Category Archives: Instructor Posts

Tips for Taking Good Notes!!

Hello everybody! The start of the semester is under way and most of you have probably figured out that SC200 isn’t like your usual college course. This isn’t going to be a class where you plug and chug some numbers, or read some sections of a textbook to find the answer. There’s going to be lots of critical thinking, pondering, skepticism, and definitely some confusion along the way. The great thing about this class is that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on course materials or textbooks.

No need to bring your own notebook (if you want, you can but it’s not necessary). The handouts that are available in class are more than enough to scribble your notes on. Now you are probably wondering what to write, how much to write, when to write, etc. I will go over all that but first, let me stress one thing you should do before you start taking notes.


Sounds obvious right? You’d be surprised how many people disappear throughout the course of the semester. Here’s some reasons to come to class:

1. Attendance is part of your grade. If you really want to blow off 10% of your grade and go party, ignore this. Seriously, who’s stopping you?!

2. There is vital information that is being said by Andrew that you aren’t going to get from just reading the slides on Angel. Andrew posts the class slides on Angel after each class for everyone’s benefit, especially the ones that actually missed class for a legitimate reason. But the slides are just a basis of what is being taught on that day. You should be present to record your interpretation of Andrew’s teachings. You’ll remember things a lot more if you physically pick up your writing utensil and write things yourself.

Now that I’ve taken care of coming to class, let’s go over how you should effectively take notes for SC200:

  1. Don’t act like a stenographer. There’s no need to write down everything that is being said. That just takes the fun out of class and isn’t even efficient. There’s no need to write down that this specific type of worm is 2mm long and has infected 1.3 billion people. If you do spend the time writing down every detail, chances are you aren’t going to write fast enough to keep up with everything Andrew says AND you will miss out on the important stuff.  You know, the stuff you need to know for the tests. So what is the important stuff?
  2. Look for recurring themes. Big picture lessons. Over the course of the semester, there are many big concepts that are going to be emphasized over many topics. Concepts that Andrew will repeat (*hint hint*). For example, the relationship between causality and correlation was stressed multiple times when I took the class last year, and will most likely be a factor this semester. Look for why Andrew is talking about a topic. Why is Andrew talking about wormy kids being stupid? What’s he getting at? There are morals/lessons with every topic that will be discussed throughout the semester.
  3. Underline, highlight, color code, star, bold, UPPERCASE LETTERS. Don’t just write your words on a piece of paper. Make them memorable. Summarize into your own words if you want. Make connections from class to events that happened to you in real life. You will understand the material better if the material means something to you.
  4. Listen to Andrew. There are times when Andrew will literally tell you to drop your pencils and just listen to the story. An hour and a half is a long time to sit still and listen to a professor, I know. But we promise we will try our best not to be boring. Some of the topics are actually interesting and are dependent on what you guys want to learn about.

Remember, there are many resources for your use if you are stuck or confused about anything. The other TAs’ and I are getting paid to help so please increase our salaries by asking questions. All jokes aside, best of luck to you guys. Check out Brian and Sarah’s advice on how to be successful in this class.

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A Guide to ‘A+ Grade’ Blogging

Today we received lots of questions on the comment wall regarding blogging. We did not have time to answer them all in class so we thought it would be helpful if we made a blog post for you to answer some of the questions you might have. In addition to reading this post, we encourage you to also read through the syllabus, as well as the Tech FAQ before writing your first blog of the period. In the post you are about to read, you will find an FAQ-style blog concerning all things blogging. If you have further questions or concerns, please email any of the TAs as we are here to assist you throughout the semester.

How long does a blog have to be and how long will it take me?

As Andrew said in class, 500-700 words is usually sufficient, but you should not be aiming for a word count. Instead, write however much it takes to get your ideas and everything you want to say in your blog. Of course, the length will vary depending on the topic; some topics require more material and some require less. In short, spend as much time as you need to write a great piece.

Is there a limit to which topics I can write about?

No! That’s the great thing about this class. Andrew wants his students to learn about how science impacts everyday of your life. This means you can write about food, clothing, sports, human behavior, drugs and alcohol (don’t include that you participate in illegal activity, if you do), or even our favorite internet meme Harambe. It is extremely important to write about topics you are interested in. Not only does it make writing less boring, but you are more likely to earn a better grade There is no limit to what you are able to write about, but it must relate back to science and the context of the course material. Failure to do so would not earn you the grade everyone is hoping to earn.

Specific topics are always easier to write about than general ones. For instance if you want to write about energy consumption, write about if the entire world would be able to live like Americans and the environmental implications that could come out of it. It is often a good idea to pose a question and answer that question in the blog. This helps narrow the scope of the subject.

What needs to be in the blog?

Live links, pictures, video links, graphs, charts and those sorts of good things contribute to a great blog post. Usually you will want to link to the article or study that you are drawing information from. Studies and experiments are very effective in making a good argument and including them is an easy way to earn some major points with the graders. It is very important to ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS give credit where credit is due. Failure to give credit to another person’s work if you are using it is plagiarism which will not only result in a zero but will also land you in serious trouble with Andrew and the university. If you are inserting a picture, graph, or chart directly into your blog, just include the raw link to where you found it at the end of the post.

What about the comment requirement?

Comments are a required aspect of the blogging. The number of required comments on other posts for each period is included in the syllabus. As far as the content of the comments goes, do not just say, “I agree” or “This post is not good”. The comments should be an analysis of the post you just read. Tell them why you agree or don’t agree or maybe even tell the author what could have really made their post pop. Better feedback for your classmates will not only earn you a better grade, but it will also allow everyone to improve their blogging skills.

Other helpful information to know:

You can actually view the blog posts of all three TAs from last year via this site. Simply search for any of our names and you will find plenty of fantastic examples of blogs to get an idea of what yours might need to look like.

Again, please do not hesitate to email any of the TAs even if it is just to say hi and introduce yourselves. We want to help however we can and we can’t wait to meet more of you all!

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Tips For Time Management

Tomorrow in class I will be discussing time management as well as throughout the semester. As everyone hopefully knows, time management is a key part of every day life. In particular, time management is crucial in SC200 in order to succeed. There are plenty of opportunities to get ahead of work while taking this class, and I highly recommend using that to your advantage. I wanted to compose a post of some general tips specifically for this class that people can refer to whenever they please if need be.


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I feel that the most important aspect of time management for SC200 is planning. That may seem extremely broad but there are several ways to plan. Below I have listed the things that I believe helped me do well in the class.

  1. Look ahead at your other syllabi: if you have two exams the week a blog period is due plan to do them ahead of time. 
  2. Get your blog post ideas together: one of the hardest things for me was coming up with ideas for the blog posts. I ended up creating a master list for myself of ideas that interested and when I was ready to blog I referred to my list.
  3. Start your blogs ASAP: when writing a new blog post,  the best feature for me was the ability to save drafts. I ended up roughly outlining all my blogs as soon as I had ideas and then building each blog whenever I had the chance. 
  4. Don’t leave everything for the last minute: writing good and insightful blogs and comments takes time, thought and work. That being said, saving all your work for the end of the blogging period will most likely not lead to success in the class. 

I hope this post doesn’t scare anyone because I’m truly only here to help. That being said, I’m going to reference one of my favorite shows as an example of what NOT to do, granted balling a lot is also possible when you work a lot.

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See you all tomorrow!

-Sarah 🙂