How do we inform people about things that matter to us? How do we persuade without hitting them over the head and insisting they do what we tell them?

One way that’s been wildly successful (but didn’t start out that way) is the TEDTalk. TED actually stands for technology, entertainment, and design, and the acronym has stuck. What’s wonderful about TEDTalks is that they have to be under 20 minutes (18 is supposedly the cut-off), which is the amount of time researchers say we can actually focus on one thing without our brains exploding – or getting so bored we check out completely.

Over time, TEDTalks have grown way beyond TED to embrace a whole host of new ideas, or, as they say, “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

One of my favorites is from Eric Whitacre about the virtual choir he put together back in 2014 with videos from singers all over the world. A couple of other old favorites of mine are Sir Ken Robinson’s attack on our current education system, and Clifford Stoll’s wacky take on the same thing (and his Klein bottle show and tell…). And many of you have probably seen Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s wonderful “Single Story” talk about our preconceived notions of ethnicity.

In practice, however, there are a lot of shorter TEDTalks, ones that are three or five or seven minutes long — funny, sad, thoughtful. Those are going to be our models for this Learning Community assignment.

They’re all entertaining, short, interesting, and have become a genre to themselves. They’re also a great way to create a speech and incorporate visual (or other multimodal) elements.

So that’s what we’re going in Unit 2: pick a topic that really interests you, and write a TEDTalk about it. No, I’m not assigning topics – that’s boring and the resulting talks and essays are also boring. We’ll look at a couple of articles about curiosity and education, dig into why research is such an ugly word in an educational setting, and look at how TEDTalks actually work.

Bottom line: In Unit 2, you will write an informative 3-5 minute TEDTalk (that you’ll deliver to your COMM1330 class and turn into a real speech in that class), gather visual elements to put in it, and do research to support what you’re going to say in your talk by preparing a reflective annotated bibliography of those sources (more on that below).

Did I say research? Indeed I did. But this is NOT a traditional research essay or report! We’re not starting with a thesis statement, we’re not trying to “prove” something or overtly “persuade” someone. Instead, we’ll be starting with questions, finding out what other people have said as they answered those questions, and then presenting what we find and what we believe in a speech done in your own unique way.

This is all about information.

Okay, there is a research document, but again, it’s not a traditional report. In fact, it’s what we call a reflective annotated bibliography. Annotated bibliographies are something many researchers use because they not only give the bibliographic information about a source, they also give a summary of the contents as well as the researcher’s reaction to what the source says and whether the source will be useful to them in their own work. A reflective annotated bibliography also includes a short rhetorical analysis of the source which looks at how the writer said what they said, why they said it, and who they apparently want to read/watch it.

This might sound a bit confusing at first, but I’ll walk you through it – it’s a more interesting way of gathering information than simply compiling a list, because you get to think about why people compose what they do… and also learn how to be a better critic!

Here’s how the flow of the unit will go:

  1. We’ll start by looking at the ideas of genre (which we did somewhat with the education narrative since that’s a genre) and rhetorical situation/rhetorical analysis, and what they have to do with anything!
  2. Then we’ll figure out what makes a TEDTalk a TEDTalk – in other words, it’s conventions — and analyze several of them. From that, we’ll create a template for preparing your talk.
  3. Next, we’ll find a topic that really makes you curious — something you want to learn more about.  We will work together to narrow your own idea down into a question you can research, and look at how important questions work by reading a Guardian article “Schools are Killing Curiosity” and author James Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers.”  
  4. Then we’ll look at how to set up a good research process using more question strategies.
  5. After that, you’ll create your reflective annotated bibliography consisting of Source Analyses of two information sources and one image. There’s no report; just the bibliography.
  6. At the same time, you’ll submit your image bank, which is simply the collection of images you’ve gathered that you might use in your TEDTalk. We’ll look at how to make sure those images are copyright free.
  7. And then… you’ll actually write your TEDTalk, complete with images! We’ll go through a couple of drafts so you’re happy with it. And then you’ll submit it to your COMM1330 instructor so you can polish and record it in that class.

Believe it or not, we won’t be done with that research even then! Unit 3 is all about taking the information you learned and turning it into yet another genre of your choice (podcast, video essay, infographic, article for a blog or website… lots of possibilities!). But that’s for Unit 3.

What you’ll be graded on:

  1. Content: Does your TEDTalk follow the guidelines in the template? Does it show that you care about the topic? Do the images enhance the message?
  2. Reflective Annotated Bibliography: Does it follow the guidelines? Are there Source Analyses for at least two “written” sources and one image? Does each Source Analysis include a summary? Does it include a brief rhetorical analysis (an evaluation of the author’s credentials, writing style, and purpose, and why you think the author is credible or not) for each source? In the reflection, is there a brief comment about how this source can be used in your TEDTalk?
  3. Timeliness: The COMM1330 class must have your written Talk before Thanksgiving, so if it isn’t completed, it goes as is.
  4. Image bank: Is there a page of links or some other way to find the images? Are all the images copyright free?

How to write a Source Analysis:

This won’t look like an “essay” because it’s just a compilation of source analyses.

Specifically, your reflective annotated bibliography will have (don’t worry, we’ll go over all of these ingredients in detail as we do them and there’s an example at the very end): 

Part 1: Bibliographic information

The first part of each entry will be the “bibliographic information.” This gives the publication information: author, title, where published, date, and so forth. There are many websites (like or citation machine) that can help you do this. Here is one example:

Fitzgerald, Jill. “Research on Revision in Writing” Review of Educational Research. 57.4 (Winter 1987): 481-506.

Part 2: Summary and representative quotes (1 substantial paragraph)

In the second part of your entry, you will write a summary. This will be useful to you later, because it will give you the rundown of what you’ve read (just in case you forgot.) Your summary should convey what the author states in the article and not your opinions. Here is a good time to capture what you think are the author’s most important points, quoting directly if possible. It’s also a good time to make note of what data, facts and evidence the author uses to support their claims, and how they use this evidence to arrive at their conclusions.

Part 3: Rhetorical analysis (2-3 paragraphs)

In this third section, analyze how the text/source is put together. Who is the author; what are their credentials? What kind of publication is this; who is the audience?  What is the genre; what did you expect to see in the text given the genre? What is the style and tone (funny, serious, satirical, combination, etc.)? Did the author support their points well or did they simply toss ideas out without any support? This isn’t personal opinion (save that for Part 4), but is as objective an analysis as you can make it.

If it’s an image, look at things like how it’s arranged on the page, what stands out, what is easy to overlook. What colors are prominent and which are simply not there. If there’s text on the image, does it add to or subtract from the impact of the image, or does the image itself really not matter. What is the emotional impact of the image on you and/or other potential audiences.

Be sure to include comments on how you think this information will help you prepare your TEDTalk.

Part 4: Reflection (1 paragraph)

In this part of your entry, you will respond to the text you’ve read by explaining how you feel about what the author created and saying how this might help you put together your TEDTalk. This is important, as it is where your voice comes in. Avoid simply agreeing or disagreeing with the author; explain your full reaction. Quote particular sentences to which you are responding. What questions do you have? What don’t you understand? What other information do you need to look up to better understand this article? If you could say something to this author, what would you say?

Examples of a Reflective Bibliography/Source Analysis

There are actually three of them below, one a magazine article, one a newspaper article, and one a YouTube video.

Source 1. Barton, LeRon. “Is Silicon Valley Using Culture Fit to Disguise Discrimination?” Raconteur, 1 March 2019,


Barton argues that for an industry that values creativity, tech remains way too homogeneous. The author claims that Silicon Valley is not always ready to look beyond a person’s origin, which means that the world’s biggest tech think-tank is unavailable for many under-represented ethnicities. Among the sector’s giants such as Google and Apple, the share of ethnic and racial minorities barely reaches 2-3%. While it is illegal to use a person’s race, ethnicity, or origin as an excuse to mistreat, companies find leeways to stay true to their interests. After years of working in tech, Barton concludes that discrimination has become more covert and rebranded as “culture fit.” Employers can easily deny a person a job opportunity, claiming that their values are not aligned. In reality, however, it may mean that they let bias and prejudice inform their decisions.


1. “Inclusiveness was not encouraged, yet “culture fit” – how you would get along in the current work environment – was bandied about (Barton, para. 10).”

2. “When they say ‘culture fit’, for me that means they are looking for a particular person they can personally identify with (Barton, para. 13).”

3. “I noticed when we would bring this to the attention of management, they would become visibly tense hearing these things. It challenged their own narrative of being very good people who would never have bias (Barton, para. 30).”

Rhetorical Analysis

The author speaks from his personal experience, which gives more weight to his words. With his article, he hopes to reach big tech company managers that still hesitate to address the issues. Barton strikes a balance between providing objective information from official reports and giving his perspective on things. Whenever the author talks about his own perception of the situation, he sounds pessimistic and disenchanted.


 I agree with Barton about the mental toll that discrimination in the workplace takes on people. In a way, corporations hurt themselves by hurting employees because the latter are prevented from realizing their full potential. Another good point that I agree with is that management’s ego is behind turning a blind eye on discriminatory practices. Oftentimes, people refuse to accept that they failed to do right by someone because it would hurt their self-esteem.

Source 2. Bhuiyan, Johana, et al. “Black and Brown Tech Workers Share Their Experiences of Racism on the Job.” Los Angeles Times, 24 June 2020,


Bhuiyan et al. disprove the fable of the technology industry that values community because of their knowing, skills, parts, and capacities, not their racial origin. The writers compiled and shared stories from different interviews with several (mathematics, technology, science, engineering) employees who belong to the minority populations. In October 2019, an image sharing, and social media service ‘Pinterest’ got attacked because they allowed pictures of a wedding at modern slave plantation on their platform. A story from Google that supported its employees to check others and be on the monitoring for prohibited visitors. Because they were often notable as strangers, google was harming Ethnic minorities working for it by continual checks. Employers often make addressing discrimination employee’s responsibility: for example, one employee was told if he wants to see more of his Latino friends in the workplace, he must invite them.


1. “I want sustained investment in a community that you have ignored and I would like companies to admit they have ignored these communities (Bhuiyan et al., para 15).”    

2. “Diversity programs are usually “just a person with an initiative and you’re lucky if they happen to stay long enough to see it through (Bhuiyan et al., para 18).”

3. “There’s a point at which it doesn’t really matter what your intent is, the outcomes are unjust (Bhuiyan et al., para 22)”

Rhetorical Analysis

The article is a journalistic piece and the writing style of Bhuiyan et al. is accurate and realistic. It is covering a pertinent social issue by announcing the affected employees and their experiences. The intended audience of the article is general audiences wanting to be up to date with the news of the tech industry, also tech employers and employees. Hussein and Bhutan are immigrant women, and Davis is a white man working in the tech field. They have experienced the described issue.


Very often, it seems that the most vulnerable employees are hurting by a practice that profits the company. Because of that, the article made me think of equalizing business interests with morals. The ethical and commercial behavior principles of the employees of a company should be their guide to learning how to interact with each other, regardless their ethnic origin.

Source 3. “Growing up Asian American… Racism, Discrimination, and Why I Deserve More.” YouTube, uploaded by TechLead Show, 10 July 2020,


In his video, Patrick Shyu, known on YouTube under his nickname TechLead, acknowledges the existence of national origin discrimination in the United States. He elaborates on some hurtful stereotypes that he had to fight against at school, in academia, and in the workplace. The blogger does not appreciate it when people put labels on other based on their origin. At the same time, he thinks that Asian-Americans in the United States often do it themselves. They form tight-knit community where the only common denominator is their race while their unique identities are erased for the sake of shared interests. Shyu says that he refuses to identify himself only through the lens of his national origin, nor is he willing to play a race card to win more privileges in life. According to the blogger, playing a victim is counterproductive, and often a person may convince themselves that they are incapable and defeated just because they are different.


1. “I realized very early on is that you can really only get so far by begging other people to help you out and to give you things.”

2. “I’m unique in myself and the skin color is not going to change that I may have more in common with somebody of a totally different race ethnicity [than another Asian-American].”

Rhetorical Analysis

The author of this video is a former Google tech lead (leading engineer) of Japanese origin. Shyu’s argument is credible because as evidenced by his career, he was not impeded by his ethnicity, though at times, stereotypes were frustrating. The video is independent for general audiences, and especially those Asian-Americans who start to lose faith in themselves because of discrimination. Shyu’s tone is serious, introspective, and sincere: he knows how to convince the viewer without using any external sources and relying solely on his experience.


I chose this video because it is an example of how a person can cultivate self-agency and beat all odds. I do not think that Shyu shirks the responsibility for fighting discrimination to minorities. Instead, he argues that waiting for things to change may take forever. The best way to live one’s life is to build up self-confidence and get rid of victim mentality.

Image bank:

This is really very simple and you can do it in any number of ways, but you do need to upload it onto the Google Drive Unit 2 TEDTalks folder. You can create a new Google Doc and simply add the links to the images. Or you can insert the images into a Google Doc. Or you can put everything in a Word doc and upload that.

Be sure to provide the bibliographic information for each image: Last name, first name of creator of image. Title of image. Title of website. Last name, first name of any contributors. Publication date, URL. Note: if any of these things is missing, don’t worry; just use what you can find.

VERY IMPORTANT: Your images must be copyright free!! That means when you Google, you go to Tools –> Usage Rights –> Creative Commons. If you use Creative Commons itself to search for images, be sure you grab the creator’s information (it may only be a url, but that’s fine).

Now go to the Schedule page for the schedule, due dates, handouts, links, etc. for Unit 2.

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