Some Notes on Forums

In posting to the forum — no matter what class you happen to be in — please keep the following in mind.

This post was written with the Moodle forum system in mind. However, it still contains some solid general information about posting to discussion boards, like Disqus.
Note: a “forum” contains “posts” or, even more accurately, “threads.” All forum posts will take place on this web site, beginning spring 2013. Please see an explanation of the system.

Write Using Paragraphs

No big blocks of rambling text. Yes, this is an informal response, but you must still consider good writing. Have a point to make; this is called a thesis statement in first-year composition. Proofread. Use punctuation. Remember: this is a college class.

You only need works cited entries for secondary texts. Since we’re all using the same primary text, you needn’t list it as a work cited at the bottom of your entry. You must, however, list secondary sources in a works cited section at the bottom of your post, if your sources are not linkable. Also, you should still use in-text, parenthetical citations for both primary and secondary texts. See Basic MLA Citation Style.

Make Titles Reflect Content

Remember, a title’s primary job is two-fold: (1) get the reader’s attention, and (2) give some indication as to what your post (essay, etc.) will address. It should be original. Catchy. For example, a poor title for a post in the “Introduction” forum would be “Introduction.” Would you want to read that? Also, a good title will give your fellow students the opportunity to more easily decide whether or not to read your entry — if it will be interesting or useful to them. Consider titles carefully.

Avoid Repetition

You should not repeat threads. Why would there be five threads about “hypocrisy” in a Tartuffe forum? Simple, those folks who start a thread have not read the other threads first. This will earn you less points for your posts. Before you post a new thread on a particular topic, read the topics that have already been started. You might not even have to begin a new thread. Remember, the idea is a forum is to communicate with your fellow students. Forum posts are not formal essays. Do not treat them as such.

Respond to Posts

Your post within a particular forum will never be complete unless you respond to at least one thread. Remember, most forums will be worth ten points, but a thread (post, comment) is worth a maximum of five points. Therefore, you should at least begin a thread and respond to a thread in every forum in the class. However, I recommend doing more than that. If you earn a 4 on one post and a 3 on your second, your final grade for the forum will be a 7 out of 10. Posting one more time will likely make up those three points you are missing. If you want to make the maximum grade, post as much as you are able.

This does not mean quantity trumps quality. The best forum posts have something original to say, use specific evidence from the text, cite secondary sources, and are thoughtful, unique, and personal. Writing on the obvious will, at best, earn you an average grade. Consider a specific portion of the text — a theme, a character, a symbol, a passage — to analyze, to question, to interpret. Stating the obvious or summarizing the plot will not be enough.

Write about Texts

Finally, remember what you’re supposed to be writing about in the forum: the primary text for the class, not secondary political, religious, or cultural concerns. I do encourage you to make parallels between the texts we read and current events and debates in our society. However, be sure that they are relevant, respectful, and informed. Part of a liberal arts education is to learn how to read texts — all texts we are presented with in our daily lives — and not take anything at face value, including media portrayals of public figures or policies. It’s up to us to be as informed as possible, not just parrot media commentators. Remember: just because we hear someone from the “news” say something, does not make it true, appropriate, or at all informed.

Remember, the discussions are a significant part of your grade. This is where I get to see your ideas — your personality, your creativity — more than anything else you will do in the class. Make them the best you can.

Painting: Claude Lorrain, Aeneas and Dido in Carthage (1675)

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