Informatics 161: Discussion Sections and Writing Workshops

Here are some of the resources and documents that we have used in class. Further down the page you will find an FAQ for all those daunting questions.

Schedule and Logistics
This document was handed out on the first day of discussion. It includes:

  • An overview of the term
  • Assignments due prior to and after Meeting #1 and Meeting #2. (In order to make Meeting #3 as beneficial as possible, details will be posted once I see how groups are proceeding.)
  • Examples of Topic Summaries and Research Summaries

Final Paper Grading Rubric [NEW!]

Curious about how you will be graded? This document lists the paper elements that we will be considering when grading you paper, along with a set of standards and expectations.

How to Write a Paper

The slides shown during the first discussion can be found here. There are some thought provoking (and hopefully useful) tips to keep in mind as you are proceeding with your project.

How to Read a Book

What if you could read an entire book in 6 hours? Crazy? This document was mentioned during Meeting #1. I have found it invaluable in terms of reading more quickly and efficiently so that I can get on with my life. Converting many of the principals here will help you as you are looking at journal articles too!

How to Read a Paper

Okay, books. Got it. What about papers? This is a PDF of a brochure with some helpful tips for reading papers. It isn’t as in depth as “How to Read a Book” (above), but it may be helpful.


Here are some answers to some of the more frequently asked questions. If you have a question you think should be added, let me know!

Is our term paper an “argument” paper?

Many academic papers require that you make an “argument,” but what counts as an argument depends on the field. This term paper should do more than summarize readings from class and articles found during research. However, this isn’t an opinion paper where facts are not as important and are sometimes strategically ignored — sometimes called a polemic. Instead, you should make an argument that is well grounded in your understanding of course and research materials. Once you have identified your argument, be bold and direct about your thesis and don’t be afraid to take a stand!

You mentioned using “Portal” during our research. What is it, and where can I find it?

Portal is the online database for the ACM’s digital library. It is particularly useful if you are trying to focus on ACM specific domains, and the “search by author” feature is really handy. You can find Portal here:

Ahhh! My citations are a mess. I need help!

It is important to make sure your paper is well grounded in your research, you need to cite your references correctly — including your inline citations. How to do this depends on your citation style, but for your reference, here are some examples in APA and MLA:


  • Research has shown that kittens are cute (Jones, 1998).
  • Jones (1998) has found that kittens are cute.
  • As Jones notes, “kittens are cute” (1998, p. 123).
  • For more information, look at the Purdue guide for APA citations.


  • Research has shown that kittens are cute (Jones).
  • Research has shown that kittens are cute (Jones, “Cute things on the Internet”). <– Include the title in quotes when you are citing multiple things from a single author.
  • As Jones notes, “kittens are cute” (“Cute things on the Internet”, 123).
  • For more information, look at the Purdue guide for MLA citations.

How long does our paper need to be?

Does 3,000 words mean exactly 3,000 words? You should be turning in at last 3000 words, which probably means you will be turning in just a bit more than 3,000 words (be sure to finish your sentence). If you go over 4,000… well, that is probably a bit much and probably suggests that you can be more clear and precise with your language.