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Lesson Plan

Scaffolding Methods for Research Paper Writing

 

Grades6 – 8
Lesson Plan TypeUnit
Estimated TimeSeven or eight 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

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OVERVIEW

Students will use scaffolding to research and organize information for writing a research paper. A research paper scaffold provides students with clear support for writing expository papers that include a question (problem), literature review, analysis, methodology for original research, results, conclusion, and references. Students examine informational text, use an inquiry-based approach, and practice genre-specific strategies for expository writing. Depending on the goals of the assignment, students may work collaboratively or as individuals. A student-written paper about color psychology provides an authentic model of a scaffold and the corresponding finished paper. The research paper scaffold is designed to be completed during seven or eight sessions over the course of four to six weeks.

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FEATURED RESOURCES

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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

O'Day, S. (2006) Setting the stage for creative writing: Plot scaffolds for beginning and intermediate writers. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Research paper scaffolding provides a temporary linguistic tool to assist students as they organize their expository writing. Scaffolding assists students in moving to levels of language performance they might be unable to obtain without this support.

  • An instructional scaffold essentially changes the role of the teacher from that of giver of knowledge to leader in inquiry. This relationship encourages creative intelligence on the part of both teacher and student, which in turn may broaden the notion of literacy so as to include more learning styles.

  • An instructional scaffold is useful for expository writing because of its basis in problem solving, ownership, appropriateness, support, collaboration, and internalization. It allows students to start where they are comfortable, and provides a genre-based structure for organizing creative ideas.

 

Biancarosa, G., and Snow, C. E. (2004.) Reading next-A vision for action and research in middle and high school literacy: A report from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

  • In order for students to take ownership of knowledge, they must learn to rework raw information, use details and facts, and write.

  • Teaching writing should involve direct, explicit comprehension instruction, effective instructional principles embedded in content, motivation and self-directed learning, and text-based collaborative learning to improve middle school and high school literacy.

  • Expository writing, because its organizational structure is rooted in classical rhetoric, needs to be taught.

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Standards

NCTE/IRA NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS

1.

Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.

 

2.

Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

 

3.

Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

 

4.

Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

 

5.

Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

 

6.

Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.

 

7.

Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

 

8.

Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

 

12.

Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

 

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Resources & Preparation

MATERIALS AND TECHNOLOGY

Computers with Internet access and printing capability

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PRINTOUTS

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WEBSITES

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PREPARATION

1.Decide how you will schedule the seven or eight class sessions in the lesson to allow students time for independent research. You may wish to reserve one day each week as the “research project day.” The schedule should provide students time to plan ahead and collect materials for one section of the scaffold at a time, and allow you time to assess each section as students complete it, which is important as each section builds upon the previous one.

2.Make a copy for each student of the Research Paper Scaffold, the Example Research Paper Scaffold, the Example Student Research Paper, the Internet Citation Checklist, and the Research Paper Scoring Rubric. Also fill out and copy the Permission Form if you will be getting parents’ permission for the research projects.

3.If necessary, reserve time in the computer lab for Sessions 2 and 8. Decide which citation website students will use to format reference citations (see Websites) and bookmark it on student computers.

4.Schedule time for research in the school media center or the computer lab between Sessions 2 and 3.

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Instructional Plan

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • Formulate a clear thesis that conveys a perspective on the subject of their research

  • Practice research skills, including evaluation of sources, paraphrasing and summarizing relevant information, and citation of sources used

  • Logically group and sequence ideas in expository writing

  • Organize and display information on charts, maps, and graphs

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Session 1: Research Question

1.Distribute copies of the Example Research Paper Scaffold and Example Student Research Paper, and read the model aloud with students. Briefly discuss how this research paper works to answer the question, How does color affect mood? The example helps students clearly see how a research question leads to a literature review, which in turn leads to analysis, original research, results, and conclusion.

2.Pass out copies of the Research Paper Scaffold. Explain to students that the procedures involved in writing a research paper follow in order, and each section of the scaffold builds upon the previous one. Briefly describe how each section will be completed during subsequent sessions.

3.Explain that in this session the students’ task is to formulate a research question and write it on the scaffold. Note: The most important strategy in using this model is that students be allowed, within the assigned topic framework, to ask their own research questions. Allowing students to choose their own questions gives them control over their own learning, so they are motivated to “solve the case,” to persevere even when the trail runs cold or the detective work seems unexciting.

4.Introduce the characteristics of a good research question. Explain that in a broad area such as political science, psychology, geography, or economics, a good question needs to focus on a particular controversy or perspective. Some examples include:
  • Why did Martin Luther King Jr. deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

  • How has glass affected human culture?

  • What is the history of cheerleading?
Explain that students should take care not to formulate a research question so broad that it cannot be answered, or so narrow that it can be answered in a sentence or two.

5.Note that a good question always leads to more questions. Invite students to suggest additional questions resulting from the examples above and from the Example Research Paper Scaffold.

6.Emphasize that good research questions are open-ended. Open-ended questions can be solved in more than one way and, depending upon interpretation, often have more than one correct answer, such as the question, Can virtue be taught? Closed questions have only one correct answer, such as, How many continents are there in the world? Open-ended questions are implicit and evaluative, while closed questions are explicit. Have students identify possible problems with these research questions
  • Why do people’s moods change? (too broad)

  • Why do doctors traditionally wear white?
    This question is too narrow for a five-page paper as it can be answered in just a few words.

  • How does color affect mood? (open-ended)
    This is broader, yet not so large that it would run over the five-page requirement.
7.Instruct students to fill in the first section of the Research Paper Scaffold, the Research Question, before Session 2. This task can be completed in a subsequent class session or assigned as homework. Allowing a few days for students to refine and reflect upon their research question is best practice. Explain that the next section, the Hook, should not be filled in at this time, as it will be completed using information from the literature search.


You should approve students’ final research questions before Session 2. You may also wish to send home the Permission Form with students, to make parents aware of their child’s research topic and the project due dates.

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Session 2: Literature Review—Search

Prior to this session, you may want to introduce or review Internet search techniques using the lesson Inquiry on the Internet: Evaluating Web Pages for a Class Collection. You may also wish to consult with the school librarian regarding subscription databases designed specifically for student research, which may be available through the school or public library. Using these types of resources will help to ensure that students find relevant and appropriate information. Using Internet search engines such as Google can be overwhelming to beginning researchers.

1.Introduce this session by explaining that students will collect five articles that help to answer their research question. Once they have printed out or photocopied the articles, they will use a highlighter to mark the sections in the articles that specifically address the research question. This strategy helps students focus on the research question rather than on all the other interesting—yet irrelevant—facts that they will find in the course of their research.

2.Point out that the five different articles may offer similar answers and evidence with regard to the research question, or they may differ. The final paper will be more interesting if it explores different perspectives.

3.Demonstrate the use of any relevant subscription databases that are available to students through the school, as well as any Web directories or kid-friendly search engines (such as KidzSearch) that you would like them to use.

4.Remind students that their research question can provide the keywords for a targeted Internet search. The question should also give focus to the research—without the research question to anchor them, students may go off track.

5.Explain that information found in the articles may lead students to broaden their research question. A good literature review should be a way of opening doors to new ideas, not simply a search for the data that supports a preconceived notion.

6.Make students aware that their online search results may include abstracts, which are brief summaries of research articles. In many cases the full text of the articles is available only through subscription to a scholarly database. Provide examples of abstracts and scholarly articles so students can recognize that abstracts do not contain all the information found in the article, and should not be cited unless the full article has been read.

7.Emphasize that students need to find articles from at least five different reliable sources that provide “clues” to answering their research question. Internet articles need to be printed out, and articles from print sources need to be photocopied. Each article used on the Research Paper Scaffold needs to yield several relevant facts, so students may need to collect more than five articles to have adequate sources.

8.Remind students to gather complete reference information for each of their sources. They may wish to photocopy the title page of books where they find information, and print out the homepage or contact page of websites.

9.Allow students at least a week for research. Schedule time in the school media center or the computer lab so you can supervise and assist students as they search for relevant articles. Students can also complete their research as homework.

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Session 3: Literature Review—Notes

Students need to bring their articles to this session. For large classes, have students highlight relevant information (as described below) and submit the articles for assessment before beginning the session.

1.Have students find the specific information in each article that helps answer their research question, and highlight the relevant passages. Check that students have correctly identified and marked relevant information before allowing them to proceed to the Literature Review section on the Research Paper Scaffold.

2.Instruct students to complete the Literature Review section of the Research Paper Scaffold, including the last name of the author and the publication date for each article (to prepare for using APA citation style).

3.Have students list the important facts they found in each article on the lines numbered 1–5, as shown on the Example Research Paper Scaffold. Additional facts can be listed on the back of the handout. Remind students that if they copy directly from a text they need to put the copied material in quotation marks and note the page number of the source. Note: Students may need more research time following this session to find additional information relevant to their research question.

4.Explain that interesting facts that are not relevant for the literature review section can be listed in the section labeled Hook. All good writers, whether they are writing narrative, persuasive, or expository text, need to engage or “hook” the reader’s interest. Facts listed in the Hook section can be valuable for introducing the research paper.

5.Use the Example Research Paper Scaffold to illustrate how to fill in the first and last lines of the Literature Review entry, which represent topic and concluding sentences. These should be filled in only after all the relevant facts from the source have been listed, to ensure that students are basing their research on facts that are found in the data, rather than making the facts fit a preconceived idea.

6.Check students’ scaffolds as they complete their first literature review entry, to make sure they are on track. Then have students complete the other four sections of the Literature Review Section in the same manner.


Checking Literature Review entries on the same day is best practice, as it gives both you and the student time to plan and address any problems before proceeding. Note that in the finished product this literature review section will be about six paragraphs, so students need to gather enough facts to fit this format.

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Session 4: Analysis

1.Explain that in this session students will compare the information they have gathered from various sources to identify themes.

2.Explain the process of analysis using the Example Research Paper Scaffold. Show how making a numbered list of possible themes, drawn from the different perspectives proposed in the literature, can be useful for analysis. In the Example Research Paper Scaffold, there are four possible explanations given for the effects of color on mood. Remind students that they can refer to the Example Student Research Paper for a model of how the analysis will be used in the final research paper.

3.Have students identify common themes and possible answers to their own research question by reviewing the topic and concluding sentences in their literature review. Students may identify only one main idea in each source, or they may find several. Instruct students to list the ideas and summarize their similarities and differences in the space provided for Analysis on the scaffold.

4.Check students’ Analysis section entries to make sure they have included theories that are consistent with their literature review. Return the Research Paper Scaffolds to students with comments and corrections. Note: In the finished research paper, the analysis section will be about one paragraph.

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Session 5: Original Research

Students should design some form of original research appropriate to their topics, but they do not necessarily have to conduct the experiments or surveys they propose. Depending on the appropriateness of the original research proposals, the time involved, and the resources available, you may prefer to omit the actual research or use it as an extension activity.

1.During this session, students formulate one or more possible answers to the research question (based upon their analysis) for possible testing. Invite students to consider and briefly discuss the following questions:
  • How can you tell whether the ideas you are reading are true?

  • If there are two or more solutions to a problem, which one is the best?

  • Researchers verify the validity of their findings by devising original research to test them, but what kind of test works best in a given situation?
2.Explain the difference between qualitative and quantitative research. Quantitative methods involve the collection of numeric data, while qualitative methods focus primarily on the collection of observable data. Quantitative studies have large numbers of participants and produce a large collection of data (such as results from 100 people taking a 10-question survey). Qualitative methods involve few participants and rely upon the researcher to serve as a “reporter” who records direct observations of a specific population. Qualitative methods involve more detailed interviews and artifact collection.

3.Point out that each student’s research question and analysis will determine which method is more appropriate. Show how the research question in the Example Research Paper Scaffold goes beyond what is reported in a literature review and adds new information to what is already known.

4.Outline criteria for acceptable research studies, and explain that you will need to approve each student’s plan before the research is done. The following criteria should be included:
  • The test needs to be “doable” within the time frame allotted (usually one to two weeks).

  • The test must be safe, both physically and mentally, for those involved. This means no unsupervised, dangerous experiments.

  • Parental approval should be obtained (see Permission Form).

  • The number of subjects should be kept to multiples of 10, so it is easier to report the data statistically.

  • If the research involves a survey
  • An equal number of male and female participants should be included if possible.

  • A wide range of ages should be included if possible.

  • The survey should have no more than 10 questions.

  • The survey form should include an introduction that states why the survey is being conducted and what the researcher plans to do with the data.
5.Inform students of the schedule for submitting their research plans for approval and completing their original research. Students need to conduct their tests and collect all data prior to Session 6. Normally it takes one day to complete research plans and one to two weeks to conduct the test.

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Session 6: Results (optional)

1.If students have conducted original research, instruct them to report the results from their experiments or surveys. Quantitative results can be reported on a chart, graph, or table. Qualitative studies may include data in the form of pictures, artifacts, notes, and interviews. Study results can be displayed in any kind of visual medium, such as a poster, PowerPoint presentation, or brochure.

2.Check the Results section of the scaffold and any visuals provided for consistency, accuracy, and effectiveness.

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Session 7: Conclusion

1.Explain that the Conclusion to the research paper is the student’s answer to the research question. This section may be one to two paragraphs. Remind students that it should include supporting facts from both the literature review and the test results (if applicable).

2.Encourage students to use the Conclusion section to point out discrepancies and similarities in their findings, and to propose further studies. Discuss the Conclusion section of the Example Research Paper Scaffold from the standpoint of these guidelines.

3.Check the Conclusion section after students have completed it, to see that it contains a logical summary and is consistent with the study results.

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Session 8: References and Writing Final Draft

1.Show students how to create a reference list of cited material, using a model such as American Psychological Association (APA) style, on the Reference section of the scaffold.

2.Distribute copies of the Internet Citation Checklist and have students refer to the handout as they list their reference information in the Reference section of the scaffold. Check students’ entries as they are working to make sure they understand the format correctly.

3.Have students access the citation site you have bookmarked on their computers. Demonstrate how to use the template or follow the guidelines provided, and have students create and print out a reference list to attach to their final research paper.

4.Explain to students that they will now use the completed scaffold to write the final research paper using the following genre-specific strategies for expository writing:
  • Use active, present tense verbs when possible.

  • Avoid the use of personal pronouns such as I and my (unless the research method was qualitative).

  • Cite all sources.
5.Distribute copies of the Research Paper Scoring Rubric and go over the criteria so that students understand how their final written work will be evaluated.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

  • Observe students’ participation in the initial stages of the Research Paper Scaffold and promptly address any errors or misconceptions about the research process.

  • Observe students and provide feedback as they complete each section of the Research Paper Scaffold.

  • Provide a safe environment where students will want to take risks in exploring ideas. During collaborative work, offer feedback and guidance to those who need encouragement or require assistance in learning cooperation and tolerance.

  • Involve students in using the Research Paper Scoring Rubric for final evaluation of the research paper. Go over this rubric during Session 8, before they write their final drafts.

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Related Resources

PRINTOUTS

Grades   9 – 12  |  Printout  |  Graphic Organizer

I-Search Process Reflection Chart

This chart asks students to consider their challenges and successes across the span of the research process, from question formulation to the final write-up.

 

Grades   9 – 12  |  Printout  |  Graphic Organizer

I-Search Chart

As part of an I-Search writing process, this handout facilitates the formation of meaningful questions and subquestions for student inquiry.

 

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STRATEGY GUIDES

Grades   8 – 12  |  Strategy Guide

Promoting Student-Directed Inquiry with the I-Search Paper

The sense of curiosity behind research writing gets lost in some school-based assignments. This Strategy Guide provides the foundation for cultivating interest and authority through I-Search writing, including publishing online.

 

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PROFESSIONAL LIBRARY

Grades   K – 8  |  Professional Library  |  Book

Setting the Stage for Creative Writing: Plot Scaffolds for Beginning and Intermediate Writers

Want to foster creativity and originality in student writing? This practical guide shows how plot scaffolds can be used to help beginning and intermediate writers.

 

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Comments

Dan Patterson

December 15, 2016

I'm a high school special ed. teacher. Probably half of my kids are college bound, and this tool is really going to set them up for success today... and into the future. Thanks.

 

This is such an amazing and useful tool! I feel that for a large majority of emerging researchers, that this has been extremely effective!

 

We are using this lesson to work on writing a research article. I created a model article out of the example paper and posted it to our blog. Take a look here - http://kidblog.org/2017Purple/mrsquam/example-research-synthesis-article/

 

Marianne

November 18, 2010

While I was looking for replacements for a few of the links that are now defunct I found an interesting search engine that actually includes links to numerous different metasearch engines, search engines, reference and research engines, calendars, the World Fact Book, news sites, and more – great site! It redirects you to the site under which you searched.
http://www.freeality.com/

 

 

Sociology 357 Piliavin

ARTICLE ANALYSIS ASSIGNMENT

DUE DATES: See summary sheet

READ THIS HANDOUT CAREFULLY! You must do this analysis by answering the specific questions listed. Keep your answers as brief as possible using an "outline" style rather than an elaborate writing style whenever possible.

Criteria for Article Selection

The articles reviewed for this assignment must report the results of someone's research in an area of social research. The research should have been carried out by the author(s). The article must be directed at a scholarly audience.

Your review must be on an article reporting structured research, that is, one with variables, statistical analyses, relationships among variables, etc. The article may be about any social science topic you choose. Check with me if you have any doubts about your topic. Research in sociology, political science, psychology, education, or social work are fine. (But remember you need research articles; not all articles in any field are research articles.)

The following types of articles may NOT be used:

  • Purely theoretical papers which discuss concepts and propositions, but report no empirical research;
  • Statistical or methodological papers where data may be analyzed but the bulk of the work is on the refinement of some new measurement, statistical or modelling technique;
  • Review articles, which summarize the research of many different past researchers, but report no original research by the author;
  • Popularizations or abridged reports, commonly found in popular newsstand magazines such as Psychology Today or books of readings designed for use by undergraduates;
  • Extremely short reports with less than four pages devoted to methods and findings.

Most research reports begin with sections on theory and reviews of others' research, so skim the whole article or read the abstract, if there is one, to determine whether the author reports actual research he or she has done. Sociology, as is true of all scientific fields, is becoming increasingly complex in its statistical analyses. I therefore strongly suggest that you use articles no more recent than the 1970's. A working rule is: if you can't understand the statistical analyses presented in the results section, don't choose the article.

All articles must receive my OK. No two students may review the same article. It is OK to use articles you have to read for another class, if they meet all of the above criteria, but you may not use the articles in Golden.

Where and How to Find an Article

You must use scholarly articles for this assignment; these are found in professional journals, not general circulation magazines. The University of Wisconsin subscribes to a large number of such journals,in both physical and electronic form. Recent issues of most of the physical journals are kept in the periodicals room of Memorial Library. Past issues are bound in hardcover by volume and kept on the first and second floors of the south stacks of Memorial Library. Bound volumes of some journals are in the reserve room of Helen C. White library and in the Social Science Library. To find the call number of a specific journal, look up the journal's title in MADCAT, or in the list of journals in the periodicals room.

If you want to find articles about a particular topic, use the data bases available through the Library home page. Another place to get citations of articles in a topic area is in the bibliographies of other books or articles in the topic area. If you are having trouble finding an article, go to the second floor of Memorial Library and ask a librarian for help or come see me.

I suspect that most of you will go first to full text databases. If you get an article from one of these, choose the PDF format if it is available. If it is not, MAKE SURE to print out all of the tables and figures. You sometimes have to do this separately in non-PDF files.

If your interests are wide, general, eclectic, or uncertain, you may prefer to locate a supply of journals in the stacks or the reserve room and flip through them until you spot an article that looks interesting to you. The major general sociology journals are American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and Social Forces. Some other journals in sociology are: Journal of Marriage and the Family,Criminology, Crime and Delinquency, Social Psychology Quarterly, Sociology and Social Research, Social Problems, Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Sociology of Sport Journal. There are dozens of other specialized journals.

Final approval will be given only on the basis of the photocopy or printout of the whole article; I will write approval on the copy itself. When you have found the article(s) you want, photocopy it, and write right on the photocopy the journal name, volume number, issue number, month, year of publication, and pages. The author's name and the article's title should be on the first page; if they are not, copy these down too. (You should get into the habit of writing the full citation on everything you photocopy. This saves having to return to the library for the information when you later decide to use the material in a term paper or, worse, not being able to find it.) Don't save ten or twelve cents by omitting the last page of the references. Do write your own name on copies you turn in to me. If you wish to save money, check out the journal(s) themselves and bring them to me.

Example of a student article analysis, with the article

Outline for Your Article Review

PLEASE NUMBER THE SECTIONS OF YOUR REVIEW TO CORRESPOND TO THE NUMBER OF MY QUESTIONS. It is not in your interest for me to have to guess what you're writing about. Answer the questions as briefly as possible. This is not a literary essay. An "outline" style, tables, and other devices to keep your answers brief while complete are all acceptable.

  1. Introduction
  2. NOTE: Make sure that the full citation is either printed or written on your photocopy or you will not get credit for the review. to your review. I simply cannot grade your review without the photocopy.

    1. What is the problem or question(s) this research concerns? You should be able to identify the central focus. If there are additional secondary problems, identify these too. (1-4 sentences)
    2. What is the source of the data? (That is, questionnaire, intensive interview, documents, existing statistical information, observations, laboratory manipulations, field manipulations, etc.) In some studies there are two or more sources of data. Give a brief overview of how the data were acquired. (2-5 sentences)
    3. Briefly, what do the key findings turn out to be? (1-5 sentences)
  3. External Validity
    1. Give the following information about the sampling procedures in outline form, saying "not given," if it is not:
      1. Definition of the population of theoretical or substantive interest; a) What is the population of theoretical or substantive interest; that is, to whom does the author seem to want to be able to generalize? Your answer to this should be based on what the author says in the introduction to the article, not in the methods section.
      2. Geographic areas, organizational units (e.g. what state, University, county), or other primary sampling units and how these were chosen. Was the sampling of these units probability or nonprobability?;
      3. The sampling units (e.g. people, organizations, sentences). These may or may not be the same as the units of analysis;
      4. Sampling frame, or operationalization of the actual population studied; by what rule or list were units of analysis located?
      5. Method of selecting the units of analysis from the sampling frame. Was the sampling of these units probability or nonprobability?;
      6. What kind of sample (e.g., convenience, stratified random, etc.) does this seem to be?
      7. Response rate (e.g., to a mailed survey) and sample size; if analyzed sample size is different from initial sample size (e.g., cases were dropped for missing data) explain why.
      8. Does the author discuss any shortcoming in the sample or the sampling procedures? If so, what does s/he say?

      If you feel that this outline does not adequately demonstrate your understanding of the sampling, or that there is something important about the sampling that does not fit in this outline, write an additional paragraph that provides any necessary extensions or clarifications. (Do not, however, omit the outline.)

      Often articles that use one of the well-known large national probability samples do not give much information about the sample because they assume that professionals will recognize the sample title and already know the basic information. Check with me if you suspect this is the situation with your article. You may need to track down an earlier article to get the details.

    2. Evaluate the sampling procedures.
      1. Do the geographic or other restrictions imposed on the actual population (b, d above) seem justified in light of the purposes of the research and practical constraints?
      2. Were the units of analysis selected in a way that allows generalization to the desired population? Why or why not?
      3. Are you aware of anything in the research procedures that added any implicit restrictions to the sample (e.g. interviewing only during the day)?
      4. Does information available in the article (e.g. frequency distributions) suggest that the sample is reasonably representative, or does it point to problems or biases? e) Overall, how good do you feel the sampling was?
    3. Generalization
      1. Strictly speaking, to what population can the results of this research be generalized?
      2. To what population would you feel reasonably confident the results probably apply? Why?
      3. At what point would you be very hesitant to apply these results?
  4. Construct Validity of Measures of Variables
    1. Preferably using a chart, list ALL of the operationalized variables in this research and the concepts or variables of theoretical or substantive interest they are intended to represent. You should discuss all the operationalized variables, but it will be often easiest to write your answer by starting with the concepts, and explaining how each is measured. Sometimes there are several measures for one concept or variable. Do NOT "dump" all the measurement details here. This is just a summary that lists all the measured variables and what their logical relation is to the purposes of the research. DO NOT talk about how one variable relates to other variables here.

      It is hard to explain this question clearly, because how to do it depends very much on what your article is like. Probably the best explanation is an example. For the horn-honking article, the answer would be: The independent variable is status of frustrator. This is operationalized as the type of car and the driver's clothes. The dependent variable is aggression, which is operationalized as latency of honking and number of honks. The frustrating situation is operationalized with a car being blocked at a green light. Sex of subject was a control variable.

      Different articles have different logical structures, and the best way to do your article is to describe what is happening in it. Some have no distinction between the concepts and the operationalizations; everything is just operationalization. Others have complicated and convoluted steps getting from the original concepts to the measured variables.

      This is where you should tell me if the units of analysis are different from the sampling units. Sometimes there are several different units of analysis in one article. Measurement is dependent on these units.

    2. Select the most complicated or difficult variable in the article. That is, choose the variable that must have been hardest for the author(s) to figure out how to measure, or how to make the conceptual-operational link. Call this variable "a" in your outline. Then do the following detailed analysis.
      a) Give the name of the variable
      1) State the concept and give a brief summary of what (if anything) the author(s) say about issues or problems in measuring this, how others have measured it, why they are measuring it this way, etc. (NOT the measurement details themselves.)
      2)What is the measure of this concept that is used in the data analysis? (E.g., in Ransford there is a scale for racial dissatisfaction, dichotomized "conceptiually".) If there are several, state all of them. Then explain the following:
      1. How the relevant variables were originally measured on the units of analysis. That is, what were the initial items of information obtained and what were their attributes? (In the Ransford article, this would be the questions and answer formats that make up the scale.)
      2. Explain how the original measured variables were combined or modified to create the specific operational variable that was used in the statistical analysis. (In the Ransford article, this would be that the original questions were summed and then dichotomized, using a conceptual split.) This is where you describe index or scale construction. (Often the original measured variable was not modified; if this is true, just say "does not apply.") Discussions of how cases were grouped or regrouped belong here, too.
      3) Summarize any discussion by the author(s) of why this is a good measure or of what its problems are, including statistics like factor analyses or reliability coefficients, but NOT material on the bivariate relations with other variables.
      4) Give your own evaluation of how good you think this measurement is, explaining your reasons.

      Now select the second most difficult variable to measure. Call it "b". Then do all of the above steps again for that variable.

NOTE: The format of the above questions works best when the variable that gets into the statistics is a composite of several original measured variables. In some articles, what is more interesting is to start with a concept that has several related measures (each of which might be fairly simple) which are then analyzed to see which is "best," in which case you might want to discuss them as a group and treat the matter of choosing among them in d). I suggest you ask me if there is any doubt in your mind about which two variables would be good choices. I should note that in some articles, all of the variables are pretty straightforward. In this case, just pick any two of them. You will not be graded down because your article is less complicated. However, I do expect people with very uncomplicated variables to analyze them perfectly, while I might decide that a mistake in analyzing some complicated variable is not that bad. (If there are both simple and complicated variables in your article and you choose to talk about the simple ones, I will assume you do not understand operationalization, which is not in your best interests.)

  • Internal Validity
    1. Identify two of the most important bivariate hypotheses (explicit or implicit) or questions of the research. For each hypothesis or question, list those findings which are most centrally relevant to it. If there are only a few relevant findings, list all of them, but if there are many, list only the few that you think are most important.
    2. NOTE: A finding is the actual number(s) from the statistics, not just the author's word summary. Often a particular hypothesis is supported by several different findings which show that the bivariate relation holds true after other variables have been statistically controlled, or when the research design is altered, or when the variables are measured in different ways. If so, you would list several different findings as relating to the same hypothesis or question, but if there are many different relevant numbers for the same hypothesis, you would pick out only the few most important ones.

      When articles list more than two hypotheses or goals, it can be difficult to decide which is most important. Think about the central purpose or argument of the article (usually found in the introduction). Four common approaches lead to long lists of implicit or explicit hypotheses or questions.

      1. They are all variations on the same general idea. In this case, pick the two variations that seem most central in the discussion.
      2. The author actually believes in only one or two of the hypotheses, and the others are set up as alternates to be proved wrong. In this case, pick the ones the author seems to believe in.
      3. The argument has a series of logical steps and there are hypotheses about each step. In this case, all the steps do matter, but pick out the ones that seem to you or the author to be most central in this article.
      4. the article does not really have a central point and there is just a laundry list of hypotheses, questions or topics. In this case, pick out the ones that you or the author think are most interesting.
    3. If there are additional findings that you or the author found interesting or surprising, list them here. (Again, a finding is not just the verbal summary, but the number that backs it up.) If you already wrote a lot for (1), you may just say "no additional findings" here.
    4. NOTE: If your article has only a few statistics, you may end up writing about all of them, but if your article has a lot of statistics, do NOT write about everything. Instead, try to figure out what is really important. I do want you to learn to read the numbers, and you may ask me for help translating them.

    5. In this section, you will evaluate the internal validity of the data. It is OK to make summary statements that are true for all findings, where appropriate, but be very sure to discuss the findings separately where necessary.
      1. Is the conclusion supported by an appropriate bivariate statistical result? That is, look at the statistic copied above to be sure it is actually relevant to the hypothesis it is supposed to be related to. Sometimes in a bad article, the relevant finding is actually not reported! (Remember that a bivariate association of zero supports a hypothesis of no effect.)
      2. Is there adequate justification given or implied for the presumed direction of causality, i.e. for why A causes B instead of B causing A? If yes, say why in one sentence. If no, say in one sentence what you think the problem is.
      3. List the potential extraneous variables that have been controlled for in any multivariate statistical tests. (This is simply a matter of being able to read your tables.) If multivariate statistical tests (e.g. regression) were not done, just say so. ) Ask if you have a question.
      4. What kinds of extraneous variables are simply irrelevant for this finding and could not possibly be a problem? (Examples: on stage effects for research on historical documents, maturation or other time-tied variables for research that is conducted in one short period.) Just list general classes of variables.
      5. Which potentially significant extraneous variables have been controlled in the design of the research, by holding constant, by randomization, or by some other method? Just list general classes of variables, mentioning specifically only those which would otherwise be a special problem (e.g. organismic variables in a within-subjects experiment).
      6. Are there any other possible problems or extraneous variables that the author discusses, giving reasons why they should not be problems? Summarize the discussion.
      7. Are there other possible problems or extraneous variables that the author thinks have not been adequately eliminated? Summarize the discussion.
      8. Are there any remaining possible problems or extraneous variables that you can see that have not already been discussed above? Are there variables that should be controlled that were not? Could a different designed have eliminated problems? Are there things you can see as problems that you wouldn't know how to fix? If yes to any of these, discuss your concerns. I am referring to simple random error here; you need to identify variables that are potential threats to internal validity.
      9. Overall, how much internal validity do you attach to the findings? Why? (Be sure to say whether your answer varies from finding to finding.)
  • Overall Evaluation
    1. Give your overall evaluation of the methods used in this article: what things were done well? what were done poorly? How much trust do you put in the findings?
    2. Look at this article's "packaging," that is, the theoretical introduction and the discussion or interpretation at the end. Do you feel that the actual methods and results support the theoretical and interpretive claims of the author? Why?
    3. What possible ethical issues might have arisen in the process of doing this research? Do you think the researcher's ethical decisions were all justified, or are some questionable? Why?
    4. To sum up, what do you feel you've learned worth knowing from this article? (If your answer is "nothing", explain why.) (Please note: this question is about the article and refers to the quality of information it contains.)
    5. Tell me anything you would like me to know about your experiences doing this analysis, or any suggestions you have for future revisions of this assignment.

    *** END OF REVIEW ***

     

    Some Remarks on Grading Standards

    1. The key to this assignment is to apply the methodological concepts you have learned in this course to the evaluation of a research article. You demonstrate your ability by specifically linking the procedures discussed in the article to the concepts. Think of it as a take-home final, not as an opinion essay. You have the burden of proof to demonstrate that you know what you are doing. In particular:
      1. Never answer just "yes" or "no"; always explain your answer.
      2. Never state some general methodological term or principle without linking it up specifically to something in the article (or to something missing in the article).
      3. Never give a vague or evasive answer in which you avoid sticking your neck out (hoping you won't be marked "wrong"); if you don't commit yourself to a specific answer, I will assume you do not know what it is. But try to say what is needed as briefly as possible. Long-winded, rambling answers are evidence that you do not know precisely what is important.
    2. Questions of "fact" will be graded by comparing what the article says with what you said it said, along with your ability correctly to use the relevant methodological terms. Questions requiring evaluation will be graded according to these criteria:
      1. you take some position
      2. you defend your position by talking about your article in ways that raise issues that we discussed in class.
    3. If the article fails to give some information the review asks for, you get credit by saying that the article fails to give the information. Note that this failure should then become part of your evaluation of the relevant section. (I will try to avoid approving articles that are missing too much of the relevant information.)
    4. If the article is unclear or ambiguous, or if you are ambivalent in your evaluation of something, it is fine to give an answer that expresses these problems.
    5. Don't blindly assume the author is using the correct methodological terms for what s/he did.For example, Ransford describes his sample as "disproportional stratified" (p. 298 of Golden reader). But if you carefully read the paragraph on p. 298 and the extended description of the sample on pp. 309-310, you will discover that the sample was not stratified at all: three clusters (Watts, South Central, Crenshaw) were chosen purposively; blocks were chosen randomly within clusters; and households were chosen purposively within blocks, after a random start on block corner and an overall quota of 8 households per block. The use of the term "random methods," rather than "random sample," is the sort of thing you'll see when the procedures are less than ideal.

       

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