Saturday, December 8, 2007

Final portfolio advice

I'll be holding an optional session on sunday 3:30-6pm, 2nd floor of the union. The portfolio is due for class time on monday.

Q: Hitting the 1000 word-cap, what do I do? What if I go over the limit?
A: The word cap is in place as a challenge - on getting to the point and expressing ideas succinctly. Look for ways to say the same thing in fewer words (the advice given below works for this as well). I'm going by a soft-cap on enforcement, if its a little over, 2 possibilities a) everything fits and to the point, let it go, or b) get hit for being unnecessarily wordy as many parts has little to do w/ your question. For a frame of reference, its about fitting 10pages of info into 3pages. It's also acceptable to use abbreviations for long or frequent terms in your paper.

Q: Advice on working through the final rounds of the paper.
A: "I'd advise you to write a 1 line descriptor of what the main point of each paragraph is about, match that back to the main question - see if you can spot anything from that. You may realize the need to revise the paper items or the question itself."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Last day of class

Items for the day:
>Q & A session on the projects
>Discussion on the progression of the class this semester.
>Aside from the paper copy, digital dropbox your final and reflection paper on the 10th. Knowledge not shared is not knowledge at all. To preserve and share them, I will link them all via the main class blog.
>Provide some feedback on the class and info on blog use.
>Official university evaluations.

Reply to this post and respond to these statements. You can choose the anonymous option in commenting.
Use these response types (strong agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree), and provide a written response with each.
>Example: Disagree, I did not learn much from the poster experience, the work expended was less than the benefits gained personally.

a) The assignments in this class were instrumental in my learning. How so? Name the ones that helped or did not, and why?

b) The instructor's approach to class instruction were effective in my learning toward the course objectives. Detail specifics on what helped or did not.

c) Having my own blog was productive for my overall learning in this class. Detail why.

d) The instructor's use of the main class blog was productive for my overall learning in this class. Detail why.

e) The shared group blog was important for my group project. How so?

Lastly, if you have one advice to give to the next group of students taking inls200 w/ this instructor, what would it be?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

More Q & A

Q: Any advice on polishing the paper?
A: The expectation on the final paper is a piece of work that is as close to perfection as you can possibly construct. Having another person to check your statement logics and writings will definitively help. Either form an agreement with a classmate to mutually check each other's material, or make use of campus resources such as the writing center. Recommended for everyone, esp. so if you were ever cited by me on glaring errors, as I've generally let it slide on small assignments unless its really bad.

Q: What/when/where is everything due?
A: 10th, come drop it off during regular class time. Read the portfolio delivery doc on bboard, you might have very little or a whole lot to turn in.

Q: Citing interviews, how?
A: Cite as, J. Smith, personal communication, August 15, 2001 , in the bibliography. Then refer to it in-text "In an interview w/ person x, he emphasized the use of pesticides as the leading cause etc."

Q: Where to put the research questions?
A: State the primary question on the top of the first page in italics "What happened to the bees?"

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sample rough draft write-up

I'm writing this off the top of my head at 4am, so, take it as a conceptual sample written in blog-tone and not a literal model to emulate for a term paper.

Starting with the topic of the "walmart effect",
Core Questions: "How is walmart impacting small town America?"
Misc questions: why is it the wal-mart effect instead of k-mart/target/big box store effect? How do they offer "low-low prices all the time"? (+however more questions you pull up and investigate)

Two reasons. It's known as wal-mart effect because of their sheer size and presence. They are such a huge retail presence that companies literally rely on them to push products, many of them setup offices right in wal-mart's head-quarters (cite x). They can afford to drop companies, companies can't afford to lose wal-mart, thats why they have the upper hand in negotiating pricing. In turn, they get the products at the lowest cost, and can sell them below their competitors pricing and still turn a hefty profit.

Their logistical prowess, they have the best inventory management in the retail industry, if not in the world. They have x amount of their company focused on IT logistics, continuously runs model simulations on activity y (cite d). After Katrina, wal-mart was the first of any private, public, or non-profit organization to setup a capable presence to respond to the disaster (cite y). They can move products faster and cheaper than their competitors, another reason they can afford to offer low low prices all the time (cite z data #s).

None of their competitors has as much bargaining power with manufacturers as walmart does, and neither can they match wal-mart's logistical operation. The whole issue of how pricing can kill competition is another tract to explore in tying in w/ how it effects local community stores, then how the local stores lose business close down. It would involve some #s and charts to show case points. Whether you choose to express both sides, or just one, or focus on specific changes in the community or employment issues or quality of life issues, on a single community, multiple, national, etc - there really isn't a right or wrong path to go, what I'm assessing is how well you tackle exploration, iteration, and responding to which ever angle/question/perspective you settle on.

As another example, you could focus entirely on the employment angle. How the closing of shops drove many people having to seek alternative employment. Or how walmart is creating new job opportunities in the community, such as increased traffic led to more gas stations, or increase population over time etc (insert comparison chart over time, cite p).

This is what I'm expecting in the student papers (with citations to sources supporting the statements). Actually I expect as much, if not more, since the students are actively investigating primary sources and I'm just going by second hand off the cuff info to write this (might not be 100% accurate). In your reflection paper, you might talk about how you stumbled on the katrina article while researching sub-topic z etc. You might also describe how you come around to settling on your final focus point of employment instead of economics of walmart effect etc.

In terms of assessment, the first 2 paragraphs are along the lines of fundamentals that I expect you to be able to formulate for a term paper, that's average. Strong developments in the 3rd paragraph is where a paper can rise from average to good/great, combined with supporting materials in the rest of the portfolio/reflection paper.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Formatting the final papers + Q & A

See the final portfolio document on blackboard for the full details (updated with this info),
Final research paper:
>3 pages 1.5 spacing max if pure text; or go by less than 1,000 words to allow the use of images and tables without being limited by pages (not a bad idea usually).
>Split the bibliography into two sections, one list for sources directly cited to the paper (call it bibliography cited), one for sources consulted but not cited directly (bibliography consulted).

Reflection paper:
>No page limit, write as much or as little as you want. The paper itself isn't necessarily graded, but it's very instrumental as a guide in assessing your overall portfolio, class participation and progress through the entire semester (combined for 50% of course assessments).
>Format it for readability, use subtitles in bold to partition the paper ("research on previous topic, reflection on course assignments, developments on my primary topic, etc. etc.").
>Times new roman font, size 12. You'll also have to upload a digital version of both papers, I'll address that last day of class.

We'll have time to go through questions and details on weds in class, bring questions. And I'll also schedule an optional session beyond the last day of class, maybe the day before portfolio's due date to address any very last minute concerns.
Q: Which blogsignments to include the final portfolio, what to do with the reference interview
A: Reference interview isn't necessary and got ax'd when blog commenting became optional, bi-monthly updates were instituted in its place. None of the blogsignments need to be printed out, however, having a listing pointing out which blog post date corresponds to which blogsignment will be helpful to include in the portfolio.

Q: So I'm working on topic x, the critical analysis part is determining which sources are most reliable and unbiased for my information correct?
A: Sources is one part of the picture. By critical analysis I mean taking an iterative approach to breaking down and analyze the topic area through the questioning process. To be critical, one has to be very well informed on that given topic area (hence a whole semester to read and drill the topic). Sources can inform your topic/question development, and be used as support in the response write up. Your final paper is a synthesis of the ideas, perspectives, or issues - all of which defined by you, packaged and expressed with supportive evidence from the sources.

All the assignments and exercises in the course are designed as waypoints to the process I described above. The key to delivering a strong project portfolio is extensive iteration and critical exploration (and document those). The purpose of reviewing multiple sources is to develop this sense of critical analysis, in that you're not simply citing/repeating what one author said, but you can see what he's saying, why he said it, how he's saying it, by having built an informed knowledge base in your iterative exploration process. And will effectively be able to critically support what that author said, or counter it, with evidence from your sources, which is in turn based on what you have read and learned from the broader exploration you've engaged in reaching toward the end of the project. And if its not in your current source list, you are able and capable of retrieving said source, analyze said info, and use it to support said perspective.

Retrieving and evaluating information are the basics of the course, taking them to the next level with critically analyzing and effectively using said information in a meaningful context is the stuff that matters the most. Sources are the lego building blocks, I'm looking for what you can do with a pile of legos. If you're still not sure, ask me in class and I'll walk through some samples with the topic areas.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The presenters have done a great job today, this is a major major milestone toward your project, make best use of the feedback. The audience, really proud of you guys, I've seen some incredibly good engagement in learning and critical discourse in the span of 75minutes.

Remaining Poster Day Presenters
11/19/07- Brandon F., Corrine S., Furat S., James S., Mallory E., Marc W., Miranda R.,
11/26/07 - Alex V., Beth S., Doruk O., Alex C. George P., Crystal D., Jimmy N.
11/28/07 - Neha H., Shannon G., Amanda L., Michael B., Datt P., Trevor L., Nathan A., Andrew B.,
12/03/07 - Jesse P., David J., David M., Brandon B., Shane L., Nina B., Bo H., Alani N., Zach W.

--------Response to Jesse's blog question on topic struggle----------
GIS would be on your comfort side, you know the peaks and boundaries of the area, so it's less uncertainty if you stick with that. The media topic is daunting precisely because you have no idea of peaks that stand out or knowing enough of the area to set proper limits.

Normally, the safe thing to do is usually to put together a polished work that builds comfortably on your existing knowledge. The difference here is in how this class is setup, grading isn't focused on the product - you will not be penalized for trekking unknown territory.

It is true that you will be able to answer your research question more comprehensively if you have a better grasp of it. For the most part, I am looking for evidence that you are able to take a critical approach to your project and be able to effectively gather and use good data to support a fact finding mission or specific perspectives.

In short, the questions need to be competently addressed, but it doesn't need to have an absolute answer. There may very well be no answer, by addressing I mean, you might lay out the factors you believe that contribute to the lack of an answer and support them with info you found.

My answer to you is the usual vagueness, up to you. I think you'd do well with either topic. The poster questions are used to gather information and generate critical feedback, don't frame your entire project around them. My praise for this first batch of posters was not for that they are comprehensive and covers everything they need for their project, it was for that they have established the necessary background knowledge to be able to focus on addressing their specific questions in the next phase of their work.

Much of my feedback were in the direction of alternative ways they might look at what they have now. The collection of the class feedback will get them rolling on options to dig into next. More than likely they need to do another round of exploration, but at this point they will be much more specific in what they are looking for. The background knowledge they built up to the poster + new feedback ideas + new focused search = enough compilation to start the analysis and writing for the project.

This is the big picture of the class, each of the assignments was a puzzle piece, it should make more sense now that you have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight.

Poster Feedback Questions

Your name________, today's date______, Proj abbr. title_____
1) Complete this for 5 posters, budget about 10-15min to collect and write about each. Take this seriously, it reflects the quality of your class participation.
2) Address the questions directly or indirectly, not necessary to hit every point, but responses should be thoughtful and to the point. 2 paragraphs in the very least, use the back if more space's needed.
3) Write legibly, write legibly, write legibly, messy is ok, but must be legible. Give them to the author when you're done.

View the poster, ask the authors about their project in general, grasp what its about.
a) Focus: Are their research questions getting at the heart of what they are seeing about the topic area?
b) Depth/Substance: Are the components convincingly addressing the research question to the fullest extent possible (as a term project)? How so?
c) Relationship/Connections: Which parts, if any, seem out of place or disconnected? How?
d) Breadth/Coverage: In the context of the topic/question, any elements you expect should, but isn't addressed here? Why?
e) Sourcing: Are the key points well supported by highly relevant and strong sources? How so?
f) Clarity: Are you able to see the same vision that the author paints for their project?
g) Anything else you'd like to tell the author.

Respond to Author's specific question(s), required.