Issue For March 7, 2008
Special Announcement about Revised OWL Pages
The Purdue OWL staff has been working for many months to begin unveiling our new inner pages for the OWL Family of Sites. We are pleased to announce the unveiling of our new contact pages (owl.english.purdue.edu/contact) and new Purdue OWL News pages. These pages are the result of years of usability testing and redesigning efforts, and we welcome your feedback. New OWL, Search, Writing Lab, Research, and Engagement sections will follow later this semester.
We will continue to make adjustments and tweaks to the new pages, so please report any errors or issues you encounter.
This is a question submitted by an OWL user to the OWL Tutors. If you need to have a question answered quickly, contact our OWL Tutors here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/contact/owlmailtutors. Or you may call the Grammar Hotline at 765-494-3723 . And remember, both services are free for everyone!
On Research Topics
Hello OWL, I have to do a research paper on Schizophrenia and cannot find any good websites or books. Do you have any suggestions on how to find reliable
Thank you for your inquiry. My first suggestion would be to visit your
school's library and ask the librarians for help. What is it that you want
to know, specifically, about schizophrenia? If you can tell the librarian
what kind of information you are looking for, they will be better able to
help you. Librarians are information experts, so they are often the best
source when you are having trouble locating a certain kind of information.
You might also want to talk to your instructor. She or he might have some
insight into finding sources for your paper.
Finally, you can check out our resources on finding credible research.
On getting started researching:
On researching on the web:
I hope this helps you.
OWL Mail Tutors
Each issue we publish Purdue OWL News readers' requests for advice or information and the responses from other Purdue OWL News readers.
On my business card, I describe myself as an "Educational Consultant". Is this correct? It's not "Education Consultant" is it? And should it be "Remedial Education Consultant" or "Remedial Educational Consultant"? Thanks. --Tanee Das, Mumbai, (Bombay), India.
Many professionals in the U.S. use the label, "Educational Consultant," on their business cards to show special emphases on services to students, families, professionals in education, or organizations in the education industry. (I hope, nonetheless, that every consultant,in whatever industry, educates clients they serve.)
Doug Leber, Learner's Workshop, Denver, CO
What is the best organization for content that is going to be put up on a website? For example, we are creating an "about" us page for our organization and a description of who we are. Should we try to keep it short? What should go first? I'm confused about how readers read online vs. in print. --Scott, Pennsylvania
While there is no single "right way" of creating content for the web, usability specialists and professional writers have conducted research on how interent users read on the web.
Jakob Nielson is considered one of the leading usability experts, and has some good information on general web audience and web writing on his Useit.com site:
A listing of his articles and inforrmation can be found here: http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/
Additionally, you should consider the specific rhetorical situation in which you find yourself writing. What do you think your audience expects or wants to see from an "about us" page? What is the purpose of the page? How much information do they want to know? What is most important to them? Answering these questions will also help you decide how much content and in what order.
--Dana Driscoll, OWL Webmaster
Question about italics in volume numbers
Can you tell me the reason why the volume number in a periodical is italicized? Why is the volume number treated differently than the index number? I know these sound trivial, but I would like to be able to explain "why" to my students rather than relying solely on "that's the rule." Thank you! Jamalee Stone'
Question about pronoun use
Please don't laugh at this one! I was taught high school English by the same instructor who taught Truman Capote, so I tend to think she knew her "stuff." In any event, my husband and I frequently argue over this question... Is it improper/unacceptable to say... "She is older than me." My husband insists that you must say, "She is older than I am" or "He is older than she is." My English teacher taught that you can use just a pronoun if you know who that represents...that is, "She is older than me" - me answers the question - who is she older than? Help please on this one. Thanks, Elizabeth.
Question about citing the US constitution
Does the U.S. Constitution need to be cited, or is it considered common knowledge? Thank you! -- Alice Sims, Pike Central High School
Question about parenthetical sentences
In a practice AP Language and Composition exam, we came upon the term "parenthetical sentence." While I have heard the term parenthetical expression, I have never heard it referred to as a sentence. I would like some clarification. Is the AP book simply creating a term, or is the term actually used in some grammar books? I can find no such term in the books I have. Thank you --Elizabeth, Snow Hill High School
Redesigning the Writing Lab and OWL PagesBy Allen Brizee and Dana Driscoll
The Purdue OWL you are using today is the result of collaborative work from many talented and dedicated developers who have contributed to the OWL since its GOPHER / FTP days in the early 1990s. The latest design builds on the visionary work of Dr. Karl Stolley who redesigned the OWL in 2005 to incorporate standards based resources for better Web accessibility. Dr. Stolley's efforts also included a data base-driven content management system that made it easier for Writing Lab staff to work on the OWL.
So in the past three years, the OWL has experienced a number of changes. In some cases, these changes have been slow and a bit confusing for users. But this process reflects considerable theoretical work (user-centered/participatory design) and detailed empirical research. In short, with such a popular and helpful writing resource on the line, we wanted to get it right.
Most recently, the team working on the OWL redesign includes:
Dr. Michael J. Salvo, Associate Professor in the Purdue Professional Writing Program
Tammy Conard-Salvo, Associate Director Purdue Writing Lab
Allen Brizee, Purdue OWL Coordinator and member of the OWL Usability Project
Dana Driscoll, Purdue OWL Webmaster and member of the OWL Usability Project
Morgan Sousa, member of the OWL Usability Project
Brandon Patton, Purdue OWL Assistant Webmaster
Bonnie Stockwell, Purdue OWL Assistant Coordinator
How we got here
The current OWL home page and the new interior pages are part of a combined effort between the Writing Lab, the Purdue Professional Writing Program, and OWL users to improve usability and accessibility of the OWL. In 2006, user-centered design theories and usability research produced data that assisted Writing Lab staff in redesigning the home page and the interior pages, as well as the navigation features of the OWL. This research continues with the OWL Usability Survey and new work with blind and low-vision users.
What we accomplished
New OWL home page - We redesigned the OWL home page. The new OWL home page reflects research participants' design preferences. New features on the OWL home page, also user-driven, include a suggested resources list for our various user-groups, a most popular resources list, a link to our ongoing OWL Usability Survey, and a search bar. This design was released in Fall of 2008.
New OWL interior pages - We redesigned the OWL interior pages. The new interior pages also reflect research participants' design preferences. New features of the interior pages, also user-driven, include a more navigable format: links to all areas of the OWL, a three-tiered navigation bar, a new search function on all resources, and a wider page design. The new Writing Lab and Purdue OWL News pages were released in March 2008. The OWL interior pages will be released in late April 2008.
New OWL content areas - We have added two new content areas to the OWL: Engagement and Research. These sections will be released during March 2008.
The Engagement area of the OWL hosts outreach efforts between the Writing Lab and local organizations. While the OWL itself reflects an ongoing and serious commitment to engagement that has global impact, less work has been accomplished in engaging local institutions in greater Lafayette and Indiana. We believe projects and resources housed in the OWL Engagement area help address this gap and align nicely with Purdue's land-grant state university mission.
The Research area of the OWL hosts complete works or complete citations of research conducted on or about the Purdue OWL. The goal of this area is to provide visitors with information about work in theory and research that contributes to a literacy resource accessed by millions of users ever year. Moreover, the research area aligns with the open sources ideology that drives OWL work.
We believe this section also answers the call from scholars like Davida Charney (“Empiricism is Not a Four-Letter Word,” 1996) and Richard Haswell (“NCTE/CCCC’s Recent War on Scholarship," 2005) who underscore the value of empirical work in rhetoric and composition studies.
Redirected OWL resources - We redirected all of the old resource Web addresses (url's) to the new OWL site. During the latest redesign, some users were confused by the OWL's dual personality: one OWL resource was on the new site, another resource was on the old site. Some OWL resources reflected the latest APA and MLA guidelines while others on the old site did not. It's enough to drive teachers crazy!
We agree. And it's been a bit crazy trying to handle research on the OWL while shifting the vast library of the old OWL material to the new site. Due to this laborious effort, we were not able to make changes to the old site. But we still had to "bring over" and update all of the OWL material into the new area. We hope that by redirecting the old Web addresses we have solved users' confusion regarding the old and new sites. If you cannot find an old OWL resource on the new site, please contact the Purdue OWL Coordinator or the Purdue OWL Webmaster.
Despite these notable changes, the current OWL maintains many of Dr. Stolley's design elements. For example, different areas of the OWL still feature different colors in order to help users navigate such a large Web site. Also, we retained the clean, retro style Dr. Stolley used when he redesigned the OWL in 2005. We believe these features are a unique and branded look for the Purdue OWL, and we have received positive feedback from users regarding the crisp design.
Important changes users do not see
A new "front end" - what OWL visitors see and use - is accompanied by a new "back end" - what staff uses to maintain the OWL. We are still using the database Dr. Stolley built, but a new content management system now drives OWL work - Archimedes. Archimedes, the brainchild of Dana Driscoll and Brandon Patton, helps less technically inclined staff work on the OWL.
Archimedes is also used to track content errors and programming bugs on the OWL through a bug tracking system. Lastly, Archimedes helps manage content development through a project management application. Even though users do not see this part of the OWL, it is important to note that the new content management system will contribute to the sustainability and the quality of the OWL for many years.
What is on the horizon
While an online, technology-driven, user-focused resource like the OWL should never be "finished," most of the major redesign efforts are being completed during 2007-2008 (for now). However, based on user feedback and work with blind and low-vision research participants, we will continue to make moderate adjustments to the OWL. We are anxious to observe how the latest changes will affect users' OWL experiences, and we look forward to corresponding with you in the future.
Please let us know what you think and how we can continue to help you access and use the OWL resources you have depended over the last thirteen years.
Allen Brizee, Purdue OWL Coordinator
Dana Driscoll, Purdue OWL Webmaster
Second Digital Literacy Contest Proves Successful
by Allen Brizee
Daniel Poynter organized and hosted the second Digital Literacy Contest (DLC) on the West Lafayette campus of Purdue University on Wednesday, January 23, 2008. The event proved even more successful than the first contest held in August, 2007. Approximately 120 eager and web savvy participants filled four labs in Stanley Coulter Hall to test their Internet research skills against challenging questions on a wide range of topics.
At the end of the thirty-minute mental competition, Daryl Lim, winner of the first contest, emerged triumphant. Lim took home $100, while second place winner, Jignesh Vidyut Mehta, received $80, and third place participant, Matthew Williamson, won $60. Fourth place winners included a six-way tie between Dorina Mordkovich, Emily Cox, Nathan Claus, Peter Clay, Megan Mohler, and Jonathan R Morton. These participants each won $20.
Event organizers used multimedia in the contest labs to add to the cutting edge atmosphere. "We played a music video created by my friend John Bohlman to make the experience feel futuristic. It was a mashup of the entrancing movie Koyanisqaatsi and the mind bending Shpongle album 'Tales of the
Inexpressible,'" Daniel Poynter said.
Poynter added that he believes "the music sped up competitors' minds, induced information overload, and approximated a future when minds merge with machines, knowledge flows at the speed of light, and disembodied psyches roam the n-dimensional information space limited only by their creativity."
When asked about the next step for the DLC, Daniel replied, "we're going to hold miniature contests and experiment with the structure. For example, instead of competitors searching for the answers to 75
questions why not compete to create a 500+ word muckraking journalistic
piece? Or a fact supported futurecast? Or a polymathic blog post in the
spirit of Douglas Hofstadter's GEB? Maybe teams could compete. Or, maybe a combination of these and other approaches."
Daniel stated that a long term vision for the contest might expand significantly. "The contest could be an umbrella concept for all contests seeking to test 'Internet-augmented intelligence' with their own home brew arbitrary restrictions. The whole thing could be given a Creative
Commons license, and an open source community could imagine and host
versions of the contest around the world."
He added that "Versions would undergo natural election. McLuhan said our electronic infrastructure is the externalization of our nervous systems. Over time this whole community will create approximations of the original vision: a competition of cognitive agility using the Internet as a mental prosthetic."
Regardless of the DLC's future, I can say that having attended both contests, the events are huge fun, and they are educational. Any time you can combine fun and learning, the outcomes are sure to be exciting. The OWL will announce future DLCs.
* Interested in the "open source community" which imagines "and hosts versions of the contest around the world"?
* Have ideas for Daniel?
He'd love to discuss this contest with you. Please contact Daniel at: Daniel.Poynter@gmail.com (765) 425-6033 or
News from our in-person Writing Lab, located on Purdue University's campus in Heav. 226.
Grammar GroupOWL Eye on....Grammar Group. If you have questions about grammar or style and want to discuss these in an informal atmosphere, visit the Grammar Group at the Purdue Writing Lab. You Do not have to apply or registrer--just stop by!
The Grammar Group is held on Tuesdays from 3 - 4PM in Heav 227. Each session will feature a topic of the day, and provide time for any other questions.