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IV Writing and Inquiry Into Research
Part 1: Working Thesis and Model
Select an article from a peer-reviewed journal in your domain, and identify the thesis and model used by the author or authors (Greene & Lidinsky, 2021, pp. 165–170). Be sure to also include the reference for the article in your submission.
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Part II: Scholarly Versus Non-Scholarly Sources
After reviewing the section in eTextbook titled “Distinguish Between Popular and Scholarly Sources”, find a dissertation that was published within the last 5years.
Copy and paste the references pages from the dissertation into a Word document and identify sources that you believe are non-scholarly using Word’s comment feature, and explain why (Greene & Lidinsky, 2021).
Part III: Article Synthesis
Select three articles from peer-reviewed journals and create a one-page synthesis worksheet. Write a synthesis of the three articles. Include your worksheet as Appendix A in your final assignment document.
Combined, the three parts of this assignment (including the worksheet as Appendix A), should be at least four, but no more than five pages in length. The title and references pages do not count toward this requirement.
Adhere to APA Style when constructing this assignment, including in-text citations and references for all sources that are used.
■ Distinguish between Primary and Secondary Sources
As you define the research task before you, you will need to understand the difference between primary and secondary sources and figure out which you will need to answer your question. Your instructor may specify a preference, but chances are you will have to make the decision yourself. A primary source is a firsthand, or eyewitness, account, the kind of account you find in letter, newspapers, or research reports based on original research, including statistics, interviews with individuals, or focus groups. A secondary source is an article, book, newspaper, or any other source that does not constitute a report based on firsthand information. For example, it can be a summary of data and conclusions in research reported in a journal article or an event that the writer did not experience firsthand.
If you were exploring issues of language diversity and the English-only movement, you would draw on both primary and secondary sources. You would be interested in researchers’ firsthand (primary) accounts of language learning and use by diverse learners for examples of the challenges nonnative speakers face in learning a standard language. And you would also want to know from secondary sources what others think about whether national unity and individuality can and should coexist in communities and homes as well as in schools. You will find that you are often expected to use both primary and secondary sources in your research.
■ Distinguish between Popular and Scholarly Sources
To determine the type of information to use, you also need to decide whether you should look for popular or scholarly books and articles. Popular sources of information — newspapers like USA Today and The Chronicle of Higher Education, and large-circulation magazines like Time Magazine and Field & Stream — are written for a general audience. This is not to say that popular sources cannot be specialized: The Chronicle of Higher Education is read mostly by academics, Field & Stream by people who love the outdoors. But they are written so that any educated reader can understand them. Scholarly sources, by contrast, are written for experts in a particular field. The New England Journal of Medicine may be read by people who are not physicians, but they are not the journal’s primary audience. In a manner of speaking, these readers are eavesdropping on the journal’s conversation of ideas; they are not expected to contribute to it (and in fact would be hard pressed to do so). The articles in scholarly journals undergo peer review. That is, they do not get published until they have been carefully evaluated by the author’s peers, other experts in the academic conversation being conducted in the journal. Reviewers may comment at length about an article’s level of research and writing, and an author may have to revise an article several times before it sees print. And if the reviewers cannot reach a consensus that the research makes an important contribution to the academic conversation, the article will not be published.
When you begin your research, you may find that popular sources provide helpful information about a topic or an issue — the results of a national poll, for example. Later, however, you will want to use scholarly sources to advance your argument. You can see from Table 7.3 that popular magazines and scholarly journals can be distinguished by a number of characteristics. They are sometimes easier to distinguish when you are looking at the print edition. Does the source contain advertisements? If so, what kinds of advertisements? For commercial products? Or for academic events and resources? How do the advertisements appear? If you find ads and glossy pictures and illustrations, you are probably looking at a popular magazine. This is in contrast to the tables, charts, and diagrams you are likely to find in an education, psychology, or microbiology journal. If you are looking at an article within a database, it might be more difficult to tell whether the source is popular or scholarly. Studying the criteria listed in Table 7.3 will help. Given your experience with rhetorical analyses, you should also be able to determine the makeup of your audience — specialists or nonspecialists — and the level of language you need to use in your writing.
Part III synthesis
A synthesis is a discussion that forges connections between the arguments of two or more authors. Like a summary (discussed in Chapter 3), a synthesis requires you to understand the key claims of each author’s argument, including their use of supporting examples and evidence. Also like a summary, a synthesis requires you to present a central idea, a gist, to your readers. But in contrast to a summary, which explains the context of a source, a synthesis creates a context for your own argument. That is, when you write a synthesis comparing two or more sources, you demonstrate that you are aware of the larger conversation about the issue and begin to claim your own place in that conversation. How you integrate others’ ideas influences your own voice as a writer. That is, as you summarize, paraphrase, or quote writers who share your interest in a given issue, you also want to make sure that in representing the arguments of others, you ensure that readers know what you think and believe.
Comparing different points of view prompts you to ask why they differ. It also makes you more aware of counterarguments — passages in which claims conflict (“writer X says this, but writer Y asserts just the opposite”) or at least differ (“writer X interprets this information this way, while writer Y sees it differently”). And it starts you formulating your own counterarguments: “Neither X nor Y has taken this into account. What if they had?” Your response to this kind of question gives you the opportunity to let others hear your voice.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a synthesis is not merely to list the similarities and differences you find in different sources or to assert your agreement with one source as opposed to others. Instead, it sets up your argument. Once you discover connections among texts, you have to decide what those connections mean to you and your readers. What bearing do they have on your own thinking? How can you make use of them in your argument?
To compose an effective synthesis, you must (1) make connections among ideas in different texts, (2) decide what those connections mean, and (3) formulate the gist of what you’ve read, much like you did when you wrote a summary. The difference is that in a synthesis, your gist should be a succinct statement that brings into focus not the central idea of one text but the relationship among different ideas in multiple texts. In turn, you can use your synthesis to fulfill your own rhetorical purpose of offering a corrective to what others have written, identifying a gap, building on or extending an argument, or testing a hypothesis. It will be important to help readers understand the connections among different and conflicting points of view. Your role as a writer, then, is to bring about awareness, influence readers’ understanding of assumptions they may take for granted, and challenge readers to think in new ways.
To help you grasp strategies of writing a synthesis, read the following essays from activist Paul Rogat Loeb, who writes about building community through grassroots activism; educators Anne Colby and Thomas Ehrlich, whose work with the Carnegie Foundation for Teaching and Learning focuses on the reasons young people, especially undergraduates, need to be more civically engaged in their communities; and Laurie Ouellette, a professor of communication studies who writes about media and the recent trend toward the media’s efforts to do good works in local communities. The media’s efforts, she points out, come at a time when the federal government in the United States has cut social programs and continues to rely on private entities to support families in need. We have annotated these readings not only to comment on the ideas that these authors have put forth but also to model some of the ways that you might annotate texts as a useful first step in writing a synthesis.