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.
Remember to write a Lesson Objective, a Connection to Course Objectives, an Introduction, Conclusion, and Transitions for each day of class planning.
Assign the completion of Part III - Annotated Bibliography in Alphabetical Order: Give students a few minutes to review the assignment sheet and address any questions or concerns they may have.
Integrate the NYT: Discuss one or more issues that students are seeing in their newspaper reading— focusing again on the values, beliefs, affiliations, etc. that inform the varying perspectives. Can they identify “camps” of belief or groupings that might be similar to the shared perspectives or approaches that they’re naming in their position analyses?
Return to the concept of Positions and Shared Perspectives or Approaches: Since the words “shared perspectives” and "approaches" are used interchangeably in the lessons and the annotated bibliography assignment sheet, students will probably raise questions about what this notion means. Use the following explanation to distinguish the individual positions from the shared perspective or approach (or one that you construct) to introduce students to this new concept. We acknowledge that others may define "positions" and “shared perspectives or 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 shared perspectives or approaches. Feel free to substitute "legalization of drugs" with your own model topic. You might also find it useful to refer to 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 on Writing@CSU.
Develop an interactive way of presenting the following additional information on Positions and Shared Perspectives or Approaches perhaps by applying it to the issue of marijuana legalization (see below).
In high school most of us learned to simplify shared perspectives or 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 (specifically marijuana, perhaps) to "pro" and "con"--then it could be said that both government officials and members of religious groups take the same approach or share a perspective about 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 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 or perspective 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 perspective or 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 the civil libertarian voice. Civil libertarians 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 seatbelts in cars and 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 in its attempt 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 war would be better spent on societal needs. The other group taking an economic approach - albeit a very different approach - includes companies that would view the legalization of drugs such as marijuana as a threat to their viability. This group 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 first skimmed, selected, and then more closely read 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 above.
Topic: Legalization of Drugs (or specifically apply to marijuana)
Shared Perspective or Approach 1: Oppose legalization because it is harmful to society as a whole
Shared Perspective or Approach 2: Oppose legalization for moral reasons because it is against religious teachings
Shared Perspective or Approach 3: Advocate legalization for individual rights reasons
Shared Perspective or Approach 4: Advocate legalization for economic reasons because the war against drugs has been ineffective
Shared Perspective or Approach 5: Oppose legalization for economic reasons
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.
Mini-Debate on marijuana legalization (or another issue): If you would like to reinforce the concept that approaches to an issue run deeper than pro/con, try using this activity or incorporate the ideas addressed above into this exercise. 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:
· People take different positions because they have different values and concerns.
· There 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).
· When we talk about approaches, we’re not referring to pro, con, and something in between. It’s much more complicated than that.
· In making an academic argument, you have to consider and address the audience’s values and concerns (possibly their opposing arguments) in order to be effective.
· We research an issue to get a sense of what approaches exist (e.g. legalizing marijuana lends itself to easily distinguishable groups who would take different opinions).
· For your own issue, you’ll need to find research to show that each approach you identify is actually valid.
By way of transition into the students’ own sources, ask them to take out their Position Analysis template and review the entries they’ve made so far. This is a reflective activity that is intended to transfer the learning from the legalization of drugs/marijuana discussion to their issues. Ask them to spend a few minutes adding analysis and characterizing/naming the shared perspectives or approaches that they’re beginning to see in the literature on their topic. They can pull out their Composite Grids for this analysis. The transfer of the skills implied by the marijuana debate and legalization analysis is essential. Students need the transfer to be directly linked to their own analysis of the issue they’ve selected for Portfolio 2.
Return to evaluation of sources: The goal for this activity is to reinforce student selection of effective sources for their issue analysis, which was initially addressed last week. Remind 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:
What kinds of sources are appropriate for Portfolio 2?
§ Informative sources (facts, dates, news reports, etc..) will help you in the beginning stages to gain background knowledge on your issue.
§ Opinionated 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.
§ "Objective" 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.
How current should sources be for Portfolio 2?
§ This will depend on the issue you're researching but it’s probably safe to say that some issues are newly emergent while others have been with us for some time.
§ Discuss this question using some of your students' issues as examples. Extremely current issues will have less written about them, while old issues may be so overdone as to require great effort to avoid complete predictability. Many issues that have been around for a while will have “seminal” publications or judgments (perhaps from the Supreme Court) associated with them. Point out to class that good students of any issue try to make sure that they’ve identified and included essential documents among their sources.
Which sources are reliable for Portfolio 2?
§ Many of 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. This is where some evaluation of the scholarship of the sources can come into play. Don't be misled to think that "Robby Republican's" personal web site can accurately represent the views of all Republicans. On the other hand, as long as you understand the limitations of Robby’s web site you can use it to represent a certain way of thinking or shared perspective (approach) to an issue.
**Note to instructors: One technique for making text evaluation concrete and engaging is to bring in a range of sample texts (on a debatable issue that you choose). Students would then practice evaluating texts for the purposes outlined in the assignment. You might use 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.
Ask students about their use of the Working Bibliography tool. How is it going? Do they like using this tool? Point out that some re-formatting of entries may eventually be necessary for the Works Cited page that they’ll include with the News and Issue Analysis. Students should refer to the PHG pages 601-608 for help with MLA conventions associated with the Works Cited page.
Conclusion: Write a conclusion that connects shared perspectives/approaches, text evaluation, and the Annotated Bibliography to the News and Issue Analysis they’ll be writing next as the final product for Portfolio 2.
Complete your Annotated Bibliography using the Working Bibliography function of Writing Studio and then transfer this information into standard annotated bibliography form, reformatting to MLA standards as needed. Be prepared to turn in the completed Annotated Bibliography in a folder containing your graded Topic Proposal and Personal Position Analysis (as well as the individual Position Analyses of a Single Source you’ve completed and progress you’ve made on the Composite Grid) next time.