Thursday, February 25, 2010

Creative Writing--Bonus Prompt: "I Like You!"


The following gem popped up in my spam box:

My dear friend!
Come with me to the clover field...

Let our laughter serenade the night, among the red lilies still in bloom.

Make me a bed of purple passion beneath the starry autumn night...

And you will have my sensual heart before the night dissolves into light.

I have no secrets to hide from you. All that I am is yours to keep.

Fear not my hand should leave yours because two our souls are now entwined as one.

Sometimes I cannot find those words to let out what is inside

because you are holding the keys of my heart. I know that I can love you

if you're ready and willing to try. I want to be your best...

Take my hand, take my heart, live in love and bring light in the dark

All I want is you... and you can have me too...

Hugs and kisses



Most of the time, I don't even read my email spam; I simply delete it.

However, for some reason, I clicked on this message--I think because the subject line said, "I like you!" And who doesn't like to be liked?

The message did not disappoint--What a charming piece of purple prose!

Come on.

Admit it! You have written your share of turgid prose, in both Macedonian and English. I know I have--well, maybe not in Macedonian.

In this "bonus" prompt, I challenge you to write a narrative non-fiction piece, about any event or person from your life, using the most overwritten prose that you can muster.

Then go back and edit out every adjective and adverb.

Compare the two pieces.

Between the two drafts, you just may have the beginning of a polished piece of writing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Academic Writing--Types of Web Pages You are Likely to Encounter


In order of importance, authority, and objectivity:
1. Online publications that had their start as print or visual media,
Including newspapers, TV stations, scholarly journals, and popular magazines. These web pages are likely to be reliable and authoritative. However, for the more popular sites, expect a lot of flashing, banner, pop up, pop under, and slide across ads.

For example, see CNN.
2. Online publications that got their start online,
For example, The Huffington Post and The Smoking Gun. These may or may not be authoritative. Some of them, like The Onion, are spoof/humor pages and should not be used for serious research.
3. Online directories,
For example, Yellow Pages offer basic information on individuals and businesses, such as maps, phone numbers, and addresses. These are fairly reliable, but they are usually filled with ads, like those mentioned in #1.
4. Business sites,
Such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, Pizza Hut, etc. These are basically sales sites that are pushing specific products, so they are not objective and should be avoided for unbiased information.
5. Blogs and personal web pages.
These may or may not be authoritative. For example, my site is actually a blog, but I have a certain amount of experience in my field, so it should be fairly authoritative, and certainly authoritative for my students. However, it may hold very little authority for someone else’s students.
6. Political pages, which always have their biases.
If you use a political page (Democratic National Committee or Republican Party), for a more objective slant, you may want to check out the opposing political viewpoint web page. Some of these pages are operated by downright wing-nuts (or wingnuts, a new word for your lexicon) and hate groups. Be careful.
7. “Made for advertising” pages.
These are quickie “informational” pages thrown up with the intention of making money for the owner after you click on the ads. The content of these pages is usually short, poorly written, and often inaccurate. They usually have adsense banners plastered throughout the page, with pop-ups, etc. Could be dangerous for your computer. Avoid.
8. “Parking” pages.
A “domainer” buys a domain name and parks it on a site like Sedo, Fabulous, WhyPark, etc.; the page is simply a list of links that will navigate you to a company that sells products related to the domain name. The domain owner and parking company then share in the profits. Avoid for research projects.
9. Internet forums, music sites, video sites.
These are simply specialized chat areas for members, children, teens, "internet trolls" (people who spew hate and nastiness over the internet), nuts, etc.

For example, and Typically, not good sources for research projects.
10. Malicious pages!
Clone sites or pages that look like well-known sites, such as Paypal and ebay. These pages are likely to be filled with malicious codes (which can destroy your stored files/programs and/or make your computer into a clone or slave) or phishing links that ask for your user name and password. Often the domain name is CLOSE to the genuine URL, for example, instead of See the difference between the two site names?
Sooner or later, you will land on one of these pages, which is why you need to load an up-to-date virus protection program on your computer.

Creative Writing--Prompt #4


Keep in mind that you are NOT required to use these prompts for your drafts. They are just brainstorming tools. However, you MAY use these prompts to develop your drafts. In short, it is up to you. You can also use them at another time during the semester, not just this week.

Option #1 (250-500 words):
Take a real event from your life and write it in a drama format. For an example, see

A Possible Scenario at the Police Station

“A Possible Scenario at the Police Station,” an excerpt from my memoir, stretches the boundaries between non-fiction and fiction.

I took a real event from my life: a conversation between Harley D. Semple, my grandfather, and the Sioux City (Iowa) Police Matron, which resulted in my involuntary commitment to the mental institution.

I was NOT present during this conversation; I was locked in another room at the police station.

In the resulting “playlet,” I made a supposition about the conversation that transpired between these two people.

I based this short scene on an important clue that I discovered in my commitment papers: in August 2004, I was able to procure photocopies of them from the Woodbury County Court House. As I read through them, I discovered that my grandfather had originally signed the legal papers for my commitment; however, his name was crossed out and the police matron’s name was substituted.

For 35 years, I had questions about who had really signed the papers. My grandfather had denied vehemently that he was responsible, and, technically, that was the truth. However, these papers proved, beyond a doubt, that he was, indeed, responsible for my commitment; he had somehow “dodged” the technical responsibility by (possibly) convincing the police matron to sign those papers.

My grandfather signing the papers and the police matron crossing out his name and substituting her own name is verifiable. The content of my “playlet” is not verifiable.

The “how” and “why” are unknown; thus, my short drama attempts to answer those unknowns with an educated guess. The absolute truth will never be known, given that the two people involved are now dead.

Is this non-fiction? I’m saying, “Yes and no.” In any case, I have stretched the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction.

Is what I have done ethical? I think so, but I suppose that question is open to debate.
Option #2 (250-500 words):
Take a situation from your own life that made you very angry. In a brainstorming piece, spew that anger on paper, censoring no emotion or vitriol. Just get it down on paper. If necessary, write it in Macedonian (you can always translate it later).

This piece will NOT be art. It will be messy, disorganized, and chaotic. But don’t worry about that—just get the rawness down on the page.

Later on—maybe even months or years from now—revisit this piece and see if an artistic and publishable piece might emerge from this.

Even if you write this piece, you don’t have to share it with me.

I have sent to you (but have not posted and will not post) a brainstorming piece about the room situation that we experienced last class. At this point, I would not want to share this piece with a wider audience, given my visitor status here at the university. However, I am entrusting this class with this very rough and somewhat angry piece. Later on, I may write an essay about this situation, but it would be more moderate than the raw emotion spewed in this draft. But, then again, this piece may go nowhere but here.

I just want to show you that all writers write pieces that may never see revision and publication.
Option #3 (250-500 words):
Develop ONE short scene, complete with narrative, dialogue, description, and action. In this scene, reveal something vitally important about yourself or another person without revealing the information directly; in other words, "Show, don't tell." (You may revise a scene from one of your existing personal essays/memoirs/short stories based on real life).

Remember Milena’s scene with the triplets? Something like that might be a good starting point.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Creative Writing (Creative Non-fiction): Prompt #3


Keep in mind that you are NOT required to use these prompts for your drafts. They are just brainstorming tools. However, you MAY use these prompts to develop your drafts. In short, it is up to you. You can also use them at another time during the semester, not just this week.
Option #1 (200-250 words):
Write a letter to your future husband, wife, child, etc., and tell him/her about your life before he/she came into it. If that person is already in your life, write from your past perspective. (From Writer's Digest online)

(You may recognize this idea from last semester as a fiction prompt.)
Option #2 (200-250 words):
Read “Richard Hickock”: From In Cold Blood (Truman Capote) from Life Writing, pp. 231-237. OR see In Cold Blood, pages 213-219.

In this book, author Truman Capote reported on the brutal Clutter murder, which took place in Holcomb, Kansas, in 1959. Capote invented or, at the very least, expanded on a style of non-fiction writing called “new journalism” (also known as “literary journalism”) in which the “reporter” participates in the “story,” even though he or she was not there, and sometimes long after the event has occurred.

In a “new journalism”/“literary journalism” piece of your own, write about a familiar event that occurred, but one in which you did not actively participate. However, in your essay, pretend that you were there and taking down notes as the event unfolded. You may have to interview people (perhaps start with a family event). You may recreate dialogue (Capote sure did).

The event you choose does not have to be about a brutal event, such as a murder and execution. You may also use a photograph (see Option #3) to write your new or literary journalism piece.
Option #3 (200-250 words):
Find a favorite photograph of a person, pet, or event and write a mini memoir about that person, pet, or event.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Academic Writing: Topic Sentences and Body Paragraphs—Worksheet (Assignment #3)


The Scream (Horizontal Mirror), Edvard Munch

Before filling in this worksheet, please read this.

I. “Working” Thesis Statement:

1. Paragraph #1: Introduction: (To be developed later)

2. Paragraph #2:
a. Topic Sentence:

b. Body of paragraph (about 100-150 words): Support for your argument or proposed solution, which will consist of solid evidence, offered by expert authors and authoritative publications (both print and electronic), and inferences/ interpretations of your findings.

URLs for research sources:
3. Paragraph #3
a. Topic Sentence:

b. Body of paragraph (about 100-150 words): Support for your argument or proposed solution, which will consist of solid evidence, offered by expert authors and authoritative publications (both print and electronic), and inferences/ interpretations of your findings.

URLs for research sources:
4. Paragraph #4
a. Topic Sentence:

b. Body of paragraph (about 100-150 words): Support for your argument or proposed solution, which will consist of solid evidence, offered by expert authors and authoritative publications (both print and electronic), and inferences/ interpretations of your findings.

URLs for research sources:
5. Paragraph #5: Counterargment Paragraph: (To be developed later.)

6. Paragraph #6: Concluding Paragraph: (To be developed later.)

Academic Writing—Topic Sentences and Body Paragraphs (For Assignment #3)


The Scream (Vertical Mirror Image), Edvard Munch

After reading this page, please fill in this worksheet.

I. “Working” Thesis Statement:
Your thesis statement is the foundation upon which your essay will be built.
· By the time you are ready to work on topic sentences and body paragraphs, you must have already developed a “working thesis statement,” which simply means that you have created a thesis sentence that (as you work on your issue or call-to-action essay) will be subject to minor changes and “tweaking.”

· Eventually, your final thesis statement will be part of your introductory paragraph.
1. Paragraph #1: Introduction: (To be developed later)
RESIST the temptation to begin your paper by writing the introduction first.
· You should delay working on the introduction because you are still developing your topic sentences and body paragraphs. In other words, you cannot develop an introductory paragraph when your body paragraphs have not yet been written.
· The introduction should be the second-to-last paragraph that you write.
2. Paragraph #2 (Each paragraph MUST support your overall thesis sentence, which is why numbers 1-6 are subsets of “I.”
· Topic Sentence:
This sentence is a summary of the argument or possible solution being covered in this body paragraph.
· Body of paragraph:
Support for your argument or proposed solution, which will consist of solid evidence, offered by expert authors and authoritative publications (both print and electronic), and inferences/interpretations of your findings.
3. Paragraph #3
Topic Sentence: (Same as paragraph #2)
Body of paragraph: (Same as paragraph #2)
4. Paragraph #4
Topic Sentence: (Same as paragraph #2)
Body of paragraph: (Same as paragraph #2)
5. Paragraph #5: Counterargment Paragraph: (To be developed later.)

6. Paragraph #6: Concluding Paragraph: (To be developed later.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Creative Writing (Creative Non-fiction): Prompt #2


Option #1 (250-500 words):
Describe, in some detail, your BEST or WORST elementary, middle, or high school experience.
Option #2 (250-500 words):
Write a personal essay about a tragic local, regional, or national event from your own perspective. It doesn't matter if you were directly involved, but your personal perspective on the tragedy does matter.

For examples, see,
by Brian Doyle
9/11: Where Were You on That Terrible Tuesday?
by Jennifer Semple Siegel
Option #3 (250-500 words):
Write a complete mini-memoir, following the traditional story structure (beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, epiphany, and resolution), that covers no more than about five minutes. In other words, reach back into your past and select a moment from your life that has had a tremendous effect on your life.

Note: You are NOT required to use any of these prompts. These are simply tools to help you overcome writer’s block.

Academic Writing--Brainstorming Your Topic Worksheet


Circle ONE:-----Issue Essay-----OR-----Call-to-Action Essay

1. Develop a Broad Topic. Find an interesting controversial issue (Issue Essay) or a problem that needs to be solved (Call-to-Action Essay):

2. Narrow your focus. Develop a specific research question so that you can cover the issue or call-to-action in 500-700 words:

3. Research your issue first on Wikipedia and then other sources. What have you found to help support your topic? Please include website names and links:

4. Assuming that your preliminary search proves that your topic is viable, consider the issue (Issue Essay) or solution to the problem (Call-to-Action Essay) from several perspectives:

5. Develop your thesis. Take a position (Issue Essay) or propose a solution (Call-to-Action Essay) by answering your original research question (#2):

6. Define your purpose for writing the essay (other than the essay has been assigned to you):

7. Define your audience:

8. Counterarguments: List every possible counterargument to your viewpoint (Issue Essay) or alternative solutions (Call- for-Action Essay) and think about how you might recognize, refute and/or accommodate them:

Academic Writing—Brainstorming for a Topic


For those who have decided to accept “The Research Challenge,” please select a topic that will hold your interest for the rest of the semester because you’ll be working with it until May.
First, you should be aware that there are two types of argumentative essays:
1. Issue Essay (Arguing a Position)
In an issue essay, you take a position on an issue (usually controversial and up for debate), defend it, and try to convince your audience to accept your viewpoint.
2. Call-to-Action Essay (Proposing a Solution to a Problem)
In a call-to-action essay, you define the problem (which most reasonable people would agree is a problem), propose some solutions to the problem, argue why your solution is the best possible choice, and why your solution(s) should be adopted by your audience. For example,
In the U.S., universal health care is currently being widely debated; most reasonable people believe that our health care system is broken and needs to be fixed. However, there is lively debate regarding HOW the health-care crisis should be solved.

In Macedonia, just about everyone agrees that there is a “brain-drain” problem (smart young people leaving the country to find jobs abroad), but there may be disagreement as to how to solve this serious national crisis.
But where to start? Brainstorming!


1. Develop a Broad Topic.
Find an interesting controversial issue, such as “The Macedonian Question.”
2. Narrow your focus.
Develop a specific research question so that you can cover the issue in 500-700 words, for example,
Should Macedonia risk losing inclusion in the European Union by insisting on retaining ‘Macedonia’ as its name?
3. Research your issue first on Wikipedia and then other sources.
Wikipedia, a good preliminary source, will reveal if your topic is viable and may offer, in its reference section, some great research sources, both online and offline. However, you may NOT use Wikipedia as a source for your final paper. Everybody loves Wikipedia, but its authors, not vetted by Wikipedia editors, can be wildly inaccurate or can have specific agendas to push or axes to grind.
Check to see if valid and authoritative online sources are available for your issue; otherwise, you will not be able to support your viewpoint.
4. Assuming that your preliminary search proves that your topic is viable, consider the issue from several perspectives—even if you think you already know your own position on it.
This process will help you see the issue in different ways and formulate your counterarguments.
5. Develop your thesis.
Take a position by answering your original research question:
Macedonia should insist on retaining “Macedonia” as its name, for history and the future of Macedonian identity are more important than the current economic crisis.

In the interest of economic viability, Macedonia should adopt another name so that inclusion into the European will be more likely.
6. Define your purpose for writing the essay (other than the essay has been assigned to you), for example,
“My purpose is to convince reasonable fellow citizens and sympathetic Greeks that my position on this issue is the best viewpoint to endorse.”
7. Define your audience.
For example, your audience for the above topic should be fellow Macedonian and Greek citizens and politicians who may be indifferent to or wavering on the issue. Why?
• Explaining the naming question to the entire planet would require too much background and historical information, which is beyond the scope of a 500-700 word paper. In this case, your audience ought to have some basic knowledge about the issue as opposed to John Doe from Peoria, Illinois, who will have zero knowledge about the Macedonian Naming Question.

• It would be futile to try convincing hardcore opponents, so you may have to concede that particular audience to the other side of the issue.

• There is no point in trying to convince your supporters. You already “own” them (In the U.S., this is referred to as “Singing to the Choir”).
So if you know that your audience will consist of both Macedonians and Greeks who are indifferent or not quite sure what to think about the Macedonian Naming Question, you have a real opportunity to persuade many of them to adopt your viewpoint by tailoring your argument specifically to them.
8. Counterarguments:
List every possible counterargument to your viewpoint (as you delve deeper into your research, you may discover even more counterarguments) and think about how you might recognize, refute and/or accommodate them.

BRAINSTORMING! (Call-to-Action Essay)

1. Develop a broad topic.
Find a current problem, one in which there is little debate as to the existence of the problem. In other words, if the problem itself is not widely recognized as a problem, then any proposed solution would be pointless. For example, the Macedonian Naming Question would be too controversial and open to debate. However, “solving the financial crisis in Macedonia” would be a good broad topic because few Macedonians would disagree that a financial crisis exists.
2. Narrow your focus.
Develop a specific research question so that you can cover the your proposed solution in 500-700 words, for example,
How can Macedonia stop the “Brain-Drain” problem, resulting in the systematic loss of our best and brightest young people who immigrate to foreign countries for job opportunities?”
3. Research your problem first on Wikipedia and then other sources.
Wikipedia, a good preliminary source, will reveal if your topic is viable and may offer, in its reference section, some great research sources, both online and offline. However, you may NOT use Wikipedia as a source for your final paper. Everybody loves Wikipedia, but its authors, not vetted by Wikipedia editors, can be wildly inaccurate or can have specific agendas to push or axes to grind.

Check to see if valid and authoritative online sources are available for your issue; otherwise, you will not be able to support your viewpoint.

In this case, for support of your solutions, you might find examples of how other countries are working with their “Brain-Drain” problem and how others have solved the problem. You are not likely to find specific proposed solutions for Macedonia in a global resource. You may need to find regional local resources, such as local newspapers, magazines, and books.
4. Assuming that your preliminary research proves that your topic is viable, consider several different solutions to the problem—even if you think you already know what solutions to propose.
For a call-to-action essay, it’s best to keep an open mind because your research may reveal better solutions than your original ones. At the very least, this process will help you see the different ways in which a problem can be solved and will help formulate your counterarguments—in this case, opposing solutions.
5. Develop your thesis.
Answer your original research question by offering some proposed solutions within your thesis sentence:
Macedonia can stop the “Brain-Drain” problem, which results in the systematic immigration of our best and brightest young people to foreign countries for job opportunities, by implementing the following solutions (Proposed Solution #1) , (Proposed Solution #2), and (Proposed Solution #3).
6. Define your purpose for writing the essay (other than the essay has been assigned to you), for example,
“My purpose is to offer the best possible solutions for solving the “Brain-Drain” problem that currently plagues Macedonia.”
7. Define your audience.
For example, your audience for the above topic should be fellow Macedonian citizens and politicians who may agree that there is a problem but who may at a loss as to how to solve this growing problem. Why just a Macedonian audience?
• Offering Macedonian solutions to the entire planet would be irrelevant and beyond the scope of a 500-700 word paper. In this case, your audience ought to have some basic knowledge about the problem as it pertains to Macedonia. While it is true that Joe Smith in Detroit, Michigan, may have similar Brain-Drain concerns (given the state of the U.S. auto industry as workers flee to other cities and states), any proposed solutions for Detroit are likely to be different from that of Macedonia.

• With your proposed solutions tailored just for a Macedonian audience, you will not have to explain the historical background to your audience.
So if you keep your audience small and focused, you have a real opportunity to offer in-depth solutions to a specific problem.
8. Counterarguments:
List every possible alternative solution to the problem and think about how you might recognize, refute and/or accommodate them (as you delve deeper into your research, you may discover even more alternative solutions).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Academic Writing--How to Evaluate a Web Page


1. Introduction
The amount of information that is available on the internet can be overwhelming and daunting, an endless cornucopia of fact, opinion, banality, and chatter.

You can find information on every known topic on the planet, but not all of it is valid. In fact, most of what you read on the internet is just plain wrong or someone’s uninformed opinion (and not necessarily a fact). You might be tempted to use any information that you find on first search and be tempted to run with it—but never just settle for low-quality sources.

So proceed with caution. While there is a lot of information available, much of it is inaccurate, out of date, or just plain incorrect. Before you use any information, you need to evaluate the source to determine if the information is credible.

Areas that should be evaluated:
--Authority of the site’s webmaster and/or writer

--Accuracy of the site

--Objectivity of the site

--Type of coverage the site offers

--Currency of the site (for example, the last update should be recent)
Only after evaluating all these areas should you decide if you want to use the information that you have found.
2. Authority
Is this website a personal web page? Does the address include a term that includes the name of a free provider, such as Blogger (blogspot address)? If it does, or if it appears to be hosted by a service that allows people to post web pages for free, you may be looking at a page that someone created as a hobby. This is not necessarily a reason for automatically dismissing the information, but you should determine if the person who created the page is knowledgeable about the information he or she is posting.

Here is how to determine if a webmaster or writer is qualified to offer certain statements as fact:
• Does the domain name/URL reflect a well-known company name? This information is more likely to be of high quality and should be accurate, although it may be biased (More on objectivity later).

• Determine if the person or company’s name is mentioned on the website (other than in the URL).

• Is the domain an “expensive” generic or short intuitive term and NOT parked on a directory page, filled with ads? If so, it is more likely that the information contained within the site will be more accurate. Such highly sought-after domains are very expensive and have been known to sell on the secondary market for up to $x,xxx,xxx, so it is less likely to be a hobbyist/amateur page.

• Does the page reveal where the person teaches or works? Use a search engine, such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, to find information about the person (thus, you need to evaluate research sites by checking out the webmaster/owner and what he or she does for a living).

• Is the author an expert in the subject presented on the website, and is there a link to a professional page that verifies those credentials?

• Is the author biased toward one narrow viewpoint and/or has an ax to grind with another person or group? Is his/her viewpoint controversial and does not recognize other viewpoints that might be considered more valid?

• Does the author belong to a fringe or hate group? (Sometimes these hate mongers are very good at “masking” their true agendas and biases. It is only after you take a careful look at their sites that you realize the author/webmaster’s viewpoint. For an example of a hate site in “sheep’s skin,” see

• Check Whois (Domain name registration information): All domain registrars maintain registration of domain names, such as Network Solutions, Go Daddy, etc. A good neutral site to check:, which offers very detailed and accurate information about registered domain names.

• Is the domain owner using a proxy privacy service (such as Domains by Proxy) to “hide” his/her contact information? If so, this is a red flag, and you should probably view any information on the site with skepticism.
In short, you will need to determine if the webmaster/writer is truly an expert on the topic he or she is presenting.

What can the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) reveal to you?There are clues that can be found within the domain name itself.

The global Top Level Domains (gTLDs) include the following major extensions: .com, .net, .org, .info, .us, .biz, and .tel (among some lesser known ones), and you will find anything and everything on these gTLDs: the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

However, official TLDs (such as .gov, .mil [now rare], and .edu) often contain better information than the gTLDs. For example, government websites (.gov, or .mil TLDs) typically contain high quality and accurate information. However, the information is produced by government agencies, which contains information written from their point of view. Therefore, you will need to evaluate if the information is biased towards that government’s point of view.

School websites (.edu) are a little trickier to evaluate. If the page is produced by a department or a professor, the information presented should be accurate and of good quality. However, some schools allow students to produce student websites, which should be evaluated as you would any personal page. These pages are often preceded by a tilde (~) in the URL after the .edu (for example,, but not always. If you are not careful, you may be using a student’s science project as a source, which may or may not be valid.

Country codes (.us, .de, .mk,, .es, .me, etc.), also known as country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs), are no longer primary indicators of validity and should be evaluated in the same light as gTLDs. In the past few years, country code registrars have opened registration to almost anyone who can pay yearly registration fee and not just government officials and official agencies. NeuStar, the registrar that operates the .us ccTLD, forbids private/proxy registration, and registrants must be citizens of the U.S. or own a business that has U.S. interests, but scammers always seem to find their way around these regulations. Each country regulates its own ccTLD, and some are more restrictive than others. Finding information for each ccTLD can be difficult, so, for your purposes, simply assume that ccTLDS have the same pitfalls as the gTLDs.

A note about .org: when the .org TLD was created, an entity had to be a registered non-profit organization. This is no longer true; this author owns several .org domains, and she has never had to provide non-profit documents to the registrar. Therefore, again, .org domains can no longer be automatically considered safe and valid.

SIDE NOTE: Beware of typo and lookalike domain URLs, such as or, when you intended to type in Scammers make big money on typo domains, either through email phishing (fishing for passwords via email or site links) or downloading malware (viruses, Trojan Horses, zombie programs, and unwanted programs that harm and/or slow your computer down) on unaware users’ unprotected computers.

For example, can you see the difference between “savvy” and “sawy”? In some fonts, “w” and “vv” are difficult to tell apart, especially when they are not side-by-side, so be cautious. “1” and “l” are NOT the same characters (The first is the number one, and the second is lower case L)! When in doubt, highlight the URL, place it in a word document, and increase the size—this will offer you a clearer picture. For “1” and “l”: highlight the term, and see what happens when you use capitalize the characters using the font feature: “1” and “l” becomes “1” AND “L.” Also, be aware of the difference between O (a letter) and 0 (zero). IPOD and IP0D are NOT the same (ipod and ip0d in lower case)!

Who wrote the page? You should find out who created (webmaster) the website and who wrote (author) the page content. They may or may not be the same person.

Information about webmasters and authors can be surprisingly difficult to find. Try to find any links that might reveal anything about the author or the site.

Check to see if the author or organization is listed on the bottom of the page in small print, usually in or near the copyright notice. Also look for links that say “About Us,” “Contact Us,” or “About this Page.”

If you can’t find a link that leads you to information about the organization that owns the site, look at the URL. Usually, a reputable organization or business will own the exact domain of its company name (between the www and the TLD (.com, .edu, .gov, or .org, .us, etc.).

For example, if you are looking for information on drunk driving, you might use “drunk driving” as a search term, which will bring up as an option.

This looks like it might be a good site, but you need to discover who is responsible for the website. Navigating to the page, you will discover that MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is responsible for the page, its acronym at the top of the page and copyright notice at the bottom. If you look at the URL, you will see that MADD is part of the URL. However, if the search engine brings you to or, these domains may not even belong to MADD but could be “clone” pages filled with malicious code. A clone page, developed by “scraping” the code from the original page, is a replica of that page, often with added malicious code and/or viruses. Unfortunately, most original pages are easy to scrape, and even a non-tech person can do it easily.

In this case, if you check Whois, both .com and .net, along with the .org, appear to belong to the MADD organization (although neither .com nor .net URL redirects to homepage).

Always scan Whois for more details about the webmaster/owner, such as the Whois Record, Site Profile, Registration, and Server Stats. For some eye-opening facts about the racist webmaster who operates the so-called Martin Luther King site, see

Pay attention to the length of time a domain has been owned by one registrant. The search engines reward longevity, and it can be one indicator of validity (although some hate groups are tenacious and tend to hang around for a long time).

Truncating a URL. Search engines do not always bring you to a site’s homepage; they send you to its most relevant page, often a sub-domain URL, having to do with your topic, and, often, the landing page does not reveal what you need to know. To find out more information about the website, you need to “truncate” the URL.

For example, does not navigate to MADD’s homepage, but, rather, directs to a page that offers links to legal issues connected with drunk driving. To arrive at the homepage, simply delete the sub-domains (URL string AFTER .org, for example, “/Media-Center/Media-Library/Laws.aspx”). You will be left with, MADD’s homepage.

Reading sub-domains.There are two types of sub-domains.

The first type places the sub-domain after the Top Level Domain (TLD, such as .org). In, each “/” indicates a sub-domain. This particular URL has four sub-domains, which could be outlined in a hierarchy as follows (slashes enlarged and in red and bold for emphasis):
.org (1st level or Top Level Domain or TLD, also known as a domain extension)
http://madd (2nd level, not a sub-domain.)
A website does not actually need the “www” alias sub-domain, although some sites will not resolve without it because of incorrect settings in the owner’s domain and hosting panels.
/Media-Center (3nd level, 1st sub-domain)
/Media-Center (4rd level, 2nd sub-domain)
/Media-Library (5th level, 3rd sub-domain)
/Laws.aspx (6th level, 4th sub-domain)
The second type of URL, typically used by large corporations that often have thousands of pages in several categories that need to be indexed, presents its sub-domains in this manner:
(this does not resolve—this is just an example)

Note that there is no “www,” which is really just an “alias” sub-domain, in this type of arrangement. Each period (enlarged and in bold) between the terms indicates a sub-domain, for example:

http://Laws. (6th level, 4th sub-domain)
Media-Library. (5th level, 3rd sub-domain)
Media-Center. (4th level, 2nd sub-domain)
MediaCenter. (3rd level, 1st sub-domain)
(In this setup, each sub-domain needs a different name/designation, so, for this example, I eliminated the hyphen.)
madd.(2nd level, not a sub-domain and no “www”)
org (1st level or Top Level Domain or TLD, also known as a domain extension)
3. Accuracy
Does the site contain accurate information? To determine this, there are several points to consider, for example:
• Is the author qualified to cover the topic? If you can’t determine the author’s credibility or who sponsored the web site (see “Authority”), assume that the information is inaccurate and move on to another source.

• Scan the page quickly. Are there many misspellings, non-standard/awkward sentence structure, and/or faulty grammar? These can be indications that the information may not be accurate, although the webmaster and/or writer may be from a country where English is not the native language. However, on a credible website, country of origin and organization affiliation will be clearly disclosed.

• Read the page for content. At this point in the research process, you should have a basic knowledge of your topic. Does the material on the site fit in with what you have discovered found from other sources, including print sources?

• Are you able to verify the author/webmaster’s claims with known valid sources? If not, then don’t use it.
4. Objectivity
How objective is the website? While, a major drug company headquartered in New York City, New York, U.S.A., may offer some valuable information regarding the efficacy of its drugs, you should carefully evaluate the company’s claims. For example, perhaps you are doing research on drugs that can help alleviate the symptoms of Parkinsonism. You discover that Pfizer manufactures Benadryl® and claims that this drug is the best one on the market for Parkinsonism. Should you take that claim at face value? Probably not.

On the other hand, Pfizer’s page regarding chemical composition, dosage, usage, indications, and contraindications of its products will most likely be accurate because drug companies in the U.S. are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and factual information about their products must be accurate and up-to-date.

In essence, if a website is trying to sell you a product, you must question its objectivity in terms of deciding whether or not you should buy that product—or use the site as a source to make an argument supporting or disagreeing with that company’s claims. Of course that site is going to hype its products and do whatever it takes to make consumers buy their products, but hype does not equal fact.

Therefore, if you agree (or disagree) with Pfizer about its product efficacy, then you must find one or more accurate, detailed, and objective sources (and not competing drug companies) that support or disagree with Pfizer’s claims.

The same criteria should be applied to political, cultural, ethnic, and religious sites that offer a narrow view of the world. Any site that is slanted toward one viewpoint with no room for opposing viewpoints should be avoided or at least balanced with other sites that espouse the opposite viewpoint and some neutral sites that just report on the issue. While you may personally agree with, say, a religious site’s beliefs, your audience may not buy into your argument if your sources are not balanced and objective.

Even government sites must be considered carefully. For example, reflects the political slant of the current U.S. president and his party. Straight factual information will probably be okay, but content that pushes a certain point of view will need to be balanced by more objective sources.

In short, you will need to determine the objectivity of a website and what affect any biases are going to have on your argument.

How can you determine objectivity? You need to find out who developed and/or sponsored a website, and the best way to determine this: check the authority of the webmaster/author, which will bring you right back to section 2 (Authority).

Objectivity is one of the most difficult aspects to determine, but if you are serious about your research work, you must select your sources carefully, which means taking the time to understand the viewpoints of your various sources.
5. Coverage
Does the source adequately cover the information that you are seeking (sometimes the blurbs can be deceiving and meta-tags—codes that you cannot see, except in html—may be irrelevant and simply the fruits of the webmaster’s “keyword spamming” project)? Does it cover your topic in depth? Does the source try to offer a balanced coverage of the topic? Finally, does the website offer related links to other websites, even those that offer opposing viewpoints? If so, this website could be useful for your research, assuming that the site also passes the Authority, Accuracy, Objectivity, and Currency tests.

Make sure that your source offers real content, not just an abstract or summary of an article. If you find the abstract intriguing and relevant to your topic, then try to find the full article, even if you have to read it in print. Often, colleges and universities belong to interlibrary loan consortiums, which offer you access to more sources than your college library can offer on its own.
6. Currency
Two crucial questions for determining currency: when was the page last updated, and how will the age of the information affect your argument?

If you are searching for biographical information on William Shakespeare, a page that was last updated seven years ago will probably still offer solid information (if not great recent scholarly discoveries, such as newly-discovered manuscripts), assuming that the site passes the Authority, Accuracy, Objectivity, and Coverage tests.

However, if you are researching topics that are changing at a rapid pace, the information on a site that was last updated six months ago could be stale and seriously out-of-date, for example, scientific discoveries and the newest computer gadgets and software.

Determining currency is relatively easy; blogs automatically include a complete date for each update (although dates on blogs can be manipulated). For regular websites, check the copyright dates. Many abandoned and old sites will have older copyright dates.

Read the content. If the writer hails the 1-gigabyte hard drive as the greatest technological discovery since sliced bread, then you know your information is seriously out-of-date.

Click on the links; if many of them are broken or lead to irrelevant sites, then you are likely looking at an outdated site.

Check the Registration tab in Whois. If the site registration is about to expire or is in “Redemption Period” or “Pending Deletion,” chances are the domain name (and, perhaps, the site itself) will soon be owned by someone else.

Just use common sense when using website sources for information that needs to be current and on the cutting edge.
In conclusion, much of the information presented here on Authority, Accuracy, Objectivity, Coverage, and Currency can also be applied to print sources. However, these sources tend to be easier to evaluate, simply because print materials, for non-professional publishers, are often too expensive to produce. On the other hand, websites are often hosted for free or very little money, so on the web, anyone can be a publisher.

Academic Writing--Discussion of Research Protocol


When discerning research protocol, there are three areas to consider:
1. Discussion of sources (print and electronic):
• Books

• Scholarly/professional journals

• Newspapers/news magazines

• Popular magazines

• Niche publications.
2. Determining the authority and credibility of the author.
Important questions to consider:
• Who is the author?

• What are his/her credentials?

• Is the author writing from his/her position of authority within his/her specified field of expertise?

• Does the author have an agenda, for example, is he/she a paid spokesperson for a commercial or even a non-profit enterprise?
3. Determining the authority and credibility, objectivity, currency, coverage, and reputation of the publication.
Important questions to consider:
• What is the reputation of the publication?

• How long has the publication been in business? (In websites, the age of the site and the domain name can be important indicators of credibility.)

• What is its slant or political viewpoint?

• Are its articles well-written and presented in an objective manner?

• How important is extremely current information to the readers of this publication? How current are its articles and information in general?

• Is this a niche publication? If so, what is its focus?

• How thoroughly does the publication cover its topics?

• How relevant is the publication to YOUR topic?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Creative Writing--Creative Non-fiction: Prompt #1


These prompts are offered to you as tools to help you get started. You are not obligated to use them at all.
Option #1:
a. In an essay, reveal why you like to write.

b. What are some differences between writing in Macedonian and English?
Option #2:
a. Write a short poem about an important real event that happened to you or something important that you witnessed firsthand.

b. From the poem, write an essay or short memoir about that event.
Option #3:
a. Take three objects from your shelves, purse, backpack, or pockets, and write a sentence or two about each object.

b. What do these three objects have in common with each other?

c. How important are these objects to you?

d. Explain why these three objects were on your shelves, in your purse, backpack, or pockets.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

American Literature--Malcolm X and Identity: "My Father Didn't Know His Last Name"


MALCOLM X: Our History was Destroyed by Slavery


On March 17, 1963, Malcolm X appeared on a television show in Chicago called City Desk (see also here). During the interview, interviewer Len O'Connor (an older white man) kept badgering him about his "real" last name. Finally, Malcolm X said:
My father didn't know his last name. My father got his last name from his grandfather and his grandfather got it from his grandfather who got it from the slavemaster. The real names of our people were destroyed during slavery. The last name of my forefathers was taken from them when they were brought to America and made slaves, and then the name of the slavemaster was given, which we refuse, we reject that name today and refuse it. I never acknowledge it whatsoever.
Malcolm X is viewed by some critics as an extremist; however, as Malcolm X evolved, he started to pull away from many of the extremist ideas taught by Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. Malcolm X's break with Muhammad may have been hastened by his discovery that his idol and leader, a man who advocated celibacy before marriage and faithfulness during marriage, was having affairs with several Nation of Islam women, some of whom had children by him.

Also, after his journey to Mecca, Malcolm X began to view Islam as a more peaceful and all-inclusive religion that included all races, even blonde and blue-eyed whites. In fact, his more moderate views may have precipitated his 1965 assassination.
A brief biography of Malcolm X
Like many of the African-American works we have read so far, Malcolm X's views expressed in this interview echo the profound loss of identity that persists to this day.

As the class delves into Invisible Man, you will see a continuing loss of identity as the young protagonist grasps for his own sense of identity, which remains elusive and illusive throughout the novel.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Academic Writing--Video and Full Text of President Barack Obama's Victory Speech (November 4, 2008) and Rhetorical Analysis Questions


Barack Obama's Presidential Victory Speech


The text of Barack Obama's 17-minute November 4, 2008, victory speech is breathtaking in its scope and beauty and is considered one of the greatest rhetorical moments in history and echoes Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech, also 17 minutes long (which was probably intentional).

Below is the full text of Barack Obama's victory speech to the American people, just after he won the presidency. At the end are some homework questions that I would like you to answer for next week (February 8):

* * *
Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled, Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain.

Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Governor (Sarah) Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best--the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way. To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics, you made this happen and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office.

We didn't start with much money or many endorsements.

Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give 5 and 10 and 20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy, who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organised and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime--two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years-- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those--to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons--because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves--if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

[Audience: "Yes we can"]

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Rhetorical Analysis of Obama’s Victory Speech

For this speech, one could argue that then President-elect Obama was trying to reach all Americans and the rest of the world, especially those who would do harm to the U.S. To a certain extent, this is true. After a fairly contentious campaign, Obama wanted to try to bring together all Americans and try to heal the wounds inflicted by a campaign that saw a lot of mud-slinging, accusations, and outright lies (on both sides). However, if you take a careful look at the speech, you will discover that Obama was zeroing in on one specific group, which included the following groups:
The American citizen on Election Day who
• Voted enthusiastically for President Barack Obama

• Voted reluctantly for President Barack Obama

• Voted enthusiastically for Senator John McCain

• Voted reluctantly for Senator John McCain

• Voted for other candidates

• Didn’t vote at all
Homework (Submit your answers via email and print out a copy to bring for next week's class[february 8])
1. What is President Obama’s overall thesis?

2. Identify President Obama’s overall intended audience (not necessarily just the audience that was present at the victory rally). Explain your rationale.
• Audience:



--All Americans?
3. Identify Obama’s audience in attendance at the victory rally in Chicago. Explain your rationale.
• Audience:



--All Americans?
4. On which audience does Obama seem most focused?

5. What rhetorical devices does Obama use to develop his argument? (For typical rhetorical devices, see the last page on the handout “What is a Persuasive/Argumentative Essay?”)

6. Which opposing views does Obama recognize, accommodate, and/or refute?

7. What does Obama tell the American voters who did NOT vote for him?

8. At the beginning of the speech, Obama addresses the crowd by saying, “Hello, Chicago.” Why?

This speech and video are copyright by their respective authors or estates. They have been posted on this site for historical and educational purposes.

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