Given the time you will be working in your groups and the efficiency you will want to achieve I recommend some organizing initially.
Conceptualizing the Research. Your group should begin by just talking about what you want to accomplish, what you want to look for, and how you are going to proceed in looking for it. The specific web pages for the various research tasks should assist with this planning. Generally, research is a matter of working from a broad conceptualization of your research target to a narrow one. So, think through what that journey might be. Then think chronologically about how it would be best to proceed. I would also make specific assignments for members of the group. By the way, don't divide up work by the questions being asked, at least not initially. Rather, divide up the plan you have devised. No member of the group should feel constrained by the plan, particularly when they hit a hot trail, but they should feel obligated to complete their assignment within the plan.
Be prepared to alter this plan, but have it in place to revise.
It will also help to think through how you will record your findings. My suggestions are as follows.
Keep a good bibliography. Use full citations when you first encounter a source so you do not need to go back later as you are preparing the bibliography to hand-in. Even put things on the bibliography that turned out to be of no use, noting their uselessness. You will delete these before handing in your bibliography but as you work they will keep you and your fellow group members from duplicating efforts on a useless source.
- I recommend keeping notes on 3 by 5 cards. When you are doing research like this you find that primary sources often disagree. You will need to be able to compare accounts from source to source. This will be easier to do with easily manipulated order that is provided by cards. Include an index number for each item on your bibliography (for example, "A1" for the first source consulted by team member "A"), numbered consecutively as you look at sources, and just indicate the source on each card with this number.
Planning your time. These are not going to be assignments you complete overnight. You will have read somewhere between three and five hundred pages of material by the time you have finished. So leave yourself plenty of time. But also, don't overestimate what you will be able to do. Have an intelligent strategy that allows you to do the assignment well within the time constraints.
General strategies for your reading. What sorts of things are you going to spend your time reading?
- Internet sites often give you shallow explanations of ideas that are important to your understanding but most such sites lack depth or full vetting for accuracy. Learn to differentiate invented from vetted sources when you access material through your computer. Articles that appear in vetted academic journals or even some well edited magazines have passed the scrutiny of others who are able to judge whether they are accurate and reasonable in the context of their historical period.
- Obviously, books are longer than journal articles, so they take longer to read. Yet, they may or may not tell you much more than the article. For example, one can read about the ideograph of <equality> in a journal article by Celeste Condit and John Lucaites or can read their book on the topic. The book will provide you many more details and a fuller historical sweep, valuable to a scholar reading their work. But you may not need that additional depth. If you understand the journal article, you may be able to make your full contribution to the discussion. I do not discourage the reading of a book at some point in your preparation, but deal with books intelligently.
- Obviously, reading focused sections of books takes less time but provides less depth than full books. Thus, you could read the section of Condit and Lucaites' book dealing with abolition, but would miss the full context of the ideograph in history. Yet, if the abolition period is your focus, this section may be sufficient reading.
- Another type of book collects essays from several authors on a particular subject. These essays function more like journal articles than full books so they can be very useful sources.
I would encourage you to think in terms of starting with shallower sources, perhaps from the internet (with proper caution), moving quickly to articles from periodicals and essays from, or sections of, books before you take on whole books. Thus, you will have built a kind of upside down pyramid, beginning with shallower material and working yourself toward more depth based on that early reading. But think through this strategy before you begin.
Identifying search terms. As you begin your research you need to find quality sources using data bases. The first step in this is your making a list of search terms to put into the search engines you will use. You should construct this list from the following:
- Go to the page setting up our speeches. Find key words in the description to help you.
- Names of important people connected with the speech including the speaker.
- This list should be expanded as you begin your research and discover new terms to add and search. Drop unfruitful search terms from your list and add terms you discover in your research that seem useful.
Identifying Key Databases. To complete your strategy, you need to decide which databases to consult and/or search using the key terms you have developed.
- Indexes accessing reliable and disciplined sources. Available through the RESEARCH PORT at the library's website, including
- Communication and Mass Media Complete. This database will give you access to earlier work in the discipline of communication.
- America: History and Life. This is an excellent database for the history portion of the assignment.
- Academic Search Premier. While this is a general, multidisciplinary database, its size and scope make it worth searching for most academic subjects.
- Non-library internet search engine such as GOOGLE. Realize that material is placed on the internet without regard to its reliability and without benefit of checks for accuracy. Information you gain through this mode of searching should be approached with due caution.
Setting Priorities. It is now time to make a first divide on the work of the group and to set some priorities. Effective research is always a matter of setting and following priorities and then revising them as you find new things. So, the last thing to do as a group at this stage is to set priorities for each member of the group.
At this point, your group should have divided its work in some reasonable way and it is time to begin the research.
Building your Bibliography. Don't do your bibliography last, begin it now.
Implement your strategy by placing your bibliography in the order you want to look at the sources.
Locate your initial sources. You are ready to begin looking for your initial sources.
Don't expect everything you look at to be useful. When it is not, indicate this on the bibliography entry so that you do not go back to sources you have already seen.
Reading sources. As you read, take notes on five different things:
Follow the hot trails. When you find good material, follow up on it with other sources mentioned by the source. Check the group bibliography to make certain noone else is looking for this source, then go for it.
Sometime, a few days into your research, the group should reassemble. As time goes on you will get a feel for how long this should be.
- Share your accumulating knowledge. Just talk about what you have learned. The secret to gaining from dividing up your work is making this step as thorough as possible. Everyone should be learning from everyone else's work and that will only happen from this discussion. Its a good idea for someone to make a list of the things you have learned to tell the class. Also note things you do not yet know that requires further research.
- Update your group bibliography. If you have not established a procedure for doing this, do it now and make certain you are avoiding duplication of effort.
- Update your plan to complete the research portion of the assignment. Divide up remaining work.
- Feel free to consult with the instructor at this point if he can be of assistance.
After the group has identified additional needed research, complete that research as quickly as possible.
Work through what you have gained. Look back over your notes and summarize what you know. Sit down and talk through how your work fits together. Think about what the class would benefit from knowing in doing the discussion.
Prepare an outline for the presentation. Begin by making a list of the points that should be in the presentation. Decide the best way to present them. If all of you will contribute during the presentation, decide on the division. (Remember you have only fifteen minutes, so set up a way to control the flow if you all present.)
Finalize your annotated bibliography. Select the sources that have been most useful in each of the areas of your research and prepare them bibliography to be handed in. Review the criteria for grading the bibliography to make certain you are meeting those criteria. Remember to prepare it with a word processor, using proper MLA or APA form. You will be graded on form as well as content. An "A" bibliography will have a well balanced and sufficient choice of sources, will have annotations that assist in your preparation for discussion, and will follow proper form and format.
Obviously electronic access makes the gathering of information easier for all of us. But there are some things that you have to keep in mind when doing research through this easy method.
It is wise to differentiate between the internet -- that vast accumulation of information that you access through GOOGLE, YAHOO, and similar search engines -- and the less open resources of a library that are increasingly available electronically through your computer. Both are accessible through your computer but they are different reservoirs of information. These reservoirs have different gateways: GOOGLE and YAHOO versus GOOGLE SCHOLAR, RESEARCH PORT, and the ONLINE CATALOG, the latter two found on the university libraries' website..
Not all information available on the internet, the blogosphere, or anywhere else is equally reliable. There are institutions and processes that are designed and function to examine the truth, comprehensiveness, and reliability of information. Among these institutions are those of academic scholarship and responsible editorial scrutiny. We say that in these institutional processes information is "disciplined" or "vetted." The internet has greatly complicated our lives with regard to such vetting. Some material found on the internet is disciplined, but much is simply posted by someone without benefit of the full, careful, review of disciplined research. You must now develop your ability to differentiate between information that has this reliability and information without this reliability. The library door used to do that for you; now you are on your own. You need to train yourself to recognize the signs of this reliability. Is the material published under the primature of a scholarly organization? Is the source a known reliable researcher in the subject matter involved? Is there evidence of an editorial process that would insist on the reliability of material published? Does a website explain how material is screened for inclusion?
The material that is generally available in the bricks and mortar library is more reliable knowledge, disciplined by careful review, correction, and improvement through the editorial processes that are a part of academic life. It is this kind of disciplined knowledge that you pay big bucks to acquire at a university. We are in the midst of a period when the access to this information is shifting from the bricks and mortar library to electronic access. During this period, you will seldom be able to get the full benefit of the library from your computer. You will need to go to the bricks and mortar building to do some of your work.
So, I offer the following advice to you:
Start with what you can access electronically.
Differentiate in your own mind between the internet and electronically accessible library material. Both you access electronically, but with different levels of reliability.
I do not expect that all your research will have to take place in the library, but I suspect some of it will. I will not penalize you for not entering the library. But I will penalize you for having narrow bibliographies without depth in the areas I have asked for depth. You may penalize yourself if you restrict yourself only to material available on the internet or through electronic sources.
I will grade your oral reports using the following criteria:
An "A" report will be superior on all these criteria.
I will grade your group's annotated bibliography by the following criteria.
Comprehensiveness. Does the overall bibliography treat all I asked? (Note that specified numbers of entries are guidelines, comprehensiveness is the criterion.)
Depth. Does the bibliography contain some specific work as well as general treatments?
Quality. Does the bibliography reflect due attention to the vetting process? That is, is their sufficient material that would indicate academic or carefully edited work?
Proper Form. Have you followed APA or MLA form in citing your sources?
Annotation. Do your annotations provide evidence that you have (a) read the material, and (b) thought about how you might use it in class discussion.
An "A" bibliography will be superior in all regards.