Archive for the ‘Finding Sources’ Category

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Exercising Authority

posted: 2.21.07 by Barclay Barrios

One of the goals of many research projects is to have students write with authority and confidence. Have them practice this skill by first reviewing the materials on research in the handbook. Then, in class, ask them to locate a subject they are already an expert in—a video game, a TV show, a sport—and then list three to five sources (of any sort) they would refer someone to who wanted to learn about that topic. Use this to open a class discussion about the kinds of authority they should achieve through research.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Research
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Grammar Gets a MySpace Page

posted: 2.5.07 by Barclay Barrios

Divide the class into groups and assign each group an element: a part of speech, a punctuation mark, or sentences. Each group will research that element in the handbook, find resources for learning about the element online, and create a page for their element on MySpace. Which other elements would be listed as friends? What connections would the elements make to each other?

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Categories: Collaboration, Finding Sources, Grammar & Style
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Never-Ending Search

posted: 1.16.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the section of the handbook on research and on research terms in particular. Using your library’s book catalog database, have students put in a broad research term. Tell them to select a book and look for the subject headings that the library lists to describe the book. These are usually in the full entry for a book and are usually hyperlinked. Have students write down and then click on one of the subject heading links. They should select a book under that heading and then repeat the process. They should repeat these steps until they have around twenty subject headings. Have them draw a map that suggests how their research topic relates to several different larger topic areas.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Learning Styles, Teaching with Technology
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Search Trends

posted: 1.16.07 by Barclay Barrios

Review the material in the handbook on locating a research topic. Google has a tool that maps trends in search terms: http://www.google.com/trends. As part of a research project, have students put in key terms from their research to see how these terms are playing out in the real world.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Research, Teaching with Technology
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Alternate Table of Contents

posted: 1.16.07 by Barclay Barrios

Provide students with the following categories or a set of terms you’ve designed yourself: Getting an A, Before I Start My Draft, At the Ready When Researching, Things Not to Screw Up. For the next class, have each student use these categories to create a new table of contents for the handbook: which sections of the handbook would go in each category?

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Document Design, Drafting, Finding Sources, Handbooks
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Conjunctions and Quotations

posted: 12.18.06 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the section of the handbook on conjunctions. Put the students into groups and ask each group to find quotations from the current essay and from a previous essay that seem to have some relation to each other. Ask the groups to express this relationship using only one conjunction.

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Categories: Collaboration, Finding Sources, Grammar & Style
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Student Advises: Don't Cite Wikipedia

posted: 8.19.06 by Nick Carbone

Soumya Srinagesh, a student intern at C|Net News, advises her peers not to rely on Wikipedia as a primary source.

This advice comes to the same end conclusion as that given by Wikipedia co-founder Jim Wales’s own advice not to use Wikipedia–or any encyclopedia–as a sole or primary source.

The usual back and forth in this debate is that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, and that you might use an entry before it’s been vetted and re-edited by other Wikipedians for accuracy (or something closer to it). That’s the tack Srinagesh takes, and it’s legitimate enough. But Wales makes a larger point about the role encyclopedias should have in research. They’re meant to be starting places, not end places. If you take Wales’s point to heart, then the argument over Wikipedia’s accuracy is less important (though it still matters). Diligent students should in fact use it as a start and then seek out richer sources on the subjects they’re writing about. And they should reconcile any discrepancies they find in their further research. Was Wikipedia accurate, or is the other source accurate when facts are not in agreement? How will they know? What does the difference mean? What does a third source say? If they determine Wikipedia is wrong, should they go back and edit Wikipedia?

The process of leaving Wikipedia instead of ending there opens up a new view of the research process and the social negotiations that go on to determine what is fact and what isn’t.

But what’s really intriguing about Srinagesh’s piece is not the part about Wiki’s communal editing practices, but these two observations:

1. “Unlike search engines, Wikipedia searches do not bombard you with thousands of sites that have little or no relation to the subject you are researching.”
2. “Unlike traditional textbooks, Wikipedia articles do not require a trip to the library, but are available from the comfort of your home or dorm.”

On the first: Wikipedia as a search engine substitute, a guide entry into a topic instead of relying on search engines makes a lot of sense. I never thought of Wikipedia as a search engine before, but of course it is. It’s entries are a communal version of what About.com tries to do. So guiding students to start at Wikipedia in much the same way they might start research with Google or Yahoo might be a good way to lead them to a wiser use of Wikipedia.

On the second: There’s a lot of comfort to be found in a library. Heck, on college campuses these days kids even wear pajamas to the library, how much more comfortable can you get? But the real comfort is having the library’s collection at hand. When researching, students will often come across sources that are only in the library. So why not go to the library and use a computer there and call up Wikipedia to get started if that’s what works, but then use its content to cull keyword ideas and subject search terms that can be used in the library’s online card catalog or databased journals collections?

The purpose of good textbooks is to guide students into their libraries, not to make it easier for them to avoid them. Besides, today’s libraries are more and more hives of communal learning, with technology centers, places for students to get coffee and to talk, collaborative workstations and group study rooms, and most important and useful of all, people you can talk to if you’re stuck: reference librarians. Who wouldn’t want to go to a library to do research? It beats sitting alone in your home or dorm. Grab some friends and go to the library, find a big table, spread out your stuff, and have both the whole Internet and the whole collection in the library at your disposal. Why have so little –a lone computer with an Internet connection by yourself in your dorm– when you can have so much to help you do research?

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Categories: Citing Sources, Finding Sources, Research, Working with Sources
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