The things you can do and learn online for General Paper (and Project Work).

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Shmoop Argumentative Essay Lab

An interactive beginner’s guide to writing an argumentative essay is available at

Found via

Facts galore

You need facts to back up your ideas in writing. Plus, some facts are just plain interesting. I’ve just discovered Factbrowser. Go have a look and search for the statistics you need.

Cycling safety statistics

Cycling Oxford

Since I moved to Sydney, I’ve basically stopped cycling, barring a few rides, and only one of those on a road bike.

I found the following statistics and posted them on Facebook, but I thought maybe some of you might want to have a look and do some analysis of the figures as well. What do the figures mean? Which city/state/country is the safest?

London: Population 8M, 407 cyclist deaths and serious injuries 1st 9 months of 2011

Singapore: Population 5M, 500 cyclist casualties (including 15 fatalities) in 2011

NSW: Population 7M, 52 fatal pedestrian crashes, no separate category for cyclists among vehicles (?) at

Australia: 22M, 26 to 46 cyclist deaths per year, 2000 to 2005. “More meaningful Australian data on cycling crashes is difficult to access due the lack of exposure data for cycling, differences in police and hospital data records, lack of data retained by road traffic authorities and the fact that many cycling accidents occur off-road”

Grey Areas

‘Gray can exist as gray only because there are the distinct alternatives of black and white. That you might find yourself at times in a situation in which you see no clear alternatives does not mean, objectively considered, that there are no clear alternatives. It simply means that you do not see them. Don’t project your subjective state of uncertainty upon the world at large and claim objective status for it.’

– D. Q. McInerny, Being Logical

Critical Thinking Podcast Tutorials

Get your free podcasts from or search for ‘the critical thinker’ on iTunes if you use an iPod, Phone or Pad.

The podcasts are short enough for a 20-minute commute. I’ve heard the first couple of episodes, and it’s pretty good stuff.

The video version of these podcasts is available at

Summary skills?

Because of the sweet comments from ssdd and others, I’ve been inspired to blog a little. 🙂

So, summary skills, you ask.

A good place to start with any fundamental question like that is the most current GP syllabus published by the SEAB. You can find it here. Having checked that though, I find nothing there of use to your question. Moving on…

Mr Stephen Kennaugh, Director of Studies of St. Dominic’s College in Sydney has the following pointers (taken from this file):

1. Knowing what you want:
• This can be achieved through asking a teacher or deciding for yourself what you want to achieve or attain. [In the case of GP Paper 2, you’ll have to thoroughly understand what the summary question demands of you.]
• Once you have this clear then you are able to skim over the text to summarise the main content from your perspective.

2. Deciding what is important:
• It is important to realise what is of use to you and what isn’t in a text or a piece of writing.
• Once you have your focus then it is imperative that you are selective in what you summarise.
• Eliminate all of the joining words and non-essential background information. It is only important for background information or context formation. [But do leave in some basic connectors for fluency; it’s a trade-off between content and language here, I suppose.]
• Record the vital information and subject specific terminology. [There shouldn’t be much jargon in comprehension passages.]

So, it’s all very good advice. More specifically, for the purpose of Paper 2 of GP (and also for research writing in general), you must paraphrase if you want to get any credit at all. You’ll also be penalised under Use of Language for wholesale lifting if you simply do not paraphrase. (More severe penalties are found in PW and further along your academic career.)

There’s probably nothing here that your GP tutors haven’t told you in some way or other. But I hope this post helps these guidelines stick in your head.

Quote of the Day

The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; And habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care, And let it spring from love Born out of concern for all beings.
The Buddha

Application Question Resources

Resources for the AQ, already listed in this blog, in response to this question

Links to the previous posts:

Evaluation and evaluating arguments

A concise guide for paraphrase and critique

Evaluation for both AQ and Project Work (PW)

I might (critique and) synthesise these resources at some point. Or are there any volunteers?

Quote of the day

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.

Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens; 1835-1910),
American humanist, humorist, satirist, lecturer and writer

Book-buying spree tonight

Bought 5 books from Borders tonight, 3 of which are more immediately relevant to GP:

How to Write Essays: A step-by-step guide for all levels, with sample essays

by Don Shiach;

How to Write Better Essays

by Bryan Greetham; and

How to write Essays & Assignments

by Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyers

On a wing and a prayer

For troubled people, a Mother Goose rhyme:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

Or the Serenity Prayer:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

(The meaning of the idiom that is the title of this post)

Fair Use & Copyright

Intellectual Property laws are among the most complicated ideas out there, or so I remember hearing the Chief Technology Officer for Linden Lab telling us in the audience at NTU last year. So, here’s some comprehensible information every blogger should know? Or worry about?

Copyright Explained: I may copy, right? – Clear and concise, with links to other pages on the site for further information

Copyright, Fair Use, Blogging & Other Items – A third-person account of a blogger’s brush with copyright law

The Fair Use News blog offers news and occasional analysis of court cases, legislation, and incidents affecting the fair use of copyrighted and trademarked information.’

Fair Use Network has a range of informational guides and resources.

Milestones for my new students

To help you think beyond today, tomorrow and the next GP lesson; with an assessment orientation:

  • Practise writing paragraphs
  • Writing your first GP essay
  • (Mid March – release of PW question)
  • Practise the components of Paper 2
  • Completing your first Paper 2 (collaboration, solo effort)
  • (Mid April – submit PW PI)
  • JC1 Mid year exam – 23 June
  • (Mid September – submit PW EoM)
  • Promos – 23 September
  • (Mid October – submit PW WR)
  • (PW OP – End October to early November)

How hard is GP?

I mentioned stumbling upon this blog post to one of my classes the other day, but couldn’t give a very clear account of it. So here’s a big block quote from it:

General Paper in JC: A very advanced form of English subject

For the purpose of discretion, the friend in discussion is not to be named here. So let me just rename him: “Kenji”.

I could recall that in his phonecalls, there isn’t a single time that Kenji does not whine about the subject called General Paper. And since I barely knew anything about it, I could offer no sympathy to him.

Then three days ago, I asked him on phone, “Hey, why don’t you send me a sample paper of GP exam?”

“OK”, he replied.

That same night he e-mailed me the comprehension section (P2) sample of GP test paper from the “Catholic Junior College Promotional Exam 2002”.

My first reaction was… gape.

Nope, not bewilderment, not confusedness, but a mere gape.

Then I mouthed, “What the F”£$%^&* !!”

It was notoriously fiendish!!!

Don’t ask me to compare it to any other standardised English tests, it is already 20 times harder than ‘O’-level English paper alone. Thus, in a rough comparison, the GP paper is 200 times harder than TOEFL.

Or more.

Click here to go to the source and read the rest.

I find it hilarious. But it’s also good for you students to tell yourself that you will find it difficult. Still, you should try, because other have, and many of them did well.

Online Survey Services

I’m looking to use an online survey service to collect information on my students.

Wikipedia has an article on online questionnaires

Free services and some of their limitations


  • Limited to 100 responses per survey
  • Maximum 30 questions per survey
  • See survey responses for 10 days
  • Tried to create a survey based on the demographic template but hit a bug while trying to delete a question with skip logic


  • Maximum 18 questions per survey

  • Limited to 100 responses per survey
  • Maximum 10 questions per survey
  • Easy to use
  • Examples provided for each question type

A more extensive discussion on online surveys can be found here.

Notes from research on Innovation: Nokia and Mini

Took a couple of hours to search for stuff on the Web to use in the Innovation and Enterprise course for the IP1 students next week. Here’s what I found:

Did You Know 2.0 YouTube video

This page on the wiki promoted in the above presentation links to other similar presentations.

Comments related to innovation here


New Year Thoughts

New year… How to be a better person. Is there more to life then being (highly) effective?

I asked a close friend why he is in the job that he’s in. He summarised his reasons very succinctly:

  • intellectual challenge
  • working with people he enjoys working with
  • making a difference to other people’s lives – being a positive influence
  • the least important reason of the lot is monetary reward

Google Search Tips on YouTube

Thinking of playing these videos in class for both GP and Project Work.

Click here for the complete playlist. Found via Teaching

The video also references which provided the music through a Creative Commons license. Sounds like a good idea for people who want to add music to their videos and presentations in a legal way.

Introducing the General Paper Wiki

I was actually ‘cybersquatting’ on Wetpaint, a free wiki hosting service, since August 31. But I have just created the main page for it. You might want to be among the first to leave your erasable mark on the wiki, which can be edited anonymously for now. Go to

So why a wiki and why Wetpaint? I hope that a wiki will get more people involved. There is also more structure in a wiki than in a blog, so having students handle that aspect might help them understand the concept of text structure better. It will probably make it easier for people to find the information they need as well.

I’ve actually taken up a wiki URL with wiki dot as well, but somehow it didn’t feel so inviting. Being inviting is very important for my intention to engage the students. Also I’ve found Wetpaint to be very easy to use.

One grouse, however, is the inability to add link anchors within a page for quick navigation. As more content is added to the wiki at Wetpaint, I will be increasingly unwilling to try some other wiki hosting service.

UPDATE 30 December 2007:

Had a look at Wikispaces, which seems quite popular and has the page protection feature. So I got myself a space there as well. If you’re wondering which wiki farm to use, check out this Wikipedia article. The Wikispaces interface also uses tabs, which would give the wiki a more current feel and make it look less cluttered. There’s also a feature to integrate with a TypePad blog. Too bad this one’s a WordPress.

Also quite persuasive is the backup function to save the whole wiki as a file. Wetpaint does not have that (at the moment). One Wetpaint user mentions using the ScrapBook extension for firefox to back up pages.

But I don’t like the big buttons that scream at me to upgrade to get additional features. Wetpaint seems to be faster in updating changes as well, at least from where I am now.

And here’s a well developed wiki entry on practical advice for classroom use. Also, a well researched article on wiki pedagogy referenced by the wiki entry.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen R. Covey wrote the book in 1989 but I never got round to reading it. Just recently a friend mentioned him and his book and I thought I’d look it up on Wikipedia. Here’s the summary of the seven habits from Wikipedia:

  1. Be Proactive. Here, Covey emphasizes the original sense of the term ‘reactive’ as coined by Victor Frankl. You can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to how you act about certain things. Being “proactive” means taking responsibility for everything in life. When you’re reactive, you blame other people and circumstances for obstacles or problems. Initiative, and taking action will then follow. Covey shows how man is different from other animals in that he has self-consciousness. He has the ability to detach himself and observe his own self, think about his thoughts. He goes on to say how this attribute enables him. It gives him the power not to be affected by his circumstances. Covey talks about ‘Stimulus and Response’. Between Stimulus and Response, we have the power of free will to choose our response.
  2. Begin with the End In Mind. This chapter is about setting long-term goals based on “true-north principles.” Covey recommends to formulate a “personal vision statement” to document one’s perception of one’s own vision in life. He sees visualization as an important tool to develop this. He also deals with organizational vision statements, which he claims to be more effective if developed and supported by all members of an organization, rather than being prescribed.
  3. Put First Things First. Here, Covey describes a framework for prioritizing work that is aimed at short-term goals, at the expense of tasks that appear not to be urgent, but are in fact very important. Delegation is presented as an important part of time management. Successful delegation, according to Covey, focuses on results and benchmarks that are to be agreed in advance, rather than on prescribing detailed work plans.
  4. Think Win/Win describes an attitude whereby mutually beneficial solutions are sought, that satisfy the needs of oneself, or, in the case of a conflict, both parties involved.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Covey warns that giving out advice before having empathetically understood a person and their situation will likely result in that advice being rejected. Thoroughly reading out your own autobiography will decrease the chance of establishing a working communication.
  6. Synergize describes a way of working in teams. Apply effective problem solving. Apply collaborative decision making. Value differences. Build on divergent strengths. Leverage creative collaboration. Embrace and leverage innovation. It is put forth that, when this is pursued as a habit, the result of the teamwork will exceed the sum of what each of the members could have achieved on their own. ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.’
  7. Sharpen the saw focuses on balanced self-satisfaction. Regaining what Covey calls ‘production capability’ by engaging in carefully selected recreational activities.

The Wikipedia article links to a web page with some elaboration of the habits. The page has just one slightly annoying pop-up.

You’ll find another summary here. This one includes a summary of the discussion comparing the personality and character ethics. Interesting. I drew the following mind map to help me understand the section:


Also according to Wikipedia (yes, again), Covey wrote a sequel to the book in 2004 — The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness:

The eighth habit is to ‘Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs’.The book talks of ‘6 Cancers’ that inhibit people’s greatness:

  • Cynicism
  • Criticism
  • Comparing
  • Competing
  • Complaining
  • Contending