Online TA Help
To facilitate your learning of the subject material for this course, this page has been set up to allow you to ask the professor questions about the readings, lectures, discussions, or other appropriate topics. Your questions and their answers will be posted (anonymously) here, so that all students may benefit from the answer, since it is likely that several people are wondering about the same thing.
Before sending in your question, be sure to re-read the appropriate textbook section, re-visit the corresponding lecture notes, and consider any relevant handouts. Please take the time to carefully phrase your question so that it may be properly answered. The more specific and well-phrased the question is, the more direct and useful the answer will be to yourself and your classmates.
Send your question to gpast(at|symbol)ucdavis.edu
Questions and Answers
What is this class really about???
A: The TAs and I try to explain the idea of the course in the first discussion section on Monday and we try to repeatedly come back to the key themes throughout the quarter. Because the course emphasizes "critical thinking", I see it as a key task for the student to try to be an active participant and thinker to discern what you think the course is about. In general, the more effort you puts into that, the more benefit you get from the course. Alumni who have taken the course have contacted me reporting that the course has had a lasting impact on their way of thinking, but some course evaluations also show that in the absence of effort students can come away with nothing gained.
Q: Why does this class have a course reader instead of a textbook?
A: There is no "textbook" that covers the material in this course. The goal of the course is to integrate diverse sources of information and present a new, innovative set of ideas to the class. One option would be to have students buy all the books and other source materials, but then you pay full price for everything, including materials you do not need. By picking and choosing carefully, I have tried to assemble a reader that supplements what will be taught in class and in the discussion sections. Readings provide a broader educational experience than just listening to lectures and watching movies.
Q: Why is the course reader so expensive?
A: Some professors illegally take their readers to commercial copy shops in town where they are copied illegally and sold illegally at a very low price. Most source materials are protected by a copyright to ensure the intellectual property of those who create the content. In recent years there have been heavy-handed crackdowns on those violating copyright law. I respect the rights of content producers and I cannot afford the cost of breaking the law when/if caught. Relative to the cost of buying all of the source books and other materials, the reader is less expensive. One of the tough issues with cost is that publishers charge a high price for the use of journal articles. Such articles are needed for the reader, because they present peer-reviewed knowledge from the best scientists.
Q: Why is the course reader only sold online?
A: Over the years, I have tried several different ways of having the reader produced and sold. The vendor currently used has proven to provide excellent and fast service, fair remuneration to copyright holders, and a reasonable price. Nearly 4,000 instructors at more than 500 institutions nationwide select this vendor. I obtain no financial benefits from using this service and I have no personal or financial connections to the private vendor. If anyone has a suggestion of a possible better vendor providing similar service at lower cost, then please let me know.
Q: How will I get the reader in time if I buy it online?
A: The vendor will provide you with a digital version of the first 20% of the reader at no additional cost, so you can keep up with the assigned readings that way until it comes to you in the mail.
Q: Is the reader the same as last year?
A: Each summer I take the feedback from the previous class and try to figure out how to improve the course. So far, I have changed the readings somewhat each year. You can check the list of readings on the course web page against the list at the front of th previous year's reader to see what changed and decide if you want to buy a new or used version.
Q: I am not going to buy the reader, so what can I do?
A: The readings are required for the course. They are part of each week's movie log assignment and they are covered on the final exam. If you are not going to buy the reader, then there are a few other options. First, you could go to the library and get the source materials to read each week. With such a large class that might be difficult to do successfully, but it is possible. Second, you could ask a friend if you can borrow theirs to do each reading.
Q: For the movie logs, do you just want notes from the reading as well as on the movie?
A: The movie log for each movie asks for something different, so they are not all the same. Ideally, you should take notes on your log during the movie and then add additional comments based on your understanding of the reading.
Q: Please explain the structure of the word charting exercise?
A: When you do word charting, the goal is to identify the causes and consequences of a problem. In the center of the word chart is the key word or phrase. Above that are boxes with arrows leading into it. The arrows mean that the boxes represent things that *cause* the key phrase. Each of those boxes has a title phrase to categorize it. You are supposed to identify individual examples of each category. Similarly, the arrows below the key phrase indicate that the phrase in turn impacts other categories of things. You need to itemize examples of those as well. For example, consider the word chart for "The River". The key phrase was "River Flood". Above that was "Societal Factors". So you need to identify societal factors that *cause* floods. To do that, you might find some ideas from the movie or from the reading. If those are insufficient, try going onto your favorite web search site and type "societal factors causing floods". That will give you plenty of ideas of examples of such factors. Note that "Environmental Impacts" are consequences that affect the totality of surroundings outside of the human experience. Anything human-centric could not be considered an environmental impact. For example, crops destroyed by a flood would be a socio-economic impact, not an environmental impact. It is ok to use phrases or bulleted lists on the word chart.
Q: Could you please clarify what are "Global" and "Local" factors on the word chart for Endless Summer?
A: The key phrase for The Endless Summer is "Perfect Breaking Wave". The boxes above that are where you identify the variables that create such a wave. The chart is suggesting that the variables can be grouped into two categories. Global factors are those variables that relate to worldwide environmental conditions. Local factors are those conditions that are unique to a particular location. In the movie, the narrator states many times key factors that create a perfect wave. He also names different types of waves. The consequences of waves follow in the lower boxes. they are not discussed in the movie, but some are mentioned in the reading and some can be found searching on the web.
Q: On the Endless Summer movie log, are you really asking for the environmental impacts of waves or did you mean the impacts of surfing?
A: I meant the impacts of waves. Waves impact the environment. Similarly, waves impact our society. Think that through, search on the web, and write down your thoughts.
Q: For the science essay, would it be appropriate to reference a personal story in my paper, and if so, what would be the best way to incorporate it in and cite it correctly.
A: In a science essay, it is appropriate to provide some motivation for your essay in the introductory paragraph. Your story could work there, if kept brief. You could then come back to that at the very end. I'd avoid using it as supporting evidence for anything. In terms of citation, if you are telling the story from your experience, then you don't need a citation. If it came from someone else, then the citations would read "(name, pers. comm.)". So if you heard it from John Smith, then it would be (John Smith, pers. comm.). The phrase "pers. comm." is short for "personal communication.
Q: How do I know whether the fact I want to mention in my essay needs a citation?
A: You do not inherently know any scientific facts when you are born, so anything you present in your essay should be backed by an appropriate citation. A single citation may be used to cover several sentences in a row. You may cite textbooks for many basic facts that you want to mention. When in doubt, always take the side of using a citation. As a general rule, when in doubt, add a citation.
Q: I missed class where the movie "Even the Rain" was screened and I cannot find it on reserve in the library- what should I do?
A: Prior to forthcoming date sometime in November 2012, the movie Even The Rain is unavailable to purchase as a DVD. It is available on instant streaming on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon. It is recommended that you view it using one of those options if you miss class.
Q: I have a question about how you want the study guide completed. The example you gave us merely poses questions, in depth ones indeed, but nonetheless questions. Other than the historical context and the last few sections about what happened to the girls, each section was a list of questions. Would you like us to make it in that type of format? If so, almost all of our references would be used in sections giving context, right? Or do you want us to make a study guide and also answer all the questions separately?
A: There is great flexibility in how you produce the study guide. The goal is to show critical thinking, creativity, and organization. I have seen such widely divergent approaches to the study guide that I hesitate to say what you should do. What I know does not work is (1) a science essay, (2) a print out of powerpoint slides as if it was a talk, or (3) a lot of photos with no substance. It is usually obvious to us when a study guide was slapped together with little thought or effort. On the other hand, not everyone is going to have the artistry to be extremely novel- I know I would not have as a student. Luckily, you have a lot of creative tools at your disposal and you can team up with another person to find a balanced approach. For example, choosing a best friend who is a lot like you might not work so well compared to choosing someone whose skills complement your own. Also, you have to factor in that when you partner with someone, you have to do time management and keep an eye on what each other is doing- if you divide the work and then try to merge at the end, you could face the problem of the other person failing to do their part. It is wiser to collaborate on all phases.
Q: What should I bring to the final exam?
A: The final exam is "closed book", so no course materials or aids (e.g. calculator, smartphone app, etc) are needed. Do make sure that you purchase and bring a UCD SCANTRON FORM 2000 (blue) along with some #2 pencils.