Wrapping Up the Semester


Can you believe it?? This coming week is the final week of class! Below is everything you need to know about what needs to happen between now and the last day of the semester.

Group Conferences to Discuss Final Projects Write-Up Drafts
Each group has a schedule out-of-class 1/2 hour conference with me, in my office hours (this will be the primary source of individualized feedback on your first draft of the write-up), and as a result, I will be holding (very) extended offices to make sure that there is plenty of time for us to discuss your work.

Groups may meet with me multiple time to discuss multiple drafts, at any time up until our last day of class (W 12/17)

*Reminder: if your group does not turn in a complete first draft by the due date (Tu 12/9 at 11:59pm), you forfeit your right to all feedback (including conferences with me) on the project

W 12/10
2:00-2:30pm: City Tech App Group
2:30-3:00pm: Circuit Board Game Group

4:30-5:00pm: Student Success Group

Th 12/11
11:30am-12:00pm: Computer Club Group
12:00-12:30pm: Video Game Group

Regular Office Hours
If you need to see me for anything, my last days of office hours until the start of the Spring 2015 semester are Tu 12/16 (11:15am-12:15pm) and W 12/17 (2-3pm), and by appointment those days.

Final Project Presentations & End-of-the-Semester Party (yay!)
All groups will present in class on W 12/17. Please visit the Presentations page on our course site for more details on this assignment

We will also be celebrating the end of the semester, so I encourage you to bring in snacks to share with the class and we can enjoy refreshments during the presentations (I will bring in some goodies as well). Please leave a “reply” to this post letting us know what you will bring, so we have a good mix of refreshment (things like cups, paper plates, and napkins are also important items to bring). Looking forward to your presentations next week :)

Final Project Write-Up
The collaboratively written final draft of the Final Project as well as individual final project reflections are due no later than the start of class on W 12/17. Please visit the Final Project Write-Up page and Individual Final Project Reflection page on our site for more details on these assignments.

Final Course Reflections
Your Individual Final Course Reflection is due in class on W 12/17 (this is a mandatory–not optional–assignment). Please visit the Final Course Reflection page on our site for more details on this assignment.

Final Course Grades
The deadline for professors to submit final course grades for the Fall 2014 semester is M 12/29 at midnight (though I plan to have them submitted much sooner than this deadline). Please wait to view your course grade online through CUNYfirst (I will not be giving out final course grades via e-mail). Once you see your final grade posted online, you should feel free to e-mail me for your final exam grade (you have all of your other grades already).

Final grades are non-negotiable, though I am always more than happy to discuss them/your work with you at any point in person. If you would like to discuss any of your grades/receive additional feedback on the final assignments/exams, you should e-mail me to schedule an appointment to discuss your work when we return to campus at the end of January when the new semester starts up.

Thank you, & stay in touch!
Finally, it was a pleasure to work with you all this semester. I wish you the best of luck wrapping up the semester and on your final exams, and in your future endeavors at City Tech and beyond. You all worked incredibly hard this semester, and I really appreciate your consistent effort and good cheer day in and day out (especially for a 2 1/2 hour class during lunchtime!). I hope you enjoyed yourselves and learned a lot about technical writing, collaboration, reflection, critical thinking, reading, and writing. Have a wonderful winter break, & don’t hesitate to be in touch in future semesters to discuss your work in this course/beyond, and/or to just say hi  :)

Guidelines for Fieldwork: Surveys


As discussed in class, for this week, you are moving from traditional academic research to fieldwork (or qualitative, ethnographic work). This is an organic process, so the questions you ask for your interviews (if you are doing them) should develop from the data your survey generates, and the survey questions should be informed by your initial observations.

For your survey, you will be using an online tool to create/distribute the survey. I suggest SurveyMonkey, as it is free/easy to use, but you are welcome to use another tool if you feel more comfortable with that (just send me an e-mail to let me know what it is before getting started). If you don’t already have account, you should create a free one: just one account per group. Use one person’s e-mail, and make a password that you all can use (whoever has the account can then go back after the semester is over and change the password to something more personal/private).

Keep in mind that with SurveyMonkey there is a maximum (with the free, basic account) of 10 questions and 100 survey responses. Another alternative that seems to offer unlimited questions/responses is KwikSurveys. If you feel this would be more suitable for your purposes, then I would suggest creating the revised survey using this software (especially if you want more than 10 questions or think you will get more than 100 responses).

As we’ve experimented with different online survey tools, there seem to be some advantages to using KwikSurveys, such as the unlimited questions (you can ask) and the unlimited number of response (e.g., SurveyMonkey only allows 100 response to any one survey, with the basic account). Also, in KwikSurvey, you can put that introductory blurb at the top of the survey. However, there are some important features that are only available in KwikSurvey if you upgrade and pay $10/month (something you don’t necessarily need to do), so your group has to decide how to play around with them. Again, there are other online free survey tools that you can play around with too. Report back if you find anything useful that we should know about (just “comment” on this post).

If anyone wants to suggest other software (and do some research on other viable options), please do so as a comment/reply to this post.

Before you get started, you should read a bit about how to create effective surveys. A good place to start is this help page from SurveyMonkey. At this point, you are not launching your survey yet: in class on Tuesday we will peer review the surveys and make necessary revisions, and you can make it go live after that. You should have a minimum of 10 questions for your survey.

For this survey, you should make sure to include a statement of use, which discusses what the project is, what the data that is being collected will be used for (class project), and that people’s information will remain confidential/anonymous. Including this statement and having users participant through “informed consent” is an important part of the research project and any fieldwork (we will discuss this more next week with the interviews, for which you will actually use consent forms before you interview anyone).

You should revise your survey according to the class feedback/discussion. Some things to think about in terms of revisions:

  • Think through the order of your questions (is it a logical progression)
  • Which questions are you going to make mandatory (require a response for, and which ones will be optional)?
  • What types of questions (comment boxes/free responses, multiple choice, ranking, etc.) will you use? Remember that different types serve different purposes: think about the data you want to collect, and how the types of questions will encourage (or discourage) participation in the survey.
  • Be as specific as possible (if you mean the City Tech Computer Club, state that: not just the “Computer Club”)
  • You may even consider having multiple surveys (for example, a group working on smoking on campus would consider having two separate surveys: one for smokers, one for non-smokers)
  • If relevant, demographic information (such as age range, gender, etc.)
  • proofread/edit your survey

I made comments on each group’s surveys, but here are some general thoughts for revision:

  • It is a good idea to inform your participants (in that introductory blurb) how long the survey should take. Since the surveys should only take a few minutes to complete, this should be a good way to convince people to take it. You can do this in SurveyMonkey. To do so, at the start of the survey, click “Add New Page” and then you can put a title and text explaining the survey.
  • It is also a good idea to provide some background/contextualizing information for the survey/topic, so your participants can understand that survey.
  • Make sure you indicate (by choosing this setting when creating the questions) whether the question is mandatory/required or not. I would suggest making the majority of the questions mandatory (which means that the survey cannot be answered without participants answering them).
  • Remember that satisfaction/dissatisfaction questions (do you like/not like something) are useful, but only to a certain extent. General dissatisfaction only confirms there is a problem, but doesn’t provide insight into how to solve that problem (and remember that the goal of the project is to provide context-specific recommendations for improvement). Therefore, make sure to ask questions that are more specific.
  • As we discussed, it would be helpful to have an open-ended (free response/text box) question at the end of the survey, that says something like, please list any additional questions/comments related to the topic. You will likely get interesting information here that you didn’t originally anticipate, and that may be useful for your project.
  • Make sure to delete all the data (reset the surveys) from your peer reviews this week. When you launch the survey, there should be no responses. Do not edit questions once the survey is launched (this will taint the data).
  • Publicize the survey as much as possible: through social media, e-mail, in person. You can print out the blurb/link to the surveys and hand them out in classes/on campus, so people can go take the survey. You can also walk around campus with tablets/mobile devices and ask people to take the survey on the spot. You can also print out surveys and ask people to write them out/give them back, but remember that you will then need to input the data yourself. Everyone should aim for at least 60-80 responses (remember, SurveyMonkey will only let you get 100 responses).
  • Each group will launch/publicize its survey no later than the week of Thanksgiving, and aim to have preliminary results to report by the next class after the break.

As always, I am available to meet with your group outside of class to discuss your project and to look at further drafts of surveys.


You will make a new blog post by Friday night (11/21) class (categorized as “Surveys”) that:

  • Lists the hyperlink link for the revised survey
  • Provides a paragraph that explains the context of the survey and how the survey data will be used (this was supposed to be done by today’s class/the first draft of the survey, but most groups are missing this crucial section)
  • A collaboratively written reflective discussion (at least 3 full paragraphs) of the revisions you made, why you made them (in terms of the data you want to gather), and how you plan to launch/publicize your survey (whether you will use paper surveys too and then input the data).

This is a collaborative revision: as a group, you should discuss what needs to be changed/why, then revise the survey, and then reflect on those revisions.

By Sunday, 12/7, you will write a blog reporting/analyzing/discussing the results of your survey (make sure to post the link to the final draft of the survey, the one that was launched, at the top of this post). You should include a written discussion as well as statistical results (in both numbers as well as screenshots of your online survey’s tool’s statistical analysis so we can see this data visually represented). Categorize as “Surveys.”


Work Plan for Today’s Class (W 10/22)

Hi everyone, from chilly but lovely Montreal!

I hope that you had a good week, and that your revisions of Assignment #3 went well. I’m looking forward to reading your portfolios when I return.

Today we will continue our discussions/analysis/work on help documentation, usability, user experience, etc., moving from looking at a single document (as we did previously with a user manual or a set of instructions/process description) to thinking about websites and how they communicate information (information architecture, user experiences, usability) to their audience.

Please see below for the work plan for the day. Professor Miller will help to keep you on task/time, but each group should follow the work as outlined below.

Professor Belli


[11:30-11:40am] – Attendance & Assignment #3 Submission

  • Professor Miller is here today in class with you … please welcome her and enjoy yoru time together 🙂
  • She will take attendance and collect your Assignment #3 folders

[11:40am-12:45pm] – Group Review of Websites

  • Groups
      Break up into groups of 3 (one or two groups may have 4 people … that is OK)
  • Website Review
    • In groups of 3 people, you will explore six websites, thinking about the issues raised in the readings above (including things such as the websites’ usability, navigation, accessibility, clarity).
    • How do you, as users, move through the “digital space” of these sites? Are they helping you to move/flow though their information in logical ways?
    • Play around with the sites, click on links, follow different routes to finding/locating information.
    • Do they have FAQs or Help (OpenLab in particular has an extensive Help section, which you should explore)? If so, look through them and see how useful they are to your needs as users.
    • Try to also load these websites on your smart phones, to see how well they function/appear on mobile devices.
  1. City Tech’s Website
  2. OpenLab
  3. The Writing Studies Tree
  4. Website of your group’s choice
  5. Website of your group’s choice
  6. Website of your group’s choice



[1:10-1:50pm] – Collaborative Write-Up of Your Group’s Review/Findings

  • Each group should make a collaborative post summarizing/reflecting on their website review on OpenLab (so one post per group, NOT one post per person).
  • Make sure that this post is thorough, with concrete details (and links to relevant sites, readings) about what you found and how you, as users, interacted with the sites, addressing some of the issues raised in the readings. Your post should be at least 8 paragraphs (an Introduction summarizing your findings, one paragraph for each of the websites, and a concluding paragraph)
  • Title the posts with your group members’ names and a “title” for your post
  • Categorize the post as “Website Review”


    • Wrap-up
    • Reminder: Assignment #4 due next class (W 10/29)

Have a great week!

Strategies for Summarizing

We had some good conversation in class today about strategies for summarizing effectively. Thank you all for sharing your summaries and writing with the class and for asking important questions.

Here are some of the things we discussed about summary (as well as a few new additions). Please take some time to review them before next Wednesday’s class, and use them going forward.

I also encourage you to continue the conversation by posting comments to this post (just hit “reply”) with further strategies (I’d love to hear your thoughts) and questions about summarizing. I’ll be checking in on this discussion over the next few days and am happy to continue this conversation online here to help you become more comfortable with the summarizing work we have done (and will continue to do) this semester.
-The length of the summary will vary depending on the length of the text you are summarizing, but in general, summaries for a short article should be one paragraph that are each neither too undeveloped (e.g., 1-2 sentences) or too over-developed (e.g., 12-15 sentences).

-Since you only have a short space to convey the main points of the article, you should get right into the text’s thesis right away (remember, the thesis is not the general subject–such as technology–but a particular author’s argument about a particular topic or idea). While it may be useful/desirable in other types of writing (creative writing, more informal writing) to start with generalizations and/or questions in order to engage your reader or ease into the topic, in a summary paragraph you want to immediately and clearly state the author and title of the text and the text’s thesis. Doing so in the first sentence of your summary will help you to focus your attention on the task at hand: summarizing the text’s ideas (not bringing in your own ideas and opinions). Remember, a large part of writing effectively and successfully is to consider your purpose and your audience. In this case, your purpose is to convey information, in as straightforward a manner as possible, to readers about the content of a text (what the text says). You are not asked to respond to that content, or evaluate it. You don’t have to worry about grabbing your reader’s attention. Your primary goal is to summarize a text.

-You should only include discussion of the main point (thesis) and essential supporting points of the text. You will not be able to mention every detail or example the author uses. Use active reading to help you identify key words, identify the author’s claims, and locate important supporting points.

Summaries should be concise (which means to-the-point) and clear, correct, accurate, and accessible. You only have a short space to convey a lot of information (a pretty difficult task!), so every word you write is precious. If a word or sentence doesn’t help to summarize the text’s main points, then it doesn’t have a place in your summary. Instead of spending time repeating ideas, discussing something generally, or beating around the bush, be direct and clear. State the author’s main ideas and stay grounded in the particulars of the text itself.

-Summaries should be written in the third person (she, he, it, her, him, its, they, them, their), not the first person (I, we, my, our, us, me) or second person (you, yours, yours).

You should not include your own experiences, opinions, ideas, interpretation, analysis, bias, etc. You are not writing a subjective response or giving your point of view/response to the text. Remember that, when writing a summary of a text, your task is to concisely and accurately state the text’s thesis and supporting points. Therefore, your focus should be on an objective discussion of the main ideas of the text you read. Writing in the third person will help you to maintain this objective stance.

-In your summary (and all essays), write about the text in the present tense. Even though the author wrote the article in the past, you still discuss it, always, in the present tense. Some examples are: writes, states, claims, argues, examines, discusses.

You may use quotations from the text, but these quotes should be used sparingly, be short, and be relevant to the point you are discussing. Remember if you use the exact words from the text, you must indicate this by using quotation marks (” “) around the word and to provide a citation for that quote. We’ll discuss citation in greater detail this semester, but for now, remember that we using MLA (Modern Language Association) style. For MLA citations, simply provide the page number in parentheses after the quote. E.g., “Somerville officials hope to create a well-being index that they can track over time” (3).

(When you are discussing more than one text, you will also need to include the author’s last name in the parenthesis, but for this summary, which only is on one article, you can simply provide the page number.)

As always, I’m happy to discuss summarizing with you in more detail during my office hours, so stop by then if you’d like some individualized feedback on your summaries.

Reminder: HW for W 9/17

Dear Class:

Just a reminder that you should have revised (or posted, if you didn’t the first time around) your “Job Ads” post, which lays the groundwork for Assignment 1 (Career Materials), which is due by the start of class this Wednesday (9/17).

[*Please note: I decided to push the first draft of Assignment #2 back until next class, to give you more time to work on your Career Materials, so that will not be due until after our break. You do not have to do any work on that for this week’s class.]

I have provided more helpful/details and uploaded sample resumes & Cover Letters to the Assignment 1 page, so please go check out this updated material before submitting your final draft. I encourage you to continue to revise your materials as much as possible before the due date (even if you already updated your final draft to Dropbox, you can always delete it/provide a new one until Wednesday morning).

Also, just a friendly reminder that I have office hours this Tuesday (11:15am-12:15pm), so if want to discuss your revision and receive additional individualized feedback on your Career Materials, you are welcome to come see me during that time.

I hope you had a great weekend, and looking forward to seeing you in class on Wednesday!

Professor Belli