Unit II Overview: Inquiry Exploration and Audio Reflection

Unit II Overview: Inquiry Exploration and Audio Reflection
Ed Lessor

In this unit we will identify and explore a currently debated issue through research and evaluation of various positions on that issue. Your work in the unit will consist of several components as outlined below:

  1. Blog Source Reports. A series of eight blog source reports. In each report you will give rhetorical context for your source, a short summary of the content of the source, identification of how the source fits into the overall debate, and a brief indication of how the source may be deployed in your overall exploration of the debate.
  2. Annotated Bibliography. This will be a formalized record of your research.  Consider the blog source reports to be the “rough” draft for your annotated bibliography. (Please be reminded that the grade for the blog/bibliography is 10% of your final course grade.)
  3. Inquiry Argument. Your final product for this unit will be an essay that explores the issue through your discussion of the arguments that you have encountered in your research. There are three components here: A. Research Question and Initial Opinion Statement (10% of portfolio grade). B. Source Exploration and Evaluation (70% of portfolio grade). C. Audio Inquiry Reflection (20% of portfolio grade).

Note: This is the major research Unit for the semester. Students identify a currently debated issue that they are interested in exploring in depth. In addition to learning research skills, source evaluation, the inquiry mode of argument, and library database tools, we also focus on audio argument. Students are required to write an audio script for the final reflective piece of the unit, and are encouraged to produce an audio recording of that script.

I. Blog Source Reports

Think of your blog source reports as an informal place to begin gathering useful information about the sources that you will use in your exploration of the issue that you have chosen. You will do eight reports in total—one for each of the required sources for your annotated bibliography. You can consider the Blog Source Reports as rough drafts for your bibliography entries. Each report should be posted to your blog before the final due date, and should be entitled, “Blog Source Report 1,” “Blog Source Report 2,” etc. These are the requirements for each entry:

  1. Each entry should be about 250 words (1/2 of a single spaced page).
  2. Each entry should include the title of the source and the author. (Save the formal citation for the bibliography).
  3. The body of each entry should include: Context information for the source. A brief summary of the source. An indication of how the source fits into the overall debate on your issue. An indication of how you will deploy the source in your overall inquiry exploration of the issue.

Research goals:

  1. You are attempting to do an in depth examination of a narrow issue.
  2. Your sources should include a variety of positions on the issue that you are exploring.
  3. Your sources should include 4 magazine/academic journal articles and 4 sources that may include: advocacy websites, government websites, longer blog postings on your issue, dedicated blog sites for your issue, video clips, podcasts etc. If you have a source that you would like to use, but are unsure about, check in with me.

Note: The Blog Source Reports serve two functions: first they are a public clearinghouse for students to gather and post information about potential sources that they are considering using for the Inquiry Argument. During the early phases of the Unit we often read and comment on each other’s blogs. Students use the blog format to publicly demonstrate their growing awareness of the issue that they are exploring, and to discuss potential research ideas and issues with other students. Secondly, these serve as rough drafts for the Annotated Bibliography assignment. Most students will use only a handful of these initial sources as they progress and narrow their research, but they serve as a starting point for the more formal writing of the Bibliography.

II. Annotated Bibliography

Now that you have confirmed your issue and determined its importance in current society, the next step is to examine closely who is talking and writing about the issue and exactly what they are saying. A valuable tool for organizing your notes while doing this research is the Annotated Bibliography. In your Annotated Bibliography, you will consider closely the position each author takes when they write about your issue and think critically about why they have taken that position. To do so, you will need to consider each writer’s past experiences, cultural and social beliefs and values, predispositions and purposes for writing about your issue. You should consider the Annotated Bibliography to be a final draft of your Blog Source Reports formalized into a bibliographic format. In short, the goal of the Annotated Bibliography is to become informed about your issue through research and to begin to critically see how individual writers’ positions fit into the overall conversation going on about your issue today.

Requirements:

  1. The body of each entry should include: Context information for the source. A brief summary of the source. An indication of how the source fits into the overall debate on your issue. An indication of how you will deploy the source in your overall inquiry exploration of the issue.
  2. Sources should be listed in a consistent MLA or APA style.
  3. You need a total of eight sources.

Your Research goals remain the same as for the Blog Source Reports:

  1. You are attempting to do an in depth examination of a narrow issue.
  2. Your sources should include a variety of positions on the issue that you are exploring.
  3. Your sources should include 4 magazine/academic journal articles and 4 sources that may include: advocacy websites, government websites, longer blog postings on your issue, dedicated blog sites for your issue, video clips, podcasts etc. If you have a source that you would like to use, but are unsure about, check in with me.

Note: There is some overlap between the Blog Source Reports and the Bibliography, but this is not coincidental. I want students to understand this as a formal academic document that does a bit more than the Blog Source Reports. In addition to representing the sources in the required APA/MLA style format, students understand this as a more narrow and focused representation of the initial source gathering that they have done on their class blogs.

III. Inquiry Argument

Part 1 of Inquiry Argument: Research Question and Initial Opinion Statement    
The goal of this assignment is to articulate a clear research question for your issue and to explore your initial opinion on the debate. This should be drafted before you have done much research into the question.  In a two page narrative respond to the following prompts:

Research Question:
What is the topic that you intend to research for the Audio Inquiry Argument?
What is the specific issue?
What is your research question?

Issue
Why is this interesting/important to you?
Why would it be interesting/important to a larger audience (country, society, etc.)?
Try to identify those groups that would have the greatest stakes in this issue.
Name some of the values and beliefs of those groups.

Initial Opinions
What is your initial opinion on the issue?
What are some of your reasons for your opinions?
What values and beliefs do you hold that contribute to these reasons?
What do you feel, in your experiences or observations, has contributed to your opinion on the issue?
What will be your greatest challenge in researching and exploring this issue? Name some of the values and beliefs of a group that might take a different opinion from you on this issue. Can you identify any values and beliefs that you might hold in common with this group?

Note: We do a full class dialog activity after the students draft this portion of the Inquiry Argument. Students use the “Questions for Inquiry” to put some pressure on each other’s initial opinions, and to help narrow and focus their articulations of the issues that they have chosen to write about.

Part 2 Inquiry Argument: Source Exploration and Evaluation

The goal of Part 2 of your inquiry argument is to show how your research-inquiry refined, modified, or changed your initial opinions on your topic, and to explain why. Begin with a discussion of your strongest source–use this as a focal point around which you organize the discussion of your secondary sources. Think of this process as telling the story of what you have learned in researching your topic so far. You have some flexibility in how you structure this assignment, but you need to address each of the following in your essay:

  1. For each of the sources that you choose to write about, give relevant rhetorical context information. This means not only pointing out key information (who, to whom, where, when, why), but also how this information structured your own relationship to the essay.
  2. The main ideas from each source that you feel contributed to a deepening of your understanding of the issue—particularly those that you feel tempted you to modify or change your original position.
  3. A discussion of the manner in which the different sources relate to each other—what differing, or similar positions are held by the various authors. Explain how each source relates to your “anchor” source.
  4. An evaluation of the various ideas that you discuss—summary is not enough here, make certain you explain how effective you found the sources to be in presenting their cases. When comparing two points, use evaluation to demonstrate your critical awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments that you are contrasting.
  5. Key quotes with citations from your various sources.
  6. A clear statement of the position that you have arrived at after having done your research.

 

Requirements
This essay should be eight pages, typed, double-spaced. Your Annotated Bibliography will serve as the “Works Cited” page for this essay. You should employ anchor source and four to five secondary sources for this assignment.

Note: This is the major graded component for the Unit. The emphasis here is on the critical evaluation of the ideas presented by the sources. Students need to demonstrate that they have “earned” their position on the issue by demonstrating that their initial position—as represented by their chosen anchor source—can be supported after critically challenging it at several levels.

Part 3 of Inquiry Argument:  Audio Inquiry Reflection
Write a 2-3 page reflection/overview for your inquiry argument. For this assignment you should read part one of your essay again. Think about what your goals were in beginning your argument and give an honest appraisal of how well you have met those goals. Use the following questions as prompts to create your audio reflection (you do not need to answer every question here):

Do you feel you have earned a position on your issue?
Narrate your top three “learning moments” from your research. Give a specific account of how these moments either deepened or caused you to modify your original opinion.
What aspect of the issue do you feel strongly that you now understand?
What areas do you still feel you need more answers about?
What has been left unresolved for you?
What new questions have been generated by the questions that you have raised so far?
What do you feel are the pressing social values/beliefs/concerns that make it difficult to get clear information about your issue?

Be as specific as possible here–quote yourself from Parts 1 and 2 of the essay. Avoid general, unsupported claims. Comment on any other aspect of the inquiry process that you feel has been relevant to your overall experience in writing this assignment.

Format this reflection as an audio script. This means that you should make apparent the speaker for each part of the essay and indicate where background music or sound effects would come in if it were recorded. Extra consideration will be given to those students that also turn in a digitally recorded version of this essay.

Note: We have read six or eight audio transcripts by this point, so the students are familiar with the format that I am requiring. We have also read McKee on the elements of sound, and the students are aware that they are making conscious design choices depending upon how they represent the various elements such as vocality/sound effects/background music and silence. Conceptually we work through several models of the types of reflection that I am asking them to do here. I make it very clear that generalized re-summary is not the goal of this reflection!