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Class Plan -- Unit Three, Day 23
Goals Assignment for Class 24
  1. Evaluate the sources you have found so far, using the criteria we developed today. Which of your sources are particularly sound in terms of these criteria? Are there any of your sources which might need to be replaced with other sources? Based on your evaluation, which of your sources might be most central to your argument, and which might be useful only in very limited or peripheral ways? (Put your sources in a hierarchy from "best" to "worst" or from "most useful" to "least useful.")
  2. Complete your Arguing Proposal Packet, to be turned in on Tuesday.
  3. Attend Research Conference (if your group's is scheduled between now and Tuesday).

Daily. [I'VE SEEN THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITY DONE WITH BOTH CHOCOLATE SAMPLES AND CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES, BUT ANY TYPE OF FOOD IS LIKELY TO BE A HIT WITH YOUR PERPETUALLY STARVED UNDERGRADS. Take just a few minutes to come up with a list of the five most important criteria you use when determining what really good chocolate is. These criteria should be specific, testable criteria, as opposed to vague categories.

[You will probably want to give a couple of examples of specific, testable criteria like "must be so rich that you have to chase it with a glass of milk" or "must not have any nuts in it"-- then let them go to town with it. (They often get ridiculously descriptive with this activity.)]

Discuss Daily to identify criteria. The ultimate aims of this discussion are: 1) using students' responses to the daily to demonstrate to them what criteria are and how we use them in the process of evaluating, 2) showing them the importance of using criteria that can be measured, 3) showing them the importance of using criteria to evaluate to begin with ("Not every source is a good source.")] Get one student to volunteer his or her criteria to be listed on the board. Then repeat this process with two other students, preferably ones who consider themselves to have somewhat different criteria from the first student. [Oftentimes, I go back through all three lists and ask each students to put the criteria in a hierarchy from most to least important.] Hand out pieces of chocolate only to these three students, then ask them to evaluate what they have been given, using their own criteria. Then pass the bags of chocolate around the room for the rest of the class.

Move into the next section by asking questions like the following: Does any old chocolate do? (Clearly not, given the exercise. Although you might notice that they're all eating their chocolate rather uncritically when the time comes to do so!) Likewise, is any source a good source? [You might discuss the fact that we are often taught to think that any source is a good source early in our schooling, but that at the university level, we must be very selective when choosing sources to help build our arguments.]

Generate criteria for a good source. From their reading and from their understanding of what they personally value in a source, have them generate a list of working criteria (which they will use in their homework, so remind them to write the criteria down as they are recorded on the board). The list might include quite a few criteria, but you will want to make sure that all of the following are included:

Practice applying these criteria. To let students practice using the criteria they've come up with (as they will have to do for homework), I give them a real-life, current rhetorical situation surrounding an issue like the following (which was currently in debate a year ago). [YOU MIGHT WANT TO SELECT A SIMILAR ISSUE, BUT MORE CURRENT. IT HELPS TO USE AN ISSUE THAT IS NEW IN CERTAIN WAYS, BUT AN OFFSHOOT OF AN OLD ISSUE IN ESSENCE.]:

Your position: You are writing an essay about legalized abortion. You are taking an anti- abortion stance, and you are writing specifically in support of recent legislation to forbid D&X, third trimester abortions.

Your audience: You are addressing a middle of the road pro-choice, female audience who are in support of D&X abortion in cases where a woman's health or life is threatened.

You can then pass out your sample text; in this case, two or three pages of an article entitled "Perverse Observations on Abortion" from a 1970's issue of Catholic World (See appendix). [Make sure your students know where and when the article was published.] Have students read or skim the article quickly, then go through the list of criteria in discussion, deciding in what ways it is a useful source for this rhetorical situation, and in what ways it isn't. Make an overall assessment of the usefulness of the source (likely, that it shouldn't be used for this purpose), but then be sure to ask the following questions:

Explain assignment for next class, particularly Audience Analysis. Take a couple of minutes to explain the Source Evaluation assignment for next time, and as much time as possible to explain the Audience Analysis portion of the Arguing Proposal Packet assignment and its relevance to the overall proposal they will be turning in on Tuesday. You might read through some of the questions, commenting on the importance (to the arguments they will make) of these ways of understanding their audience and the needs/expectations/biases of that audience.

Review defining and categorizing positions. Design a short (20 minutes or so) activity that will help students practice categorizing the different positions found in their research. [Again, you can look at Day 34 of the Monday, Wednesday, Friday syllabus for an example of how this has been done before. However, you will want to devise an activity that is much less complicatied, dense, and time-consuming.

In any time that remains, respond to questions students have about turning in the Arguing Proposal next class.

Tips for Research Conferences

In these conferences, I have always let the groups decide what they would like to spend time getting familiar with in the library, but I usually make sure that in a 45 minutes-hour conference, we 1) attempt a couple searches on the computer, some in full-text databases and some in databases which give citations (and perhaps abstracts) only [STUDENTS CAN GET ON INDIVIDUAL COMPUTERS TO DO THIS, AND YOU CAN CIRCULATE AMONG THEM, OFFERING HELP]; 2) learn how to find out (by doing SAGE searches) if Morgan Library carries the journal, magazine, newspaper, document or book in question, and if so, if it is checked out, and where it is housed; and 3) practice finding articles in particular print journals by call number in the Current Periodicals Room.

In preparing for these conferences, I usually spend an hour or so in the library refamiliarizing myself with the locations of certain departments like government documents or microtext and trying to brainstorm lists of databases that might be useful sources of information for particular issue groups. However, I've learned that you really can't be prepared for every research question your students will hurl at you. You can try to get acquainted with some of the basic research methods and areas that they are likely to ask about, but you often will find yourself at a loss for an answer. Remember at those moments to model "good research behavior" and seek the help of a reference librarian, computer lab monitor, or other relevant information aficionado who happens to be around. Other students in the groups might also be able to offer advice to their peers; encourage such collaboration.