Week 7: Monday, October 7th - Friday, October 11th
to instructors: The English
Department's "Reading Days" are on Thursday, October 10th
and Friday, October 11th. Meeting for class during this time is
optional. As a result, fewer activities are planned in the syllabus for this
week. Since students will have started Part 3 of Portfolio 2 - collecting
sources for their annotated bibliography - you may decide to give them this
time to work at home or in the library. Or, you may decide to use this time to catch
up with other things in class.
Goals for this Week
Collect Part 2 - Audience Exploration -
of Portfolio 2
Assign Part 3 - Annotated Bibliography -
of Portfolio 2 (due after conferences at the start of Week 9 - Monday,
October 21st or Tuesday, October 22nd)
Define positions and approaches
Discuss evaluating sources
Discuss using Research Assistant HyperFolio for collecting and grouping
Discuss using the Working Bibliography
tool in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio to create the Annotated
Connection to Course Goals
Collecting sources for the annotated
bibliography will help students learn about the recent conversation surrounding
their issue. Students' previous experience with research may have involved
collecting and simply regurgitating information on a topic. Here, we are asking
them to think critically about a) their role as researchers and b) the choices
they make as writers, by evaluating their sources for a specified purpose. We
hope that this approach gives them a better "real world" sense of how
and why writers research and respond to public issues.
Required Readings and Assignments
Read "Evaluating Library
Sources" on pg. 588 - 589 in the PHG.
Collect and begin reading sources on
Complete the Grid of Common Points
Activity in the CO150 Room in the Writing Studio
Complete the Grouping Your Sources
worksheet in Research Assistant HyperFolio
Bring a print-out of your annotated
bibliography to class at the beginning of Week 8 (first class following
the reading days)
Potential Activities for this Week
Collect Part II - Audience Exploration (5
minutes):Ask students for some informal feedback on
this assignment. What did they learn about their audience? How will this
knowledge affect the way they approach writing their issue analysis? What would
they do differently next time they interview or survey readers?
Assign Part III - Annotated Bibliography (5
minutes): Give students a few
minutes to read over the assignment sheet and address any questions or concerns
they may have.
Introduce the concept of Positions and
Approaches (20 minutes):Since "approaches" are addressed in
the annotated bibliography assignment sheet, students will probably raise
questions about what this means. Use the following explanation for positions
and approaches (or one that you construct) to introduce students to this new
concept . We acknowledge (as should you) that others may define
"positions" and “approaches” differently outside this class, but for
the purposes of CO150, students will need to learn and use these concepts.
The following is just one example intended to
illustrate the difference between positions and approaches. Feel free to
substitute "legalization of drugs" with your own model topic. You
might also find it useful to reference Deborah Tannen's essay "The
Argument Culture" from the PHG when running this discussion. For more
assistance with planning this activity, see the "Introducing a New
Concept" section in the Planning Class Discussion guide located in
of Positions and Approaches: In
high school most of us learned to simplify approaches into two categories,
"pro" and "con," in order to examine a debate. However, approaches
typically run much deeper than "pro" and "con" since every
person's views are complicated by various social and cultural factors. Here's
an example: Let's say we reduced the issue of legalizing drugs to
"pro" and "con"--then it could be said that both government
officials and members of religious groups take the same approach toward
legalizing drugs, since both groups oppose making these substances legal. A
closer examination of the arguments made by members of each group indicates,
however, that they do not share the same views. Government representatives are
likely to oppose legalization because they claim that drugs are harmful to
society as a whole. In contrast, authors who oppose legalization because of
their religious beliefs might do so largely because it goes against the
teaching of their faiths.
Let’s consider another group--parents. Some
of these individuals may oppose drug legalization because their children have
become a victims of drug abuse. These positions would differ from those
advanced by members of the previous groups due to different experiences that
have shaped parents’ lives. However, depending on the specific argument they
make, a parent who writes a text protesting the legalization of drugs might
share the approach taken by a government official or member of a religious
group. Thus, although a parent will have his or her own position on this issue,
he or she would take the same approach as that taken by certain government
officials and members of particular religious groups.
Yet another group weighing in on the issue of
legalization is civil libertarians-who believe that individuals should be free
to make decisions about drug use free of regulation by the government. These
authors argue that drug use is an individual choice and, even if it harms the
individual, is nonetheless something that the individual should be free to do.
This argument is similar in many ways to arguments about mandatory use of
helmets on motorcycles and even to some arguments that “risky” sports such as
skiing should not be regulated by the government.
Two additional groups interested in this
issue adopt economic approaches. One group argues that the amount of money the
government is spending attempting to combat drug use has largely been wasted.
Since drug use has declined only somewhat since the government began fighting
the drug war, the government should reconsider its tactics and, as it did when
it lifted the prohibition on alcohol, legalize drug use. The core of this
argument is that the money now spent on the drug ware would be better spent on
societal needs. The other group taking an economic approach - albeit a very
different approach - are companies that would view the legalization of drugs
such as marijuana as a threat to their viability might include representatives
of alcohol and tobacco companies. It's fair to say that alcohol and tobacco
companies don't oppose drug use solely because drugs are harmful to people
(after all, the consumption of both results in many deaths per year). It’s also
fair to say that these authors would be unlikely to come out and say, “Don’t
legalize drugs because it will cost us money.” As a result, while
representatives of tobacco and alcohol companies might oppose legalization of
drugs for economic reasons, they would probably avoid couching their arguments
in those terms.
Given these examples, clearly it would be
inaccurate to clump these very different arguments into "pro" and
"con". If we did, much of the meaning or truth behind the issue would
be lost. The goal for a "good" writer of public discourse should
always be to produce texts that seek to fairly represent the issues (for the
betterment of society). Thus, it can be viewed as dishonest for writers to
reduce the complexity of an issue unnecessarily. In part, this is why you
(student writers) are being asked to think critically about these different
positions and approaches.
After you've read and summarized your
sources, look for common threads that cut across sources as a way to group them
into different approaches. Here's what it might look like for the example
Legalization of Drugs
1: Oppose legalization because it
is harmful to society as a whole
2: Oppose legalization for moral
reasons because it is against religious teachings
3: Favor legalization for
individual rights reasons
4: Favor legalization for economic
reasons because the war against drugs has been ineffective
5: Oppose legalization for
Of course, you could argue that the
government is also economically motivated and that representatives of alcohol
and tobacco companies may legitimately believe that drugs are harmful to
society. If the support for these claims outweighs the others, you'd need to
group the positions of authors arguing about differently. Keep in mind that grouping
positions into approaches is far from an exact science; you'll need to read
various arguments before generalizing views into approaches in order to
represent each group fairly. (Tell students that you'll review the concept of
positions and approaches more after they've collected and read their sources
for the annotated bibliography. This is just an introduction to the concept).
Mini-Debate on an issue (35 minutes):If you would like to further reinforce the concept that approaches to
an issue run deeper than pro/con, try using this activity. The goal of this
activity is to have students understand and practice the process they’ll need
to go through in analyzing their own issue. One of the most effective ways to
reach this goal is to have students generate a debate on a familiar issue. If
you’re having trouble coming up with an activity or want ideas, see the sample
activity in the appendix that asks students to analyze the positions and values
of different authors involved in the issue of the legalization of marijuana.
This debate activity can be done with any issue, but the question of whether
marijuana should be legalized has worked well in the past because it lends
itself to easily describable groups and some interesting alliances that help
distinguish between approaches. Whatever activity you plan, be sure to
emphasize these key concepts:
take different positions because they have different values and concerns.
can be different positions within a particular approach (i.e. parents and
government representatives might both be against legalization of drugs because
it harms society, but parents are likely to make different - most likely more
personal - arguments than government officials).
talk about approaches, we’re not referring to pro, con, and something in between. It’s much more
complicated than that.
making an academic argument, you have to consider and address the audience’s
values and concerns (possibly their opposing arguments) in order to be
research an issue to get a sense of what approaches exist (e.g. legalizing
marijuana lends itself to easily distinguishable groups who would take
own issue, you’ll need to find research to show that each approach you identify
is actually valid.
Discuss evaluating sources (15 - 20
minutes):The goal for this activity is to guide
students in choosing effective sources for their issue analysis. Explain to
students that they'll save time researching and writing if they know how to
determine which sources will be most useful to them later on. Refer to pg. 588
- 589 in the PHG to guide this
discussion and include the following points:
kinds of sources are relevant for Portfolio 2?
sources (facts, dates, news reports, etc..) will help you in the beginning
stages to gain background knowledge on your issue.
sources, written by reputable individuals and groups will be most useful in
helping you meet your purpose for writing the issue analysis. These will
provide a range of different positions and approaches to help you show that
your issue is complicated.
reports from news sources will not "take a position" on an issue, but
they can lead you to more argumentative sources if you follow up with research
on names mentioned in the report.
current should sources be for Portfolio 2?
will depend on the issue you're researching.
this using some of your students' issues as examples.
sources are reliable for Portfolio 2?
the sources you'll need for Portfolio 2 will contain biases. One of the goals
for this portfolio is to examine the ways that beliefs and biases shape a
writer's approach to writing about an issue. Therefore, you'll want to collect
opinion based texts so that you can analyze where these viewpoints come from
and how they affect the conversation surrounding your issue. However, you'll
also want to use credible sources. Don't be misled to think that "Robby
Republican's" personal web site can accurately represent the views of all
to instructors: You may also want
to bring in a range of sample texts (on a debatable issue that you choose) to
have student practice evaluating texts. Try using editorials, political
cartoons, chat room scripts, personal web sites, government documents,
scientific texts, and research. Add 20 minutes to this activity if you decide
to practice evaluating sources in class. Try putting these sample texts on an
overhead in an effort to save paper.