Archive | September, 2011

Workshop # 2: Sideshadowing

29 Sep

Yesterday, you told the world about your work. Today, you will be sharing that work with one another to help improve your draft.


In the margins of your project, using the comment function (or on a separate document/piece of paper, if necessary), begin to select sections of your project that you want feedback on. Ask questions. Point out things that you are not sure about. Then, find a partner to read your paper and sideshadow comments.


As a partner, you should carefully read your classmate’s paper, responding to their sideshadow questions. Think about the Nancy Sommer’s pieces. What makes good feedback? As you answer the writer’s questions, you may also want to pose some of your own.

Looking at the criteria for good writing that we developed earlier in the semester, begin to list attributes that makes this paper “good” writing.

Chose one or two major improvements that could help take this project to the next level (forget grammar for now).


Open ended questions are the most valuable questions you can ask. Yes/no questions don’t provide my room for thought or analysis, the two major components of college writing and scholarship.


MLA Citations

28 Sep

Here a few great resources to help you with MLA citations!

The Purdue OWL (online writing lab) is a great resource for all things writing related. It has information on how to write in specific styles, deciphering the requirements of different genres, and, of course, how to cite correctly.

A video from my colleague, Bill Torgerson, on using in-text citations (parenthetical citations) and signal phrases:


Here is another video from Torg about works cited pages:


And finally, when in doubt, you may use a citation generator to help you along. You should be familiar with the rules, however, as the generators don’t always get it right, especially if you type the information incorrectly. I use KnightCite from time to time because I know it is up-to-date with the most current MLA style guide edition.

Somewhere I Belong Workshop # 1: The Tell-Me-About-Your-Work Blog Post

28 Sep

For any professional, whether he/she may be a writer or not, it is important to be able to tell others about her/his work. That is what this workshop requires you to do.

In a short blog post, tell your audience what you are working on. You should try to answer as many of these questions as possible in your post, though not necessarily in this order:

  • What are you writing about?/What is your research question?
  • What are you hoping to learn?
  • How have you been trying to write/learn/think about this topic?/What types of research have you had to perform?
  • What do you still need to learn more about?

After you’ve told your audience about your project, I would like you to tap into that resource– the audience, that is. Ask your audience a question (or questions). Are you worried about style? Do  you want help finding resources? Are you looking for a good question to include in your interview? Reach out. You just might get a response that could give you the boost you need.

Finally, if you want outside help, one good way to find that is to tweet it out. Don’t be afraid to share your blogs on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. It doesn’t have to stay confined to this classroom. If you don’t have that many followers, and you want to share with an outside audience, you can always include a link, mention @compositionblog in your tweet, and I can send it forward into the Twitterverse (I have about 470 followers).

The Somewhere I Belong Calendar

21 Sep

9/21 — Photo # 1

9/22 — Research Journal # 1

Reading TBA on Bb


9/28 — Research Journal # 2

9/29 — Photo # 2 & 1st Draft


10/5 — Research Journal # 3

10/6 — Interview

Reading TBA on Bb


10/12 — 2nd Draft

Reading TBA on Bb


10/19 — Final Draft

Somewhere I Belong: Research Journals & Interviews Directions

20 Sep

The Research Journal

Research is a critical part of college writing, but it is also just a really great way to learn more and be able to think about things from new perspectives. The research journal asks you to do the following:

  • Briefly summarize the main points of a single piece of research you may include in your Somewhere I Belong project. This might be a newspaper article, a scholarly journal (check the StJ library databases), a credible website, a documentary, or any number of primary and secondary sources. If you aren’t sure if it is appropriate, ask.
  • Why is this piece credible?
  • Critique the piece: How well was it written? Is the argument convincing? Is anything missing?
  • Is the piece useful to your research? How and why? Or why not? If the piece is not useful for your purposes, what are the purposes for which it would be useful?
  • Use MLA style citations

The complete journal should be 250+ words, posted to your blog.

The Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) is a great place to find more information about writing research papers and using MLA style citations. You may use a citation creator, such as


The Interview

Your interview should include at least 20 questions. Prepare beforehand by having a list of questions ready and having a focus. Do allow yourself to improvise. Don’t ignore something interesting that you think might help your project just because it doesn’t “fit” with your questions.

You may want to record it with a cell phone or your laptop. It is easier to transcribe after the interview than attempt to write a person’s responses word-for-word as he/she speaks.

Make sure that you explain to the interviewee before you begin the interview that it is for school, that you will be posting the interview to your blog, and that it may end up, in whole or in part, in your final project. They may want to remain anonymous, or they may choose not to participate. That is their right.

Ask open ended questions. Yes/no questions will get you short answers that won’t reveal much.

If a person seems uncomfortable with a question, do not push the question on them.


Somewhere I Belong: The Unit 2 Project

15 Sep

The unit asks you to consider the terms place and community. Where is it that you feel you most belong or you most want to belong? Where is your place, or where is the place you most want to be? Who is a part of your community? These are some of the questions you may ask throughout this unit.

For this unit, we will be doing ethnographic research and writing. This will require some field work on your part. You will be photographing, conducting interviews, and writing observations. These smaller steps will be part of your research process and help you build towards your larger final essay.

The final package will be a multi-modal project (that means more than one type of communication method—pictures, videos, soundbites, interactive posters, etc.) of 1250+ or a 5-8 minute documentary (iMovie is great for this).

1 Interview on WordPress blog – these can be done using a webcam or audio recording posted to your blog or by transcribing an interview word-for-word and posting the the transcription on your blog — due 10/6

3 research journal entries on WordPress blog – I will post separately about how to do these– 9/22, 9/28, 10/5

1 final project – due 10/19

These are, of course, the minimum requirements. Feel free to go above and beyond.

A small pointer: a community does not have to be a literal place, and it certainly doesn’t have to be your hometown.



A miniaturized version as an example

I am an equestrian, a member of the horseback riding community. I know the “language,” both the jargon equestrians use and the signs horses give to communicate. I know the proper barn etiquette: clean up after your horse if your he poops in the barn, left passes left in the ring, dust off your boots before you get in the show ring, etc. I am also aware of the culture, including the traditional costumes.

My picture: I chose a picture of my horse and me at the barn where I’ve been riding since I was 11 years old. A better picture would probably be the actual barn because it represents a whole community rather than just an individual. This picture seems to be more about the sport or the relationship between my horse and myself rather than the community. Since this is a rough draft, it’s ok to have a “rough representation” (plus, this was the only picture I had available at the moment). I would not make this my sole image.

My interview: I would probably interview another rider, a trainer, or a barn owner to find out more about the community and its problems. I would ask many open-ended questions instead of yes-no questions.

My research: This would depend on the angle I take. If i’m talking about what it means to be an equestrian, I might research articles from Olympic riders. If I’m talking about collegiate equestrians, I might read something by Bob Cacchione, head of the Intercollegiate Horseshow Association (IHSA). If I’m talking about problems in the equine industry, I might look up something from an equine vet about the deadly diseases, such as Strangles, that affect barns or talk to the guys over at the Meadowlands about how badly the racing industry is doing. In my research journals, I could write about all of these, but eventually, I would have to figure out what and how to use the research I have done.

End project: I think this also depends on the angle I choose. If I was working with the problems in the industry, I might put together and informative website with my narrative as the homepage, or I could make an expose-type documentary. If I was talking about what it was like to be an equestrian, I might do a blog post with pictures and video clips, or I might go for a documentary with lots of photos and a voice-over of my narrative.


A limited list of other communities I could have chosen:

  • English majors
  • amateur photographers
  • doctoral students
  • Compositionists
  • writers
  • Twitter users
  • Subraru drivers
  • middle class girls from New Jersey
  • women
  • fans of House music

The list is really quite endless, but I’m sure I’ve already revealed too much about my lifestyle with these entries.

Workshop # 3

15 Sep

You will be given a hand out with one not-so-great sentence from each person’s mid-process draft. Your job is to go through them and try to make them better. This may include adding commas, fixing typos, and/or breaking up run-ons, as well as totally rewriting the sentence. Note: you do not have to identify your own sentence to the class!

The idea is to aim for sentence clarity. Whether it’s grammatically correct or not, if a sentence is hard to read, it’s not doing its job; it’s not communicating with an audience.

Once we’ve done this and gone through the changes as a class, it’s time to check over your own papers (with a partner if you want) and begin to line edit your draft. Are you making some of the common mistakes we discussed as a class? Are you committing any of Orwell’s no-nos? Now is a good time to start addressing those issues.