Evaluating Research: A Model

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SWBAT read a potential resource for research and evaluate it in terms central idea and its value in building an argument on the topic.

Big Idea

A critical skill for researching is the ability to quickly recognize central ideas and how the resource might help build your argument.


Model Evaluation of Resources

20 minutes

In the magazine version of Businessweek, most of the articles have two items beneath the story title—a pithy statement of the central idea followed by a quote from the article that represents it.  Then, at the end, they have a “Bottom Line” statement—a statement that captures more fully the essential  take-away for a reader.   This is the model students will follow today as part of their learning how to evaluate resources (this document has the examples from the magazine; the on-line version doesn't have them--Big Ideas Businessweek example.docx).

We will first take a look at an article from the current Businessweek called “At Hasbro, Little Girls Become a Big Market” (there is nothing particularly special about this choice, except that it is about toys—any example from any issue would work).  I will read the central idea statement out loud, as well as the quote below it, and ask students what they think the central idea of the article will be, given only these statements (I will have them write this down in their notebooks).  Then, I will ask for a couple people to share their statements (without any comment from me—this is only to hear what their initial response is, and for peers to hear it; I’m guessing all will be pretty similar).  Next they will silently read the article and see if their initial thought was on target (we will share these as a class discussion, too, when all are done).  Finally, we will look at the “Bottom Line” statement at the end, which focuses on the increased sales for Hasbro.  This particular “bottom line” will lead to the question for the students “would this be your bottom line, or main take-away from this article?”  The kids have no familiarity with Businessweek, so I will explain to them that a large portion of the readers for this magazine are looking for information to help in their investment decisions, and the editors, knowing that, create bottom lines suited to their audience’s purpose.  At this point, I’ll then ask, “where does your bottom line come from?” (with the answer being from their own developing argument).

The primary goal here is to model what students should be doing as they read resources for a research project—identifying central ideas and building their own argument as they deepen their knowledge of the topic over subsequent resources.  

Practice Evaluating Resources

20 minutes

At this point I will ask them to take out the “Opening Remarks” editorial from a recent BusinessWeek issue titled “$10.10:  Get beyond the political noise, and there’s a strong case for a 40 percent boost in the minimum wage” by Peter Coy.  This long title provides the central idea, but this piece does not have a representative quote or a bottom line, so it will act as a good way to practice that.  To do this, I will ask students to re-read the piece first (I had asked them to read and annotate last night, but this has a lot of economic content I don’t think they are familiar enough with to be able to remember the piece very well, so re-reading will allow for them to more effectively practice the skills I want them to practice).  Then they will choose a quote from the text that they think best represents the central idea, and write a bottom line for themselves—their take away. 

When it seems all of the students are done, I will ask them to turn to a neighbor for five minutes to share their choices and why before each group shares out to the class (this lets everyone participate and talk about their ideas).  A big point of emphasis for me will be the bottom line--that it is their own take-away--what is meaningful to them rather than trying to get a "right" answer, because research is about building their own ideas.

Evaluation of Evidence and Point of View

30 minutes

The final part of the model today is to recognize the viewpoint of the author and the types of evidence the piece uses.  I want to express that what they will do with a check-sheet (resource eval.docx) should be something they cognitively while reading resources.  Of course, after handing out the check-sheet, I will ask them why it is important to recognize these pieces of information (first the viewpoint, then evidence).  I will guide them (or just tell them if no one can answer) that when reading resources, they may get to a point where they have read five pieces all with the same viewpoint, for example, and nothing with the counter-argument, so recognizing viewpoint will save time.  Similarly, if they’ve read five pieces all with personal experience as evidence and nothing quantitative or from an expert, their own argument may not be that credible; recognizing types of evidence will help fill gaps in their own argument.

So, after explaining why these are important, I will ask students to complete the check-sheet regarding the Businessweek piece we’ve been working on (this is a good model for point of view because it does suggests a minimum wage increase, but also argues there is a limit to that; it gives enough equal discussion to both sides of the debate that it is actually more objective, though very opinionated regarding the ineptitude of congress).

To practice this whole process one more time before going into tomorrow’s activity, we will watch a John Stuart clip that addresses the minimum wage argument and evaluate it using the same tools (we will likely do this as a whole group, due to time).  This gives students a chance to see the process again with a new piece that certainly addresses the issue in a different manner.