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Write an Online Discussion

How should I include in my first post?

An initial post is your first response to a question posed by the instructor.

  1. Answer the question
    Do this first if possible. Provide a clear answer to the question (incorporating some of the wording of the question in your answer if possible).
  2. Give evidence
    Provide an explanation for your point of view, and use evidence from your text, notes, or outside research (where appropriate) to support your point.
  3. Explain the connection
    Make sure to describe how your evidence proves your point. Don’t assume it’s obvious.

Your post might also introduce a question or idea that others can follow up on. But make sure you have answered the initial question first!

Example of a first post

Instructor’s question: Does brain size matter? Explain why or why not, using evidence from this week’s readings.

Salat, D. H. 2004. Thinning of the cerebral cortex in aging. Cerebral Cortex. 14: 721-730. Witelson, S. F. 1999.The exceptional brain of Albert Einstein. Lancet. 353: 2149-2153.
[1] Claim/Answer to question 
[2] Evidence
[3] Explanation of how evidence proves claim 

Student1: [1] In answer to the question “does brain size matter?” I would say yes. Several studies provide evidence demonstrating that there is a link between brain size and intelligence. [2] Witelson (1999) compared the size of Einstein’s brain to that of other adult males and found that the parietal lobe—connected to logic and mathematical reasoning—was 15% larger than that of other men. [3] This is convincing because the part of the brain that was larger than normal was connected to Einstein’s intellectual strengths (logic/reasoning), which we know were significantly greater than those of the average person. In addition, Salat (2004) used MRI scans to study the volume of different parts of the brain. He found that the size of cortical and hippocampal matter had a significant impact on adults’ memory functions. [3] Both studies show that not only do specific parts of the brain impact certain functions, but the size of those parts impacts the quality of that functioning.

What should I include in a follow-up post?

The key thing to remember about follow-up posts is that you must add something new to the discussion, rather than simply saying you agree or disagree with another person’s post.

Explain why you agree or disagree, and offer your own supporting points and evidence. 
Build on what someone else has said  Think: “Yes, AND…” or “Yes, BUT…”

Again, make sure your post has the three parts mentioned earlier:

  1. Make a claim/Answer a question
  2. Give evidence
  3. Explain the connection

Example of a follow-up post

Skoyles, J. R. 1999. Human evolution expanded brains to increase expertise capacity, not IQ. Psycoloquy. 10. Retrieved Aug. 5, 2009, from Human _ evolution_expanded_brains_expertise_not_IQ.pdf (002).

[1] Claim/Answer to question 
[2] Evidence
[3] Explanation of how evidence proves claim 
[4] Response to previous post

Student2: [1][4] I agree with Student1—brain size does matter. [4][3] I wasn’t totally convinced by the study of Einstein’s brain, however, since it seemed like the research was done more out of personal interest (because it was Einstein) than in an attempt to establish a theory. [4][3] The approach of researchers in the MRI study Student1 mentioned was much more convincing because they compared several participants and looked at a specific function of the brain. There is also convincing evolutionary science that supports this belief. [2] Skoyles (1999) notes that the human brain has evolved to a larger size than that of its predecessor, homo erectus. He believes that the larger size is what allows humans to develop expertise over time. By expertise, he means skills and knowledge about how to perform vital activities, like hunting and gathering. [3] So, having a larger brain is not only linked to greater intelligence, but also to human survival.

Online discussion dos and don'ts


  • Log in to the discussion regularly—not just when it’s time to post. This way, you will be able to stay informed and on top of class material.
  • Use information from the course notes and related texts to support your postings.
  • Paraphrase rather than quote unless the wording is unique or special.
  • Cite your sources.
  • Try to refer to what others have said when you are writing your posts.
  • Show an open attitude by noting the other side of your argument.
  • Use subject lines strategically. Could a reader accurately predict the content of your post by reading the subject line?
  • Try reading your postings aloud before you post, to catch errors and typos.


  • Don’t post comments like “Great point” or “I agree,” without explaining why you agree and providing new ideas or information to expand on the previous author’s point.
  • Don’t make all your postings at once. A flurry of posts will make it obvious that you haven’t been keeping up.
  • Don’t respond emotionally to what others have said. Respond to the ideas and argument, not the person.

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