PH44000 – MUSE Assignment Guidelines

Copyright ©2015, Tina Bhargava, DrPH

Overview & Purpose

MUSE stands for Mind-blowing Unbelievably Short Essay. MUSEs are a chance for students to share their
reflections and insights on the course materials (lectures, readings, and videos).

The purposes of the MUSE are to:
1. Assess the student’s understanding of the course materials
2. Determine the student’s progress towards the course learning objectives
3. Encourage critical thinking about the course content
4. Help the student develop and refine skills for concise, meaningful writing

Basic Guidelines
1. The MUSE should consist of your reflections and insights on a key point from the material covered, and should

not simply be a summary of what you’ve reviewed.

2. The MUSE should be only two to three well-articulated, closely-related sentences (NOTE: try to avoid run-on
sentences; your MUSE should be fewer than 100 words).

3. The MUSE should not need or contain any in-text citations. If you feel you need to acknowledge a source, you
may include it in APA reference list format at the end of your MUSE.

4. The MUSE should be written with appropriate and correct grammar, mechanics, spelling, and sentence

Six Steps for Writing an Excellent MUSE
1. Review the course materials for the module (lectures, readings, videos). While you are doing so, have a

notepad or blank document accessible. Whenever you have thoughts or questions about what you are
reviewing, write them out. If an interesting thought comes into your head—even if it’s only indirectly related
to the material—write it down!

a. For example, if you reviewed a lecture that was an introduction to epidemiology, and discussed how
data is used in public health, you may have the thought, “I wonder how they collect data on whether
people are happy or not”

2. After you’ve reviewed the materials, write out 1-2 key points from each of the materials you reviewed.
a. In other words, what are the main take-home messages from materials you reviewed? What did the

author, director, or lecturer want you to get out of the content?
b. For example, the introduction to epidemiology lecture mentioned above might have a key point that

epidemiological data can be used to assess the well-being of a community.

3. Look at the notes you made while reviewing the materials and the list of key points, and think about how they
may be related.

a. When completing a MUSE assignment, you should find that you spend more time thinking about what
to write than actually writing.

b. It may help to think about things you know from other classes or your own experiences, or to think
about how the ideas relate to other topics—are there analogies you can make to something else?

c. For example, if you look at the key point about data being used to assess community well-being, and
your thought about the logistics of collecting data on happiness, you might ask yourself whether well-
being can be truly measured if happiness can’t be measured with epidemiological data. You might also
contemplate ways you’ve heard about people measuring happiness in other situations.

PH44000 – MUSE Assignment Guidelines

Copyright ©2015, Tina Bhargava, DrPH

4. Write out several sentences or a paragraph about the insight/idea that you’ve had. At this point, you can
write freely and not worry too much about the length.

a. If you’ve come up with a question, you should think about what the possible answers would be, and
what that would mean in terms of how you view the course content.

b. For example: I wonder if happiness can be assessed as part of epidemiological data? I suppose you can
ask people how happy they are, but it seems like that might not really reflect how they truly feel. They
may just say they are happy because they think they should be. The lecture referred to data on physical
health more than mental health. If you can’t measure happiness, can you still measure the well-being
of a community using data? Maybe if you think of data as more than just numbers, then it would be a
more complete assessment? Maybe you could include statements from people in the community that
reflect their level of well-being—like some qualitative data. The reading that we did mostly talked
about data for tracking diseases, which seems different from well-being. Or maybe epidemiology
defines well-being differently than I am thinking of? From the lecture, it seemed like they were saying
you could figure out how healthy a whole community is. Maybe happiness shouldn’t be part of well-

5. Take a critical look at what you’ve written and edit it down to two or three closely-related sentences that
contain the real substance of your reflection or insight about the course content.

a. Try to cut out the statements you made that are restating what the course materials said, unless they
contain an important assumption that is needed to make your point.

b. If you’ve included more than one key point or insight about the material, you probably want to cut it
down to capture just one idea more completely.

c. For example: One goal or epidemiology is to assess community well-being but its not clear that regular
data and methods can do this. Things like happiness are hard to figure out from numbers and should be
part of measuring well-being. Can epideliology do this?

6. Proofread your MUSE and edit it so that it is a complete thought with good sentence structure and proper
grammar and mechanics.

a. You may want to read your MUSE out loud (to yourself/someone else) to ensure that it makes sense.
b. NOTE: It is acceptable to discuss the general course material with other people, including other

students in the course. However, when you are actually deciding what you are going to write about
and then writing it, you are expected to be working independently.

c. FINAL MUSE: A goal of epidemiology is to assess community well-being, but this may be more difficult
than it seems. Traditional quantitative data may not be able to capture all the critical aspects of “well-
being,” such as happiness, so methods should include qualitative research as well.

Other Excellent Examples of MUSEs

 The Rise of the Superbugs video brings attention to role of “normal people” in combatting antibiotic-
resistant bacteria, but may not be the most effective way of getting the message to those people. In order
to make a significant impact on individual behavior there need to be messages that are more easily
understandable, as well as systemic changes in medical practice to limit antibiotic prescriptions.

 Although the lecture states that the “This is Public Health” campaign has been an effective in increasing
awareness of the field, I have never heard it talked about outside of public health. Whenever I tell
someone my major is public health, I have to take time to explain what it means. The “This is Public
Health” campaign has had little impact, in my opinion, perhaps because it has such limited funding.

 While I agree that promoting bicycle use and walking alone will not be an effective way of reducing carbon
emissions to slow climate change, I do feel that reducing individual emissions will be a critical part of
accomplishing that goal. Legislation to regulate industry emissions better must be combined with changes
in individual practices to achieve the big picture goal.

PH44000 – MUSE Assignment Guidelines

Copyright ©2015, Tina Bhargava, DrPH

Grading Rubric

10 points: MUSE that clearly builds on the ideas discussed in the course materials. This grade will be reserved for
statements in which the student demonstrates their ability to think critically about the material presented and provide
their own clearly articulated insights into the issues.

9 points: MUSE that makes a compelling and articulate case for things that were discussed, but tends to restate instead
of adding to the ideas presented in the materials.

8 points: Clearly written MUSE of appropriate length that indicates the student got the main point of the lecture.

7 points: MUSE composed of sentences in which the ideas need to be more clearly expressed, AND is inappropriate
length OR contains grammatical errors/problematic sentence structure.

6 points: MUSE composed of sentences in which the ideas need to be more clearly expressed, AND is inappropriate
length, AND contains grammatical errors/problematic sentence structure.

0 points: No MUSE submitted

The MUSE assignment structure and rubric are modified from the Reflective Learning Observation assignment designed by Dr.
Scott Johnston at Miami University of Ohio.

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