Category Archives: Instructor posts

What if the Earth Stopped Spinning?

Our planet does a lot: it shakes, revolves, tilts, and spins, and it does each one of these differently than it did some hundreds of thousands of years ago. So if the Earth no longer rotates, we must wonder what will become of us.

To begin, the Earth rotates because of the conservation of angular momentum, which explains that as something brings its mass closer to itself, it will begin to spin faster. The Earth normally spins at the equator at around eleven hundred miles per hour, and slower at the poles. This basically says that as the Earth rotates counter-clockwise, from west to east, friction develops and inertia acts on us. So if the Earth were to suddenly stop spinning, we would be thrown eastward at a violent pace.


The Earth’s atmosphere would be gone on account of the strong winds and partly a byproduct of this, mile-high tsunamis would sweep over land because of the sudden lack of interaction with the moon and tides. One day on Earth would last what is now three hundred and sixty-five days; the two main factors that affect seasons are rotation and even more importantly, the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth. Because the strongest gravity would be at the poles, the water will move towards the poles, leaving a big continent wrapped lengthwise across the planet.

There is not much bias to this blog, considering it is not an experimental study and simply an observational one, and also because it is not attempting to make a point, only analyze. Also there is no counterargument considering the science is all there and it is a subject that is agreed upon.

Bottom line is that if the earth were to stop spinning, there would not be a thing to worry about because well, none of us will last very long anyway. If you are not history by way of being thrown 1100 mph, then you will certainly be blatantly exposed to the cosmic rays that are currently kept at bay by our atmosphere, or even worse, have to experience a 365 day “day” in wintertime State College.

Cain, Fraser. “Why Does the Earth Spin?” Universe Today. N.p., 12 Sept. 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

Cain, Fraser. “What Would Happen If the Earth Stopped Turning?” Universe Today. N.p., 11 Nov. 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

“Here’s What Would Happen If the Earth Stopped Spinning.” Tech Insider. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

Blog Checklist

parksandrec_leslie_campaignadHi all–Happy Tuesday! I’m betting you are working on your blogs this week, trying to make sure you’re up to par before the Period Two ends. If that’s stressing you out and you’re worried about the quality of your blogs, I hope that this checklist helps you evaluate that quality. Especially if you’re struggling to meet with a TA (because it’s the last week) or get an email reply from a TA (again, sorry, because it’s the last week), here’s a checklist that you can go through on your own to see if you’re on the right track. I know that some of it is open to opinion, but hopefully you’ll get the gist of what you need to do to get the grade you want.

  1. Do you have a topic that addresses some sort of controversy or mystery that can be examined from a scientific perspective?
    • Are you examining and analyzing (so not just summarizing like a Wikipedia or WebMD article)?
  2. Is your topic broad enough that you can explore the topic from multiple points of view/thought patterns? Is it narrow enough that you’re not being too vague or too long-winded? (this is tough, but try your best judgement based on the TAs blogs from last year if you need a reference point)
  3. Do you have a thesis question of inquiry (i.e. does smoking cause lung cancer, are vaccines safe, what is the effect of music on cognitive performance, etc.)?
    • Is it clear and easily identifiable to readers (succinct and preferably at the end of your intro paragraph)?
  4. Do you have clear two-way topic sentences? (That tie back to the thesis question and tie to the subject of that paragraph)
  5. Do you consider different demographics while talking about your topic (For example, when studying the effect of gatorade on athletic performance, do you consider gender, age, BMI and other health indicators, geographic location, type of athletic performance, amount of gatorade, length of athletic performance, etc.)
    • A good rule is to look at how something affects different categories differently. Looking at age, ethnicity, geographic location, socio-economic status, gender, physical health, profession, etc. is a good idea if possible
  6. Do you look at credible sources? Do you have multiple credible sources that look at different subtopics of your thesis question (usually relates back to the demographics, i.e. under the question of does gatorade impact athletic performance, perhaps you look at studies about athletes from different sports, athletes from different age groups, different genders, etc. to inform your “answer” to your overall question)?
    • Credible sources can be news articles, but the best ones are actual studies from research institutions (we’re talking observational and, better yet, experimental studies from academia).
  7. Do you include sources from multiple different perspectives and with different kinds of results? (sometimes you can compare/contrast dissenting studies, other times the studies look at different factors under the same question)
  8. Do you analyze your sources?
    • Talk about the credibility of that source (study design: experiment/observation, size, randomized or not, controlled or not, p-value and confidence interval)
    • Have you considered reverse causation, third variables, and false positives/negatives?
    • Is the study relevant to your thesis question? Does it study what it says its studying?
    • What do you think of the results and why? Are the results generalizable beyond the sample population in that study? Why/why no?
  9. Are you making the studies understandable (“so in other words…” etc.) so that they’re not too confusing because of technical jargon?
  10. Are you incorporating concepts from class? Are you making references/comparisons/metaphors/etc. to topics/principles we discussed in class?
  11. Do you have some sort of “so what” portion, a “take-away portion” to conclude your blog that considers Cost-Benefit analysis and Risk analysis on the topic?
  12. Do you have live likes that cite your sources in the midst of your blog? Do you at least cite your sources in the text and provide the link/bibliography at the bottom?
  13. Do you have some sort of visual appeal (bolds, italics, colors, pictures, graphs, charts, even gifs)?

Happy Blogging, folks. Remember: 6

Preparing for the second test

Who cares that all my references come from the 90s and 00s? It was a simpler, more beautiful time

Who cares if all my references come from the 90s and early 00s? It was a simpler, more beautiful time

So you’re worried about the second test. First of all, I completely understand. Even as someone who became a TA, I was terrified of the tests in this class (to be fair, I’m more of an essay person so it’s me, not you, tests). That said, once you get used to them, they’re possible. These tests are going to challenge you to think and apply knowledge, but it is possible to succeed. I’ll say right now that there are no shortcuts, but there are strategies.

  1. Go to class and pay attention. I know, right? Isn’t that such an eye-roll piece of advise? Thing is, it’s one of the best ways to do well on the tests. Andrew wants to test how well you know the important concepts and how to apply them. If you understand that, then you’ll be great.
  2. 29ffe24311f9b9739bbaa0c4ce01443aIf your next thought is, but I do and I still bombed, then the next advice is to pay attention to the test’s rhetoric. One important principle in science is the lack of complete certainty. If you see answers that use language of complete certainty (“must, “always,” etc.), then be careful. The only thing that is absolutely certain is that chance is (almost) always an option. Conclusions of studies are either correct or due to chance. On that note about uncertainty, watch the way Andrew phrases questions. Words like “could,” “should,” and the like broaden the scope. It’s not always about what it is, it’s about what it could be. (Example: some questions try to put you in the middle of an historical scientific experience when you wouldn’t necessarily know what the real results are. Instead, he wants you to think about the possibilities–thinking about possibilities is a must when it comes to scientific discoveries).
  3. UnknownOrganize your notes. Not only should review your notes and pop quizzes, try keeping them in chronological order (because that’s also the order of topics building on one another) in the same place like a binder or three-ring folder that you can easily flip through during the exam. Think about reviewing your notes and marking with a different colored pen or a highlighter what those big idea concepts are. Maybe write down better explanations of concepts that you struggled with the first time around.
  4. These tests are cumulative, so remember to study the information and slides from the first test.
  5. Take notes during the test. I really recommend writing down your answers on a separate sheet of paper. Also mark questions about which you’re uncertain (circling is a favorite of mine) and consider writing down the other options you were considering. That way a) you might be able to figure out which ones you got wrong the first time and fix it the second time and b) you can explain your thought-process during a review session, which will help Andrew know how to explain concepts better to you (especially those really tough, intricate questions).
  6. bmw105-02Go to the review sessions and/or ask for help reviewing your past tests. Understanding what you struggled with is the best way that you can avoid struggling in the future. Along the same line of logic, make sure to clarify concepts that you don’t understand in lecture by asking Andrew/us after class for further explanation. If you’re fuzzy on it in class, that will amplify and worsen as you take the tests.
  7. Watching-TV-Boy-Meets-World-Shawn-Cory-Stages-of-DietAvoid distractions. Take the test on your own in a quiet place. Seriously, background noise/music/anything else that is audio will hurt and interrupt your concentration.
  8. Review your answers before you submit your test (even the ones you think are a slam dunk). Not reviewing is what increases the chance that those tricky rhetoric questions will, you know, trick you.
  9. Take each test. Not only do you learn more through application, you also increase the chance that you’ll improve your overall grade. Remember, you have the opportunity to improve without penalization because Andrew only counts your best efforts. That said, you can’t make your best efforts unless you put time and energy into every test and blog period.
  10. That leads into the last gemstone I’ve got: I know that with general education classes, it’s easy and convenient to put in the minimum (or nothing). You can’t do that with this class. This class requires serious thought and energy. Again, I get why that can be frustrating as you try to focus on the classes for your major. Understand that this is the reality; if you want to get a good grade, you have to work hard.

Good luck guys! Please email us if you have questions before the exam!


Taking Notes

Even temps/VPs/interns do it

Hi guys! Abby here. Lately Andrew’s tasked the TAs with a secret (not-so-secret) mission to observe the class, specifically noting when students seem to be paying attention, when students talk, and note-taking habits. From my observations, I’ve noticed in particular that only about 50-75% of the class regularly takes any kind of notes. Though it’s difficult for me to see all papers, from the papers I have seen, I’ve also noticed that a lot of people are either highlighting or just jotting down a few words on their handouts. Now, I’ll say up front that this is not a true scientific study (we’d have to collect and analyze notes for that) so we know that this is not a true diagnosis of the class. And while note-taking is not necessarily tied to academic performance (correlation is not causation), they definitely are linked.

So in the hope that maybe this might help people get more out of the class, I’d like to go over a few tips for good note-taking in Science 200. I’ll cross my finders and hope that you guys will find some of this to be applicable and helpful outside of this class as well!

  1. Come to class and stay! Andrew does a superb job of making sure he uses his time well. All of what he discusses at all points in class (including the last five minutes) is important. For that reason, attending class and making sure that you stay for the whole time is also important. Plus, you know, you’re literally wasting money (yours, your parents, the loan business’, the governments’, your scholarships’) by skipping class, coming late, or leaving early.
  2. Listen! It’s simple in theory, but if you’re not actively trying to give all of your attention to Andrew, then you’re much more likely to miss something important. As a modern-day, real-life college kid, I get it: it’s really tempting to pull out work from another class, text, check social media, talk to the people around you, or even just zone-out/partially fall asleep. However, giving into those distractions will again increase the likelihood that you’ll miss something important, you won’t write it down, and you’ll struggle to understand it later.
  3. Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 2.02.27 PMLook out for the larger implications and take-aways. Usually, Andrew is telling us a story and we need to look out for the moral, the lesson. Maybe that lesson is correlation versus causation, or the danger of false positives/negatives. Make sure you write down the parts of the story that are important to remembering why it matters. In the lecture about smoking, for instance, there are a lot of slides that just showed pictures of advertisements. Writing down why those advertisements are important in the context of the lecture. For example, here’s why those ads matter:
    • Tobacco companies manipulated the public’s opinion by suggesting that cigarettes were healthy because allegedly doctors “recommended” the cigarette brand because of “smoothness” as if “smoothness” is an indicator of health.
    • In reality, the advertisers were trying to distract the public from that obvious logical fallacy with a shiny “scientific-y” ploy: doctors are respected as health authorities, so saying that doctors recommend cigarettes, even if they’re just saying that a brand is the “smoothest” and not even the healthiest, gives automatic credibility to the ad.
    • This is an example of how the media misrepresents things as “scientific” as an advertising ploy–> lesson learned: don’t always take advertiser’s word.

Writing something down about this train of thought is important. Writing something to explain charts, pictures, and concepts that you struggled with is important. Writing something about the broader conclusions from the lecture is especially important. From the smoking lecture, a good idea would be to write something down about the burden of proof needed when trying to argue that something popular is bad (this goes along with cost-benefit analysis), not all data are equal, the difficulty of “proving” a particular hypothesis, social, economic, and political phenomena often impede science, and the ambition of science is to reduce uncertainty as much as possible.

4.   Don’t rely on just the handout. You should definitely keep the handouts in a folder or binder in order to review them later on. But the most important things are always the ones that Andrew says, not that he writes. You guys have taken the first exam and know this is true. Write down what he says. Highlighting and underlining is never enough. Synthesize the important information into a “so-what,” a general principle or lesson that helps us understand science and scientists better. Sometimes Andrew does this for you, but putting it in your own words always increases the likelihood that you’ll remember it later.

5.   For Science 200, I found writing on the handouts and drawing physical connections (circles, arrows, etc.) between the information on the handout and the information I wrote down to be helpful. That way when you review your notes for the exams or even the blogs, you can follow your original thought process.

6.  If something confuses you, write your confusion down. Similar to what you should do with the important points, try to synthesize your confusion into a simple, concise question. Then ask that question in class or after class (that’s what Andrew and us TAs are here for) and write down the answer.

7.   Write down connections and analogies. If you’re listening to a lecture and suddenly think, “Oh! That reminds me of that time/of that book/of that economics principle/etc.,” write that connection down. Just like putting things into your own words, putting concepts in your own schema (previous knowledge and system of reasoning) will help ensure you remember and understand it better.

I’ll end by saying that if you’re not doing these things, strongly consider doing them. In part, consider them because they’ll help you get a better grade. But even if you don’t care about your grade (I know this is one of your science GenEd requirements), this class could actually help you live a more informed, better life if you pay attention and put effort into it. Since you’re already paying for this class, cost-benefit analysis might suggest that it’s worth your time to pay attention to it. And take notes 🙂

How To Ask for Help

Hey all! It’s Abby, your friendly neighborhood TA. I know things are getting under the wire for blog period one, and a lot of you are doing the smart thing and asking for help! I wanted to take the time to talk to you all about the best ways to do that. Before I really get into it, I can’t stress enough that I’m not at all upset or even frustrated by any of my interactions with you guys because truth be told I know exactly what it’s like to be in your shoes. In this blog post, I’m going to talk about email etiquette, the best ways to ask and receive help and constructive criticism, and a little about in-person interactions.

First, I’d like to talk about why I think this is necessary. The other TAS and I have gotten a lot of emails about technical problems and requests for blog advice, and I love it! I’m so glad that you guys are taking advantage of your resources in this class by asking for advice. I also love reading and giving feedback on writing: it’s amazing to see how people can develop their reasoning, analysis, and rhetoric. That said, a lot of these requests have come in less-than-ideal ways. Again, while it doesn’t faze me much, I do want to emphasize how important it is to talk to others diplomatically–especially when you’re talking to them electronically. Again, it hasn’t personally offended me when I’ve gotten emails from you that don’t follow these guidelines, but it’s entirely possible and probable that someone else will, someone who even has influence over your grades, job prospects, and life. For that reason, it’s a good idea to follow these no matter who you’re emailing.

Advice for Appropriate Emails:

  • Do your homework. Researching things ahead of time will save the person you’re emailing a lot of time. That’s always a plus when you’re looking for help or advice. In this class, if you need blog help or are unclear about expectations, checking Instructor Posts and/or the syllabus can often give you the answers you need. Even if they don’t, letting the person (like the TAs or Andrew) know that you checked there first demonstrates a respect for that person’s time and a commitment to the class/job/etc.
  • Greet your audience. If the person is a doctor, a professor, a coach, or anything else that comes with a title in front of his or her name, make sure to put that in your greeting unless that person has made it clear that it’s okay not to do so.
  • Say something about why you’re emailing or some other kind of introduction. “I hope you are enjoying your weekend,” “I wanted to ask you about…,” “Loved what we discussed the other day…,” “Hope that your semester/summer/break/sabbatical/etc. is going well.” Whatever seems the most appropriate given the circumstance and to whom you’re talking.
  • Ask about whatever you need ask about, or respond to whatever you need to respond to, in a polite, considerate way. My mom used to say “your emergency is not my emergency,” and she was on to something. You may be worrying or getting frustrated about something, but that doesn’t mean you should write “ASAP,” “I need,” or “right away.” You can still feel those emotions and express them, but do it in a diplomatic way. The person you’re writing to might receive fifty “ASAP emails” a day. If you’re on a time budget, consider whether that is something you could have controlled. Acknowledge that (i.e. “I know that I am emailing you late, but I hope you can help me…” or “I apologize for emailing you late but because of…I couldn’t address this sooner…”). I’ll revise my mom’s statement to this: “Your emergency isn’t necessarily my emergency, but I’ll help if you say please.” This is even more crucial if you are frustrated or angry. Always take time to think about how people will react to your words and tone.
  • Explain. The best way you can interact with someone and get what you need is to explain your situation. If you’re struggling, not understanding, having a specific technology problem, or whatever else, explain it. That’s the best way that you can humanize yourself and inform the person of the best he or she can help you. It also helps with the diplomacy component.
  • Check your spelling and grammar. Just do it. That means pay attention to punctuation and capitalization too.
  • thankyou_justintimberlake_gifEnd with some sort of goodbye (Thank you, Thanks, Sincerely, Best, etc.) Make sure that at some point you have thanked the person in a way that doesn’t seem like you’re rushing out of a grocery store.

Receiving Advice and Constructive Criticism:

  • Respond politely. Acknowledge that someone has tried to help you, even if you’re not a fan of how they did so. (“Thanks again for reading this over for me and taking the time to give me your advice…,” “I appreciate you looking into this issue for me….”)
  • If you disagree, still have a problem, and/or need more explanation or help, say so, but again, make sure that you’re doing so in a polite way. Remember that people are usually doing their best, they practically always have other responsibilities, and certainly are just human.
  • Don’t send emails when you’re angry, frustrated, or extremely sad. I’m saying it again because this is super important. You have the advantage to take time to think and revise when you communicate electronically, so use that advantage. Even if you’re just saving yourself from sending an email with slight attitude, it’s worth it.

Almost all of this can be translated to in-person interaction. Say hi to the person you’re talking to, whether it’s a TA, a professor, a secretary, a future employer, or a classmate! Besides the fact that it’s a good thing to be nice to everyone, you never know what connections and influences someone you’re talking has. Ask if they have the time for your question and speak politely, remembering that you’re asking for help. Say thank you! It’s real easy to forget that people are more than just characters in your life, especially if you’re in your first year of college and there are so many variables changing in your life. Still, remembering this will go a long way.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to comment below or send me an email! Happy Thursday!

For those seeking help!

01-hub_0Hey everyone! Quick announcement. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be notifying you guys via this blog of times that I’ll be available to answer questions, help with blogging, etc. in the HUB! Tomorrow I will be there from 12-3. You can find me at one of the tables in the new addition part on the upper level next to the stairs. I’ll set up a little sign if you can’t recognize me! Also, if my emails aren’t cutting it for you, I’d be glad to set up a private time to meet and answer questions. If you are having any trouble at all, please contact me! I’m one of your best resources, seeing that I’ve been in your shoes before. I hope this is helpful and you take advantage of the time I’m giving you guys towards being successful in this class. Have a good, short week. ☺

On Topic

I’ve gotten a couple of emails about one of the most frequent issues of this course: picking the right topic. Here’s really the only requirement for topics: looking into a question, a controversy, that you can investigate into and find research to support your claims.

Write about a controversy?

Write about a RATIONAL controversy

Summarizing a scientific discovery, then, isn’t enough. If what you’re writing about is a sure thing, like the chemistry behind baking, then you shouldn’t write about it. If you want to write about whether or not baking is good for someone’s mental health, that’s a topic worth a look (as long as you can find research into the neurology and psychology behind cooking/baking). Why? Because nobody can look up the answer on Wikipedia. Another way to think about it: can someone pose a rational argument against yours? If not, then it’s probably not a good topic. No one can pose a rational argument against facts like the sun makes plants grow–so explaining how is not a good idea. Another bad idea would be to argue that Tina Fey is funnier than Amy Poehler just because of your opinions. But if you found a way to scientifically evaluate that question (who’s funnier) and opinions, like looking at ratings, number of viewers, volume and frequency of laughs in stand up comedy, and maybe other ways that you could evaluate humor and popularity, you might have a chance at a good blog. (Maaybee….)

Another example: Writing about the observation that many people get colds in the winter is not a good idea. But writing about whether or not Vitamin C products are an effective method of fighting colds is interesting. Or writing about “natural” treatments (water, rest, Netipot) versus cold medicine would also be interesting.

mg_3503-300x200Another example (one of mine): Does music help or hurt your studying? Sure, you could do a Google search, but even the first page would be full of sites shouting complete opposite assertions. First I read what some of those had to say, and a few sparked me to think about the question on my own. What are the factors that could make it hurt you or help you? I decided to look into a few different variables: volume, genre, and type of homework. For sources, I read through academic journals and experiments (Best advice for those is to start by reading the abstract, the hypothesis, and the conclusion. Then look into other parts when you’re up for it and if you need to.). It wasn’t like there was one source for all of these lines of questions. I had to look into a number of different research papers, sometimes looking at things circuitously, to try to get the big picture. If you don’t have to do that, or at least something close to that, for your potential topic, then it’s probably not a solid topic. By the way, if you want to know what I found out about music, check it out.

Let me know what you think of this and whether you understand or not! Comment below if you’re up for it. And if you ever want to run a topic by me or the other TAs, we’re always around 🙂

How to Write a Blog


Hey guys! The first blogging period is in full swing now and the deadline will be here before you know it. That being said, I’m sure there are a ton of you who have no idea what the hell is going on (that was me last year). If this is the case, do not get frustrated! I’m going to give you some tips on how to get started writing your blogs and what they should entail.

Choosing a Topic:

Some of you may have an itch to scratch, meaning there is a question that you’ve been longing to explore but haven’t had the means to do it yet. For example, I just really want to know what language my dog thinks in. Does he think in English or in dog barks??? I don’t know???!! But for other people, this is the most challenging part of the process. You might be thinking, I hate science and I’m not interested in learning about anything science-related. But everything around you is science! If you’re having trouble thinking of a topic, here are some ways to get your mind going:

  • Sit outside for 5 minutes and don’t do anything except observe your surroundings. Maybe there’s a tree that is particularly sad-looking. Do plants have feelings?
  • Think of family members and friends. Do any of them have quirky habits or strange illnesses? Maybe even normal habits or a common sickness. Maybe your friend who religiously picks his nose is depressed.. could there be a connection?
  • Don’t be afraid to use Google. You can type in pretty much anything and find some sort of research on it. I just typed in “retail therapy.” Turns out, there have been studies to find out if it actually has health benefits. Be spontaneous!

Writing an Effective Introduction:

Your blogs should be between 300-500 words on average. That being said, do not write a novel for your introduction- a paragraph, at most, should suffice. What I always like to do in my introduction is briefly explain how I got interested in my topic. This allows you to show how the topic personally relates to you and allows the reader to see that you are genuinely amused by the subject. I then find it effective to give an opinion or hypothesis on the topic/question at hand. For example, if writing about what language my dog speaks in, I may say something like, “Before researching, I assumed that my dog thinks in a language that is not English. I hypothesized this because dogs have the ability to be vocal, and yet they only form barks. Because they cannot form English words, I believe that their brain is thinking in a different language, one unknown to man.”

Body and Analysis:

Although these blogs should include an introduction, body, and conclusion, this is NOT your typical five paragraph essay. For each blog, you should have more than one study that you are researching and analyzing. This is because you may find results or findings on the same topic don’t agree by different researchers. First, the body should include a thorough but brief summary of the study you’ve chosen to research. This means that you should include ONLY the key points in the study. This will usually include who conducted the experiment, the number of participants, the type of experiment thBlog_1at was conducted, the processed used, and the results (I may be leaving something out but if you see numbers it’s probably important!) It is then up to you to analyze the experiment and critique it. If you think it was performed well and you agree with the findings, explain why. For example, you could say “The study effectively ruled out reverse causation by…….” It is also important to offer insight on how you would have conducted the experiment differently to make it more effective. For instance, you could say, “The study could have been more realistic if you did a double-blind placebo test because….”



The final and most important key to producing A+ blogs is to cite your work. Without giving credit to the website, publisher, author, or whoever is belongs to, your work is considered plagiarism. Any information that you get, even if it is not copied PURDUEword for word, needs to be cited. My suggestion is that you use in-text citations as well as a works cited section at the end of your blog. Here is the link to the Purdue OWL, which will explain anything you need to know in terms of citing.


Final Reminders

Make sure to use pictures and hyperlinks! No one wants to read something that is all words. Hyperlinks are super fun too and can help provide extra knowledge to your audience beyond what you’re writing. Also, make sure you write professionally, but don’t be afraid to be quirky!

Email me with any questions; I’m happy to help!


The Thing About Comments…

So here’s the deal about editing and deleting comments: you can’t really do it. I did contact the tech people, but they said there wasn’t really an option unless you wanted to change your OWN comment on your OWN post. Here are their exact words:

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 5.55.17 PMSo the good news is that they know it’s a problem, they’re looking into changing it, and since most of you are freshmen who will have to blog again for another class (I speak from experience), the future is bright.

Bad news is that for now, just review your comments before you post them. Check your grammar, your facts, your sources, your common sense, etc. before you post 🙂 And if you need to still post a live link for the initial blog post requirement, just write another one since it takes less than two minutes. Here is where Andrew talks about live links in comments.


Ask Abby: How to Ace the Blogs, Save Time, and Like Science

Guatemala's pretty chill

Guatemala’s pretty chill

Hey all! Abby here. I am so excited to be one of your TAs this fall. I know that you’re all drawn in by the title, so I’ll get to the secret recipe for doing well in one second. First I want to introduce myself! My name is Abby Kennedy and I am a junior here at Penn State–that’s crazy since I swore someone just told me how jealous they were of me for being a freshman. Let me take this chance to tell you I am jealous of you if you are a freshman (enjoy it and never let it go until they make you). I’m double majoring in English and Secondary English Education with minors in History and Latin American studies, which means I want to teach English and Social Studies at a high school level in a Latino community someday and use my Spanish. This summer I was studying abroad and conducting independent research in Guatemala. I actually had my own blogging requirement for that trip, so if you want to learn more about my trip, see here.

See what I just did there? A live link! Those are pretty easy to do in a regular blog post because all you have to do is use the live link button in your toolbox above the text.

Live Link Button

Live Link Button

See my picture that I added to illustrate that? Used the Add Media button for that. For Comments, it can be a little more difficult because there’s no button, but I always used this website, which tells you the manual way to do it (Use the Code In Context one). Now I know this stuff seems basic and maybe irrelevant, but the reason why Andrew wants you to use those two things is because in your blogs, you’ve got to do three things: #1 Make a clear, compelling, and unique scientific argument or inquiry #2 Back up your claims with logic and credible scientific data or theory and #3 Make it interesting enough that other people will read it. Live links to scientific studies, journal articles, or statistics (which save so much time compared to bibliographies) are great ways to back up your posts with solid evidence in a way that people can easily follow. Pictures can do that too (example: charts, graphs), and pictures also give some life to what you’re writing about. If you swing it right, videos and memes can be great too. As far as the blogging part of your grade goes, live links and pictures are great ways to back up a strong blog and get you closer to an A.

So what else to you have to do?

First, you should always be posing some sort of question and maybe even try to answer it–or at least explain how you could answer it. If you want to say that there’s a new treatment for spinal injuries, that’s fine but examine it. Does this new treatment work? How do we know or how can we know? You can see my blog about that here.

Focus on specifics, not general topics. You want to write about how boys and girls are different? Cool, but narrow it down to a specific way they may or may not be different like school.

Pick topics that interest you for starters. If you do that, you will mind less doing research into all of the avenues of questions and explanations, and you should do research into those.

When we won the 2015 ICCA Quarterfinals!

When we won the 2015 ICCA Quarterfinals!

I’m in an a cappella group on campus, The Coda Conduct, so I love music. When I looked at whether or not music is good to listen to while studying, I asked questions about different types of music, different volume levels, and different types of work. Then I searched for scientific articles about those topics or related ones until I got better answers or I found that there was a lack of research. When that happens, suggest hypothetical experiments someone could do in order to get better answers. Don’t worry, that’s not as hard as it sounds and you’ll get it after a little bit of time with Andrew. In science, you’re usually more likely to come up with more questions or ambiguous answers than you are with definitive facts. That’s okay!

Make Your Blogs Unbreakable

Make Your Blogs Unbreakable

And when you’re backing up your claims or trains of thought with evidence, use credible evidence. What I mean by that is, go beyond an easy Google search of CNN articles about stuff. Those are good for getting a general gist of something at first. But looking at academic journals is where you get the best evidence. I recommend Google Scholar, which connects your searches to academic articles that you can access. Sometimes it takes time to read these–I suggest reading the hypothesis, abstract, and conclusion to papers first–but it’s super important. Here’s why: When it comes to science, you have to make sure that if someone challenged you, that your argument could stand up to their challenge (that’s true for lots of disciplines like education, business, etc.). I wrote a blog about why you should get the flu vaccines every year, and I fought against all the counterarguments with solid evidence from scientific journals or statistics so that my piece couldn’t be disputed. When you’re talking about something as serious as vaccines (Andrew will explain why they’re serious), you have to make your stuff untouchable–again, great advice for anything you write or argue.

Our Fearless SC 200 Leader

Our Fearless SC 200 Leader

Reference the stuff from class. Andrew is a brilliant guy, despite how chill he seems. He teaches you great patterns of critical thinking and examination in class, stuff that’s considered great around the scientific community. Question the size of the study, talk about false positives, remember that correlation isn’t causation (all of that will make sense in a bit). If you do, your work will be stronger.

Here’s my final takeaway (not a bad thing to end your blogs with): Yes, this course requires work. But the way I see it is you guys are here, so make the most of your time and efforts. You have to be in class anyhow, so listen and take notes. You have to write a minimum number of blogs, so write the best one so that you don’t have to write more. That stuff will mean less cramming for tests and writing blogs that you know aren’t good. As far as liking science a little better than you did in freshman year biology goes, that will come as you get more engaged with the class. At least it did for me, and I hated those frog dissections as much as anyone. 

Welcome to SC200! I’m your TA

Hey everyone! Welcome to SC200; I’m super excited to get to know you guys this semester. ☺My name is Julia Molchany and I’ll be one of your TA’s for the course. Before we get into the good stuff, let me tell you a little about myself…

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I’m a sophomore this year and in a few months I’ll be turning 20 (January 29 if anyone wants to send gifts, flowers, etc.). So, I’ll bet I’m not much older than most of you freshmen in this course. Although I have not officially declared my major yet, I’m in the Smeal College of Business and considering either MIS or accounting. In addition to being your TA, I am also a tutor in the IMG_7562Writing Center. For those who don’t know where that is: 220 Boucke across from the HUB- come see me whenever!

Outside of my academic life, I’m a sister of Zeta Tau Alpha and extremely involved in THON. I love my dogs more than anything- if you would ever see my Snapchat, you’ll know I have a bit of an obsession. I’m a big fan of The Office and also the Italian pasta salad at the HUB. That being said, I highly encourage you to leave comments on this post with quotes from The Office (or buy me pasta salad).

Right now, all of you are working on completing your first blogging assignment. You were asked to answer the question, why are you taking this course? I looked back on my introductory post from last year and I answered the question like this: “Since I was required to take at least one science course, my advisor recommended this class after I told her I wasn’t much interested in sciences.” Like many of you, I did not know what to expect going into this course. After completing it though, I can guarantee that if you fully engage yourself, you will become a better writer, critical thinker, and learn a lot of weird facts that you probably don’t ever need to share.

To wrap this up, I want everyone to feel 100% comfortable coming to me with any questions or concerns. My email is I ask that when you do contact me, please include your reason for writing in the subject line and sign the email with your full name so I can remember you. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging tips, reminders, and examples to help you get started on the right foot. I’m so excited to work with all of you this semester and I know it’s going to be a great year!