Discussion 1: Research Brainstorming
Research begins with questions. You find a topic that you are genuinely interested in learning more about, and then you think about the tough questions that you want answered. Your initial research is the journey to have those questions answered.
In this discussion you will begin to brainstorm for your Module 5 Assignment: Researched Argument Essay. You will choose the broad topic you are interested in, and you will begin to think about the questions within that topic that you want to know more about.
- Brainstorm: Use some of the brainstorming and pre-writing activities from the Exploration page to help you think of general topics you are interested in exploring. Read the Topic Choice Guidelines for the researched argument essay to make sure you choose an appropriate topic.
- Research: Access the Points of View Reference Center through the CCCOnline Library. Do some preliminary research. Browse the topic overviews that are related to the general topics you thought of in step 1. Read at least one topic overview and the "Related Items."
3. Think: Consider questions that the topic overview inspires. What do you want to know more about? What is significant about this topic?
4. Write: In your initial discussion post, give the title of the topic overview you read, and list three significant ideas that you learned in your preliminary research. Then, list three significant questions that you could use as the basis of your research for this project. Your questions should be narrowly focused, well defined, and should not have an obvious answer.
First, as I said in this week's news post, you may use the same topic you're been focusing on so far, but you don't have to. You may pick a new topic.
In any case, once you have your topic, start reading about it and start crafting questions you want to answer. Do not answer these questions here (that's for the essay assignment).
Note that questions need to be questions that people can argue about. For example, "will tax cuts improve the economy?" would be a great research question. "What is the current tax rate?" would not be a good research question. Any question you can answer definitively and succinctly is not a good research question. You want questions reasonable people can disagree over. Otherwise, there would be no point writing a paper. You could write an interesting paper about the impact of tax cuts. A paper defining the current base tax rates would be pretty short.
Discussion 2 Interview Questions
In Module 3 you explored how influential interviews can be in your research. A great interview can give you more relevant information than most print sources. What makes an interview great? First, choose a relevant expert to interview. The more knowledgeable and credible your interview subject, the better the interview will be. However, even if you have the most knowledgeable and most credible expert to interview, if you ask the wrong questions, your interview will fall flat.
In this discussion you will brainstorm and revise your interview questions to help ensure you can conduct the best possible interview.
- Prepare: Choose an expert to interview. Use the same expert guidelines you used for your Module 3 interview. Choose the most credible, knowledgeable expert you can find for the topic you chose in Discussion 1. Set up an appointment for your interview.
- Think: Think about what you want to know about your topic. What information is most interesting or significant to you? What lines of thought or argument do you most want to follow? What do you think your interview subject will be most knowledgeable about?
- Write: List the name and occupation/expertise of the person you will interview. Write at least seven well-constructed, thoughtful interview questions. Create specific questions that are not leading, biased, or confusing.
We revisit expert interviews this week. Please note that you can make your initial discussion posts before you conduct your interview, so timing won't hold anyone back this week. As with our previous round of interviews, try to conduct a phone or email interview. If this fails, you may watch and report on a recorded interview. In either case, I want to see the questions you will/would have asked.
Briefly, in your main post, list 7 or more questions you plan to ask your subject. When you complete your interview (or your review of an interview), post your subject's replies as a response to your own thread.
For your questions, you want to avoid asking things your subject can answer with a word or two. In other words, stay away from "yes or no" questions. If you want to ask a "yes or no," craft a follow-up to it so you are ready to get your subject speaking freely. "How" or "why" questions are a good way to do that.
For example, "Do you think the tax rate is too high?" is a bad question. You might get a subject who expounds upon his or her answer, but the responses you are most likely to get are "yes" or "no." Instead, if you ask, "Do you think the tax rate is too high? Why or why not?" you've now primed your subject to address the underlying issues. That is, after all, why we want to talk to experts in the first place.
Discussion 3: Field Research
To truly understand the many perspectives on an issue, you need to see how the issue impacts people who have a stake in it. Seeing this impact firsthand is valuable in helping yourself understand the significance of the issue and the importance in addressing it.
For this discussion you will conduct two types of field research to help you better understand your topic.
- Research: Conduct the interview you planned in Discussion 2.
- Research: Conduct a second type of field research. Consider creating and carrying out a survey (you should have at least 100 responses to consider your survey effective enough); volunteering at a local place of government or local shelter/charitable organization and observing during your volunteer time; visiting a local museum; attending a rally or political event; or touring a manufacturing or processing plant, correctional facility, courtroom, or hospital. The point is for you to experience your topic firsthand. Be creative! This research must be conducted during the course of this module (you should not draw on prior experience), and you must be actively involved in your topic (conventional text research will not be accepted).
- Think: What did you learn from your observations and interview? What significant information did you gain? What new questions do you have or what new directions might you want to pursue after completing this field research?
- Write one paragraph explaining who you interviewed and summarizing the main points you learned from the interview.
- Write a second paragraph explaining your field research activity and summarizing what you learned from your observations.
- Write a third paragraph analyzing and interpreting the information you gained from this field research. Explain how it will shape or affect your research and what new ideas or questions you have.
This discussion has two main parts. First, summarize the interview you conducted based on the previous discussion. Next, tell us about some field work that you conduct. Field work is really anything you do that doesn't involve reading online or in a library. Anything that gives you a chance to observe your topic or interact with people who play a role in your topic is useful. As the prompt says, be creative. The one caveat I will give is: always stay safe. If, for example, your topic is human trafficking, DO NOT try to interact with traffickers.
As with the interviews, obviously the coronavirus crisis has an impact here. DO NOT venture out in violation of any state orders or in any way that might endanger your health to conduct fieldwork. Figure out something virtual you can do. Social media, for example, is a good resource for things like opinion polls. Televised press conferences are good sources to report on. You could also compare and contrast coverage of an issue across different sources. There are a lot of ways to conduct virtual fieldwork. Ask me for help, if you have any questions or need some ideas.
After you complete your fieldwork, tell us what it was, what your learned, and how it affected your thinking about your topic.
Essay: Assignment 1: Exploratory Essay and Research Proposal
For Module 5 you will write an argument essay on a topic that interests you. That essay is many steps away, though. In Module 4 you will begin with exploration, preliminary research, and brainstorming.
Consider this assignment an anti-essay. For this essay, you aren’t supposed to have a thesis, you won’t write an introduction or a conclusion, and your body paragraphs won’t be focused on supporting a main argument or claim.
You heard me right. This paper is not about reporting on an idea or arguing a position. This paper is about you satisfying a genuine curiosity using the research process.
Your goal is to explore. Choose a topic you are genuinely interested in learning more about. Think of questions you want answered. Be curious. For this essay, you start by researching the answer to one question, and that question/answer should lead you to other questions. Follow them and see where they take you. Research is recursive. The knowledge of the answer to one question leads you to the next question.
In this essay you will narrate your research process, and explain what you learn and how it helps answer your research question.
You should spend approximately 6 hours on this assignment.
- Pre-Write: Start with the research questions you developed for Discussion 1: Research Brainstorming. That is it. This anti-essay does not require pre-writing. The essay is about exploring the idea.
- List your initial research question(s).
- Write out your process – exactly, and step-by-step. (Yes, you’ll say: “The first thing I did to find information was to…)
- Explain what you learned from each source you consulted and how the information connects to your research question.
- Your initial research should lead you to more questions. Start following those and duplicate the process: ask the question, do more research, write about it. Ask good questions and pursue them until you run out of questions.
- Rather than writing a conclusion, end the essay with an argumentative thesis developed from the information you found on your exploratory journey. This thesis will become your working thesis for your Module 5 researched argument.
- Tips for Success:
- Don’t try to look for a thesis as you research. Simply ask and answer questions. Don’t try to figure out where the research is taking you. Let your questions lead the way.
- You must cite 7-8 sources in your text. Create a correctly formatted (MLA Style) Works Cited page that lists your cited sources.
- At least three of your sources should be academic journal articles. You should use at least three different types of sources. Think back to your scavenger hunt activity. Your research should rely heavily on academic journal articles, but also consider magazines, news articles, podcasts, documentaries, government sources, and internet sites. Pay attention to the credibility of the sources you consult.
- This essay should be approximately 1,300-1,500 words.
- Please be sure to use correct MLA Style for your essay and to create an MLA Works Cited page. Need help with MLA? Please refer to the CCCOnline MLA Citation Toolkit, or consult the Purdue OWL for more information o
Assignment 2: Annotated Bibliography
When you have a complex research project, it can be difficult to keep track of your sources. The more sources you consult, the more complicated keeping track of their main ideas, relevance, and credibility can be. Organizing your research makes the project easier and less stressful. One of the best ways to keep track of your sources is to create an annotated bibliography as you consult them. For each source create an MLA Works Cited entry (so you don’t have to worry about this when you draft the essay), a short summary of the source’s main and most relevant arguments, and a short analysis of the source’s credibility (the annotations). Then, as you begin to draft, you can consult your annotated bibliography to help you keep track of which sources you wanted to use for each section of your argument. Your annotated bibliography will tell the story of your research and the perspectives you have consulted.
In this assignment you will create an annotated bibliography of the sources you plan to use for your Module 5 Assignment: Researched Argument Essay.
You should spend approximately 6 hours on this assignment.
- Research: Continue to find sources to help you research your working thesis. You may use some or all of the sources from your exploratory essay and research proposal, or you may decide that some of those sources are no longer relevant to your refined thesis. For your annotated bibliography, include only sources you think you might actually use for your Module 5 Assignment: Researched Argument Essay. You will need at least eight relevant, quality sources for this assignment.
- Pre-Write: Read each source carefully, noting its main arguments and relevant support. Evaluate each source for credibility, argument, support, and relevance.
- Write: Construct your annotated bibliography. Each source should have its own annotated entry. For each source’s entry, you should write:
- An MLA Style Works Cited entry
- 3-4 sentences of summary
- 3-4 sentences of evaluation
- 2-3 sentences of reflection on the usefulness/relevance of the source to your research project/working thesis
- Tips for Success:
- Your annotated bibliography should have 8-10 sources (no more, no less). Of those eight sources, at least four of them should be academic journal articles. The other sources should be a mix of magazine, news, internet, podcast, TED Talk, documentary, or other less traditional source types. No more than two sources should be general websites.
- Carefully follow the formatting guidelines in the resources found on the Exploration page. Annotated bibliographies should be alphabetized and should use a hanging indent.
- Please be sure to use correct MLA Style for your essay and to create an MLA Works Cited page. Need help with MLA? Please refer to the CCCOnline MLA Citation Toolkit
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