To continue work on synthesizing research and entering a conversation, students will put their practice to use in writing their own research-based argument grounded in economics. Because this is a topic they are not familiar with, I will provide a list of possible topics to get them going (Economics research assignment.docx); they don’t have to choose one of these, but are welcome to. Today I will explain their assignment and then head to the library, where they will begin their research.
The process I’m asking students to follow is to first research/read about their topic to develop a more pointed entry into the conversation and to collect resources that might be useful. To do this I will ask them to evaluate the articles they read, or at least a lot of them, by use of the same strategy done a few days ago in our carousel activity. Essentially, they are reading and evaluating the articles—building their own perspective as they continue to read what is already out there on the topic (in the writing standards, standard 7 calls for conducting research to answer a question and synthesizing sources, and number 8 calls for gathering relevant information; as far as process, these to me seem like separate steps because the students need to do a review of the research to their problem in order to learn more and figure out their unique perspective--then they know what will be relevant. These two days are more focused on that part of standard 7, which will then evolve to 8 once they are grounded with their perspective). I’m encouraging them to use the Massachusetts Library database rather than Google so they learn to use data-bases to get more focused research (at some point I will also talk about how these research skills are not just for a test—they will be doing this kind of work in whatever field they choose to go into in college). Additionally, by using this database they can get bibliography entries for each of the works so they will be able to build a bibliography for their essay (I will demonstrate how these websites work in our classroom first on the Smartboard so they can see how it works and ask questions--otherwise they will just use Google when we go to the library!). As noted in the assignment, students are required to do "summary" notes of relevant resources by noting a big idea, supporting quote, and bottom line (their take-away); these are the same as in the Carousel activity of two days ago. The purpose is to show how that simple, quick note-taking technique can help them build their argument, but also help them as they are revising their essay and want to find the resource they want to quote, etc.
They will spend two days in the library exploring their issue and building an entry point (I’ve never taught this particular process, so I’m not sure if two days will be too little time, though my experience is that more than two computer days on one particular task usually ends up not being a great use of time; they kind of need a relatively short timeline to stay focused!). As they research I will circulate and talk to the students about what they are finding, asking specifically what their point of view is regarding the topic, and also helping them navigate on-line researching in a database.
Next Steps: After the two days I will have students do a free-write to get down a crummy first draft of what they are thinking, so they can start building an essay and determining where evidence should be placed in their arguments.