Online discussions are an integral part of some of the courses that you will take. Here are some pointers to help boost your grades, polish your posts, and to help you get more value out of the discussions. Make the following a routine part of your posting each week.
1) Begin your post with a brief introduction.
Although discussions are typically very short, be sure that your writing includes sufficient information to allow the reader to easily grasp the context and focus of your discussion. Write in such a way so that the reader can follow your thoughts without having to reference the prompt or outside information. Try not to think of the assignment prompt as a question that requires a short answer. Ensure you set the stage so that the reader has enough information on the topic or purpose of the discussion.
2) Ensure your posts are well-structured.
Structure your content to allow the reader to easily follow your thoughts and to highlight your key points. Avoid posting your thoughts in one long statement. Presenting your content into well-developed paragraphs will add clarity for the reader. Here is a great video that explains how to write good paragraphs.
3) Offer a critical analysis of the topic.
Show your knowledge of the theory or concept that you are studying by explaining it in your own words and describing how it applies in day-to-day situations. Avoid largely summarizing your reading or expressing opinions without offering supporting evidence. Instead, offer examples, share your experience, or document your observations. Here is a helpful website that outlines strategies to help you think more critically: http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/critical-thinking-in-everyday-life-9-strategies/512
4) Use scholarly sources to support your views.
When supporting your views with outside information, be sure to use scholarly sources. Avoid using non-scholarly sources in your academic work, such as Wikipedia. The MVNU library provides access to several good online academic databases, like EBSCO. Search for recent articles that are peer reviewed. When you find a scholarly article, you can use the cite function within the database to help you capture correct APA formatting.
5) Take ownership of the content in your writing. Your professors will be looking to see that you not only completed the assigned reading, but that you understand it, and have analyzed it and considered how the information applies in a practical way. Solely summarizing the thoughts or ideas of another person doesn’t demonstrate your own learning on a topic, as it only communicates the other person’s knowledge on the topic. Use information and ideas from others to support your arguments or views, but not to replace your own work. A general rule of thumb is to write with at least 80% of your own observations, explanations, and ideas. Then, the remaining 20% of your content can include outside information to support your thoughts. This includes summarized, paraphrased, or quoted information.
6) Cite information per APA standards. You must cite in-text whenever you reference outside ideas or information. At the bottom of your post, include the full reference. See: http://www.plagiarism.org/citing-sources/overview
Here is an example of a correctly formatted sentence that is cited in-text:
In his book Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Response to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, Albert O. Hirschman (1970) discusses the reasons for people’s decline in loyalty to today’s organizations.
Hirschman, A. O. (1970). Exit, voice, and loyalty: responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states (p. 1). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
7) Proofread carefully.
Take careful attention to the details in your work, and do not neglect the proofreading step. You may want to consider downloading the Grammarly plugin for your browser along with the app. It is an excellent tool to help you to catch and correct errors in your writing.
8) Provide a substantive response to your peers. When you respond to your peers, offer fresh insight and help to deepen the discussion. Avoid mainly restating what has already been said or simply agreeing with the thoughts of others. The goal of discussions is to dialog with each other, to consider new perspectives, or to more deeply explore the topic. Avoid waiting until the last minute and posting a quick response.
9) Last, but not least, post on time per the minimum requirements as stated in the syllabus.
Author: Dawnel Volzke, Adjunct Professor