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Notes & Questions

Notes & Questions is an extended, collaborative exercise in note-taking as a means of summarizing readings, zeroing in on specific details in the text, recapping class sessions, and registering initial responses to the key concepts, propositions, and ideas from the reading.

In effect, there are two primary roles: questioning and note-taking. You will sign up for a total of five turns split among these two roles. For example, you might sign up for two turns developing questions and three turns keeping notes (or the opposite: three turns developing questions and two keeping notes).

If you are on the schedule for questions, you are assigned to develop 2-3 discussion questions that extend from the week's readings and post them no later than Monday night to the shared Google Doc for that week. You should also be prepared to explain or slightly reframe them as necessary during Wednesday evening's meeting.

If you are on the schedule for notes, you are assigned to keep notes on the class discussion during class, adding further questions, recording evolving definitions, and capturing key moments (or insights) from the conversation. After class, you are charged with revising the notes for clarity and coherence and migrating them from the shared Google Doc them to HihiWiki before the next Monday.

Can I Participate Even When I'm Not Assigned a Role for the Week?
Yes, definitely. In fact, this system is designed to encourage broad participation in these processes. If, while you are reading, you come up with a question you want us to explore on Wednesday, post it to the shared Google Doc. If, during class, you want to open the document and add notes, you are welcome to do so. This approach to notes and questions is set up so that identifiable individuals have lead roles each week, but everyone else can participate to whatever extent they are compelled in a given week. We are crowdsourcing (or rather "class-sourcing") these practices, which will not only help us share the work involved, but because we are approaching this collaboratively, we will gain perspective on the questioning and note-keeping habits of others. These perspectives ought to help us re-think our own approaches to these activities as the semester unfolds.

Sign-ups are available on a first-come, first-served basis in the Google Doc from our first class meeting, and when the sign-ups are complete, I will transfer them to the course schedule.

Questions and notes that are complete and posted on time will earn full credit.
Late questions and notes or questions and notes that are incomplete or underdeveloped will earn partial credit.
Questions and notes that are late and incomplete or underdeveloped will not be eligible for credit.

An Addendum on Notes

In addition to the Questions and Notes system spelled out above, you are welcome to keep your own notes on readings and class discussions. In the past, I have encouraged students to keep notes on each reading and to post those notes to a blog or keep them organized in a folder that will make future searches easy. You are under no obligation to keep notes over and above the collaborative process above, but as we talked about on the first night of class, if an article, chapter, or book is worthy of careful reading, it also probably warrants some form of note-taking. The following model is one of many. Feel free to adapt it as you see fit.

Each entry will consist of the following:

  1. Correct MLA or APA citation
  2. Summary/abstract: A one-paragraph summary of the piece. This must be a summary you've written, not a copy/paste of an existing summary/abstract.
  3. Discussion of big ideas: Two or three additional paragraphs describing significant claims, arguments, or concepts figuring into the piece. You are welcome to respond to the ideas, as well.
  4. Questions: List three questions you have about the reading, about specific references or turns of phrase, or about the relationship between this reading and another reading or conversation in the course.
  5. Keywords and phrases: A list of 5-15 words or phrases the piqued your interest, that stood out as important, or that you want to hold onto for further deliberation. Include the page number with each word or phrase.
  6. Related reading: List two or three sources, including an MLA or APA citation, you could consult to expand the conceptual frame within which the article or chapter operates. In most cases, the sources will be directly cited in the reading.

This note-taking method is in no way meant to interfere with or distract from your existing processes for writing while reading. Rather, it is designed to prime in-class discussions and cast new light on your habits of interacting with the reading you do in this course and throughout your graduate coursework at EMU. Over time these notes will represent your trail across the readings; they will report—to you and others—specific noticings useful for recalling what you read (i.e., for memory) and incorporating these readings into the writing you do (i.e., for invention). You will find something approaching this method in many of the reading notes I have posted to my own blog, such as this entry on David Foster's "What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Composition?" More rough examples are available here.

Contact Information

Derek N. Mueller, PhD
Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing
Director of Composition
Department of English
Virginia Tech
Office: 315 Shanks Hall
Spring 2020 Office Hours: T, 12-3
Phone: +1-734-985-0485

"Rhetoric of science is simply, then, the study of how scientists persuade and dissuade each other and the rest of us about nature, —the study of how scientists argue in the making of knowledge" (xii). Randy Harris, "Introduction," Landmark Essays on Rhetoric of Science: Case Studies

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