ENVS101 Writing Case Studies
The objective of the case study assignments is for you to critically examine controversial environmental issues in depth, from alternative perspectives, and then to arrive at a summary and recommendation regarding resolution. Before each class in which we conduct a case, I will post or hand out a description of the situation, and the position of each "stakeholder". You should print and carefully study the position of your assigned stakeholder before class, and come prepared to convincingly argue your position. There will be four case studies over the course of the semester that you write up (see Schedule, Readings & Assignments). We will discuss these cases during class, and you are encouraged to continue this discussion within your groups outside of class. A different member of each group will be responsible for writing a summary recommendation for each case (each student in this class writes up ONE case). The name of this primary author should appear first at the top of the page in each report. In your group agreement you need to specify who will be responsible for writing the brief for each case. Case briefs should draw on class discussion, relevant lectures, and readings; you are required to correctly cite at least three literature sources for each case and at least two of these should be drawn from assigned readings. Efficient, terse writing is essential in business, academics, non-profits and in journalism -- now is the time to develop the discipline! I will hold strictly to a maximum (not minimum) word limit of 1,300, and will deduct a percentage of your grade for every 100 words over this limit. (MSWord has a convenient feature for counting words -- select the text, and from the "Tools" menu choose "Word count"). Your writing should follow the guidelines and citation format linked to the “Writing Guidelines” on the course home page. Case briefs should follow the format and naming procedures described under “Turning in assignments electronically”. The file should be named with the case number and group number (e.g. CS1G3.doc).
While the discussion is obviously a group effort, the member who has taken responsibility for writing up each brief will receive the grade for that brief. Since you will evaluate each other's overall contribution to your group (see grading), there is a strong incentive for all members to participate actively and constructively in thinking through and contributing to these cases. Though not required, I encourage the author of each brief to solicit editorial suggestions from fellow group members -- in past years many students have found this to be quite helpful (see notes below on "track changes"). My criteria for grading case briefs are the thoughtfulness of your summary and recommendations, the arguments you make in support of your recommendation, and the organization and quality of the writing. If you examine your syllabus you will note that the case studies are all due before your sustainability essay -- this is so that I can give each of you feedback on your writing before the essay is due. If you lack confidence in your writing, I suggest that you negotiate to take responsibility for writing up a case early in the semester so that you have time to consider my feedback on your writing.
Notes on the "Track changes" feature of MSWord -- a tool for group writing:
I'm as annoyed by the hegemony of the Bill Gates/Microsoft monopoly as anyone. However, like it or not Microsoft is now part of our world here at Oberlin, and they HAVE come up with some useful features in their products. Among the most useful for writers is the "Track changes" feature in MSWord, which can be effectively used to save such precious resources as paper, energy and time. I use it extensively in my collaborative writing with scientists at other institutions. "Track Changes" allows multiple collaborators to sequentially edit a document in such a way that the lead author can see: what was changed (deleted text ends up highlighted and with a colored line through it), what was added (added text is of a different color), and who added it (each time the document is opened on a different computer it has a different editing color and the edited text is underlined). Changes can then be accepted or rejected to eliminate all of the editing marks. "Track Changes", is found under the "Tools" menu in MSWord. The author who creates the first draft should complete this draft. Then, before sending the document on to the first editor, the first author should go to "Track Changes", select "Highlight changes", and then click the box "Track changes while editing". Finally, after the document has made the rounds and you are sick of all the correction marks, you can either deselect the "Highlight changes on screen" button (which continues to store changes, but hides them from view), or choose "Accept or reject changes" (which allows you to permanently accept or reject changes either one by one or for the document as a whole). I like to receive documents in which changes made by different authors are tracked as this gives me an excellent sense of the collaborative process taking place within our group.
These are only suggestions. If you find "Track changes" to be a hassle, use whatever works for you - circulating hard copy amongst yourselves is an obvious low-tech approach.