Society and the Individual: An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Social Science
Lead Author(s): Alison Rautman
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This interactive textbook introduces students to the social sciences, & provides an interdisciplinary perspective on human physical, social, and cultural variation.
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About this textbook
Dr. Alison E. RautmanThe University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Alison received PhD in Anthropology from The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, with a specialization in the prehistoric archaeology of the American Southwest. She taught anthropology, archaeology, biocultural evolution, and interdisciplinary social science for over 20 years at Michigan State University and has involved over 1000 students in testing this e-textbook in large lecture classes as well as in the context of a completely online course.
What you get from this textbook
This textbook introduces students to the major concepts and theorists of each of the social science disciplines, and provides an interdisciplinary introduction to major themes in human biological, social, and cultural variation. It includes design ideas from successful, evidence-based pedagogies and strategies, encouraging students to apply social science concepts to everyday life and to reflect on their learning.
Instructors can control student access to the answers to open-ended essays. These discussions can be private (visible only to the instructor) or can be opened for students to compare their experiences with those of others in the class. Reflective essays also be automatically recorded as “completed” or “not completed” in the gradebook for ease of use in large classes.
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Read the fully unlocked textbook below, and if you’re interested in learning more, get in touch to see how you can use this textbook in your course today.
Lesson 1. Introduction
Welcome to Society and the Individual!
This course is geared toward first-year college students. It considers the relationship between individual people and the social group. These social groups can be small in scale, like a family, or the groups can be large in scale, like an entire society or country. Each group of people--families, work groups, communities, or countries---have certain ways of doing things, certain unspoken assumptions, and traditions. These learned behaviors and ways of thinking are that society's culture. So in this course, you will learn about society and also culture, and how individuals and groups interact.
This class is an interdisciplinary introduction to the social sciences. It is not an introductory course in anthropology, sociology, or psychology, or any of the other social science fields. Instead, you will learn a sampling of the major ideas in each of the social science fields of study--ideas that shape how we in modern Western societies think about our social world. You will also learn how social scientists in general approach the study of society, and basically how to think like a social scientist.
Some students are experts at studying and reading, and they have had lots of practice in reading social science material. Others have had more practice in the kind of studying and learning that takes place in math or language courses. Because the course is intended for first-year college students, this introduction begins with a lesson in how to study in the social sciences. This introductory lesson will help you learn some specific skills for reading and learning in the social sciences.
The author of this e-textbook
One of the skills you will be learning in the course is that of critical reading. That includes trying to figure out an author's background and point of view. So I'll fill you in a little about myself here.
My name is Alison Rautman. I grew up in Florida, but I wanted to see snow, so I went to college in Minnesota. I was a geology major there because I liked the people, the field trips, and also the topic. I was interested in being an archaeologist so I thought learning about dirt and sediment would be useful. I got my master's degree and doctorate in anthropology. My specialty is the prehistoric archaeology of the American Southwest. I'm interested in how people live in early villages. So my point of view as a scholar is that of an anthropologist and archaeologist.
My point of view as also that of an academic--I do research and I teach college-level students. I've taught at Michigan State University since 1992 or so. I have taught courses in introductory anthropology and archaeology, human evolution, and in North American archaeology. I've also directed archaeological field schools in New Mexico. Most recently I've been teaching this class, an interdisciplinary class on war and violence, and a research methods class for graduating seniors in Interdisciplinary Social Science. I've taught this particular class, "Society in the Individual," for about 10 years. After a lot of experimenting and trying different things, I have settled on this content for this course. I hope you will learn something.
Now let's get started. For each lesson (chapter), there are Learning Goals to alert you about what the lesson is about. This introductory lesson is mostly about "how to study and learn any subject."
After reading the material in this lesson, students should be able to answer the following questions:
- What is the SEE-I method of studying?
- What are the different ways that people read printed material?
- How should I take notes when I read?
- How are multiple choice tests constructed?
Helpful hint: You might want to create a text document in which you actually write down these questions and then try to write out an answer. Or get together with a friend to quiz each other verbally on the learning goal questions. The mental process of formulating verbal or written answers to these questions helps engage your brain so that you are more likely to retain the information.
How does this e-textbook work?
This e-textbook is interactive for students. That means quizzes and thought questions (essays/discussions) are embedded in the text. You will read a section, or a part of a section, and then answer a question or two about what you just read. The quizzes are in fact graded, but you earn a 1/2 point for trying and 1/2 point for being correct. There are also some discussions (thought questions or short essays). These require answers in sentence form.
The discussions are limited to about 250 words maximum, but all that is expected is a "good faith answer." A good faith answer is more than one word--usually at least three sentences. These discussion (essay) questions are your chance to apply what you've learned, or to think about some of its implications in your life. You will earn 1 point each for a good faith effort. (If you do not receive credit for an answer, you'll need to ask the instructor.)
There are at about 10 points of quizzes and discussion per Lesson. Some lessons have eight or nine points, some have more than ten. The number of questions depends partly on how complicated the concepts are (based on my experience grading student exams).
Each lesson is divided into sections. Each section addresses a different aspect of the overall topic. Some are short sections and some are much longer. For example, Lesson 1 contains sections called Lesson 1.1, Lesson 1.2, Lesson 1.3, and so on. Each Lesson begins with a statement of "goals for this lesson" and ends with a review of these goals, and a general essay/discussion question.
You are expected to read one Lesson per class meeting. You should read the Lesson and take the quizzes before class. We may go over the discussion questions in class, if we have time. There is an end date for each Lesson. After the end date, you'll be able to read the Lesson, but you won't be able to get credit for doing the quizzes or discussions. These quiz deadlines will help you pace yourself throughout the semester.
These e-textbook lessons are intended to provide background material for a portion of a 15-week semester-long course of about 28 to 30 class meetings. There are 17 Lessons-- that is, these lessons take up a little over half of a semester. Lesson 1 is an introduction and gives you some information about study skills. In Lesson 17, you'll review the learning goals for each lesson in the e-textbook.
The title of this course is... (chose the correct answer by clicking on the appropriate box to the right)
Society and the Individual
Introduction to Anthroplogy
Match the two kinds of "for credit" efforts in this e-textbook with the description. (Use your mouse to move the right hand column entries up and down. The other entries will re-arrange themselves.)
multiple-choice or matching quiz question
These are ungraded. Students who provide a good faith answer receive one point.
discussion essay questions
Student earns 1/2 point for trying; and 1/2 point for getting the answer right
Lesson 1.1 How to Study Anything
College students are always asking for “study guides” or lists of concepts to study. The problem with lists of concepts is that students often read the word on the list and think, “yes, I’ve heard of this concept; I recognize that word.” And then they go back to shopping online. Studying involves more than just recognizing the word or concept. Studying involves understanding the concept and being able to use the concept to think about other ideas.
One way to “think about it” is to use the SEE-I method of studying. In this method, you use the acronym “SEE-I” to explore all aspects of a concept, rather than just memorizing a definition. When you use the SEE-I method of studying, you engage many different parts of your brain—including the parts involved in physical skills (writing) and in art (drawing).
The more parts of your brain that you engage in studying, the more likely you are to retain the information.
The SEE-I method of studying and thinking
“SEE-I” is a way to remember the steps involved in understanding a concept. These letters stand for “state, elaborate, example, and illustrate.” Here are the instructions.
S represents "State." Say and write down the concept and its definition in your own words.
E represents "Explain" or "Elaborate." Write down what that definition means or implies, or when the concept should be used. How was the concept developed? Who uses it? Why is it important? How does it work? Think about the classic questions from journalism: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Not all these questions are relevant to every situation, but they will get you started.
The second E represents "Example." Give an example (or a couple of examples) of this concept in the real world. In grade school, when you learned a new word, you would have to “use the word in a sentence.” Providing an example is the analogous process for understanding more complex concepts.
I represents "Illustrate." Try to draw a silly cartoon version of the concept. How can you make the concept into something visual? This step engages yet another part of your brain into remembering the concept and how it is used. Can you provide a verbal illustration using an analogy? You might say, “This concept is like….” Can you contrast this concept with a similar, but different related concept? How would you differentiate one from the other?
Remember, in the "Let's Practice" sections in this e-textbook, you are going to take answer one or two graded questions OR contribute to some class discussion as you read. The multiple-choice or matching quiz questions are graded 1/2 point if they are correct, and 1/2 point for trying (participation.) The essay questions (discussions) require you to think about some idea and write a response. You will receive one point for a "good faith effort." What is a "good faith effort"? Let's put it this way: if you do NOT receive credit, you'll have to come talk with the instructor and we'll look at your answer together.
These homework assignment questions have a due date. If you do the assignment before the due date, you will get credit. After the due date, you won't be able to do the assignment, but you will be able to see the questions so you can review them for the exam.
In all these essay questions, you have about 250 words. You won't be able to see what other students have written, but your professor may call them up on the computer during class. If your entry gets called up, everyone in the class will be able to see your name and your entry. So be aware that your little essays may be used as a sample answer.
Try it yourself. Here is a concept we have used in the Introduction to this Lesson: the concept of SCALE. Go back and re-read the Introduction if you've forgotten. Social scientists study small-scale issues that relate to individuals, and also large-scale issues that concern whole societies. See if you can write down the SEE-I method of studying for this concept. You can even draw a picture if you like, or you can use a "word picture." Remember to State, Explain, Example, and Illustrate.
Try it again. But this time, you get to choose the word or concept. Practice on a concept or vocabulary word that you have learned in one of your other courses, or even outside of class. Don't forget to State, Explain, Give an Example, and Illustrate.
Lesson 1.2 How to Read in the Social Sciences
Have you ever felt that when you are reading, the print is "going into one eye and out the other?" It is easy to rest your eyes on every word. But actual reading (alas!) takes some effort.
- Student: “Why didn’t I do well on the test? I read the material twice!”
- Professor: “You need to realize that reading is not the same as understanding. Part of reading in college involves reading for factual information, but part of reading is more demanding and involves figuring out the organization of the written material and how one idea relates to another. In fact, you have to think while you are reading!”
In this lesson, you will learn how to use outlines to figure out the logic of a text’s organization. I find it extremely helpful to outline when I read. Many students like to use highlighting, but too much highlighting just results in a messy coloring book. I don't use highlighting myself, but if I do underline or use highlighting, I use this technique to show the author’s organization. I highlight the headings, or where the author gives organizational clues. Here are some common organizational clues that authors use, and these are the phrases I might highlight in order to figure out the author's organization:
- “The first thing is….…."
- "Secondly, …."
- And finally,….….” or “In sum….”
- "There are several reasons why...."
There is no “best way” to read carefully or to study. It depends on your (the reader’s):
- 1. Previous background and knowledge;
- 2. Purpose in reading the material (for entertainment, to get specific information);
- 3. Stage in the learning process. Are you looking for the overall point? Or are you testing yourself on comprehension?
Different ways to read
You probably read in different ways without ever thinking about it. Some things you zoom over quickly, but figuring how how to solve a math equation probably requires a different kind of attention. Here are three "ways of reading" that you will encounter most often:
1. Skimming. You might read the newspaper or a “beach novel” very quickly (either online or in paper version). This is called “Skimming.” Skimming is an important skill to get the overall view of the author’s work. You might also skim a book or an article if you just want to get an overall idea of what the author is talking about. You'd look at the table of contents, and get a quick look at the introduction and conclusions.
2. Reading for directions is different. You look back and forth between the instructions and the activity, and focus on each step along the way. You might skim ahead to get an overview of where we’re going (“are we making a bookshelf or an airplane?”) but mostly you will focus on one thing at a time, finish that step, and move on. When you move on, you can forget everything that came before. It's done.
3. Reading class material (or professional articles, or serious literature) is different yet. Reading for social sciences is not like reading in a physics or literature class. That's why when you read for a class, you need to understand the purpose of the assignment. In this class, and most introductory reading-intensive classes, you will read to find out:
- Information: facts, concepts, definitions, examples;
- The organization of that information (or the structure of an argument).
So the first step in reading is to know WHY you are reading the material. What are you trying to do?
- Are you reading for pleasure?
- Are you tracing the author’s development of a character (in a literature class)?
- Are you getting directions about how to put together a bookcase from Ikea?
- Are you learning to "work" a mathematical equation?
- Are you trying to understand specific concepts?
- Are you trying to understand the author’s argument?
Each of these goals for reading requires a different approach.
Match the type of reading you would do with the task
learning how to fix the settings on your iphone
reading for information and organization
reading a novel on the beach for fun
reading for social science class
Different reasons for reading
1. Reading for Information. When you are reading for information, you are generally focused on specific concepts. These concepts might be vocabulary words, or they might be more complex concepts, such as “the ATP cycle,” or “the periodic table,” or “the causes of the American Civil War.” In these examples, you would be primarily reading for information. Here are some different ways that you can make notes about factual information:
- Write down a list of words or concepts and the definitions. Or you can use highlighting to mark important words—which you will then write out and define in your notes. Then you can use the SEE-I method of studying to help you remember those concepts.
- Look around in the text (before and after the word) to figure out HOW this particular author is using that particular word. An author may not be using the dictionary definition of a complicated concept such as “justice,” “power,” or “discrimination.” Highlighting will not help in this situation.
- Many people make flashcards. You put the word or concept on one side, and the definition on the other. Flashcards are great for memorizing definitions and specific lists of items. They are very useful in foreign language classes, but are NOT useful for understanding the organizational structure of a text.
2. Reading for the Author’s System of Organization. In the social sciences, you are often reading to understand an author’s argument. You may know all the vocabulary words and concepts already, but you still need to understand the author’s logic. In this case, you need to “see” or visualize or understand the whole organizational structure of the entire professional article or book.
One way to preview the author’s organization in a book is to simply look at the Table of Contents. That will give you some idea of how the author is going to present the material within the book.
Organization of information can refer to:
- 1. Organization in time (as in a history class: what event came first, then second...)
- 2. Organization as cause and effect.
- 3. Organization in a hierarchy. A general concept may include many different ideas.
- 4. Organization that lists examples.
To read for organizational structure, you will probably want to make an outline. If you look at this Lesson, you will see that it has an organizational structure. Can you figure out what it is?
Lesson 1.3 How to Use an Outline
Consider making an outline while you read social science material. I always do. An outline, either formal or informal, will help you figure out the author's organizational structure by grouping ideas in a hierarchy. Some ideas are the main point; other ideas represent examples of that main point.
One easy way to outline is to use the author's headings as a guide. Usually the headings will be in a different typeface size. The headings may be boldface, or italic, or centered on the page. If you look at the text, you will often see the hierarchy of headings. The main headings are called "A headings," and the lesser headings are called "B" and "C headings."
Therefore, sometimes it helps to look at how the author formats the headings. “A” headings (the main ones) may be boldface and all capitals and centered; “B” headings may be located to the left and boldfaced, with mixed font of capitals and little letters; “C” headings might be written in italics. In this e-textbook, the A headings in each chapter are the numbered sections, and the B headings are in large type and boldfaced.
Even just writing down the A, B, and C headings of a text can help you to see the organizational structure of a text more easily.
What activity is best for what kind of reading?
memorizing words in a different language
making an outline
remembering words and definitions
making an outline
understanding an author's argument
making flash cards
identifying a main point from the examples
making flash cards
Lesson 1.4 How to "Think While You Read."
Reading for understanding may involve some memorizing, but it is not just memorizing. You should also be THINKING as you read.
WHINE alert! “But it is HARD to think! I don’t want to!” Agreed. It IS hard to think. I hate it, too, just like I hate re-writing papers. It’s a lot easier to zone out. But paying attention, thinking, and writing all get easier with practice. Just as you have to practice to become good at playing the piano or playing basketball or a video game, you also have to practice to become a good thinker, reader, and student.
But what does it really mean "to think"? These questions help you understand the material in the text:
- 1. Can I SUMMARIZE this in my own words? Can I recall the main point?
- 2. Is this idea a MAIN POINT, or an example?
These questions help you APPLY what you are learning:
- 1. How does this information relate to other information in this text or in this class?
- 2. How does it relate to my own experience? How does it relate to the world around me?
- 3. Can I think of other examples of this concept? How can I use these ideas in some other context?
Do these questions seem familiar? They should--they are much the same as you used in the "SEE-I method of studying." So using the SEE-I method of studying can help you when you encounter a "study guide" with a list of terms, and it can also help you study as you read for an author's organizational structure.
If you simply write down the author's headings and then actually write down the answers to these questions for each heading, you will be well on your way toward preparing for exams. That is "studying." Remember, "studying" is not just letting your eye rest on each vocabulary word on the "study guide." Studying involves quizzing yourself---and using the SEE-I method is one way to do that.
What do the letters in "SEE-I" method of studying stand for?
State, Explain, Example, Illustrate
State, Explain, Example, Include
Synonym, Exercise, Example, Illustrate
Helpful hint for when you take notes on your reading in any of your classes: When I read and take notes, I use triple parentheses to interject my own thoughts and reactions. That way I keep track of what the author says compared to what I myself think about that author's argument.
This separation is crucial if you are taking notes to use in a research paper---so you can cite the author’s ideas correctly and not assume credit (or get blamed) for them.
Lesson 1.5 How to Take Multiple-Choice Tests
A crucial skill in college is learning how to take multiple-choice tests. Many faculty (and students) feel that multiple-choice tests are easy. They think that essay tests are more accurate in allowing faculty to evaluate student learning. That may be true, but the fact remains that many of the tests you will encounter in life will be multiple-choice tests, and they are often the only realistic option for evaluation in large classes--unless the class has several teaching assistants or graders.
In addition, this point of view does not acknowledge how sophisticated multi-choice tests can be. Multiple-choice tests are not necessarily easy or inaccurate. For example, multiple-choice tests are used for many graduate admissions tests such as:
- GRE Graduate Record Exam: for admission to graduate schools
- GMAT Graduate Management Admission Test: for business school (MBA)
- MCAT Medical College Admission Test: for medical school (MD/DO)
- LSAT Law School Admissions Test: for law school (JD)
In addition, many certification or licensing exams are multiple-choice. Examples are the exams you take to become a certified nurse, a dietitian, a social worker, construction manager, and so on.
Many of these sophisticated national computerized tests are “adaptive,” which means that as you get questions correct, the computer program will move on to harder and harder questions. Pencil-and-paper multiple-choice tests don’t do that, of course, but the fact remains that multiple choice tests CAN be very demanding and test your knowledge very thoroughly.
The key to learning how to take a multiple-choice test is to understand the kinds of questions that the tests ask. The questions can ask for low-level simple memorizing. They may also ask some very sophisticated questions (such as case studies), which require higher-level critical thinking.
To understand how to take multiple-choice tests, it helps to understand how people construct multiple-choice tests.
Understanding how multiple-choice tests are constructed
The questions in a test all consist of a Stem and then some Options. The Stem present some information and the Options represent the (a), (b), (c) ideas.
One widely used system used to measure different aspects of learning is called Bloom’s Taxonomy. A taxonomy is just a "system of classifying things." So Bloom's taxonomy is a system for classifying "different kinds of learning. " One way to depict Bloom's taxonomy is with a triangle (see below).
The figure is showing you that "Remembering" (or memorizing) is considered to be the lowest level or most basic kind of learning (at the base of the triangle). Understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating are considered "higher" forms of understanding and are pictured further up the triangle. These actions require you to USE the words and concepts that you have memorized. "Creating" is the highest level of knowledge because it requires a person to use knowledge and skill to make something completely new--whether that new something is a work of art, the performance of a musical piece, a laboratory experiment, a written novel or research report, or even a hand-knitted sweater or Lego construction.
In this system, being able to remember a definition or equation is considered a lower-order skill. “Remembering” tasks are tested using words and phrases such as “Define … ” or “List the…” or “Name the…” or State the…”or "Label the.."
In contrast, advanced cognitive skills ask the student to do something with that definition. For example, to show "understanding," the test question may ask you to explain something further about the concept. To show that you are able to analyze a concept, the test question may as you compare or contrast it with a similar concept.
Use the graphic of Bloom's taxonomy to match the request with the skill. Hint: look at the figure above if you aren't sure.
Define a word. State a definition
applying a concept to do something else
Explain a process. Describe the system
Solve an equation. Use a theory. Demonstrate the process
analyzing an argument
compare and contrast two authors
In introductory classes such as this one, you will usually encounter some "remembering" questions and some questions that involve "understanding" or "applying" or "analyzing." A few questions may ask you to evaluate or critique an argument. As you take more advanced courses in a subject, you are expected to have mastered the basic concepts, so more of your time will be spent applying, analyzing, and evaluating those concepts.
For these introductory classes, it helps to distinguish "remembering" questions and also some "recognize or apply" questions. An experienced professor will balance the proportions of the two types of questions so that the test is fair, but not impossibly difficult or ridiculously easy.
Here are some examples of the multiple choice test questions that you will likely encounter in an introductory course.
1. Remembering question. The stem will give you a concept, and you will have to identify the proper definition. Here is an example. The correct answer in all these examples is the one with the star.
Culture refers to a society’s.....
*A. shared ideas, beliefs, values, customs, and traditions
B. organization as a democracy or as a dictatorship
Here, the phrase “culture refers to a society’s….” is the STEM. The list with A, B, and so on represents the options.
A second kind of remembering question simply presents the information in the reverse order: the question stem might provide the definition, and the student must seek the appropriate word or concept from the options. For example:
A society’s shared ideas, beliefs, and values are called that society’s…
B. Political organization
2. More complex "recognize or apply" questions. More complex questions use vocabulary from higher on the triangle of Bloom's Taxonomy. Here I will consider "recognize/apply" questions.
“Recognizing” involves being able to find the main point within a mass of detail or examples. Some of the detail presented might be irrelevant--that makes the test more realistic. In the real world, for example, a doctor will be presented with a list of patient symptoms, and has to distinguish which ones are relevant to figuring out the patient's illness. This skill involves being able to associate a concept (an illness) with “what does this look like when we see the concept in action.” In this case, a scenario (a situation) is presented in the stem, and the student is supposed to recognize the appropriate concept in the options. For example, here is a "recognizing" question:
Imagine a society in which many people are obese. This society has chosen to address the social problem by taxing sugary drinks and cereals and using the money to construct sidewalks and bike paths. The social scale of this solution would be considered a/an ________solution
*B. Structural or social
“Applying” questions are simply the reverse of recognize questions. APPLY questions provide you with a concept and then ask you to apply that concept to the correct scenario. Here is an "apply your knowledge" question about the same concept:
Imagine a society in which many people are obese. The people in this society decide to try a structural (social) solution. Therefore, they…
A. Agree that everyone in that society will go on a diet.
*B. Decide to spent tax money on constructing sidewalks and bike paths.
Even more complicated questions involve analysis and evaluation of complex scenarios or case studies. These questions ask students to use multiple pieces of lower level information to perform other tasks. While this course focuses on remembering questions and recognize/apply questions, be aware that advanced multiple choice tests that you’ll take for (say) your nursing license, realtor’s license, the GRE (graduate school admission test), the MCAT (medical school admission test), LSAT (law school admission tests) and the CPA test (for accountants) will probably include many "scenario" questions in which you are given a case study and asked to use more analyzing and evaluating skills.
Here is a multiple choice question: "The mental process of separating a whole into its component parts is called...... (A) analysis (B) synthesis"
This test question in the quotation marks is an example of what kind of multiple choice question?
It is a "recognize or apply" test question.
It is a "remember the vocabulary word or concept" test question.
Here is a second test question that you might see: "Your boss comes to you with a task. She wants you to talk to the manufacturer that works with your company in order to get the height and width measurements for a particular machine. Then she wants you to go talk to the advertising department in your company to learn about the graphic options that they might use in digital advertisements. She asks that you combine that information and give her your informed opinion about the most feasible options for advertising that particular machine. Basically, she is asking you to..... (A) synthesize and evaluate information; or (B) find out the facts and report them back to her.
The test question in quotes is a "recognize-and-apply the concept" question
The test question in quotes is a "remember the word or concept" question
Review the goals of this lesson
Now take a minute to reflect on what you just learned. Are you able to answer these questions?
- What is the SEE-I method of studying?
- How should I take notes on my reading in this social science class?
- What kind of reading do I need to do in this class to be most successful?
- How are multiple choice tests constructed? What's the difference between "defining/remembering" questions and "recognize/apply" questions?
What did you learn in this chapter that you did not know about before? If your answer is "nothing," then please tell us where and when you learned about these concepts. Have you taken an education course, for example? or a workshop on studying?
In these discussion questions, you have a limit of about 250 words. You are graded only for making a good faith effort. A "good faith effort" usually involves writing at least three sentences.