Authority is Constructed and Contextual
What does it mean to be a Stakeholder?
As an author of a research paper or project, you have a stake in the topic. You already know something about the topic. In addition to the author, there are other stakeholders in every research topic.
Writing Exercise and Discussion
- What perspective(s) do you bring to the topic? Where might there be gaps in your knowledge? Can you identify what this topic means to you, or how you think or feel about it?
- Who are additional stakeholders you can identify related to this topic? Where can you learn more about the authority of their perspective(s)? Where does their authority come from (for example, do they have firsthand knowledge of the topic?)? Where might there be gaps in their knowledge? What kind of information might they value or produce?
How to use experts - and when not to
- What is the difference between critiquing the "expert" and critiquing "expertise"?
- Brainstorm on paper a time someone you considered an expert was wrong. How did you find out they were wrong?
- What qualifies someone to be a expert? Compare your answers to this question if the expert is a doctor versus a community organizer.
Searching as Strategic Exploration
Build a Concept Map to Assist the Research Process
Most researchers use a variety of keywords or concepts to gather the best results from different sources.
- Brainstorm keywords for your topic. Start by writing the topic in the center.
- Add additional terms to the list including related concepts, synonyms, antonyms, and broader and narrower terms.
- Identify the relationships between the concepts.
- As you build keywords, list questions you have or areas where your knowledge is unclear, uncertain or in need of further research and identify the type of information you need.
Concept map created by Joy Branlund, Southwestern Illinois College, and used with permission.
Scholarship as Conversation
Summerize Topics and Opinions on Controversial Subjects
Find and read four informative magazine or newspaper articles in LexisNexis Academic representing a variety of opinions on a controversial topic assigned to your group by the instructor.
For each magazine article write an MLA citation (or other citation style chosen by your instructor).
In an oral presentation of less than three minutes per group, summarize the controversy (do not give your opinions) and explain why you chose the four articles. Be prepared to answer questions about your topic and why you selected each of the four articles.
- Standing Rock Reservation Protests of Dakota Access Pipeline
- Armed militant occupation of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands
- Florida v. Zimmerman
Topic Suggestions (Adapted from "Summerizing Different Perspectives in Controversial Topics" in projectcora.org)
Research as Inquiry
Use these mindmapping techniques to help students visualize different stages of the research process.
1) Mapping sources to find concepts (early stage of work)
For the early stages in topic selection, students often have vague ideas about topics but haven’t yet come to a point where they’re able to say what piece of the topic they’re going to concentrate on. They know they want to do something with the implications of fictional characters’ names, for example, but haven’t really figured out exactly what about the names to pursue or maybe even what fiction to use as foundational examples. But they’re really interested in race and culture, and they know that fictional characters have names chosen for them by authors, so there’s got to be something they can do that combines the two.For this, some students find it very helpful to keep their broad topic in mind while reading/skimming several readings. Each reading becomes a node, potentially related to other readings, but not necessarily. The students can then draw connections between readings, using this process to discover the concepts that may be key to their own work.
2) Collecting search terms and source type strategies
Another tricky part of early stage research, particularly in the humanities, is learning the vocabulary of your topic and learning what counts as evidence to the community of inquiry that you’re planning to enter. Unless you do these things, searching can be pretty impossible since it’s just term matching. If you’re using “self-concept” and your community of inquiry is using “identity” you’ll never retrieve the sources you need.
Similarly, if you produce an argument based on evidence that your community scoffs at, or if you need ideas for what kinds of sources would help you make explore your topic, watching what kinds of evidence show up in the literature can be a great strategy.
And of course, following up on people or institutions mentioned in the literature is another great way to build future searches based on readings you’ve found.
So for this kind of map, I have students think about their major concepts, and then fill in those concepts with terms, source type ideas, and people/institutions associated with that concept. These all become fodder for future searches.
3) Mapping concepts to find your own question
Once students have solidified the core concepts of their work a bit more, they still need to figure out how to assimilate the source material into something that original rather than duplicating others’ work or simply patching together quotes from here and there. For this, a pretty traditional mindmap can help.
I have students plot out their key concepts and list the key sources for each concept (for students to did option 1, these can often be the labels they assigned to the connecting lines between sources — in fact, the whole map is like the inverse of option 1). This time we pay close attention to the spaces between concepts. Students can then see what has and what has not been covered by their source material and figure out what they’re adding to the conversation. “People have covered x, y, and z, but I’m going to take these parts of what they have said and add this new idea.”
4) Mapping to test the completeness of your evidence
And finally, for students who are thinking critically about their work and want to be sure they’ve made a rock-solid case for their position, I have them think about building a bridge between themselves and their readers. Their paper is supposed to walk their readers from Belief A (the reader’s start point) to Belief B (what the student hopes the reader will believe after reading the paper). We start thinking “Well, they’d have to be on board with the assumption that x, and know about y event…”
Each of these concepts contributes a bit of itself to the students’ goals, forming one of the planks in the bridge the student is building.
It’s also a way to think about potentially interesting ideas that aren’t actually necessary to the paper.
Adapted from Iris Jastram's blog Pegasus Librarian.
Information has Value
The Value of Content on Social Media
Facebook Must Be Accountable by Danah Boyd
In her article on Facebook's neutrality, Boyd writes:
"there never was neutrality and there never will be".
Brainstorm, on paper or in a small group, memories you have of someone (or something) telling you they were "neutral". Why did they make a claim of neutrality? Did you believe them?
- What dimensions of value does information on Facebook have? Would your answer be different if you didn't know about Facebook's algorithms?
- How is claiming your information has MORE value than other information different than claiming you have authority?
Information Creation is a Process
Introduction to Information Production
Information is created in different ways depending on the format. For example, a book's publication process is different from a blog's publication cycle. The format of the information plays a key role in how the information is created. Watch our video tutorial on information production and answer the following questions on format distinctions.
- Think about two (or more!) types of information that you use (like an article from the library's databases and an article in a a local newspaper). How is the information created and who participates in the creation process?
- Who is able to create it?
- Where can you find this information?