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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Writing Survival Guide

by Susan Smith Nash
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

3.75 stars
Content Quality: 3.75 stars
Effectiveness: 3.75 stars
Ease of Use: 3.5 stars
Reviewed: Apr 24, 2014 by English Editorial Board
Overview: This site offers writing topics, with references, and formulaic step-by-step instructions for various writing assignments.
Learning Goals: Students will develop and enhance their knowledge of the process of writing multiple types of essays and will learn writing strategies for a variety of essay/research writing assignments.
Target Student Population: As stated by the author on the site, these flowcharts are designed to “help you succeed with writing for college and graduate school.” However, the material seems geared more to high school or beginning college students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Students need only basic computer skills, but they would need some knowledge of the expository/research essay context and some experience with research and organization of material.
Type of Material: Collection
Recommended Uses: This collection is designed for on-line course use. Some of the specific writing assignments could also be useful in a residential course setting.
Technical Requirements: The site works equally well in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer 9. The only required technology on any of the pages directly linked from the main page is the ability to play MP3 files on the computer accessing the site.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 3.75 stars
Strengths: The site offers some interesting writing assignments, with online resource material and multi-modal material such as podcasts and blogs. It also offers step-by-step instruction for very basic writing assignments.
Concerns: Some of the assignments and source material indicate a particular bias; more important, however, the instruction promotes a rather formulaic, five-paragraph model. Writers for whom such a basic formula is helpful may have trouble with some of the terminology, which isn't defined or explained in many cases. Some rhetorical forms and strategies are not covered.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3.75 stars
Strengths: The site offers a number of writing assignments which are interesting and include links to potentially useful information sources. The "Research Paper Survival Guide" is especially useful because it offers extremely concrete instruction. Much of the step-by-step instruction seems easy to follow. The material would be simple to integrate into a curriculum and is very efficient. Using this material, students should be able to improve upon their understanding of specific writing strategies in a short time.
Concerns: Students who require such basic writing instruction may be confused by the large quantity of information available, much of it advertising for products related to the topic. (For example, the assignment on retail coffee chains includes a link to a site at which one can purchase Dunkin Donuts coffee.) Also, some of the examples, like those related to different kinds of fish, may be confusing for students who need this basic level of writing instruction, and some of the terminology used on the site may also be unfamiliar to them. (For example, one section on revision mentions revising for "tone/ethos problems," but students who need this kind of step-by-step writing instruction are unlikely to know what "tone/ethos problems" are.)

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 3.5 stars
Strengths: This site is relatively easy to use because it involves simply clicking on links. The artwork is rather engaging.
Concerns: The site lacks frames to divide up the text for screen readers. It is also cluttered with extraneous material. The explanations and writing topic suggestions are constantly interrupted with advertisements which are both distracting and confusing. Inexperienced researcher/writers may not recognize the advertisements and may be led to web sites that are not appropriate for college writing assignments. This is especially troublesome because the site uses many commercial links to provide information about writing topics. Often it is hard to distinguish advertisements inserted to sell products from links offered for instruction or background.

Other Issues and Comments: This site has the potential to be very useful to students, especially students writing in non-English courses. However, it is so "busy," with many ads and other things, that the potential for inexperienced writers to get totally confused is very high.