Writing good comments in the social sciences

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There are many forms a reading comment can take. One is asking questions about the text and another is answering other students’ questions. These are elaborated on in the table below. Several other useful types of comments will be discussed later.

Type How to write this type of comment High-quality examples
Ask a question State what you understand as well as what you don't. For example: “I understand... but I don't understand...” I understand that biology influences development (like with genetics), but I don’t understand how biology affects human behavior. Does it have something to do with the brain?
If possible, suggest answers to your question. Is it really possible for a baby to distinguish between different styles of caregiving? If so is there a reason that an infant is conscious of its care style? Maybe it is a survival instinct – like they stay close to those that keep them alive.
Answer a question Answer the question clearly and concisely. @Arya, great question. Brain development IS biology (and neuroscience) – and behavior is rooted in the brain. Therefore, behavior is related to biology.
If the questioner has also proposed an answer, evaluate the answer, providing additional explanation. Hi @Shawn – I think you might be right that it is about survival. This reminds me of Harlow’s monkeys – the baby monkeys went to the “food mother” only when hungry and otherwise hung out with the softer “loving mother.”
Refer the questioner to another part of the text or provide a link to another helpful resource (e.g., a video) - but also provide an explanation in your own words. @Shawn, we read about this earlier – it all started with the monkeys – see the part of our readings linked here. Comfort and security seem to be as important to survival (if not more) than food!
Speak directly to the questioner (remembering that they are people too). For example, quote their name using the @ symbol and give a positive comment. (See above examples)

Here are three more useful ways you can comment on the reading.

Type How to write this type of comment High-quality examples
Clarify Explain differently:
  • Find different/new ways of expressing an idea, don't just shuffle words around.
Ok so this is saying that the reason that people compare themselves to others is that it helps them figure out their own identity.
Summarize:
  • Restate the key ideas from a section of the text in your own words, leaving out the less important details
So it seems that the main ideas here are that both friendships AND peer rejection are super important for identity development – and likely mental health.
Give additional useful info:
  • Provide info to help clarify what is meant, e.g. give missing info or extra examples
As a society we've gotten so caught up in comparison that many of us don't know how to simply take inspiration anymore; to look at someone, see a positive quality, and strive to attain that quality without reprimanding ourselves for not already having it.
Connect Connect to another part of the text or another part of the course. With the increase in adolescent suicide rates that we learned about earlier this semester, I am wondering what role peer relationships have.
Connect to other courses:
  • Remember to include concepts from the subject of the reading in this course.
While reading about how friendships are so important for children, I am left wondering about schools and larger communities. In my sociology class we learned about how influential these systems are in creating societies, but not how they also determine (more or less) who we are friends with.
Connect to your life:
  • Be sure to include evidence-based information.
This makes so much sense to me. I was bullied as a kid but since I had some close friends I’d known since very young, the bullying didn’t bother me as much as it would have without my friends backing me up. Supportive relationships can be protective for kids.
Extend Take the ideas beyond what is expressed in the text or build on a classmate's ideas.
  • Give extra explanation or question going beyond what is discussed in the readings.
  • Get creative - imagine, wonder, and hypothesize.
  • Provide (credible) links to other resources.
  • Remember to stay grounded in the science of our field.
As a society we've gotten so caught up in comparison that many of us don't know how to simply take inspiration anymore; to look at someone, see a positive quality, and strive to attain that quality without reprimanding ourselves for not already having it. I wonder if the effects of this have gotten worse with social media being accessible at younger and younger ages.
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