Read: Begin by reading your professor’s instructions and discussion prompt to ensure you understand what you are being asked to write about. Then read your classmates’ posts. Read as many posts as you can to get a clearer sense of the whole discussion. Reading several posts will reveal trends and controversies in the discussion, and guide you in crafting your replies.
Reflect: Before writing your replies, take time to think over everything you just read. Increase your understanding by rereading posts with which you agree and disagree. Let your emotions cool and remember your classmates are reasonable, well-meaning people just like you.
Reply: Respond with an open-mind and friendly tone; remember to call your classmates by their names. Always be courteous to your classmates by validating their points-of-view, but without compromising your own position. And support your points with new evidence that hasn’t been talked about yet. Your classmates will be grateful to you for bringing up fresh material they can respond to in their replies to you.
For further information, check out Jennifer Yirinec’s insightful online discussion tips at the Writing Commons.