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Advanced English Conversation (Spring 2024)

Prof. Kent Lee

Dept. English Language & Literature, Pukyong National University

Syllabus: See the link in an LMS announcement.

This website will go along with the course book.

1 Units

1.1 Course intro

Be sure to fill Google Form #1 for personal info and survey questions.

1.2 Evaluating sources

Click the button on the right to show this section.

1.2.1 Internet sources

Look at the following websites. Discuss: how reliable and trustworthy are these sites? What criteria can help you distinguish good sites and sources from bad ones?

  1. Pacific tree octopus
  2. CIA realizes it has been using ...
  3. Dihydrogen monoxoide: The truth

1.2.2 Newspaper article samples

Look at the following news articles about the 2020 US presidential election. Which of these seem like good, reliable sources? Which ones seem problematic, and why?

  1. Biden Wins Presidency, Ending Four Tumultuous Years Under Trump
  2. Joe Biden wins presidency, defeating Trump in a divisive and tumultuous election
  3. Democrat Insider details mail-in voting fraud operation
  4. Lawyer makes claim on US Capitol riot informants]

1.2.3 News outlets

Look at the following news outlets, and discuss the following.

  • Which ones seem reliable?
  • Which ones would be worth citing for information in a college paper?
  • For Korea (or your own country), which news outlets would be more reliable, and which ones would be less reliable?
  1. The Onion
  2. Fox News
  3. Breitbart
  4. Russia TImes
  5. Infowars www[dot]infowars[dot]com -- Sorry, but this URL is being blocked by the website software's spam filter (which should be a hint about the source's quality), so you'll need to type the URL into another browswer page.
  6. New York Times
  7. New York Post
  8. Washington Times
  9. Washington Post
  10. Wall Street Journal
  11. Time Magazine
  12. The Guardian
  13. The Independent
  14. BBC News
  15. The Sun
  16. World News Daily

1.2.4 Science news sources

Now look at the following science news websites; which ones seem reliable or worth citing?

  1. National Geographic
  2. New Scientist
  3. Scientific American
  4. Science News
  5. IFLScience

1.2.5 Science news examples

Now look at the following sites reporting on an issue in health and biomedical news. Which ones seem more reliable, and why?

  1. The Independent Does spending too much time on smartphones ...
  2. Tech Advisor How much screen time for kids
  3. Very Well Family Negative effects of too much cell phone use
  4. Forbes Phone addiction is real ...
  5. Psychology Today Too much screen time ...

For the above articles, think about the following.

  1. Imagine that you are writing a paper in a college class, for example, a paper on health effects of cell phone use. Which of the articles are good enough to use as sources for writing your paper? Which of these would not be good sources for your paper? Why not?
  2. Look at the Psychology Today article. What kinds of sources does the author cite? Why? How does she use this information in her article?
  3. Look at the sources used in the Psychology Today article (those cited in the text, and again in the end references section). What kinds of sources are these? Would you use and cite these in your own college paper?

For the Psychology Today article, also think about the following.

  1. Click on the links in the text, where you see names and years inside parentheses. What are these articles? What kinds of articles are these? How reliable and credible are they? Can you understand them?
  2. What are the references at the end?
  3. From the different sources in the table above about phone / device usage, which ones might you cite if you were writing a college paper on the topic?
  4. If you were writing a college paper on the topic, would you cite sources like those that are cited in the Psychology Today article?

1.2.6 Discerning fake news stories

Try the exercises on these websites on detecting fake news stories.

  1. Gone Viral Game
  2. Get Bad News

2 Midterm assignment

Click on the 'Expand' button on the right to show past contents.

We have been talking about fallacies and misconceptions this semester, and lately we have been examining commercial advertisements and political examples. For the midterm, you will discuss some fallacies, misconceptions, or other problems, either in advertising, or in the politics of your country. This can be based on one of the topics of your previous recorded assignment on logical fallacies (the one that was due on 27 April), or a new topic, if you like. Your talk should be about 4-7 minutes long. You can discuss one of these problems in a particular area (of media, politics, or advertising):

  • Scams and/or hoaxes
  • Urban legends, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and other false beliefs or misconceptions
  • Popular superstitions
  • Regular use of logical fallacies, e.g., in politics or advertising
  • Popular misconceptions that are exploited by popular media, advertisers, other companies, or politicians
  • Cognitive biases
  • Pop psychology
  • Popular misconceptions about science, health, medicine, psychology, education, history, etc.
  • False ideas that are promoted in politics, popular media, or advertising

Your talk can focus on one area, such as:

  • Your particular country
  • A particular group of politicians, political parties, or political groups
  • A particular segment of the general public, e.g. one that is targeted by media or politicians, or to whom such media / adverts / political discourse appeal

For this, you will record a video of yourself, in which you give a presentation about this. You can discuss examples from your own country, or a country and culture that you are familiar with (if you have lived elsewhere). You should not just discuss one example, but discuss several examples that illustrate a trend, tendency, or cultural problem. The number of examples will depend on your topic and how complex the examples are, but I would recommend at least three examples to develop your ideas. Summarize your examples briefly, and then analyze and critique them. Some possible points to discuss include:

  • The effects of these misuses of communication - e.g., how did the public or news media react, was it effective for the company or politician, was there a backlash (a reaction against it), or did it have any long-term negative effects for the company / product / politician / political party or for the culture?
  • Cultural attitudes, cultural problems, or the effects of this on the culture
  • How widespread these attitudes, problems, or misuse of language or communication are
  • Harmful or negative effects - why is this unhealthy, e.g., for the society or culture?
  • Possible solutions to this problem (Note: If you address this, then avoid common, vague or general solutions, and instead come up with some specific, unique ideas that could actually work.)

General criteria
  • Your talk should be recorded and uploaded to the LMS assignment space for the midterm. Your talk should be about 4-7 minutes long.
  • Your talk should have clear, persuasive explanation, details, and examples.
  • Your talk should have a clear focus on a particular issue, problem, or area of media or politics.
  • Your talk should have clear main points or objectives.

You should refer to the video lectures from Week 7, where I talk about the midterm assignment and tips for speaking.

Grading will be based on the following criteria:

1. Rationale, goals, objectives Clear rationale & explanation; clear rationale for your topic and main points
2. Contents Sufficient overall contents & preparation
3. Support Sufficient details & explanations for the main points
4. Details Sufficient details & explanations about the various aspects of the topic
5. Clarity Clear explanations, easy to understand and follow; clear wording
6. Organization Well-organized and structured, good flow; e.g., flow indicated by intro, transition words & expressions; clear intro and conclusion
7. Speaking & vocal delivery Clear, audible voices; clear speaking & delivery; good vocal volume & intonation; the presentation quality indicates adequate rehearsal and preparation; no excessive fillers, pauses (uh, um), pauses, unfinished sentences; good pace
8. Interaction with audience Good eye contact, body language, posture, etc. in front of the class audience or camera
9. Value The importance and value of the topic and the main points are clear
10. Effectiveness Effective presentation; persuasiveness and informative; good, logical arguments or points; interesting and unique points and details I will also consider (1) how well you answered questions from the audience or interviewers; and (2) how audience members evaluated your presentation.

3 Final project: Popular misconceptions

For the final presentation, you will chose a popular misconception and present about it. See the popular misconceptions page for ideas, e.g.:

  • Urban legends, popular myths
  • Pseudoscience
  • Pop psychology
  • Stereotypes
  • Myths or misconceptions about science, medicine, health, etc.
  • Conspiracy theories

In your presentation, you will need to address the following points.

1. Background
  • Important details about the misconception, how many people / what kind of people believe it
  • The origins of the false belief.
  • How common is this belief in Korea, or elsewhere? What kind of people believe it?
  • However, keep this part reasonably brief, especially if it is a misconception that is fairly familiar or common (or one that I am familiar with).

2. Analysis
  • Why is this belief wrong? (Note - You may not need to spend too much time describing the misconception, or why it is wrong, if it is fairly well known (and I am familiar with a number of these), or if it is fairly obvious why it is wrong.)
  • Why is the topic important, why is this belief unhealthy, or what is the social value or importance of this issue?
  • Why do so many people believe in it? Why does it have popular appeal?

3. Solutions

Your proposed solutions can address one or more of these aspects. For the presentation, one specific idea will suffice, as it is difficult to cover this comprehensively in a short presentation.

  • Persuasion. For people who believe this misconception, it it possible to convince them of the truth? If so, how?
  • Awareness & prevention. How can we educate the public to prevent people from falling for it?
  • Intervention. How can we reach and persuade those who already believe it? How can it be debunked (shown why it is wrong) among believers? The emphasis here is not explaining fairly obvious reasons about why it is wrong, but how you would attempt to persuade people who actually believe in it.


3.1 Criteria

  • Due date: 25 June
  • Length: 6-12 minutes
  • Format: Recorded video (any video forma), uploaded to the LMS assignment space

General criteria
  • Your talk should be recorded and uploaded to the LMS assignment space for the final.
  • Your talk should have clear, persuasive explanation, details, and examples.
  • Your talk should have a clear focus on a particular issue.
  • Your talk should have clear main points or objectives.


Grading will be the same as for the midterm above, though perhaps graded more strictly.

3.2 Debunking unit (2023 course)

3.2.1 Paraphrasing exercise (2023 course)

Below are some articles about why people believe in conspiracy theories and other false beliefs. These are secondary sources, but fairly professional. In these articles, identify some parts or information that might be relevant to your project. Write a summary / paraphrase of the relevant information, and then expand on your paraphrase by adding and developing your own thoughts about how it applies to your topic. Also cite the source and write the end reference(s). These articles can be helpful for a better analysis of the problem, or for possible solutions. (A paraphrase and a summary are similar, and the two terms are somewhat interchangeable; when summarizing, you change the wording, and when paraphrasing, you also summarize.)

3.2.2 Articles

Use one of the articles for the paraphrasing assignment in the book on p. 76-77, and the paraphrasing guides on p. 85-88. If you find a good quality article that is relevant and would prefer to use it for this assignment, you can do so if you check with me first.

Below are some articles about why people believe in conspiracy theories and other false beliefs. These are secondary sources, but fairly professional. These articles can be helpful for a better analysis of the problem, or for possible solutions.

  1. Why Do People Believe Things that Aren’t True?, Psychology Today
  2. Scientists discover the reason people believe in conspiracy theories, The Independent
  3. Why Debunking Myths About Vaccines Hasn’t Convinced Dubious Parents, Harvard Business Review
  4. Who believes in conspiracies? New research offers a theory,
  5. Secret success: Equations give calculations for keeping conspiracies quiet, The Guardian
  6. 5 Reasons Why People Stick to Their Beliefs, No Matter What, Psychology Today
  7. Do the spirits move you? (psychics, paranormal), Psychology Today
  8. Flat earth conspiracy theories,
  9. Why we can't ignore conspiracy theories anymore,
  10. Why do some people believe in conspiracy theories?, Scientific American
  11. Why do so many people believe in conspiracy theories?,

Additional articles, e.g., on how science and health topics are misreported online or in the news media.

  1. When the Media Get Science Research Wrong, University PR May Be the Culprit], Chronicle of Higher Education
  2. Study: half of the studies you read about in the news are wrong,
  3. How the media warp science: the case of the sensationalised satnav, The Guardian
  4. This article won't change your mind, The Atlantic
  5. The Strange Origins of Urban Legends, The Atlantic
  6. Trump Needs Conspiracy Theories, The Atlantic
  7. How do scientists become cranks and doctors quacks?, Science-Based Medicine
  8. Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science, The Atlantic
  9. Are All Weight Loss Doctors Quacks?,
  10. Urban legends still persist Academic articles

The following are more academic, research-based articles from academic research journals; use these only if you really understand them.

  1. Belief in conspiracy theories: Basic principles of an emerging research domain, European Journal of Social Psychology
  2. Understanding Conspiracy Theories, Political Psychology
  3. Conspiracy Theories and the Paranoid Style(s) of Mass Opinion, American Journal of Political Science
  4. Effective Messages in Vaccine Promotion, Pediatrics
  5. The psychology of conspiracy theories, Current Directions in Psychological Science
  6. Nothing but the truth: Are the media as bad at communicating science as scientists fear?, EMBO Reports
  7. Neuromyths in Music Education, Frontiers in Psychology Videos

Some of these may be required for makeups for classes cancelled due to campus holidays and national holidays.

Make-up 1 
  1. Flat Earth "Science" -- Wrong, but not Stupid [15.50]
  2. Science Insider: Doctors debunk 13 caffeine myths [14.53]
  3. Science Insider: Dietitians Debunk 18 Weight Loss Myths [17.07]

Make-up 2
  1. Prof. Dave Explains: Everything You Need to Know (And Forget) About Vaccines [1] [33.24]
  2. Crash Course Philosophy #8: Karl Popper, Science, & Pseudoscience: [2]

Make-up 3 Pseudoscience & scams
  1. Shermer / TED: Stairway to heaven [3] This concerns alleged backward masking, or secret backwards messages in rock music; the fallacy is exposed by playing one of the most famous examples that allegedly features such lyrics. [2.26]
  2. Today I found out: Are satanic messages in heavy metal a thing? [4] - also on backward masking [16.21]
  3. Professor Dave Explains: Astrology [5] [18.33]
  4. Adam ruins everything: Psychics [6] [5.53]
  5. Every scam has one of these red flags: Ex-con man Frank Abagnale [7] [3.00]

Make-up 4
  1. The Man Who Accidentally Killed The Most People In History [24.56]
  2. Conspiracy theories: An overview [28.38]
  3. New world order conspiracy theories [39.19]

  1. Top 20 Biggest Conspiracy Theories of All Time [21.37]
  2. Top 10 Conspiracy Theories of the Century (So Far) [14.14]
  3. How to distinguish science from pseudoscience [8.28]
  4. Fake news, propaganda, and conspiracy theories - The fight against disinformation DW Documentary [43m] on right-wing groups & violence in the US and other countries (Requires age verification - apparently due to discussion and images depicting violence)
  5. Prof. Dave Explains: Quantum Mysticism is Stupid (Deepak Chopra, Spirit Science, [53.57]
  6. A Lifetime Fighting Pseudoscience [6.40]

3.3 Related assignments

The end is coming... And we need to get ready for the final presentation. So I will ask you to do a couple or a few short assignments to help you prepare for the final presentation. For the final, you will record and upload a presentation of, say, 5-10 minutes about a common misconception (e.g., a fallacy, pseudoscience, conspiracy theory, urban legend, etc.). This is described on the course website, and there are links there to more helpful info.

See assignments from previous years. →

3.3.1 Final prep, part 1

Before that is due near the end of June, I am asking you do to a few short speaking assignments, of 1-2 minutes, which you will upload here. Each of these short assignments is worth ten points. For this first one, your topic is:

  • What kind of topic would you like to do for your final presentation, and why?
  • Record an informal explanation of a possible choice for your final project and upload it here.
  • Time: 1-2 minutes long
  • Format: Video (preferably, but audio is okay if you cannot do video)
  • Due date: 07 June

This is not an absolute commitment to your topic; if you realize that you cannot do it, you can contact me about changing it after 07 June.

3.3.2 Final prep, part 2

For this follow-up minor assignment, you will upload a short video in which you develop some details of your presentation. For this, you should address one or both of the following questions.

  1. For the topic that you have chosen, why is it important? What is the social value or importance of this topic? For example, why is it problematic or harmful if people believe the misconception that you have chosen for your topic?
  2. What is the appeal of this misconception? Why are people easily deceived, or why do they choose to believe it? What is so appealing about this belief?
  • Time: 1-3 minutes
  • Format: Uploaded video file (or audio)
  • Due: 14 June
  • Your video should be uploaded to the assignment space here.

3.4 Examples

Example #1.
I have created an essay as an example here. This is not exactly a serious misconception in the sense that we've talked about; it is a sort of misconception among children that adults use, though sometimes the Santa story may be used inappropriately. Here the issue is whether adults should teach children this myth, which is debatable. But this shows some of the elements needed for this paper.

Example #2

Overweight: Misconceptions

... People struggling with obesity or being overweight often suffer from low self-esteem and body image problems, which are only made worse when family members or classmates tell them that they simply need to lose weight. Such comments are not only unhelpful, but add to the stress and anxiety that they feel about themselves. Overweight people have come to accept a negative view of themselves, and society has also fallen for misguided ideas about overweight people, including negative views about overweight people being lazy, irresponsible, or morally deficient. However, psychology may offer us one way of dealing with these misperceptions. Graves (2015) describes the power of narrative, that is, a story that believers construct, which includes not only an historical account of how a conspiracy or hoax was supposedly carried out, but also an explanation of facts and events in their perspective. That is, the narrative explains how the conspiracy accomplished certain events, or why certain events are due to the alleged conspiracy. The narrative also provides conspiracy believers a sense of special understanding of what has happened and why, in their world. It is a psychological conceptual framework that provides them a sense of meaning and understanding. Graves suggest that the power of the narrative can also be turned around and used to educate the public about scientific truth and reality, for example, regarding vaccinations. This strategy can also be applied to correcting incorrect perceptions of overweight people.

In advocating for the dignity of overweight people, some alternative approaches can be taken. Friends and family members of overweight persons can be supportive by setting aside their negative stereotype and the negative explanations they have assumed for why the person is overweight. They can talk to the overweight person about specific negative beliefs that the overweight person has about herself/himself, and the negative messages s/he has been told, from outright fat-shaming to more subtle statements, e.g., that the person needs to try harder to lose weight. Friends and family can communicate their understanding to the overweight person, and reassure the person that s/he is not lazy or morally deficient, and that s/he has a legitimate health condition. Regardless of that person became overweight, s/he has succumbed to a health condition that is difficult to overcome, which is a difficult situation that requires a more complex approach, including emotional support and positive lifestyle changes. Through conversations, friends and family can help to develop a more positive narrative about overweight people, and can help overweight people to develop more positive and realistic narratives about themselves. Non-overweight people can also stand up for overweight persons when others gossip or talk negatively to overweight people or about overweight people.

Specific elements of a more positive narrative may include the following messages. The overweight person may have developed unhealthy eating habits due to some form of stress. Experiencing fat-shaming, teasing, or condescending messages (like "you need to lose weight" or "you just need to try harder to lose weight") only adds to the stress, making it even harder to lose weight. Once the person has become overweight, it is very difficult to lose weight, especially if other emotional or life issues are not dealt with. It is not because of laziness that s/he is overweight and cannot lose weight. The person will find it easier to lose weight if s/he feels accepted or if s/he can deal with the sources of stress or depression in his/her life. When these messages are connected with a specific person (and his/her life or personal characteristics), this can form a more positive narrative - an explanatory story of how the person might have become overweight, the kind of person that s/he is, and how s/he might someday achieve better health.

4 Weekly lessons (2020)

Click on the 'Expand' button on the right to show past contents from previous years.

4.1 Week 3

You can look at the handout, and view the lecture video. At times you will need to pause the video, think about the question, and talk to someone. You can arrange to talk to a classmate that you in the department, especially if you know someone taking this course. Otherwise, please find friends, classmates, or other persons, and discuss the questions with them.

Based on the MBTI, you will fall into one of sixteen personality types, e.g., INTP, ESFJ, INFP, etc. You should discuss your results with a partner or classmate. Think about these, and discuss whether you think this classification of your personality is accurate.

4.2 Week 4

4.3 Week 5

4.4 Week 6

4.5 Weeks 7-15

Lecture videos are available in the LMS or on my Youtube channel.

5 See also

5.1 Links

5.2 Notes