Project Work!

For the JC1 kids, you’re starting on your Project Work at the moment and probably quite confused about it. Kevin have come up with walkthrough for the subject that will take up the entire year of your time. This walkthrough is basically a simple introduction and collection of general tips for the various segments of the PW. There are plans to gather more resources to help students with this assessment by publishing a full guide on the subject.

Let’s wait and see.

Little Reorg

ERPZ undergoes continuous improvements and in order to make way for more content on our site, there is a little re-organization going on this few days with the existing content. The Resource menu will now only capture all the notes that we have made available on ERPZ and the A Levels Essays are now placed under the menu heading, “Writings”, together with our book reviews.

We are expecting some articles on interview skills and writing of personal statements coming up to help students who have just received their A Levels results to work on their university and scholarship applications. These articles will be catalogued under a new page under Writings soon.

Stay tuned.

Search and Research

Research
Looking Up the Web

It has been a long time since I wrote something about handling school work and such. I’ve been working on a couple of articles for some external parties and doing quite a lot of research and writing. The experience can be frustrating and tiring as I plow through loads of data, informative material and readings and then get lost in bits of thoughts here and there, never settling down to write. Such is research, you ask a few simple questions that you expect could be answered with a sentence or two but end up having loads of related answers and information that leads you to the fact that answers you’re looking for is way more complex. Then you realise you have got to put together evidence for each of your claims and explanations. People were asking me how I manage all that stuff, I told them that you’ve got to work out a plan somehow.

So in this article, I’d be discussing my method of planning writing and research. It’s by no means a definitive answer to managing your research or school projects but it might be an option you’d like to choose. I’m writing very generally about the kind of information research that leads to writing a paper/article; the sort that doesn’t require you to don on a lab coat and hold up test-tubes.

Google
Ultimate Tool

I recommend that before you start using Google, lay out some fundamental questions your paper/article would answer or specific information it will provide. It can be as general as an overview to a topic, or as specific as the number of petrol kiosk in a particular town. After listing them out, mark out the more specific questions and then hunt for the data first. These are usually the data sets you are going to use to introduce a particular claim or to support your theories. If there’s no such data available then you can find other proxy indicators or try and switch the type of evidence. It is important that you start off checking for the availability of the data you need or whatever you’re going to write would be groundless anyways.

After gathering the data you need, hunt for general articles on the topic that you are working on. These are the articles that refer to other more specific sources for information, or sites like Answers.com and Wikipedia. They serve as a directory for the topic and also to alert you or anything about the issue/topic that you might have overlooked. Often, these can also be blog entries that link up articles of related topic, much like the ones on ERPZ. When you’re clear you have a general idea of the topic and know briefly the issues involved, start planning your writing, listing the arguments, the progression of arguments and the sequence you present information to make your case. Often, some information you will need to provide are things you are not necessarily aware of, perhaps the revenue of a particular firm, the market share in an industry, or the response of a CEO to a recent affair. These are the stuff you didn’t initially set out to include but subsequently find rather significant.

Armed with the plan, start searching specifically for the information you need and formulate/sharpen your arguments according to these information. Unknowingly, you have actually slashed down the amount of content that you’ve read. By using general articles as signposts for your planning, you have drawn up the parameters of your research, something difficult when you’ve not read up anything or done any research. This explains the preliminary research into key and essential data you need as well as the general articles to get you started. The rest of your writing would build around these anchors that you’ve found in the beginning.

Then, follow through your plan as you write. This works for any volume of research, those that takes days to weeks and possibly months. For the ones where data sets have to be built from scratch either through ripping apart official statistics or carrying out your own surveys, the process would be placed between preliminary research and the ultimate planning. So happy searching and re-searching!

Don’t Kill Nouns with Adjectives

The sweltering heat these days reminds me of my old, favourite introduction: “The monstrous red ball of supreme heat hung on the light-blue sky, threatening to melt all the helpless pedestrians on the busy street with its radiating warmth“. I loved this introduction so much that I would use it for almost every primary school composition assignment irregardless of the question; after some time, my teacher became so accustomed to my writing that he could identify my composition from its first sentence. Since my teacher did not complain much, I had the false belief that my descriptive introduction reflected good writing style. Eventually, the use of adjectives became a desire to show off my rich vocabulary and that resulted in an immature writing style.

I did not realise my mistake until much later, when I entered high school. My heavily adjectival prose caught my teacher’s attention and when she could not take it any longer, she summoned me to her office. That day in her office changed my writing drastically because it was there that I understood the shortcomings of my style; instead of displaying my proficiency in the English language, the constant use of adjectives only made my writing embarrassingly ornate. In addition, my writing also suggests a lack of confidence, as if I am trying to make up for my inability by overdecorating my sentences. If every crisis is a critical crisis, every emergency an urgent emergency, and every problem a grave problem, then the whole idea of a crisis, an emergency, or a problem becomes devalued. In these situations, the adjective becomes the enemy of the noun.

That does not mean that we can do away with adjectives. Adjectives have their uses when they define and refine rather than simply emphasise. In the sentence “We are in legal trouble“, the adjective, legal, has a truly informative function. For a vigorous style, you can try replacing adjectives with colourful nouns. “The penniless man that lives in a small, filthy hut” can be replaced by “the pauper that lives in a hovel.” A “large and impressive house” can be replaced by a “mansion” and so on. You get the idea. Now, before you give in to the temptation of using flamboyant language, do remember the guiding principle of using adjectives and you will surely produce a good piece of writing!

This article was written by a guest writer on ERPZ.net and not by Kevin – its presence in this blog is merely due to the archived nature of Kevin’s blog posts from the past.

Maths Moment

I was desperate to check the sample correlation coefficient (r) of a list of sample that forms a scatter plot. I was aware that my graphing calculator could do that but when I finished keying in the information and then applying the LinReg (a + bx) function, I realised I could only obtain the ‘a’ and the ‘b’ constants of the regression line and not the coefficient. Thanks to my JC notes, I manage to learn how to get it to work.

So just a reminder for JC kids how to allow the LinReg function display the r and r-square figures: go to Catalog>DiagnosisOn. This is probably the only time you have to go to the Catalog menu in your entire JC H2 Mathematics life.

As for those interested to explore the capabilities of your Graphing Calculator for Chemistry, you can check out the last part of my Chemistry notes.

More Resource Added

Wei Seng has contributed yet another set of materials to ERPZ, this time spanning Economics and Chemistry; here are the links to them:

Economics
Terms & Definitions for H2 Economics – Glossary compiled by Wei Seng

Chemistry
Gaseous Chemistry Summary – Summary of concepts under Gas Laws By Wei Seng
Chemical Periodicity Summary – Summary of Chemical Periodicity and relevant properties By Wei Seng
H2 Chemistry SPA Skill A Guide – Summary of observations and organic reactions used in Science Practical Assessment (SPA) Skill A By Wei Seng

They can be found in the relevant subjects page under resources of course.

Happy Lunar New Year once again!

America’s greatest risk: Terrorism or itself?

USA
Itself...

In Newsweek’s Special Edition – Issues 2010, Stephen Flynn writes about how America’s greatest risk is itself: the danger that the American government will overreact to the terror threat, and hence disrupt how America has been operating all this while.

Flynn argues that “the greatest peril today is not of an attack but the danger the country will overreact”. A terrorist attack might make huge headline news and cause much panic and trouble, but it seems like the government is in the meantime neglecting other disasters that could potentially claim as many, if not more, lives. For instance, hurricanes and earthquakes or even H1N1 and avian flu. The threat of terror certainly remains, but overreaction could cause huge trauma on top of the damage already done by the terrorists. The blockade of the US economy thanks to the grounding of all flights and closing of all borders post-911 would have accomplished exactly the economic damage that the terrorists aim to inflict upon America.

Flynn then proposes that the government should abandon the “muscular but unrealistic ‘protection at all costs’ approach”. Bush may have claimed that “terrorists need to get things right just once, the nation’s defenders have to be right 100% of the time”, but this is an “impossible standard” since no government in history has ever accomplished this. Singapore may be close to this, but only in recent history: one only needs to think back to the Konfrontasi period in the 1960s when the Indonesians struck the McDonald House to recall that Singapore has not been exactly immune to acts of terror (in particular, one inflicted by the government of an opposing force).

In essence, the government needs to get the citizens involved and not just be the big nanny and take charge if and when terror strikes. Flynn states that “terror works only if it convinces people they are vulnerable and powerless”, so if the government can give people ways to “address their vulnerabilities”, terrorism might not be as “terrifying” as perceived to be. The citizens should “share the responsibility for preparing the nation to cope with man-made and natural disasters”, so that people will become better able to “withstand, recover and adapt to catastrophic risks”.

End of Packages

The Reading Packages have been discontinued after 12 weeks. Thanks for all the reading of those links and watching the interesting videos featured. We might continue to do this now and then but no longer regularly and on Saturdays. Those interested in checking out the packs we have previously can click on the links here:

Past Reading Packages

Week 1 – 24 October 2009
Week 2 – 31 October 2009
Week 3 – 6 November 2009
Week 4 – 13 November 2009
Week 5 – 21 November 2009
Week 6 – 28 November 2009
Week 7 – 5 December 2009
Week 8 – 12 December 2009
Week 9 – 19 December 2009
Week 10 – 26 December 2009
Week 11 – 2 January 2010
Week 12 – 9 January 2010

All reading packs and future ones will still be filed under ‘Reading Packs‘, so check it out to view the archives. Get on reading and viewing!

Layout Re-org

ERPZ now have a permanent homepage! We are still working on it and hopefully, we’ll be able to feature a couple of articles on the homepage each day. The new system of navigation is designed to give the articles and resources put on ERPZ roughly the same exposure and also to allow first-time users to learn more about ERPZ before going on their search for academic resources.

We hope this would be an improvement over the former blog sort of navigation system layout.