yourself with a Writing Into the Week prompt (share only if you wish)
  2. Watch some short video tutorials provided by the John Jay library
  3. Begin doing research toward answering your chosen inquiry question, using the John Jay library website
  4. Keep a running list of sources you think you might want to use for your paper– just pasting links into a file or bookmarking them is fine.
  5. Toward the end of the module (so maybe April 12 or 13), make a comment on this post giving an update on how things are going with your project (and/or with your life!)

Step 1: Writing Into the Week

  1. Regardless of how you feel about writing a research paper, what are some things that you are excited to learn as you work on this project? You all had a lot of freedom in choosing your topics– what are you most looking forward to?
  2. Take some time to freewrite for another 5-10 minutes. Set a timer. Just a few minutes to yourself, to write whatever comes to mind. Or draw! Just keep your pencil on the page or your hands on the keyboard, and keep them moving.

Step 2: Research Training from John Jay Library

Our library offers A LOT of video tutorials.  I’m going to list links below for a few that I want you to make sure you watch, but I encourage you to also watch/read others–if not now, then over the course of the next several weeks as questions arise. I will add a longer list of tutorials I particularly recommend on our Resources page.

**Some of the pages might ask you to sign in. Just use your John Jay computer/email login.**

Video 1: From Questions to Keywords
You all have inquiry questions written– how do you choose good keywords that will take you directly to the things you want to find?

Video 2: Getting Started with Google/Wikipedia
Also click to “Part 2” of this tutorial to view the video “Moving From Google/Wikipedia to Databases”

Video 3: Exploration Strategies

Read through:

Step 3: Research!

There’s a couple places I recommend you start, aside from doing general background research.

  1. View the library’s Research Guide for your topic’s subject area and choose a database the guide recommends
  2. Try searching in Academic Search Complete
  3. In the righthand sidebar of our course site, there are two search bars– one lets you search our course site, but the other takes you directly to the library’s main database, One Search! You can start right now by typing some keywords in there!

Step 4: Running List

You should actually do this one at the same time as Step 3. Whether you use a Word doc, a Google doc, or have another way you prefer to keep track, make sure you keep a list of the sources you find that you think will be useful!

Don’t worry about shaping them into an annotated bibliography right now– we have another couple weeks before we’re at that stage. Just paste the links in there, and maybe leave a note to remind yourself of the title/author/what it’s about and why you chose it.

Step 5: Give a Progress Update!

Toward the end of the module (so maybe April 12 or 13), make a comment on this post giving an update on how things are going with your project (and/or with your life!)

How are things going? What have you found/learned so far? Are you needing to adjust your inquiry question(s)? What are your next steps?

If you want to share, how are things going in your life beyond this class?

***I would like everyone to schedule a virtual conference with me sometime before the end of the semester so we can chat about your paper one on one in real time. It’s up to you when you do it– if you are having trouble getting started with research, now could be a good time! But you can also wait until later in the writing process, or make multiple appointments**



Instructions March 30-April 2 (Module 2): Proposal Sharing and Revision

**This module has two due dates. Some tasks are due Monday, March 30, and some are due Thursday, April 2, by the end of each respective day. The deadlines for this module have been revised due to CUNY’s “Recalibration Period.” **

**If you are not going to be able to complete all of the tasks, the most important aspect is to turn in a Proposal on Blackboard. This is a required element of your final portfolio.**

For each writing task, I recommend you do the writing in something that saves automatically, like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or the Notes app on your phone. Or even a piece of paper. Then, copy/paste it onto the course site. This will prevent you from accidentally losing your work.

Topic and Learning Objectives

This week, we’ll be working on our proposals for the final research project.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Students will compose inquiry questions to shape their final projects that are focused, answerable, and use specific, operational language.
  2. Students will create a research proposal based on their inquiry questions, which they will share with their peers
  3. Students will analyze and evaluate their peers’ proposals and offer constructive feedback
  4. Students will synthesize feedback from their peers into revised versions of their proposals

Overview of Tasks

  1. Orient yourself with a Writing Into the Week prompt (share only if you wish)
  2. Browse sample proposals and learn about elements of good inquiry questions
  3. Write your own proposal and post some or all of it on the Course Site by the end of Monday, March 30
  4. Give feedback to at least 2 peers using the elements of good inquiry questions, the Proposal Rubric, and your own perspective as a reader
  5. Revise your proposal and turn it in on Blackboard by the end of Thursday, April 2.

Step 1: Writing Into the Week

Please write for approximately 10-15 minutes on the following questions:

  1. If you already like one or more of the inquiry questions you wrote last week and want to use it for your proposal, what do you already know about this topic? What are the gaps in your knowledge?
  2. If you don’t want to use one of the inquiry questions from last week, what other topics relating to one of the themes of our course readings (algorithmic modeling, college admissions and rankings, online advertising, criminal justice, job applicant systems, shift schedules, credit scores and online e-scores, the insurance industry, Facebook and politics) would you like to investigate further? What aspects of that topic most interest you?
  3. What are the stakes of your question/topic? That is, why is it important? How would the answer affect people? What could or should change based on the answer? What could the information be used for?

You can share your answers as a comment if you want to, but you do not have to share this week.

Step 2: Study Examples

Please skim through the following examples. You don’t need to read each one closely, but do look at each one to get a sense for what a proposal looks like.

Here are some sample proposals from last semester’s students. Each student’s inquiry questions could have been even more specific and operational, but each proposal got a good grade and resulted in a good paper.
Sample 1
Sample 2
Sample 3

Here are some other examples of research proposals, but for another school/class with different requirements.

Writing Good Inquiry Questions

Click here for a very good guide + accompanying video for writing good research questions! Pay special attention to the subsection called “What makes a strong research question?” It lists several criteria with explanations and examples. I recommend reading the whole thing, but will expand on what I think is the most important part below.

In the learning objectives, I used the phrase “specific, operational language.” What does that mean? Operational language has a clearly defined, measurable meaning within its context.

For example, “Good” is not operational language. What counts as good? Who decides that? Do we mean high quality, or morally good? How do we know if something is good?

If our inquiry question is, “Is coffee good for you?”, we could revise “good for you” to be more operational in a bunch of different ways:

  1. How often can a person in average health drink coffee without experiencing any negative health outcomes? (“Good for you” becomes “not causing harms.” Problem: “negative health outcomes” is still not very specific. What outcomes will we be paying attention to?) 
  2. What are the nutritional benefits of drinking coffee? (“Good for you” becomes “has nutritional benefits.” Problem: Coffee can be prepared in many different ways. Are we studying only black coffee? Espresso? Lattes?)
  3. Does drinking coffee offset any of the cognitive effects of sleep deprivation? (Decreased focus, memory, alertness, etc.) (“Good for you” becomes “offsetting the effects of sleep deprivation,” a common reason people drink coffee. Problem: this is not a very focused question. I should probably choose only one effect of sleep deprivation to study, in order to make the research project more manageable.)

Step 3: Write Your Proposal and Share

Instructions for the proposal are here.

Post the final version of your inquiry question(s) as a comment on this post 
Post your entire proposal draft as its own post.

It’s up to you which one you do– do you want feedback on your entire proposal, or just on your inquiry questions?

**This part is due by the end of the day on Monday, March 30**

Step 4: Give Feedback

Give feedback to at least 2 of your classmates. Use these guiding questions (answer as many or as few as you want):

  1. How can they make their inquiry question(s) more specific, answerable, and operational?
  2. For those who chose to share their entire proposal, how well do they meet the criteria listed on the assignment sheet/rubric? In what ways can they revise to meet the guidelines?
  3. What reactions/comments do you have as a reader? What intrigues you? What confuses you? What suggestions do you have, or what directions would you explore if this was your paper?
  4. Do you have any questions for the writer that 1) aren’t already answered in the proposal/inquiry question and 2) should be answered right now? (That is, what would be helpful to know before they do the research? Imagine you’re on a committee deciding whether or not to fund the project. What do you still need to know about the project in order to decide?

Step 5: Revise Your Proposal and Turn It In!

Revise your proposal/questions based on the feedback you receive from your classmates and turn it in on Blackboard by the end of Thursday, April 2.

Instructions for March 19-23

**All tasks in this “module” are due by the end of the day on March 23. You can do them at your own pace, but some tasks involve responding to each other, so don’t leave everything to the last minute.**

For each writing task, I recommend you do the writing in something that saves automatically, like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or the Notes app on your phone. Or even a piece of paper. Then, copy/paste it onto the course site. This will prevent you from accidentally losing your work.

Topic and Learning Objectives

This week, we’ll be exploring additional topics relating to algorithms and society, doing “pilot research,” and narrowing down ideas for your research paper proposals.

My goal for this week’s activities is for you to 1) learn about more ways algorithms affect our lives, 2) practice using our library resources and evaluating sources, and 3) practice beginning a writing process from a place of curiosity rather than a predetermined conclusion.

Often, people begin research with a conclusion already in mind and simply search for sources that support that conclusion. While it’s perfectly okay to have a hypothesis, I believe it’s important to be open to evolving your ideas as you learn more– this is easiest when you’re researching something you don’t know much about but are genuinely interested in.

Overview of Tasks:

  1. Orient yourself with a “Writing Into the Week” prompt (comment on this post)
  2. Do the readings
  3. Decide what sparks your curiosity and do some research
  4. Share your findings and write a little about them (write your own post or comment on a classmate’s post)
  5. Look at your classmates’ findings, read any of their articles that interest you (respond if you wish)
  6. Develop some preliminary inquiry questions (respond to your own Writing Into the Week comment)

Step 1: Writing Into the Week

Please write for approximately 10-15 minutes on the following questions:

  1. What do you remember from our past readings? What were the main ideas, the main arguments, or just some examples that stuck with you?
  2. Did you especially disagree with any of the readings, or did any of them especially speak to you? Why or why not?
  3. What from these readings still confuses you, or what would you like to learn more about?

Post your answers, or a revised version of your answers, as a comment on this post. (I still want you to feel safe writing whatever you want in your Writing Into the Week– the first draft is just for you, and then revise so you only post what you’re comfortable sharing.)

Step 2: Do the Readings

**This part will probably take the longest**

“Working Anything But 9-to-5”
“Leading Mathematician Debunks Value Added”

“The Long Shadow of Bad Credit in a Job Search”
“Secret E-Scores Chart Consumers’ Buying Power”
“Could a Bank Deny Your Loan Based on Your Facebook Friends?”

Revisit from 3/11:
“Are Workplace Personality Tests Fair?”
Optional: Take the Five Factor Personality TestMyers-Briggs Test, or another psychometric test and research what this “means” for you as an employee (THIS IS ONLY FOR FUN and has no bearing on what career you should pursue)

Step 3: Research!

Decide what sparks your curiosity from the readings for this week and do some exploratory research to learn more about that topic. However many things you look at, choose at least two sources to write about.

  1. The first source should be something you find through the John Jay library website (the Course Site has a widget in the sidebar that lets you search the library site directly from here! Check it out! Or, you can navigate to the main library page here.)
  2. The second source can be from wherever you want, but you should choose something you believe is credible and well-written.

Step 4: Share Your Findings

Write a little about each source:

  • What sparked your curiosity that led you to this source?
  • Summarize the source
  • What did you learn from it?
  • How reliable do you think the source is? How do you know?

You should either share your findings in your own post, OR if you see that a classmate has researched something similar to your topic, you can add your findings as a comment on their post. If writing your own post, use the category “Student Posts.”

Step 5: Look At Everyone’s Findings!

Browse through what your other classmates found and wrote about. Read any articles that pique your interest. Respond to your classmates if you wish– even if it’s just to tell them that you thought their article sounded interesting.

Step 6: Draft Some Inquiry Questions For Your Final Project

Using what you learned this week, from your own research and from looking at your classmates’ findings, draft some preliminary inquiry questions for your final project. 

Inquiry questions should not be questions you already know the answer to, although you can have a hypothesis about what the answer will be. They should also be specific, focused, and answerable within the scope of a final project. (Don’t try to solve the whole world! You’re not writing a dissertation.) However, the inquiry questions should be complex enough that you can’t just quickly Google the answer.

These questions should be drafts and do not need to be the questions you write about in your proposal, although they can be. You are allowed to change your topic/research questions at any time.

Post your inquiry questions as a reply to your own Writing Into the Week comment. 

3/9 (Monday): Domains of Rhetoric

While we are writing, I’ll be getting Zoom set up and helping those who are joining us digitally to troubleshoot any technical problems.

Writing Into the Day (15 mins)

(Current version includes student responses to questions and main ideas from class discussion)

  1. What questions did the readings about predictive policing raise for you today? Is there anything you would like to discuss as a group?
    1. If the software predicted white collar crime, would it be considered more fair, and ought police focus on that, rather than keeping their neighborhoods safe from immediate threats?
      1. Isn’t credit card fraud protection software also/already doing this?
      2. Maybe leave white collar crime to feds
      3. If we say “Chicago has the highest murder rate, are we saying that the police are turning a blind eye to murders in other areas?”
      4. Murder rate = people who are CHARGED with murder (we think)
        1. What about cold cases?
      5. Marissa recommends “Citizens” app, crowd sourcing crimes– different people report different things. Anxiety-inducing! Police not involved (formally, some may watch the app individually) with the app. Crimes that are reported may or may not even be real
      6. Destiny asks, what makes something count as a “bad neighborhood”?
    2. By putting a number on a person for risk of recidivism, doesn’t that defeat the premise of “person commits crime, person pays for crime via sentencing, person has paid their dues”?
      1. Scoring based on hypothetical potential for crimes can lead to discrimination against people who haven’t done anything wrong, or might lead people to be like “well, everyone thinks I’m a criminal and treats me like that anyway, may as well commit crimes”
      2. Somewhere in Florida, there’s a town of sex offenders, “Miracle Village,” religious community, because they’re not allowed to live elsewhere, they’re largely self-sufficient and crime is apparently very low there. Also very minimal policing
        1. Maybe this is an example of people knowing they did wrong and wanting to improve– this would be contrary to the idea that people who commit crimes are more likely to do more crimes in the future
        2. Gated community based on religion? Maybe this is why crime rate is low? Or maybe they don’t commit crimes there? Or maybe strong community bond = less crime.
  2. What are some of the consequences (intended or unintended) of assigning people a score predicting how likely they are to commit a crime in the future?
  3. How should communities change their strategies toward crime prevention in order to be more fair?
    1. “Does gentrification reduce crime?” (study, will attach link later) research by Policy Cebr , largely based on government data. There is a correlation between gentrification and less crime.
      1. Gentrification doesn’t REDUCE crime, it MOVES the crime to other neighborhoods

Sharing/Planning Discussion


  1. Checking in
  2. Doing whatever we decided to do w/r/t discussing the readings
  3. Domains of Rhetoric Powerpoint
  4. Looking Ahead

Domains of Rhetoric Powerpoint

Looking Ahead

March 11 (Wednesday): Rhetorical Analysis

Readings Due

“Are Workplace Personality Tests Fair?”
Optional: Take the Five Factor Personality TestMyers-Briggs Test, or another psychometric test and research what this “means” for you as an employee (THIS IS ONLY FOR FUN and has no bearing on what career you should pursue)

Assignments Due:

Romantic, Gender, and Sex Appeal Examples
Analysis of an Ad Original Posts Due

March 16 (Monday): Beginning the Final Project

Readings Due:

“The Snob Appeal”
“The Youth Appeal”
“Working Anything But 9-to-5”
“Leading Mathematician Debunks Value Added”

Assignments Due:
Analysis of an Ad Responses

March 18 (Wednesday): Proposal Sharing and Revision

Assignments Due:
Snob Appeal and Youth Appeal Examples
Proposals for Final Project Due