Category Archives: Instructor Announcements

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**



Annotated Bibliography Instructions and Rubric

The annotated bibliography is not due until Friday, April 24th. You have 3 weeks to work on it. However, because this week (I’m writing this on April 3) is reserved as research time, I wanted to make sure you have these guidelines well in advance so you know what you’re working towards.  


**But also see below for an Alternative Option**

  1. As you research your inquiry question for your final project, compile a list of sources (bibliography) that help you answer your question and/or provide useful background knowledge for you and your readers.
  2. Cite each source according to APA style.
  3. Below each citation, write a paragraph or so about that source (an annotation). The paragraph should include:– A summary of the source
    —Your thoughts on the source (How do you think you will use it in your paper? What biases do you think it might have? What are its strengths, and what are its weaknesses? How does it connect to your other sources?)

Other Guidelines:

  • At least 6 sources + annotations
  • At least half of the sources should be scholarly/found through the John Jay library databases. The other half can come from wherever as long as you think they are trustworthy.
  • In addition to writing each citation in APA style, you should also include these other aspects of APA formatting: title page with title, name, university, and any author’s note you want to include, correct running head on all pages, page numbers, correctly titled References page


Complete an APA-style bibliography without the annotations.

Then, create a video in which you show each source and verbally talk through the source and your analysis of it according to the guidelines for annotations above. You can do this via screencasting (built into iPhones and Macs, not sure about PCs and Androids) or by taking a video of your computer screen using your phone. It’s totally fine if the video is informal/unedited, but you can make it fancy if you want to.


Each source + annotation includes all required parts (citation, summary, your thoughts)
(3 points per entry = 18 points, but 1 point off per source that doesn’t meet the scholarly vs. not scholarly requirements. Make sure you have 3 scholarly sources—the other 3 can be scholarly or non-scholarly)

  • Source 1 ___
  • Source 2 ___
  • Source 3 ___
  • Source 4 ___
  • Source 5 ___
  • Source 6 ___

Total for this section: ____

Every other element of APA style listed in the instructions is met: 9 points

  • Title page ___
  • Title ____
  • Name ___
  • University ____
  • Author’s Note (if applicable) ____
  • Correct Running Head First Page ____
  • Correct Running Head Subsequent Pages ____
  • Page Numbers ____
  • Beginning of bibliography is titled “References” ___

Turned in on time (3 points) ____

***Due to the many serious ways the pandemic may be affecting our lives, if you turn it in late, I’ll just grade you out of 27 instead of out of 30. It’s sort of 3 free points, but each other aspect of the rubric affects your grade on the assignment a tiny bit (0.5% per point) more. I wanted a way to incentivize turning it in on time to keep folks on track and make my grading life easier without hurting those who can’t due to factors outside of their countrol.***

Total: ____ (out of 30 or 27 points)

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.

The Plan

Alright!! Here’s the plan!!

When I first read that we would have a 5 day instructional recess, I thought that was silly, but I’m increasingly appreciating the breathing room both for work and to deal with the rest of my life. And my feelings.

The “What Can/Should You Do Now?” section at the bottom of this post only includes things relating to this class. Outside of class, I hope you’re taking appropriate social/sanitary precautions, but also taking deep breaths, keeping in touch with family and friends, and making news/social media choices that keep the balance of staying informed + managing your stress that is best for you.

How Will We Hold Class?

We will not hold synchronous (real-time) class sessions for the remainder of the semester. It will be up to you to plan the best times to do your work. I will write more elsewhere about what steps I’m taking to keep my own life as organized and normal as possible soon.

I will post instructions for “modules” approximately weekly here on the course site, along with readings, activity instructions, deadlines, useful resources, etc. Each “module” will essentially encompass one theme or overall skill/task, according to the headings in the Course Schedule. I will preserve many of the segments you’re used to– we’ll still have “Writing Into the Day” prompts, etc.

Some work will not be collected– that is, I trust that you will do it and you trust me that what I ask you to do is designed to be useful for your learning.

Most work will live here on the course site, as posts and as comments.

Some work will be submitted on Blackboard, as we’ve been doing in the past.

I will ask each of you to sign up for writing conferences with me at least once, perhaps twice (still figuring out what will end up being reasonable) where we will communicate one on one in real time. What form that takes (text chatting, Google Hangout, phone call) will be up to you.

I have created appointment times for 3 days a week. If none of these times work for you and you need to discuss an alternate arrangement, that’s totally fine– just email me.

You do not have to sign up for office hours if you prefer to just email or comment with questions. Email and comments are still totally fine– office hours are just opportunities for anyone who prefers a real-time conversation.

“Attendance” points are now just online participation points. I will continue to arrange opportunities for 4 points per week to substitute for attending class. You still need to reach a total of 80 points for your overall participation grade to be 100%. It’s up to you how you do that. All of the Ways to Participate that can be done online are still in effect.

What Platforms Will We Use?

Mostly, we will continue to use the Course Site and Blackboard.

For content that I would normally lecture on (writing, rhetoric) or demonstrate (WordPress, research tools) in class, I will make videos, upload them to YouTube, and post the links here on the Course Site. For every video, I will also write a text-version for those with limited wifi/data access.

For peer review, I think it will be easiest to use Google Docs, but people who don’t use Docs and don’t want to sign up/learn a new platform can use email instead.

For virtual office hours and writing conferences, I will use Google Hangouts for those who prefer text chatting and video calls. For those who prefer audio-only calls, we have two options: Google Hangouts (use on your computer or download a smartphone app) or Google Voice (I share my Google Voice number with you and you call using your cellular service, or I can call you on your phone ).

What Can/Should You Do Now?

  1. Look over the Checklist of Assignments and determine which things you have done and which things you would like make-up. The post on Where Stuff Is and How To Find It has guidance on where to go to complete these assignments. Our 5 day break from classes might be a good time to get caught-up!
  2. Read the Final Project Assignment Overview and leave a comment with any questions you have. If you have a printer at home, I recommend printing it out.
  3. Check out the brand new Virtual Office Hours Scheduler I’ve set up. Schedule an appointment with me if you want to, or just click around a little and get used to how it works.
  4. Log into CUNYFirst and check your email settings. What is your default email address? Make sure it’s something you check regularly.
  5. Check your email settings here on the Course Site and decide if you want to change them. I recommend that you subscribe to all updates.
  6. Look over the Proposal Assignment Sheet. Don’t start working on this now– it’s just good to get a preview of what’s coming up so you can have it in the back of your head.
  7. If you don’t already have one, you might want to create a Google account and familiarize yourself with Google Docs and Hangouts.


Where Stuff Is and How to Find It

Someone emailed me this morning requesting tips on navigating the course site, particularly when searching for old things or double checking your own work. Because I’m sure many of you have similar questions, I’m sharing my response here as well.

Some General Tips for Navigating the Site

1. You can use the “Search” feature in the right sidebar to find things if you know a keyword.

2. To find all of the posts written by you, find ANY post you’ve written, then click on your name at the bottom of the post where it says “Written By: ___” That will take you to a page that displays only posts written by you.

3. For comments (and another way to do it for posts), go to the Site Dashboard, then click on “Comments” on the left sidebar. By default, it will show all comments in chronological order. But, if you click on the “Author” column, it will sort everything by author. Then, just scroll through the pages until you find your name, and you can see all of the comments you’ve left. This is what I do when I’m marking completion.

4. Now is also a VITAL time to practice using the Tags and Categories feature, as well as familiarizing yourself with the different tabs in the menu. Clicking on any tag or category in the sidebar will show you only posts sorted under that tag/category. As you make your own posts, please be extra diligent in assigning appropriate categories and tags to your own posts.

5. This is also a good time to bookmark posts/pages you expect to be referring back to often, such as the Course Schedule or Final Paper Overview posts. That way, you don’t have to scroll back through and find them each time.

6. There is a tag called “wordpress help”! There isn’t a lot there right now, but PLEASE leave your WordPress questions in comments (on this post, or anywhere, really– I get emails for all of them) and I can answer them in future posts with that tag.

If you’re doing this on mobile, sidebars often appear at the bottom of the page, so if you’re not seeing these things, scroll all the way down.

Links for Things on Assignment Checklist

Yourself as Reader and Writer
Weapons of Math Destruction Blog Assignment (to do comments for this, check under the Student Posts tab on the site. Not everyone’s posts will be there, depending on whether they checked that category, but definitely some are there.)
Analysis of an Ad Assignment (to do comments for this, click on the Analysis of an Ad category link in the sidebar to see your classmates’ posts)
Paper 1 Reflections

Bandwagon and Namecalling
Fear and Humor
Romance, Gender, and Sex

Paper 1: This I No Longer Believe

Proposal Instructions

Here are the instructions for the Proposal, with revised deadlines to account for CUNY’s new “Recalibration Period.” You are more than welcome to post early if you don’t want the new surprise “break” to complicate your routine even more.

**Post your first draft of your proposal (or just your inquiry questions) on the Course Site by the end of Monday, March 30, give feedback to your classmates, and then upload your final draft to Blackboard by the end of Thursday, April 2**

If you have a question about any aspect of the instructions or rubric, please leave it in the comments!

Class Now Online

Dear Students,

The English department has strongly encouraged faculty to shift all classes to an online format, potentially for the rest of the semester. Certainly until conditions start to improve rather than continuing to get worse. However, online-only learning is certainly different, and we will all need to be patient with ourselves and each other as we adjust and figure out what works best for our class.

Therefore, I want to take some time to explain why I believe social distancing, when possible, is important. I will endeavor to use Aristotle’s 3 appeals and each piece of the rhetorical triangle as I compose this post, so as an exercise to practice, keep an eye out for how I’m considering each one as you read (even if you don’t think I’m being effective in one or more ways).

Many people are saying that concern around COVID-19 (the current strain of coronavirus) is overhyped, and that it’s far less prevalent than the flu. So, why are the changes being implemented around the world important? For one thing, our healthcare system is managing coronavirus on top of the existing flu season (which is already worse than average).  This means that hospitals and other medical facilities have fewer resources with which to help all patients, regardless of their ailment.

Distribution chains are also struggling, since many U.S. products are manufactured in other affected regions like China, and many people are buying up materials like hand sanitizer, alcohol swabs, and masks. Because demand is so high, medical facilities are also facing greater difficulties in acquiring supplies– it’s not just regular people going to CVS. Furthermore, COVID-19 is spreading at an exponential rate, doubling around every 6 days. It is likely to get far more widespread before it goes away.

So, healthcare facilities are at a high risk of being overloaded, and many healthcare facilities already face long wait times and limited space. Another issue is we don’t actually know how widespread the virus is in the U.S., because access to testing kits is limited , and many people cannot afford the medical bills of getting tested (one man’s bill for getting tested was about $1,400 after his health insurance paid for some of the costs) or cannot afford to take the time off of work/care responsibilities to do so.

Some epidemiologists (disease experts) are estimating that eventually, 40-70% of the human population will contract COVID-19. The question becomes, when? That’s where social distancing comes in.

Social distancing essentially means limiting time spent in groups of people, including at work, at school, on the train, and at social events. The goal of social distancing is to flatten the curve — that is, slow the rate at which people are getting the virus. If fewer people are sick at the same time, our healthcare system is better able to handle the situation and take care of everyone, even if the total number of sick people remains the same.

It’s true that the overall fatality rate is fairly low compared to some diseases, but it’s high for some populations of people, such as the elderly and people who are immunocompromised (their immune systems aren’t very strong, so they’re much more vulnerable to illness). And it’s important for us to care about the wellbeing of these people too, even if we ourselves are not at high risk. This is the same principle behind vaccines: herd immunity.  If most people are safe from a virus (either through immunities or through protective measures), fewer people get the virus, and the virus is more easily treated and contained.

The virus also has the potential to seriously affect people economically. For jobs that rely on tips, or people who get paid hourly only when certain institutions are open (schools, for example), people may lose their source(s) of income even though they are still employed. So, it’s extra important to limit the severity of the pandemic as quickly as possible, although I do think that it’s very important for schools/workplaces to consider and provide for how students’/workers’ needs will change, including considering access to technology, access to food and housing, etc. For example, I think the advice from many places to just “not take public transit” is laughably unrealistic, and telling people to stay home without providing for how they will afford to pay their bills is…a major problem.

I will write again later today with a plan for how our particular class will proceed. As I said yesterday, please still do your homework for today, please fill out the technology survey, and I’ll be in touch. Likely we will do a blend of some webconferencing and some asynchronous work. Please also check your email notification settings for this site, since it’s now especially important that you stay up to date with information.

Please email me with anything you’d like to talk about, or ways I can support you further.

Survey About Home Technology

CUNY has offered a list of “Things to Do Now” to prepare for the possibility of having to shift all classes to an online format, as some schools around the U.S. (and the world) are currently doing.

One of those things is to figure out what technology our classes have easy access to at home, so we can plan appropriate activities. (For example, some things like watching videos can take up a lot of bandwidth/cellular data, and that might not be feasible for you. If most people can watch videos at home with no problem, I might make videos but also provide text versions of the same information for those with limited data. If most people cannot easily watch online videos at home, it wouldn’t make sense for me to make them.)

This form is ANONYMOUS. Please fill it out as soon as you can, so I can make sure to plan lessons that are useful/accessible to our class community.

Technology Access/Needs Survey

A survey to gauge students' access to different technologies at home in order to plan activities for online learning that everyone can participate in.