Thursday, October 20th

Thursday, October 20th

Lesson Objectives:

To establish research groups; to determine clear research questions for inquiry; to evaluate the effectiveness of these research questions and begin considering how individuals respond to these questions.

Connection to Course Goals:

The objectives for today’s class all connect to the goals of collaboration and helping students make effective choices with their writing. By choosing a clear research focus, students determine a set direction their thinking and writing. Inherently, this lesson also addresses the goal of helping students become invested in their writing process by teaching them how to pose interesting questions and seek complex answers.

Review the Topics and the Research Groups (5 minutes)

Make sure that all the selected topics are still workable and that everyone has a topic that works for him or her.

Form Research Groups and Complete Introductions (10 - 15 minutes)

First, explain to students that you will put them in groups according to the research topics they chose. Let them know that although they will write their own Inquiry Essay and Argument, they will collaboratively (with others who share their topic) to prepare for these assignments.

Ask students what the advantages and disadvantages to group work are.

You might then ask them whether they have any suggestions for resolving the disadvantages to group work. We recommend anticipating some of their complaints about group work and devising your own methods for resolving them. For example, you might tell students that part of their portfolio grade will reflect their group work efforts. Or, perhaps students can evaluate the effort of others in their group as part of their essay postscript. You may decide how you’d like to handle this.

Once you’ve introduced the notion of group work, go ahead and assign students to their groups. Ideally, there should be about 5 groups and at least 3 students per group. If you have a group with only one or two students, you may need to address this. Perhaps these students will agree to working in a small group. Or, perhaps they need to join another group on another topic. If you have a really large group (8 students) consider breaking it into two smaller groups. Also, some instructors have found it useful to create a miscellaneous group for students who really want to work on their own topics. If you create a miscellaneous group, be sure that these students understand that they may have to do more research on their own.

Allow group members a few minutes to introduce themselves, and exchange email information. Also ask them to explain to their group members why they chose this topic.

Share Preliminary Research (10 - 15 minutes)

While in their research groups, students should share the articles they found for today on their topic. Ask them to summarize the article and explain their reactions to it.

Once students have discussed their topic in general, ask them to form a research question. What question seems to be at the center of this debate? What are writers most addressing or discussing when it comes to this topic?

While groups are discussing their topics and articles, you should list criteria for an effective research question on the board. Here are some criteria. Feel free to use these or provide your own:

A research question for Portfolio II should:

Transition: Develop a transition here.

Evaluate Research Questions (10 – 15 minutes)

Ask students to see that their research questions meet the criteria listed on the board. Then, have a member from each group write the group’s topic and research question on the board. Once the ideas are all on the board, discuss each research question as a whole class. Ask the other groups to evaluate the effectiveness of each research question. Do they think the questions are specific and debatable? Do they think the questions will lead to sufficient research?

Sample Transition: So now, when you research your issue, you should find sources that specifically address your research question (not just your topic at large). This will ensure that you’re finding the most relevant resources for your inquiry essay and your argument. But before you see what others are saying in regards to your question, it’s useful to consider what your initial stance on this question/issue is. So please take out a sheet of paper…

Respond to your Research Question (10 - 15 minutes)

Ask students to write about how they would respond to their research question (tell them to include this response in their journal). Explain that this response is a very important one since they will likely reflect on it and refer to it in their Inquiry Paper. Students should develop their ideas thoughtfully. Here are some questions you might ask:

Share Responses with Groups (5 - 10 minutes)

Allow students some time to share their responses with their group members. Explain that it is useful for them to be aware of how others perceive their issue similarly and differently. This prepares students to anticipate other arguments they will encounter in their research.

Transition: Develop a transition here.

Discuss Evaluating Sources (10 – 15 minutes)

Use pages 639 – 643 in the PHG to develop a class discussion about evaluating sources. Be sure to cover all the criteria. To make this discussion more interesting or engaging, bring in a sample text (perhaps put it on an overhead) from a reliable and/or unreliable source and ask students to evaluate its effectiveness according to the criteria in the PHG.


  1. Search for credible articles that address your research question. Use pages 639 – 643 in the PHG to determine whether your articles are credible. Find one article that supports your initial thinking and one that challenges it.
  2. Print off and read the articles. Then, make hard copies of them for each of your group members. Or, email the articles as links or attachments to each of your group members. **Note to GTAs: Is it absolutely essential that all students make their articles available to their group members before or during the next class. If students don’t have each others’ articles, there will be little for them to work on during the next class and this will create much more outside work for them as well. Thus, you should let students know ahead of time what the award and/or consequence will be for preparedness. For example, you might award homework points to those who are prepared, and subtract points from those who aren’t prepared.
  3. Annotate each article in your journal by answering the questions below. These two journal entries will be essential to the development of your Inquiry Essay. Therefore, they should be thoughtful and well developed.

    Address the following prompts:

    • Summarize the article. What’s it about? What is its purpose? What are the main ideas? Be sure your summary is clear in its points and thoroughly developed so as to give the reader a fell sense of the article.
    • Which ideas in the article reinforce or challenge your own views on this issue?
    • How do these ideas reinforce or challenge your views? How do they complicate your thinking about the issue? What new questions or concerns do these ideas raise?
  4. Bring your articles and journal to class. Also, check your email to see if your group members have sent you their articles. Print off these articles as well and bring them to class.