Using LRC Databases for the Argument of Fact
Lesson 3 of 8
Objective: SWBAT utilize the LRC databases for all their research purposes!
Context and Introduction
At the outset of this lesson, I want to admit that it had limited success -- not because my students were ever confused or lazy or incapable. Nor do I honestly think I was ever less than clear. No, this lesson was of limited success because our school's research databases are lacking as compared to "college-level" ones ... more on this in my reflection to the lesson ...
For this project -- the one major research project of the semester -- I really wanted students to have a "college-level" experience -- that is I wanted them to use their "expertise book" the way a college professor of history or poly. sci. or, maybe even, English would want them to.
As with all good academic research, one of the deepest sources for an essay is a long-form text by an expert (aka. the "expertise book), and one of the most important features of an expert's book is the bibliography -- that is the full list of referenced and consulted sources. I wanted my students to "dig into" actual, printed bibliographies during the course of their own research. I wanted them to have the very cogent experience of "cross-referencing" from a recognized source. (As a caveat, this was, in fact, the VERY first time that over 98% of my students had EVER done this.) So, I created this as an expectation for my source requirements, detailed in the assignment instructions.
Each student was required to utilize two sources from his/her "expertise book" in addition to six other sources (minimum). I was realistic about this though, as I expected students only access articles or essays and NOT books (which, given we are talking about a high school library now, would be next to impossible to obtain en masse and in time).
There are 100s and 100s (perhaps 1000s and 1000s) of web postings regarding proper MLA format for research citations. I have always used with great success the postings at the Purdue University OWL (which is really THE mainstay of university writing centers online). The Purdue OWL is no real "trade secret" for sure ... use it if you care to of course ... and I would encourage you to find other sites that you regard highly.
For this assignment, I used a combination of various web postings, Easy Bib (members area), and sections from a classroom set of Rules for Writers (our previous year's text for the course) in order to provide multiple examples of Works Cited layouts and information. By showing lots of examples, you are killing two birds with one stone -- that is you are previewing the expectations for the essay's citations AND you are teaching students how to read a bibliography as well. With a bit of practice, students begin to recognize the patterns of books vs. journal articles vs. newspaper articles vs. websites vs. dissertations, etc.
Once they seem ready to "pre-test," I project this simple four slide Slides show, and we discuss as a class some actual, "live" examples ... (The example bibliography pages are from two of the more popular "expertise book" selections.)
After students seem comfortable to work on their own, I ask them to, simply, open their books to the bibliography and start skimming for sources, suitable to use as "duplicate sources." When they find a source that seems it may work, I ask them to mark it with a check mark in pencil, as many of the actual copies they use are library copies. At this stage it is important to "force" students to read through the ENTIRE bibliography, finding as many sources as possible to try.
Once they have a decent handful of possibles, I ask them to navigate to our LRC database portal page, and begin searching to find the full-text of any of the periodical articles they could cross-reference. For the actual searches, I limit them to the following databases:
- Ebsco MAS Ultra High School Ed.
- First Search
- Student Resources in Context
- U.S. History in Context
- World History in Context
As of this writing (and as was the case this spring), these six databases are the only ones for student searches with a reasonable expectation for success -- that is they have, collectively, the greatest possibility of rendering actual full-text of the desired "duplicate sources."
If a student does get a "hit," he/she will bookmark the "perma-link" and/or download the .pdf to the "duplicate source."
After students make a reasonable run at this step, I ask them to return to "key word" searches, by research question key words, for the remainder of the period. In the coming days, they will return to the six databases, listed above to find all of the required sources for this essay ...