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Organizing Research

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Organizing Research by Karen Hornberger. Palisades High School Library


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...So...you are finding some good articles!! ...and good books ...and good websites ...and good videos If you are finding many good resources, it looks as if you have picked a good topic that you will have no problem researching! Great Job!


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You are also Developing a Strong Thesis Statement If your thesis statement is enumerative, that means that you have three clear and unique points to support your argument or statement. (the following (insert any statement) is true because of A, B, and C) example: American popular culture greatly influences culture, worldwide, through the production and dissemination of video games, movies, and television shows.


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Excitement is in the air! At this point, you are probably happy and feeling like you have it together. You are right, but remember it will REALLY pay off for you if you take some time to slow down and organize your materials from the start and continue along the way. (It will REALLY, REALLY, REALLY pay off!)


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Why???? Trust me, it can be a BIG mess for you if you don’t organize. A lot of researchers cannot remember where they learned pieces of information. As a result, they are likely to produce incorrect citations. Not only is this not ethical, but you can get caught and may have to pay the consequences academically. It will ultimately make you feel bad about your work (which matters!) You want to feel proud of your work and accomplished (and you can!)


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How???? I’ve found that there are two ways that people prefer to organize the information that they find and it really boils down to whether the person researching prefers to use electronic methods of working or to work hands-on with actual printouts.


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Hands-On Method Get three pocket folders and label one Point A, another Point B, and another Point C to identify each major subtopic within the thesis Print out each article, website, or book page(s) that you are using (take notes on any video) for information BE SURE that each printout identifies the source (it doesn’t need to be properly cited here on the printouts) Designate a unique highlighter color for each of the points (Point A in pink highlighter, Point B in green, etc.) Take each print-out (one at a time) and highlight any piece of information using the unique highlighter color that you have designated and ONLY highlight items that support that specific thesis point At a mid-point, assess whether you have enough information to support each thesis point and seek additional information if you need to


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Hands-On Method, Cont. Example: My point A is that American video games have a global influence. Within any article that I see that concept supported, I will highlight the passages in pink (which is the color that I have selected for Point A). Note: If I notice that the same article also supports a different thesis point (maybe it also speaks of how American television has a global influence, which is my Point C), then I print another copy of the article out and highlight with the appropriate highlighter color that I have chosen for Point C (orange) and place that orange highlighted article into the folder that is set for the associated thesis point (Point C). So, yes, I will have two printouts of the same exact article - one highlighted in pink and placed in one folder (which only has items highlighted in pink and discusses video games’ influence upon the world) and one highlighted in orange (and placed in a folder which only has information highlighted in orange and discusses television’s influence upon the world). Makes sense?


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Electronic Method #1 (Google Drive) Within Google Drive, you can organize your research notes using this system. Create a folder in Drive to house your project notes. Within that folder, create a folder for each subtopic. If you want to keep the folders arranged in the proper order, put a letter at the beginning of the title (my first folder would be titled A: videogame culture; my second folder would be B: movie culture...). Next, create a Google Doc within each folder. Scan each resource for information on that specific topic and copy/paste or type the information into the Doc and identify the source that it comes from. At a mid-way point during your research project, assess if you have enough information to support each thesis point.


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Electronic Method #2 (Noodletools) Our school subscribes to Noodletools, which offers great resources to organize your outline and notecards. In Noodletools, cite every source AS SOON as you determine it useful. Go into Notecards and enter headings into the outline to mirror the main points within your thesis statement (and eventually fill out your outline in its entirety) As you work with articles, create notecards (from one source at a time). Drag those notecards into the appropriate area of the outline that the information supports. At a mid-way point during your research project, assess if you have enough information to support each thesis point.


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Draft Time! While constructing your first draft, you now have all of your information arranged perfectly. The time that you took to organize your work will help the rough draft flow out easier. It paid off! You can pull out that Point A folder or open all of those notes that you have saved for Point A. If they were saved electronically, you can just copy and paste to arrange them in the rational order that you set within your outline. If you chose Hands-On, then you must type them into a document and put them into a rational order for your reader (most likely as you have identified within your outline). Don’t forget to tie the ideas that you have gathered from the experts with your own ideas and thoughts (this is vital! While expert opinion is required for research, it is also very important that you recognize your job of making that expert opinion support your personal topic (the thesis statement you personally designed) and connect information that you found together with your ideas to make it your own. Follow with Points B and C. Then work on a strong opening and closing.


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Writer’s Block? SO many times (like SO SO SO many times) I hear students comment that they are having trouble writing. I am a huge believer that it is best to organize and draft the main body of the paper before you worry about how to open and close the paper with an opening and conclusion. It can be difficult to do right; if you have the stress lessened by having your paper written, you will be able to consider a few opening hooks without that panicky, awful feeling inside of you. However, a good hook is extremely important and you want to give it the time and attention it deserves. Remember to connect the people who are reading your paper to the topic and get them to truly care about what you will talk about.


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GOOD LUCK! Enjoy your research and make it count! If you are having trouble expanding upon the quotations that you are selecting, my slideshow, Expanding upon Quotations may help you. Learn some things that are worth sharing with the world!


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