What you’ll do today in class:
- Discuss key terms: topic/issue/opinion/position
- Practice applying terms to an article
- Connect key terms to why we research
- Introduce purposes and strategies for research
Connection to course goals: Today’s class introduces research as part of the process of inquiry that is crucial to defining an issue and identifies key terms that students need in order to understand the complexities of the issue they’ll write about. We also give students some specific research strategies to guide them as they begin to research their issue and find sources.
1. Define important terms (10 minutes): In this discussion make sure students understand the distinctions among the key terms they’ll need to know as they explore and analyze the issue they’ll choose to write on in this unit. Here are the central terms that you should cover:
- Topic refers to the general subject a person is researching and writing on (i.e. grading).
- Issue refers to a specific debatable question about that topic (i.e. “What effect do grades have on students’ learning?”).
- Opinion indicates one of the generalized sides people take on an issue (i.e. proponent of reforming standardized testing).
- Position refers to a specific stance based on specific values and concerns (i.e. standardized tests such as the S.A.T. are unfair to minorities and women).
- Have the class practice using these terms with one topic and related issue that you choose to analyze as a class before they practice on their own in the next activity.
2. Practice applying terms to an article from group presentations (20 minutes): Get students to work with their presentation group from last meeting to analyze their assigned article using our key terms. Have students chart out the distinctions between topic and issue, as well as between opinions and positions, represented in their article. (If you have time, get each group to go through the same process with a second article.) Save time for the class to discuss at least one of the articles a group analyzed. Here are some questions to guide the groups:
· What particular issues does your group’s article address or refer to? Phrase each issue as a debatable question.
· What is the central issue that your article is concerned with?
· What are the different opinions represented or implied in the article on that central issue?
· What are the main positions that you find represented in the article on the central issue? That is, how are people “answering” the issue question in different ways?
· What group or groups are aligned with each position on the issue? What specific values or concerns inform their position? Why do they take this stance on the issue?
3. Connect key terms to research (5 minutes): Design a discussion that shows students how these terms you’ve just defined relate to research and the process of inquiring into an issue. Emphasize that on any given topic there may be many issues and opinions that people are debating. Let students know that at this point their job is to research their general topic to find specific issues within that topic that are worth exploring and writing about. As they inquire into a given issue, they need to start making these finer distinctions between their topic and related issues, as well as between opinions and particular positions they find on their issue. Therefore, defining and exploring their issue involves an ongoing process of asking a series of questions about the context that emerges from their research and choices they make.
4. Discuss research (5 minutes): Create discussion questions that get students thinking about the larger aims for researching. You might have students think about their past experiences with researching (i.e. what has been most challenging and what has worked well).
Why bother to research at all?
- understand an issue in its complexity and the various positions involved
- educate yourself
- support your view
- gain credibility
5. Discuss resources and strategies for researching (10 minutes): In this discussion make sure to cover research resources and strategies that will guide students as they begin finding sources for their topic. Give students the Research Strategies handout included in the appendix or design one of your own. Make sure to emphasize how to search (using different types of searches such as regular, Boolean, etc.), the importance of finding and using the right search terms, using questions as search entries, and what bibliographic information they will need to record as they research and find possible sources. Explain to your students the importance of getting into the habit of keeping track of bibliographic information and keeping some type of research log right now as they begin to research. (Also see the sample Issue Research Log in the appendix.)
Assignment for Day 34:
- Read “Collecting” and “Internet Research” in PHG (555-69).
- Decide on your issue.
- Make a list of all the possible positions that you think exist on your issue and begin researching for articles that represent positions on your issue.