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    How to Email Your Prof

    It’s the start of term!  OK, so that means that I am going to receive a lot of emails from students.  I think many students could use a few tips in this area.

    1. I’m not your buddy.  I’m not your friend (I’m friendly enough, but, you know, we don’t hang out…)  So, when writing an email to me, don’t start out with ‘Hey’ or ‘Dude’ or anything like that.  Here’s a pretty straightforward tip: have a salutation. So ‘Dear Dr. Brodbeck’ is a good start.  Now, on the first day I’m going to let you know that I prefer being called by my first name, so ‘Dear Dave’ is fine with me.  Frankly, 'Hi Dave' is good too.  Others may prefer their title. You can’t go wrong being too formal. So your default should be ‘Dear Dr.’ Again, call me Dave, that’s fine, but others may not like the first name thing, follow their preferences..  Oh, don't go with 'Dear Professor' or 'Teacher'.  The first one there just seems clumsy to me, and the latter, umm, well, it makes me think I'm teaching elementary school or something....  

    2. Try to use complete English sentences.  So ‘gotta pick courses’ is not as good as ‘Can we meet to look at courses for the coming term?’

    3. Use actual English words.  You’re not texting to me. B4 is not a word.  Thx is not a word.

    4. Related to number 1 above, sign your emails.  ‘Sincerely, Eddie Smith’ (assuming that’s your name) is how you end it.  Or, maybe ‘Eddie’.  

    5. Let me know what class you are in if it is course related.  ‘Can we meet to talk about the essay’ is not nearly as good as ‘Can we meet to talk about the essay in BIOL 2606?’

    6. No emojis, they make you look like you aren’t serious.

    7. LOL.  You actually typed LOL?  Really?  Were you actually laughing out loud?

    8. Punctuation is your friend.  

    9. You are going to get a better reply if you have a question I can answer.  Now, that’s not always going to be the case, as sometimes you are asking to meet to pick classes or something. However, ‘I didn’t understand the last lecture’ is not nearly as good as ‘can you explain that part about spatial and temporal summation again, I didn’t really get it’.  

    10. Don’t expect me to answer right away.  I’m pretty good with answering emails, but, when the work day is done, I’m at home.  I’m not at work.

    11. Your and you're are two different words.  (Now I'm looking frantically to see it I've made any dumb mistakes, I probably have, hey, I just found a place where I wrote 'to' instead of 'two'!)

    That’s all I can think of now.  If anyone has any other tips, let me know and I’ll add them with credit to the person of course.



    Fall 2019 Course Materials Available.

    Look, I know it's summer, and I don't want to think about teaching any more than you want to think about learning, but......  

    Anyway, the stuff is available for the fall for my three classes.


    Winter 2019 Course Materials Available

    Yup, it's 2019.  The new term starts on January 7.  Get what you need for your classes with me by clicking the appropriate link in the header.

    As an aside, don't call it 'two thousand nineteen' you sound like an idiot.....


    Things I hate in essays

    It is essay writing season again and I'm marking papers.  There are many things I dislike and well, I complain a lot.  So a former student asked if I could make a Top 10 list.  So here is the list, mostly copied and pasted from a facebook post I made.

    1. 'In today's society' and variations thereof. It is pretty much useless. Also, in most of the stuff I deal with it is almost a non sequitur. 'In today's society the hippocampus is important in spatial memory' makes little sense.

    2. The word 'interesting'. Prove to me something is interesting, I'm the reader, I'll decide if it is. Don't tell me something is interesting.

    3. 'The results showed'. 

    4. The passive voice.

    5. Quoting. It is almost never useful in scientific writing. What quotes tell me is that you don't know what the thing you're quoting means, so instead you decided to use someone else's words.

    6. Cliches. (Though I suppose one could argue a top 10 list is a cliche.....)

    7. 'In my opinion'. I don't give a shit about your opinion. I want evidence, synthesis and analysis. 

    8. Useless detail. Look, I don't need to know the light dark cycle the rats were kept on, of course unless it is say a circadian rhythm experiment or something.

    9. 'Since the dawn of time' and variations thereof. First off, it's a fucking cliche, secondly, look, the dawn of time includes more time when there wasn't even an Earth than when there was one. So it is unlikely that the effects of stimulus intensity on learning has been wondered about since the dawn of time. 

    10. 'In another study' as a way to start a paragraph. Lazy writing, useless words.

    11. '' or 'Websters' or 'The OED' or whatever 'defines x as....' Oh man that one bugs me. (Thanks for the to my podcasting buddy Anthony Marco for mentioning that in the commets of the facebook post).

    12. Telling me what university the researchers are affiliated with who you are citing. This is almost always useless information. I usually circle that and write 'don't care' in the margin.

    13. Utilize rather than use. Use is a perfectly good word. When in doubt, use the shorter word.

    14. Apostrophes don't pluralize nouns.  


    Course Materials for Fall 2018 Available

    You can see them if you click the appropriate links above.  

    I look forward to a great semester!