Pick One, Any One? They're all just encyclopedia articles . . .

Submitted by Gail Gradowski on June 14th, 2018
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Short Description: 

This exercise was designed for 1st year writing students with several different goals in mind:
• encourage deeper, closer reading;
• introduce the concept that information sources have perspective;
• develop vocabulary around describing information and perspective;
• acquaint students with the many values/uses of subject encyclopedias;
• practice topic narrowing using these types of encyclopedia articles.

Additional Instructor Resources (e.g. in-class activities, worksheets, scaffolding applications, supplemental modules, further readings, etc.): 
Learning Outcomes: 

• Distinguish/discern differences in treatment of the same subject in different texts.
• Differentiate/recognize different types of information sources in lists of references.
• Assess/compare/contrast author credentials.
• Assess/compare/contrast authority, audience and perspective of various subject encyclopedias.

Individual or Group:

Course Context (e.g. how it was implemented or integrated): 

Students love wikipedia, and this exercise builds on that. They tell me that one of the ways they use wikipedia is to help them narrow their topic. I've often recommended to students that they read some encyclopedia articles to help them focus/narrow/define their research question. This exercise can serve as a way to encourage that use. It could be immediately followed by having them locate subject encyclopedia articles for themselves.

Potential Pitfalls and Teaching Tips: 

When they are in their groups composing their presentation, you will need to encourage them to go into more detail, cite examples from the texts to support their claims. They will initially be making very broad, general statements. Students working on the 4th question will probably need the most assistance.

Suggested Citation: 
Gradowski, Gail. "Pick One, Any One? They're all just encyclopedia articles . . .." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2018.