Being a chemist. Oops, science is POWERFUL!

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


Spring break (some thinking)

When you return, we start the directions/SOP/instructions assignment.  Today, we discuss a range of topics you might choose.

At the same time, we will review strategies about how to read science.  Yes. How. To. Read. Science Articles. Let's look more closely at science articles, paying attention to the IMRAD article.  You will need to select a science article from your field that fits the IMRAD format.  We will review this article as an assignment.  Hint: can be part of your final project.

And, in honor of the day, a saying from my granny:  Lord save us, Dick Davis, don't eat us for a couple of raw praties. 


Posted on Friday, March 17, 2017 at 06:17AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Three short review moments on conventions

First up, the Oxford Comma on Twitter no less.  What about science examples of ambiguity that can be helped with by Oxford comma use or rearrangement? Consider these examples from Sarah Lichter.  Here is one from my writing practice recently:

Conservation biologists look at two approaches to biodiversity losses, species counts in the tropics and changing distribution maps.

What about this one that the proto-doctors among us might say to a patient?:

Your cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, surgery or immunotherapy.

Remember empty subjects?

Finally, what about the use of its in this assignment? Consider the "rule of three" as shown in this example:

Pipette in the wells using the PipetteJuniorPlus.  This instrument is new, so be careful with it.

Penelope set up her PRC glass wells using a mouth pipette. Mouth pipetting is a good skill to know whn you are out of disposal tips.  Mouth pipetting, however, is dangerous because you might take in fluid.

Why did I NOT use the rule of three in the second example?


CONCISION -- Before Friday, look for revision opportunities to trim your paragraphs.  Here is a Before/After example.  Here are some handy concision tables.

Now, the broad-strategy check list!

Posted on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 06:38AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Monday and coffee cup; snow watch tonight

Grammar lesson:  apostrophe. Let's use M.I.'s guide on The Oatmeal.  His work can keep you from committing apostrophe catastrophe.  :)  Here is an infographic that you can also refer to, about apostrophe abuse.

Mighty Red Pen, a blog site by a killed editor, offers this special case of Arkansas (whihc means that Kansas lurks in the background).

Now, what about the memo?  Some additional paragraph options:


  • brief paragraph on climate change (use IPCC as the citation, by referring) TBDiscussed in class.
  • Brief paragraph on fate of ocean plastic (use PNAS March 2016 article)
  • Compare/contrast about the above problems as resisting direct quantitative comparison (incommensurate) --- both are "wicked problems 
  • New solutions paragraph:  compostable styrofoam or other innovation (ocean plastic sweeper?)
  • Discussion of re-usables, with acknowledgement that ceramics, glass, metal are all energy intensive industries
  • Other ideas you may have? 
  • Does Herman Daly's video help you with the problem description/classification?  Think about concepts:
    • sinks -- where stuff goes (ocean and atmosphere)
    • material inputs (energy and stocks -- wood stock for paper, petroleum stock for styrofoam)
    • depletion-pollution




Posted on Monday, March 13, 2017 at 06:34AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

Coffee cup continues

You will need to use signal phases as way to be professional, ethical, precise, and careful in your citation. Read this brief guide, noting carefully the table of words and phrases at the end. The signal phrases ANNOUNCES where your cited information begins.  Then, you complete the announcement by placing the author, date--parenthetical cite.  Example,

According to Hocking's 1994 analysis (INSERT, SAY FIVE SENTENCES). . . . . . THEN (Hocking, 1994)

RECALL this bottom line:  When you place a cite in a paragraph, the location can be ambiguous in at least three ways:

  1. do you mean to cite on the information in THAT ONE SENTENCE?
  2. do you mean the cite to encompass or surround all the information that PRECEDES the citation?
    1. to the beginning of the paragraph?
    2. just select sentences?
  3. if you place the citation at end of paragraph, do you mean to cite

Sentences and paragraph-parts bank for the coffee cup memo: 

Hocking's work, though dated, is strong support for the styrofoam cup choice.  We should, however, acknowledge that if you weight the fate of ocean plastic as more important than climate change, you would reach another recommendation. Oceanographer Charles Moore.......

Overall, I recommend paper cups for our office.  I based my analysis on two criteria:

  • fate of ocean plastic as the primary environmental problem, and,
  • LCA to examine the existing peer-reviewed evidence.

Having described both our office problem and reviewed the way we use and dispose of hot beverage cups, let's turn now to life cycle analysis (LCA).  LCA is.......The EPA provides this useful definition  THREE OR FOUR SUMMARY SENTENCES THAT YOU PARAPHRASE.....then, (EPA, n.d.) 

Now, some humility sentences (science is HUMBLE before truth) that address fairly the counter-argument, for the last part of the memo:

I want to acknowledge the reasonableness of the other recommendation.

Clearly, this recommendation is limited in several ways. First, we begin with the environmental problem in our analysis.  

The problems of the fate of ocean plastic and climate change are incommensurate, or without common measure.  

These two problems resist a direct and definitive comparison. In other words, you cannot declare which environmental problem is worse.  Both problems poet sustainability problems for us.

How is your coffee cup memo arranged?  Here is a good but rough pattern for you to use:

Polite first person opening, where you 1) preview the recommendation and 2) reveal your bias about the environmental problem 
Description para with quantifiers about office problem
Review briefly the three choices in two categories -- Use one or two short paragraphs 1) compare contrast of paper/styrofoam 2) description of ceramic option as main reuse-able

Define LCA (needs source, use EPA) and explain this is your main decision criteria
Recommendation paragraph (use bold title to flag this part of the memo)
Restatement of Moore or Hocking's work BUT
Acknowledgement of other readings of the options
You CAN add the reusable concept, too.
Example paragraph (people like concrete examples)
Polite closing 
-----AND now, some paragraphs to look at revision:

Coherence in a paragraph (sample content but the paragraphs might not be complete for the purposes of your coffee cup paper):

"Meh" paragraph (but a good start at a classigying the cup problem)
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.

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. Other watersheds, too.

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. Methane release from landfills is part of paper degredation ( SOURCE?) 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. MISSING SOMETHING? According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) huge "patches of garbage" in the Pacific Ocean are further evidence of the environmental harm posed by plastic that "leaks" out of disposal/recycling systems (2015)

Posted on Friday, March 10, 2017 at 07:35AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment

How to structure the coffee cup memo: stasis theory

Scientific method has a cousin -- actually an ancestor -- in stasis theory.

We are also looking at paragraph transitions.  This 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 definition.

Now, she wants a problem-solution memo about the type of coffee cup we use in our firm. 

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

Jane wants a coffee cup policy for the office that is "green."  OK, that is the content for your invention.  Here is an arrangement (paragraphs):

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


Problem description (our office situation, with quantifiers)

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

YOUR WEIGHTED PROBLEM (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)

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


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.

....more on Friday.

Posted on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 07:45AM by Registered CommenterMarybeth Shea | CommentsPost a Comment