Week 6: Researchers & writers

In Week 6, we reviewed where we are so far. Each student by now will have:

  • Chosen a research topic — or created your own — from the Topic List
  • Begun searching for sources & researching your topic
  • Chosen two sources and described these in entries in our crowd-sourced Annotated Bibliography (Assignment #1)

The task over the next week or so is to continue the research process and to write a report (described in Assignment #2). In class many questions were raised about sources, searching, writing and referencing. There is helpful information in the previous week’s posts here in the blog, as well as on the WRAP page. In addition here are the rough notes generated from our class discussion…


Also in class, we discussed and agreed the criteria for assessing the reports:

Marking Criteria for Assignment #2 (Report)

  • STRUCTURE: includes introduction outlining your approach; clear structure throughout the report; concluding with a summary paragraph to wrap up key points
  • CONTENT: information is explained clearly; content is correct & accurate; sources used are relevant and up-to-date
  • WRITING STYLE: written in 3rd person; clear, concise & correct use of language
  • REFERENCING: correct use of APA style for both in-text citations and the reference list

Next week in class (Week 7: 15th October), we’ll explore social media and curation tools for research, for example: Twitter, Diigo, Delicious, EndNote, Zotero, Scoop.it, Storify, etc. We’ll have a Twitter chat with other students and members of staff. And you’ll have an opportunity to work on your report, individually or in small groups, ask questions and get feedback.

Week 5: Writing skills

This week we dug deep into research and writing. When you conduct research for any purpose — whether you are going to produce a written article, blog post, report, presentation, video or screencast — you need to be clear about two things before you start: your purpose and your audience.

For this module, your task in Assignment #2 is to produce a short written report. The purpose is to explain your chosen topic clearly and concisely to an audience of your peers. If during the course of your research you find that your topic is too broad, or too specific, than alter it so that the scope is more appropriate for a 3-page report. The audience is 2nd year IT students at NUI Galway. This will help you to select appropriate language, comparisons, examples, etc. when writing your report.

Once you have clarified the purpose and audience, you can continue your research — i.e. searching to find relevant sources, then studying these. Once you’ve read several articles relevant to your topic, you should be able to map out the key points that you’d like to communicate about that topic. What are the 2 or 3 or 4 most important points? Structure your report around these key points, write a few paragraphs on each. Then write a short introductory paragraph (outlining the report) and a short concluding paragraph (summarising and/or concluding the report). If you want to see examples of how to structure a report, look at any of the journal articles you have used for your sources — usually these will be excellent models of clarity and structure.

How about using source material from those great articles you’ve been studying? They say it so well — how can you possibly say it better, you might wonder. Well, you don’t have to. You are required simply to summarise the research on a particular topic. Read several articles, take notes, identify key themes or topics, structure your report. In each section of the report, explain what’s important and interesting, in your own words, but feel free to summarise, paraphrase and quote from your sources. Summarising, paraphrasing and quoting are essential skills for writers, and here are some guidelines:

WHEN TO USE EXAMPLE (with in-text citation)
Quote directly The author’s words are perfect, or you want to comment on the author’s direct quote. (NOTE: direct quotes should be used sparingly.) “these words are perfect” (Author, Date, page no)
Paraphrase You can restate an idea more clearly or simply, in your own words. Or you can place the information in the flow of your own argument. I can restate this idea more simply. I can place this writer’s ideas in the flow of my own argument (Author, Date) …..OR…..Author (Date) writes that this method works very well
Summarise Short summary of a long passage or article. Use when you want to distil ideas to their essence. I can easily summarise the 3 main points of the article here (Author, Date) …..OR….. Author’s (Date) main premise is…
Use facts, data, diagrams, visual images, etc. You want to specify numbers, dates, diagrams, charts, images, etc. There are 8,000 items (Author Date) …..OR….. It was discovered in 2010 (Author, Date). .…..OR….. Photograph (Author, Date) …..OR….. Statistics (Author, Date)


For more detailed information, see Quoting, Paraphrasing & Summarising from Purdue’s Online Writing Lab.

In the second half of class today, we practiced these skills. There was a choice of 4 articles; one each by Nathan Jurgenson, Alice Marwick, Joel Lovell and the Pew Foundation (links for each are available in Readings & Resources, above).  We had some great discussions about these articles on social media, surveillance, online/offline identities and more, and practiced the forms of writing identified: Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarising. Some people tweeted their results, which you can find by searching #ct231 on Twitter.

Enjoy your continued research and do let me know if you have any questions or comments. Keep tweeting and keep an eye on the #ct231 hashtag… there are interesting tweets every day 🙂

Week 4: Digital identity | Writing skills


CC BY-NC-ND Will Foster

In Week 4, we delved a bit deeper into our exploration of digital identities. Who are we in online spaces? And how does this relate to who are offline? First we reviewed a few of the tools (in addition to the usual search engines) that you can use to find out more about your digital footprint:

Then we clarified the terms social media, social networks and networked publics, drawing on danah boyd‘s definition of networked publics from Social Network Sites as Networked Publics (one of several papers on digital identities from our growing course Reading List above).

Networked publics are publics that are restructured by networked technologies. As such, they are simultaneously (1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined collective that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice. Networked publics serve many of the same functions as other types of publics – they allow people to gather for social, cultural, and civic purposes and they help people connect with a world beyond their close friends and family. While networked publics share much in common with other types of publics, the ways in which technology structures them introduces distinct affordances that shape how people engage with these environments. The properties of bits – as distinct from atoms – introduce new possibilities for interaction. As a result, new dynamics emerge that shape participation.

We also explored the concepts of digital dualism and context collapse, and changing ideas about privacy. These are explored in course Readings (link above right) by danah boyd, Nathan Jurgensen, Bonnie Stewart and Howard Rheingold.

Lastly, I highlighted the importance of writing as a core skill. Later in the course you will have the opportunity to create and deliver a presentation and to choose and create your own digital media project. In both cases, as in most digital creative work, writing continues to be a core skill — writing clearly and concisely, summarising, paraphrasing, quoting, tagging social bookmarking. All of these are skills that you’ll have the opportunity to develop in the Professional Skills module.

Next week (Week 5), we’ll have a writing workshop during class, so that you can discuss some of these types of writing, practice them in small groups, and get and receive feedback.

Image: CC BY-NC-ND Will Foster

Assignment #2: Report

=> Link for Assignment #2 due on October 22nd

Assignment #2 is a written report, based on the research you have begun already for your chosen topic.

You’ll find helpful writing advice and guidance on the WRAP page. We will have a hands-on writing workshop in class next week (October 1st), during which time you’ll explore examples of summarising, paraphrasing, quoting and citing references — and have a chance to practice these, share ideas and ask questions. In addition, we’ll create the rubric (or marking guidelines) for this assignment in class next week, so that everyone will have a voice in determining how this assignment will be marked.