LENGTH: Varies
DUE DATE: Monday, September 14; Monday, September 21; Monday, October 5; Monday, October 26; Monday, November 11; Wednesday, December 4 (optional)

Why do we have a course blog?

In this course, we will be evaluating policies based on both data and firsthand observations.  The blog is where you will archive your observations, and it will serve as a resource for you and your classmates throughout the semester.  It’s our shared “research notebook” on what we see in, learn about, and think about Highland Park, the Northside, and/or the Richmond region, our case study for our inquiry into public policy, poverty, and political power.  When it comes time to write your papers, you may use not only your posts but also any other post you find on the WordPress site.

How often and when do I need to post?

You need to post five times over the course of the semester.  I’ve put due dates into the course calendar.  That’s to encourage you to post regularly rather than waiting to do the posts all in the last week of the semester (when they become almost useless for class discussion and papers).  You can certainly post before the due date, but try not to exceed it, or you will start to fall behind.

We will talk about how to take field notes prior to the Highland Park Tour.  Once your CBL placement begins, because impressions and insightful thoughts fade over time, you should jot down notes the day of your site visit.  Save them, even if you don’t use all of your notes to compose your posts–observations that seemed mundane at the time can emerge to become important as your knowledge of the material develops.

How do I post?

You will need a WordPress account.  I have sent you an invitation to enroll in the site to your UR e-mail account.  Follow the instructions to sign up.  You don’t need a blog, only an account.

Once you are added, you are able to post.  Click here to go to a posting page.  Or when you are signed onto the course website, you will see a dark grey toolbar at the top of your browser window.  Click on “New” and when the menu appears, scroll down to “Post.”  This will take you to the posting page.  Or you can go the main menu for the course website.  Go to ASSIGNMENTS, then scroll down to BLOG.  When your mouse is over BLOG, a submenu called TO POST will appear.  Click on it, and you will be directed to a page that allows you to link to the posting page.

You can still see the site, even if you are not signed in.  But you cannot post.

What should I post about?

Your posts should be about your CBL experiences and observations.  However, I don’t want a mere rundown of what you did at your site.  Instead, your posts should provide substantive information that the class can make use of.

I suggest using these questions as prompts:

  • What did you learn?  Anything interesting, new, or unexpected?
  • How did what you see, hear, or experience connect with the themes we are discussing in class?
  • What questions did the experience raise in your mind?

And because scholarship begins with asking questions about our experiences and observations, always end your post with a question.

How long do my posts need to be?

Only as long as needed to convey your point.


When you post, tag your posts with keywords that will allow other students in the course to call up your post later when they are searching for CBL observations to use for their research.  I have started a running list of tags, but you should add others as needed. I suggest at least tagging your site name as well as any policy issue you are writing about (Education, Public Health, Employment, Family, and Crime).  You will thank yourself later for doing this when the time comes to write your research papers.

By default, your post will be placed in the “CBL” category.  Later, you can call up posts by category or author name, but my experience is that students tend to find the tags most useful.  You definitely get bonus points in my book if other students cite or comment on your posts.

Also, remember that this website, except for the course readings, is an open and publicly available site.  This is great for letting community partners to follow what is going on.  But because the site is public, consider using pseudonyms when you write about the people you are working with.  Sometimes you can’t help but let others know whom your talking about — for instance, I’ll likely recognize people when you talk about site supervisors.  But consider using pseudonyms for clients, especially children and patients or others with sensitive issues or criminal histories.  And be judicious about what you post.  If you do not want something to become public knowledge, don’t post about it — just bring it up in class.

How are posts used? 

I will be reviewing your posts prior to class and, if appropriate, bringing their content into class discussion.  You should use the posts – both yours and those of your peers – when writing your research papers.  Remember that one of the objectives of this course is to integrate statistical data with qualitative evidence in order to bring together the bottom-up and top-down approaches to policy analysis.

I highly recommend you use the tags to follow the posts of previous PoVo classes when they are relevant to your policy area.  The education and public areas, in particular, is rich with informative posts written by previous students who have worked at Chandler Middle School, Henderson Middle School, Rubicon, and the Daily Planet.

How are blog posts graded?

I do not grade individual posts, but I will look at your posts as evidence of your engagement in the course and your intellectual growth over the semester.  When you write your research papers, you should cite your CBL posts to support your arguments, and you are also given credit if I can see that other students have used your posts when writing their research papers or if your posts have generated much discussion either in class or on the blog.

At the end of the semester, I will check to see if you completed the minimum number of required posts.  I will also look at the overall quality of your posts, including how thoughtful they were, how effectively they generated thoughtful responses, whether other students used them for their own research, and whether anyone commented on your posts.  Typically I take your best 3-4 posts over the semester as representative of your best work.  You are required to write 5 posts, but if you write more, than I will take the 3-4 best ones for your grade.

In our final score, half the grade will be based on your completion of the required number of posts.  The other half will be a grade based on the quality of your posts.  I will use this rubric when grading the quality of the posts.

Students who comment on others’ posts will get credit toward their participation grade.