Defazio et al (2010)

Defazio et al (2010)



v10n2hook







Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Vol. 10, No. 2, June 2010, pp. 34 - 47.

Academic literacy: The importance and impact of writing across the
curriculum – a case study
Joseph Defazio1, Josette Jones2, Felisa Tennant3 and Sara Anne Hook4
Abstract: The paper provides case studies of how four faculty members who
teach in undergraduate and graduate programs at the Indiana University School
of Informatics promote academic literacy throughout the curriculum. The paper
describes the writing assignments in several courses, the objectives of these
assignments in enhancing the writing skills of students, the pedagogical
approaches used by the faculty members and a discussion of the results.
Suggestions for assessing student writing will also be provided.
Keywords: writing, academic literacy, informatics, health informatics, legal
informatics, health information administration, new media, case study.
Effective writing is a skill that is grounded in the cognitive domain. It involves learning,
comprehension, application and synthesis of new knowledge. From a faculty member’s
perspective, writing well entails more than adhering to writing conventions. Writing also
encompasses creative inspiration, problem-solving, reflection and revision that results in a
completed manuscript. From a student’s perspective, writing may instead be a laborious and
even dreaded exercise of attempting to place thoughts on paper while developing mastery over
the rules of writing, such as spelling, citation format and grammar.
Over the past several years, it has become apparent to the faculty at Indiana University
School of Informatics, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) that students
entering the undergraduate programs of Media Arts and Science, Informatics and Health
Information Administration as well as the Health Informatics graduate program lack the
necessary writing skills needed to become successful communicators both during their studies
and after graduation. The authors teach in undergraduate, both undergraduate and graduate
programs and purely graduate programs, providing a broad perspective on an issue that crosses
all disciplines and educational levels. The concern for the writing abilities of students has
become more focused with IUPUI’s adoption of the Principles of Undergraduate Learning
(PULs). The first PUL, Core Communication and Quantitative Skills, encompasses the ability to
“express ideas and facts to others effectively in a variety of formats, particularly written, oral,
and visual formats.”
Whatever the reasons may be, the bottom line is that the majority of students do not
possess the skills necessary to effectively communicate in a written format that will enable them
to become successful upon graduation. There is a significant need for students at all levels not
only to be good written communicators, but also to understand the importance of good writing
skills. In addition, an important facet of written communication is being able to critically assess
the writing of others, particularly at the graduate level as well as in professional programs.
1

Indiana University School of Informatics, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, 535 W. Michigan Street,
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202, jdefazio@iupui.edu
2
jofjones@iupui.edu
3
ftennant@iupui.edu
4
sahook@iupui.edu

Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

As educators, the key question becomes: How can faculty members teach their students
to become effective writers and communicators in the short amount of time that there is to
interact with and influence them? The environment in which today’s college students
communicate is primarily one of texting and email messages. One of the main problems with
these communication methods is that they may rely on the use of abbreviations and informal
language. Punctuation, capitalization, spelling, organization and flow may be forgotten in favor
of bits and bytes. Also, because of the immediacy of these communication methods, there is little
in the way of reflection of either what is received or what is being sent. Preparing students to
communicate in the real world of work is a challenge for educators in higher education. Faculty
members must balance the provision of content while modeling professional communication
skills using efficient tools. However, writing skills must be addressed if faculty members are to
adequately prepare students for jobs that involve more than minimal levels of responsibility.
The following article has three goals. The first goal is to familiarize the reader with the
experiences of four faculty members at Indiana University School of Informatics, IUPUI, in
trying to bring students to an acceptable level of writing skill before students complete their
degree programs. This will be illustrated through case studies. Second, as part of these case
studies, examples of assignments and other approaches that were used to aid the students in
developing a higher level of writing ability will be discussed. Finally, this article will provide
some suggestions, based on the experiences discussed in each case study, on how written skills
could be assessed in undergraduate and graduate courses, including both online and face-to-face
courses.
I.

Literature Review.

A study by the American Institutes of Research (Baer, Cook, and Baldi, 2006) surveyed the
literacy skills of college graduates of two- and four-year programs, with the results indicating
that over half of the students who responded lacked basic skills, such as understanding and
executing simple instructions or balancing a checkbook. Students face the responsibility of
developing their writing skills, specifically in the area of academic writing. However, it is clear
that many students have difficulty with writing for a number of different reasons (Bartlett, 2003;
Odell and Swersey, 2003). Another issue is how we measure excellence in writing (Dwyer,
Millett, and Payne, 2006; Hacker, Dunlosky, and Graesser, 1998; Zamel and Spack, 1998;
Zamel, 1987).
Concerns about effective writing among undergraduate and graduate students in higher
education have been well documented. On the other hand, MacArthur (1996) thought that
computers could support writing by students with learning disabilities by placing special
emphasis on applications that went beyond word processing. He found that the basic processes of
transcription and sentence generation, including spelling checkers, speech synthesis, word
prediction, and grammar and style checkers provided ample support for writing abilities.
Stein, Dixon, and Isaacson (1994) suggest that “many writing disabilities may derive
from too little time allocated to writing instruction or from writing instruction inadequately
designed around the learning needs of many students” (p. 392). Their study reviewed the
characteristics of students with learning difficulties and provided recommendations for teaching
writing effectively to a broad range of students. The effective techniques cited in their study are:
the concept of big ideas, strategies, scaffolding, and review.
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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

Trioa (2003) suggests that the problems experienced by students in writing effectively are
attributable, in part, to their difficulties in executing and regulating the processes which underlie
proficient composing, planning and revisions of their work. Another important element in
achieving excellence in writing is the reflective process – the ability to critique one’s own work
as well as the work of peers. As outlined by McGuire, Lay and Peters, this reflective aspect of
writing is particularly important in the curriculum of professional programs as a method of
teaching problem-solving (McGuire, Lay, and Peters, 2009). Holtzman and colleagues (2005), in
an article about assessing the writing skills of dental students, noted that “the ability to
communicate effectively has been recognized as a hallmark for membership in the learned
professions.” (Holtzman, Elliot, Biber, and Sanders, 2005, p. 285).
Another study found that the formal attention given to writing practice outside of the
content covered was apparent in higher education. Cho and Schunn (2007) reported that the
National Commission on Writing in American Schools and Colleges (2003) supported this claim.
They cited the practice of peer review of student writing, indicating that peer reviews can help
instructors spend more time on other aspects of teaching by reducing the instructors workload
associated with writing activities (Cho and Schunn, 2005; Rada, Michailidis, and Wang, 1994).
Using several innovative approaches in order to address writing practices among undergraduate
and graduate students was implemented by four faculty members at IUPUI. Their work is
discussed in the following sections.
II.

Case Study 1.

A. Background.
The first case describes the expectations of a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Health
Information Administration (HIA) program regarding the writing skills of students. This program
and its related certificates are only available at the undergraduate level. This faculty member
acknowledges the fact that written communications skills for the undergraduate student in HIA
must be clear and concise. Upon graduation, HIA students will be responsible for interpreting
and explaining health information, especially for medical records.
B. Objective.
To encourage students to be better writers, the faculty member created three writing assignments
as part of M325 Healthcare Information Standards and Requirements to give students the
opportunity to develop good writing skills and to build on the knowledge and feedback from
previous writing assignments in this and other courses. The Research Paper was the final writing
assignment. Students were asked to explore a healthcare topic of their choice and research how
the topic relates to health information. The assignments are outlined in Table 1.
C. Pedagogical Approach.
For the academic years of 2007 and 2008, HIA undergraduate students were given three writing
assignments. The three assignments were given in sequential order beginning with a
straightforward assessment of the student’s ability to complete an American Psychological
Association (APA) bibliography and questions regarding APA writing style. This assignment
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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

Table 1. Research paper.
Writing Assignments
APA Citation Exercises
Literature Review
Research Paper

Point Value
25
50
100

was followed by the Literature Review assignment, which required the student to take the
knowledge learned from the American Psychological Association (APA) Citation Exercises and
incorporate that knowledge into a Literature Review on a healthcare topic of their choice. This
assignment was decisively not a formal writing assignment but did require the student to begin
writing in a more professional and clear style. The assessment was on the student’s ability to
write in complete sentences and paragraphs and apply previously learned knowledge regarding
APA citation formatting. The final and most complicated assignment was intended to give the
students an opportunity to do a full research paper on a healthcare topic of their choice and to
demonstrate the skills that were learned from assignments 1 and 2. The research paper contained
detailed instructions on the content of each individual section of the paper, the number of
resources required for the paper, the writing format of the paper and a complete bibliography and
in-text citations. The proposed outline for the research paper is as follows:
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII.
VIII.
IX.

Title Page
Table of Contents
Introduction
Review of Related Literature
Discussion
Conclusion
Recommendations (if appropriate)
Half-title page for Bibliography
Bibliography

D. Results.
A total of 78 Health Information Administration students completed the writing assignments
during the fall semesters of 2007 and 2008. The objectives of the assignments were to give each
student an opportunity to learn from writing mistakes made on a previous assignment, correct
those mistakes on the next assignment and consequently improve the student’s writing skills over
the course of the semester. The data revealed the following; 30% of the students in 2007 showed
a significant improvement in their writing skills based on grades while 42% of the students
showed a significant improvement in their writing skills in the year of 2008. The statistics
indicate that well over 50% of the students in each class improved their writing skills over the
course of the semesters.
III.

Case Study 2.

A. Background.

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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

The next case describes the work of another faculty member at IUPUI’s School of Informatics.
She teaches a number of courses in both the undergraduate Informatics and Media Arts and
Sciences program. Her courses are all offered online and are primarily related to law and legal
informatics. These courses are required for the legal informatics area of concentration within the
undergraduate Informatics program.
B. Objective.
Aware of faculty concerns as well as her own experience teaching in undergraduate programs, all
of the faculty member’s courses require students to participate in weekly written discussion
forums as well as to complete a comprehensive final project at the end of the semester. The
weekly discussion forums are one important approach that the faculty member uses to build
community in her online courses, but they are also the method that the faculty member uses to be
sure that students are actively participating in the course throughout the semester. The final
project is similar to a take-home examination and requires comprehensive responses to 10-12
essay questions based on real-world scenarios.
C. Pedagogical Approach.
For Fall 2009, the faculty member taught two online courses in the School of Informatics. One
course, Foundations in Legal Informatics, was being taught for the fifth time. A newly developed
and approved course, Electronic Discovery, was taught for the first time. OnCourse (an online
teaching and learning interface) was used to deliver the course content. Both courses were
arranged as weekly modules. At the end of each week, students were required to use the
discussion forum feature of OnCourse to respond to a series of written questions about the
module, the reading assignment, supplemental material and the podcast (called a Fireside Chat).
Questions also included an opportunity for students to report any experience they had with the
topic of the module, how the topic related to their future careers and any other interesting or
surprising issues raised in the module or the reading assignment.
An example of discussion forum questions from one module of Foundations in Legal
Informatics is included as Appendix 1. Because of the nature of the questions, the amount of
writing that students need to do to respond to the questions is extensive. At the end of each week,
the faculty member would read the responses to the discussion forum. She would then provide a
podcast summarizing the responses to the discussion forum questions, highlighting particularly
those responses that presented unique perspectives, comprehensive treatment of the question or
especially noteworthy comments. Students were identified by first name in the podcast, which
contributed to the sense of the community in the courses as well as provided individual feedback
to students on their responses. Participation in the weekly discussion forums is also identified on
the syllabus and other course information as corresponding to PULs 1A: Core Communication –
Written, Oral and Visual Skills, 2: Critical Thinking and 3: Integration and Application of
Knowledge.
The second requirement of the faculty member’s online courses is a comprehensive Final
Project, which is essentially a take-home final examination. Students are given access to the final
project questions several weeks before the due date, which is the end of the semester. The final
project is based on a real-world scenario. For example, in the Electronic Discovery course,
students were asked to imagine that they are experts in electronic discovery and have been hired
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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

by a law firm. They were asked to respond to a series of questions from a senior partner about
the implications of electronic discovery for the law firm as well as for two of the law firm’s
clients, which are major multinational corporations. The syllabus and other course material
indicates that the Final Project corresponds to PULs 1A: Core Communication – Written, Oral
and Visual Skills, 1C: Core Communication – Information Resources Skills and 3: Integration
and Application of Knowledge. Examples of some of the questions from the Final Project in
Electronic Discovery are provided in Appendix 2.
D. Results.
There is a direct correlation in the faculty member’s online courses between regular participation
in the weekly discussion forums and the final course grade. Student engagement in online
courses is one predictor of student success, so this connection is not surprising. In fact, students
have reported that the combination of weekly discussion forums and podcasts created a sense of
community that nearly replicated what would be found in a traditional face-to-face course. For
purposes of this paper, another benefit of the discussion forums is that students are writing every
week and are then receiving feedback on their responses. Because of the nature of the discussion
forum questions, the amount that students are required to write each week can be substantial. The
questions are varied to discern student experience with the topic of the module, their
comprehension of the material, their ability to apply the material to various scenarios, their
likelihood of using the material in their future careers and whether there were issues in the
module that they found surprising or interesting. It is particularly interesting to see which
students will be the “first responders” to each weekly discussion forum and to observe when
student responses become more robust as the semester progresses.
Likewise, the comprehensive Final Project also means that students must apply what they
learned throughout the semester to a real-world situation. By the end of the semester, students
who have participated regularly in the weekly discussion forums will already have done a
considerable amount of writing. There also appears to be a correlation between regular versus
inconsistent participation in weekly discussion forums and high and low scores on the Final
Project. This is somewhat to be expected, since a student who is engaged in the course is likely
to be motivated to do well on both the weekly and the final course requirements. However, it
could also indicate that students who have reached a certain level of comfort by having to write
each week are not as intimidated by the prospect of a comprehensive, essay-style assignment.
IV.

Case Study 3.

A. Background.
The third case study focuses on writing skills in both undergraduate and graduate students. The
course selected was titled Research and Design Methods, which was offered between the fall of
2005 through the spring of 2007. In this course, students were expected to conduct informal
research and write on a topic of their choice.
B. Objective.

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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

For this course, a qualitative approach was used as a framework to enhance the student’s writing
skills. Students were asked to identify a research topic in their field and to conduct informal
investigation based on their research statement or hypothesis. A list of research titles is presented
in Table 2.
Table 2. Research topic proposal list.
Gender

Academic
Status

Research Title

F
F
F
F
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
F
M
M

Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Undergraduate
Graduate
Graduate
Graduate

The Technology Behind K Zone
Adobe Premier Pro 1.5 vs. Sonic Foundry Vegas Video
GIF vs. JPEG: Which is the Better Format on the Web?
3D Studio Max vs. Maya
The Videogame’s Composer
Video Game Design Should Go Back to the Basics
The Video Game: Three Dimensions
Interactive Software Applications: Education for Health Patients
Programming Flash vs. HTML- A Comparison
I Want My MP3 (I Think)
Game Design Development
The Challenges of Using and Displaying Japanese Text
Defining WWII DVD Documentary Standards
Flash Animation: An Overview of the Design Process
WWJP: What Would Jesus Play?
The Future of 2-D Animation in an Increasingly 3-D World
An Evolution in Console Controllers
From Table Top to Desktop: The Evolution of Role-playing Games
Interactive Cinema
Sound and Its Affect in the Medical and Psychological Area
Video Games: A New Form of Substance Abuse?
A Survey of Archaeology in the Digital Age
Realism in Animated Pedagogical Agents: Not Yet Realized
An Instrument to Aid and Assess the Learning of Introductory Video
Game Design

Students learned to identify research issues in the field of Media Arts and Science,
articulate clear thesis and research statements, explore available scholarly literature, conduct an
exhaustive literature review in the topic of interest, and adhere to the APA style of writing. The
course included student peer-reviews of each other’s work as well as instructor feedback.
Toward the end of the semester, students gave formal presentations of their work.
C. Pedagogical Approach.
The pedagogical approach for these classes consisted of the logical steps toward writing a good
research paper. In order for each student to achieve acceptable results the instructional theories
of ‘Learned by Doing’ and constructivism were utilized. Students were able to build on and
construct new knowledge about the research process as it pertained to their style of writing
Within the first two weeks of the course, students were asked to submit a topic proposal
describing their areas of research interest. Students were instructed to include a sample reference
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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

list of 10-15 references. The topic proposal provided the instructor with a glimpse of intended
research and gave an illuminating view of each student’s current writing skill-level.
Students were then given examples of excellent and poorly written thesis and research
statements. Students were asked to write five examples of hypothesis and/or research statements
based on their proposed research topic. In order to engage students in this process, a participatory
approach consisting of student peer-reviews was a weekly activity throughout the semester. Once
student research statements had been approved, students were instructed on how to develop an
outline for their research papers. The proposed outline for their research papers consisted of the
following:
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII.
VIII.

Introduction
Literature Review
Methods
Findings
Summary
References
Appendices
Abstract

Students produced several drafts for each section of the research outline during the
semester. Student peer-reviews and instructor feedback were given for each draft submission. In
order to review papers effectively, students were given written instructions on the review
process, along with a scoring rubric (see Appendix 3).
Students were required to create and deliver a PowerPoint presentation as a succinct
review of their research efforts. Students were given 15 minutes and expected to present no less
than fifteen slides. The final slide in their presentation was to list three “unresolved issues” in the
area of research they had selected then ask for questions and comments from their audience.
D. Results.
Between the fall of 2005 and the spring of 2007, a total of 24 students (3 consecutive semester
classes) completed a research paper in the field of media arts and science. Papers were completed
by ten students (eight undergraduate and two graduate students in the fall of 2005, seven students
(seven undergraduate students (in the fall of 2006, and seven students (six undergraduate and one
graduate student) in the fall of 2007.
Students produced papers of varying lengths based on their efforts in conducting
qualitative inquiry and literature reviews on their topics of interest. All papers adhered to the
APA Style of writing. Although students were instructed to engage in the writing process and
make this one of their best works, issues of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and clarity surfaced
repeatedly. Students conducted peer-reviews of each other’s work and received detailed feedback
from the instructor. Overall, student scores improved steadily from draft-to-draft submissions.
Using this meticulous review process, students were able to reflect and learn from their mistakes.
This process contributed to and reflected an increase in writing skills and learning outcomes for
students based on their final research paper submissions.
V.

Case Study 4.

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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

A. Background.
The final case study presents the work of a faculty member in the School of Informatics Health
Informatics program. This faculty member’s focus was on the approach of academic literacy as
an act of participation and that learning happens in communities of practice. The course titled,
“The Social Impact of Information Technology” had students apply not only writing skills
learned in previous courses but also connect writing to critical reading/evaluation of scientific
manuscripts.
B. Objective.
For this course, students are encouraged to write a research paper on a topic of their choosing
related to the impact of the information technology on the society. Faculty recognizes that
writing is a complex process that involves a series of recursive activities and not linear: Students
reexamine their thesis, consider and reconsider additional points or arguments, and reshape and
reconstruct repeatedly rather than move through the writing process in discrete stages.
Consequently, the faculty creates research writing-reading groups, in an attempt to address the
four core criteria for student writing—critical thinking, use of language, structuring, and
argument. Furthermore, as part of academic literacy, instructors not only need to develop
students’ academic writing, yet they also need to prepare them for externally mandated largescale document critical evaluation, including online documents. The rationale of peer assessment
of academic writing is providing the learner opportunities to develop tacit rather than explicit
knowledge about the meaning of the core criteria and how they are applied rather than focusing
on internalization of explicit rules or standards for academic writing (Elander, Harrington,
Norton, Robinson, and Reddy, 2006).
C. Pedagogical Approach.
The pedagogical approach for the academic years of 2007 and 2008 in this course consisted of
seminars designed to stimulate and direct thoughts around the student’s selected topics related to
legal and ethical impacts of information technology and technology advances and also topics
related to socio-economic. The students read selected readings on those topics as well as
independent readings. Students participated in group research projects: assess societal issues
related to information technology and technology advances in their work field, formulate a
research project, review research literature, write a report, and present the project in class.
Critical reading, thinking, and writing are applied through this process. At the end of the
semester, each student completed the evaluation criteria on two other students’ papers. The
outline of their evaluation criteria consisted of the following areas:
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.

Title
Problem
Purpose
Literature Review
Methodology
Hypotheses/questions

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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

VII.
VIII.
IX.
X.

Results
Interpretation of results and conclusion
Project Phase
Overall

D. Results.
A total of 36 students completed the evaluation criteria during the 2007, 2008 and 2009
academic year. The intention of this assignment was to give each student an opportunity to apply
critical reading, writing, and thinking into their research paper. Also, it gave them an opportunity
to receive feedback from their peers as well. A spreadsheet was created to see the differences
between the 2007 and 2009 reviewers and students. The spreadsheet consisted of six different
tabs with the reviewer number, student number, and areas from the evaluation criteria
assignment. The tabs include Overall, 2007, 2008, 2009 Reviewer’s Average, Student Average,
and Overall Average. The data from these sections reveals that the project phase and
methodology were graded the heaviest in the overall average section. Overall, the area that
received the lowest score on the evaluation was the project phase. The Title, Problem, and
Overall areas received the highest score throughout the entire evaluation. A major concern about
this assignment’s outcome is that several students have high grades with inadequate feedback
while only a few gave low grades with valuable feedback. It appears the reviewers who gave, on
average, students lower scores on their evaluations received higher on their own papers.
In 2009, it can be seen that Students # 1, 7, and 12 gave other students the lowest score
on their final grades and also received the highest grades on their papers (Figure 1). In turn,
Students # 2, 3, and 11 gave the highest scores on reviews and received the lowest final paper
grades. This assignment is the most effective when students put in more time and effort into each
other’s papers. The strong connection between reading and writing supports these data since
good writers are typically careful readers, as reported in Academic Literacy: A Statement of
Competencies Expected of Students Entering California’s Public Colleges and Universities,
2002. Strong writers can better evaluate another person’s writing because they are aware of
proper writing forms; knowing how to create a clear thesis with strong supporting elements
makes it easier to identify one.

Figure 1. Peer review scores.

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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

VI.

Conclusion.

The paper provided case studies of how four faculty members who teach in undergraduate and
graduate programs at the Indiana University School of Informatics promote academic literacy
throughout the curriculum. The paper described the writing assignments from several graduate
and undergraduate online and face-to-face courses, the objectives of these assignments in
enhancing the writing skills of students, the pedagogical approaches used by the faculty members
and a discussion of the results. These assignments included research papers, weekly discussion
forums, “learning by doing” and comprehensive final projects. Several suggestions for assessing
student writing were also provided, including review by peers, evaluation at various stages of the
assignment, self-reflection and feedback through weekly podcasts.
Appendices
Appendix 1. Sample discussion forum questions.
•
•
•
•
•
•

•

•

Have you used the Internet for research? When you search the Internet, are you generally
satisfied with the information you retrieve? Do you have any special search strategies?
What is your favorite search engine and why? Do you generally use more than one search
engine?
What are some of the issues in using the Internet for legal research? How could you
assure yourself that the information you retrieved was valid? What are some of the
characteristics of the Internet that argue for or against using it for legal research?
Do you use any of the other features of the Internet such as listservs, newsgroups, IRC,
IM or FTP? If so, please describe.
Of the many ways that law firms use the Internet, which seem the most valuable to you?
In terms of law firm websites, what are some of the ethical issues involved? Why is it
important for lawyer advertising to be strictly regulated? Have you seen advertising that
you believe "crosses the line" of what should be considered ethical conduct? How have
the Internet and email exacerbated the issues with law firm advertising?
What are some of the ethical considerations with email? Do you think that the ABA's
opinion on the confidentiality of email is sufficient to protect clients? What other
suggestions would you have about securing information about client matters that is sent
via email?
Any other interesting points about Module 9 or the reading assignment.

Appendix 2. Examples of questions from final project.
Pretend that you were hired as the electronic discovery expert in a law firm. The law firm
has just been retained by a major multinational corporation for a legal matter that will
involve a large number of people who all will have a great deal of electronically stored
and paper information. This is a complex case that will have high visibility in the media.
The senior partner of the law firm has been in practice for a number of years - and this
age of digital evidence is new to him. You are eager to show why the law firm needs an
electronic discovery expert on staff. He has asked for a thorough explanation of the
following topics:
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1. Discuss several of the major legal cases that address issues related to electronic
discovery. Naturally, the Zubulake case should be included. How have these cases shaped
our understanding of electronic discovery and how should our law firm proceed?
2. What were the revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and how will they
impact the case? What are the risks? What are the law firm's responsibilities under the
FRCP? What are the client's responsibilities? What is the timing of activities related to
the electronic discovery process? How will the costs be covered? How does the FRCP
interact with other legal doctrines on what we can present at trial?
3. What are the similarities and differences between electronic discovery and computer
forensics? To what extent might computer forensics be utilized in the case? What are the
computer forensics technologies that we should use? What are the best practices? What
criteria should we use to hire a computer forensics expert? Search the web for a vendor
that offers computer forensics services/expertise. How does this vendor compare against
these criteria? What more would we need to know about the vendor before using it for
our client's case?
4. Define each stage of the electronic discovery process. What is included in this stage?
Why is this stage important? What are the considerations for our law firm? For the client?
Discuss the available technologies for each stage of an electronic discovery process. How
does each kind of technology address what needs to be done? How does the technology
save costs, reduce risks, reduce the opportunity for human error, etc.? Discuss the EDRM
as the current standard for electronic discovery. Search the web for a vendor that offers
electronic discovery services/expertise. What stage or stages within the EDRM does this
vendor focus on for its products and services?
5. We are planning for the required "meet and confer" conference. What should we be
prepared to do at that conference? What do we want to accomplish? What will we
request? What issues might be raised? How might we respond to requests from the
opposing party that involve legacy systems, various file formats, backup systems or
would require costly or burdensome efforts? How could we narrow the scope of
discovery requests?
Appendix 3. Peer-Review Scoring Rubric.
Question

Excellent Good Fair

Poor Missing

Does the topic proposal describe the
area of intended research effectively?

5

4

3

2

1

Is the importance and/or significance
of the research problem identified?

5

4

3

2

1

If you gave a score of 4 or 5, explain its strengths
If you gave a score of 3 or below, explain its weaknesses. Inform the author where clarification
or re-writes may be necessary.

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Defazio, J., Jones, J., Tennant, F., and Hook, S.A.

In the author’s draft, point out trends or themes you feel would be appropriate for their research.
(List at least three areas)
Does the author make a convincing argument for the need to study this topic?
(Indicate yes or no and explain your response.)
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