Monday, October 5
Get into Week 7 by reading some of the good work that your colleagues have been doing. Read a bunch of posts; maybe they’re posts about Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib / Dream Machines, maybe they’re posts about the blog beautification project. Or, maybe you’ll read posts from earlier in the semester. It doesn’t much matter, I just want you to help your colleagues out by reading and commenting on their work. By the end of the day on Monday, you should comment on 3-5 of your colleagues posts.
Tuesday, October 6 through Thursday, October 8
This week, we start to really get down to business on the final inquiry project. By now, you should all have written a blog post with some initial ideas. Now, we have to settle on a research question or a statement that you’d like to defend. Generating a good research question/prompt is not easy, so think of it as something that leads you on a focused quest where each article, book, essay, etc. you read generates more focused questions for you. A broad topic would bury you in a range of unlimited options, but a good research question/prompt is focused and leads you down a fairly narrow path.
For argumentative essays (which is ultimately what you’re producing for your inquiry project), research questions should never beg for a yes-no answer. They probably shouldn’t call for a limited response set either. So, let’s say I’m interested, generally, in the topic of ad blockers. A bad research question is “Are ad blockers bad for web publishers?” There’s a yes-no answer to that question. A similarly bad research question would be: “What are the main reasons ad blockers are bad for web publishers?” Probably the best way to focus an argumentative essay for your inquiry project is to use a research prompt; a statement to be defended.
To help you get to a research question/prompt, here’s a really handy heuristic:
I am studying x (broad topic)
because I want to find out y (what, how, why)… (more specific focus)
in order to help my readers z (understand, question, challenge, support, wonder about, etc).
And, here’s an example of running through the heuristic given the ad blocking topic:
I am studying ad blocking online
because I want to find out why I shouldn’t feel badly about using ad blocking software
in order to help my readers question the future of web publishing and the role of advertising in supporting the “free” Web.
Research question/prompt: Why you shouldn’t feel badly about using an ad blocker
[NOTE: you’ll note that my research prompt links out to an actual article that attempts to make the argument. I did this intentionally to give you another example of what a final inquiry project might look like. The article is not a perfect example; it’s not even that well-reasoned. It lacks great evidence as well. But, it’s pretty good. And, I hope the completed heuristic plus the research question/prompt and then the article itself helps you see how one might get to a research question/prompt all the way to a final research product.]
Now it’s your turn. Use the heuristic (above) to articulate your research question/prompt. Use the same format (I am studying x because I want to find out how/why/what… in order to help my readers z). Pay particular attention to and spend extra time on the “because…” statement to use the most accurate language you can. Notice the research question/prompt itself comes from the “because…” statement.
Then, after stating your research question/prompt using specific language you feel comfortable with, write a blog post. The first part of the blog post should have you running through the heuristic exactly as I’ve done in the example above. That should generate a research question/prompt.
At this point, you can publish your post knowing that you’ll come back to edit/update it. Or, you can save your post as a draft and come back to edit it later. The reason for this is that I want you to start to look around for articles related to your research question/prompt. Do not worry about the quality of the articles yet. Starting next week, we will spend time looking at different kinds of sources and vetting the quality of the evidence you use to formulate your argument. For now, though, see what you can find that you think might be useful in helping you think about your research question/prompt.
After doing some web research, you need to do two things. First, for each of the three best articles you find, share them in our Diigo group. Not everyone will be interested in the articles you share in Diigo, but you never know. By sharing in Diigo, you potentially bootstrap our collective IQ (bonus points if you recognize that reference. Hint: it rhymes with Schmengelbart). Second, go back to your blog post about your inquiry project and briefly discuss and link to the three best articles you have found that are relevant to your inquiry project. Tell us why you think they might help address your research question/prompt, but ALSO, what further questions each article raises for you that you will need to explore in more research. Also, try to extrapolate differences and similarities in the concerns, insights, and examples used in all three of the articles.
Ultimately, by the end of the day Thursday, October 8, you are to have a completed blog post that includes: you having run through the heuristic + your specific research question/prompt + a discussion of 3 articles that may be of use to you in responding to the question/prompt.
Friday, October 9
Read Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg, “Personal Dynamic Media” (pdf download). Pick a nugget to work on. Write a blog post making the nugget as meaningful as possible. You should be pretty good at these nugget assignments by now 🙂 (TAG: nugget5)