Being a chemist. Oops, science is POWERFUL!

ENGL 390, 390H, and (sometimes) 398V  Class Journal


More elements of the coffee cup memo

Lesson on paragraphs, here for early in your memo, in the definition/description move where we also need to address context.  Skill?:  Coherence in a paragraph (sample content but the paragraphs might not be complete for the purposes of your coffee cup paper):

"Meh" paragraph
Plastic and paper cups pose problems for recycling. Ceramic cups are very energy intensive to produce. Recycling seems environmentally-sound.  Paper does not degrade deep within most landfills and the plastic coating is also difficult.  Not all plastic can be recycled.  You need to check the bottom of the container.  Landfills are increasingly full.  There is a huge "patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean.

Note: can you see the compare/contrast move here, even in this meh or necessary draft version?

Better paragraph
Paper and plastic both pose disposal problems.  First, not all plastic can be recycled. Check the bottom of the plastic container. "No. 1" and "No. 2" types can be recycled by most facilities. Second, paper does not degrade deep within most landfills because of low oxygen conditions. The plastic coating also interferes with decay. Landfills are increasingly full.  There is a huge "patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean.

Note: do you see a place for a referral citation, using the Seattle news article posted earlier? Can you find a more general article that you can refer to, about the limits of recycling and landfilling?  Recall that this information, now, at this level of detail is common knowledge, even if you do know this.

Even better paragraph (can you see the re-thinking of content as well as sentence-level revision)
Paper and plastic both pose disposal problems.  First, not all plastic can be recycled. Check the bottom of the plastic container. "No. 1" and "No. 2" types can be recycled by most facilities. Second, paper does not degrade deep within most landfills because of low oxygen conditions. The plastic coating also interferes with decay. Landfills are increasingly full, with paper and plastic part of the waste stream. Not all plastic is recycled or landfilled. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) a huge "patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean is further evidence of of the environmental harm posed by plastic.

Note: do you see a place for a referral citation? Caution, that NRDC piece has been taken down. Keep in mind that even good stuff on the internet goes away.  You can use the Charles Moore foundation pages as a referral citation.

==== (pivoting away from definition/desorption to analysis; reveal your decision criteria!)

Life cycle analysis definition paragraph content items:

use a sourcing sentence (signal phrase) like "According to ........Life cycle analysis (LCA) assesses......

"Life cycle analysis is the primary decision criteria used in this memo to evaluate our coffee cup choice."

"Note that Martin Hocking's work uses LCA to assess the energy intensivity of paper, styrofoam, and ceramic cups."

"Charles Moore's work on the fate of ocean plastic focuses on the disposal step of life cycle analysis."

(These last two sentences serve as transitions to the summary paragraphs where you focus on the science of Hocking OR the science of Moore, depending on your recommendation. This is the heart of your memo, the EVALUTION PARA that uses evidence for your claim on which cup is better, given your problem frame)

On the board, in class, we will work out a P1, P2, P3. . . series arrangement where P = Paragraph. Take a picture of this to guide your work.

Posted on Monday, October 2, 2017 at 06:51AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

On to coffee cup recommendation memo

Scientific method has a cousin -- actually an ancestor -- in stasis theory.  This conceptual diagram show stasis method with an environmental science decisionmaking context.

We are also looking (re-looking?) at paragraph transitions. I copy/paste here some information (short google docs) you read about a week ago:

Discussion on sentences, with emphasis on "empty subjects" to be continued.  And, on to paragraphs: let's start with a brief document on transitions, taken from a real-world setting.

This NEW memo content is more complex and wide-ranging. Transitions are a way to thread the cognition for our busy readers. Your first memo focused on the definition stasis, with a evaluation move at the end.

Now, our wants a problem-solution memo about the type of coffee cup we use in our firm. Therefore, we need to frame this work with the stasis of policy (what ought we do).

Let's start by reading this short news article from Seattle:  Coffee Cup Recycling Brims with Obstacles.

Back to our boss: Jane wants a coffee cup policy for the office that is "green."  OK, that is the content for your invention.  Here is rough working arrangement (paragraphs):

POLITE OPENING, with your recommendation that previews your final policy paragraph

CONJECTURE PARAGRAPH  Problem description (our office situation, with quantifiers), with reference to national. international size of the problem

CONTEXT PARA(s) Environmental problems (energy efficiency ->climate change AND persistence of plastic in ocean -> food chain disruption)

YOUR WEIGHTED PROBLEM SOLVING METHOD (revealing your pre-analytical frame or bias)


Coffee cup types (how many?  Can we do this in one paragraph or do we need one per coffee cup type? Use counting technique of two or three)

PIVOT PARA from backgrount to ANALYSIS PARAS

Decision criteria (HINT:  Life cycle analysis, and define this; use an EPA source) HERE, this definition helps us move to the VALUE paragraphs

CAUSE/EFFECT continued (system) -->VALUE (Harm or benefit)

Martin Hocking's work on life cycle analysis of paper v. Styrofoam

Charles Moore's work on size of ocean garbage patches

POLICY/ RECOMMENDATION (restate your recommendation, with qualifiers, as one does in science land)

Science/Research support (remind about evidence discussed above in VALUING PARAGRAPHS)

Qualification (concede reasonableness of the other position)

Concrete examples (2)

Sentences that can help you as topic sentences or transitions sentences between paragraphs

Any analysis of coffee cup choice requires use of life cycle analysis.

Life cycle analysis -- also known as cradle-to-grave -- helps capture the entire environmental effect from origin and inputs through use and, importantly, to disposal.

In my analysis, I weight [name environmental problem] more heavily than [the other problem].

Life cycle analysis can help us understand this difficult question about coffee cup sustainability

We have two choices in coffee cups: paper or plastic (Styrofoam).

Martin Hocking conducted the first -- and to date only -- peer-reviewed analysis of the energy embodied in coffee cup choices.

Charles Moore is among the first to alert us to the huge problem of persistent ocean plastic.

We will work through the above next week, using stasis theory.  COME TO CLASS.  For Friday, you will need a working draft of this short memo for peer review.  Monday, the memo is due in hard copy for a my evaluation.

We will work in pairs (because writing together is a workplace practice; synergies and efficiencies are possible).


  • Read online by googling and use of Wikipedia (20 minutes) to orient yourself to the problem, while being aware of the ethos of the sources (question:  are environmental sources the best way to approach this problem?)
  • Find a peer-reviewed article by Martin Hocking (use library databases), a chemist who conducted a comparison analysis of paper cups v. plastic (Styrofoam); environmental science and technology databases can help you with this quest
  • Read about Charles Moore's work at his foundation.  Then, find a peer-reviewed article by him about ocean plastic (marine science and oceanography will help)
  • The above reading will ready you for class discussion; use the "scan, parse, brief notes" approach here
  • You will need to take a side on this problem, to be supported by your analytical frame, your decision criteria, and technical evidence



Posted on Friday, September 29, 2017 at 05:17AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Friday; going long and wide with revision

For all of next week, bring a digital copy of your memo to class.  Using this rain garden memo checklist (spreadsheet), we will consider a number of items.  Recall that we are relearning many writing techniques -- and thinking frames -- in addition to learning some writing/document design conventions.

Here are some items I gathered from a close read of all your documents.

For next week, I will find and post over the weekend an authoritative source for cost-electiveness.  We will also consider the differences between written memos (more formal) and email memos (mashes up letter and memo format).

Also, you may want to look at these curated articles (Scoopit) to find two visual examples of rain gardens.


Posted on Friday, September 22, 2017 at 07:47AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Wednesday content, for Friday prep

BRING YOUR DIGITAL MEMO TO CLASS ON FRIDAY. We will revise working on a few items, principally signal phrases in both reference citation and formal citation. Citation is an act of ethos -- building trust with your reader using strong, authoritative sources; Citation is also an act of generosity, making referrals to help the reader select further reading.

Let's start, however, with a little warm-up joy on ABT.  Can you find the ABT in this song?  'Tis in the chorus.


Now, for science fun, look at this parody of CRJ's uber popular bubble gum pop song:


UMSOM does the BEST parodies (lesson: medical schools need you to build community and some fun; who knew?):

Question: do they use the ABT structure?


SIGNAL PHRASES and natural language (referral citation). Newspapers provide clues to source details without using parenthetical phrases or formal end notes). Wht is the job of signal phrases? Three fold:

  1. DRAW boundaries: Signal phrases demark your words and the source’s words. These phrases provide smooth transition for the reader between your words and the source; signal phrases distinguish between two or more sources in a paragraph.

  2. Emphasizes source, thereby ESTABLISHING AUTHORITY: Signal phrases reveal the author or source being invoked. You can also provide additional and important details like: publication name, date, and perhaps location.  Think of the clues that a reader could use to find this original in a google search:  Who, where, when....

  3. AVOIDING plagiarism and intellectual property violations: All source material must be cited EVEN in less formal settings.  Signal phrases plus additional details are one way to cite a source within sentences or even your spoken voice.

 Look at your document and think about how to use such phrases:

According to this well-written Wikipedia entry on bioretention, 

These details about rain garden design are taken from the "bible" of bioretention, The Bioretention Manual, posted at the Prince George's County website.  Written in 2009, the pdf form is used widely for rain garden implementation.

. . ., according to several EPA sources that assess the cost-effectiveness of rain gardens in environmental problem solving.

This 2007 slide set, available at Allen Davis' faculty web page, provide an open access overview of his work on bioretention effectiveness. . .

See more about how serious these environmental problems are in the Prince George's County Bioretention Manual (pages X-Q, especially.


Posted on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at 10:59AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | Comments Off

Turn in rain garden memo today

with an in-class relfection note to me.  Why this reflection?  Because we can open a conversation about writing rather than you prepare for me to red pencil your work into submission.

Discussion on sentences, with emphasis on "empty subjects" to be continued.  And, on to paragraphs: let's start with a brief document on transitions, taken from a real-world setting.



Posted on Monday, September 18, 2017 at 07:09AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment