At this point, you have gathered a great deal of information that is in some way related to your topic and will help inform an answer to your inquiry question. Now it is time to begin organizing and making sense of all that information. You will do this by constructing an illustration of the research you have been collecting over that past few weeks. This “illustration” can take many forms (see below), but must be at least partly visual in nature. You have several options you can choose from, but the goals are the same for each:
- Identify categories of information within your research
- Find connections among sources
- See where experts (and others) agree and disagree/where they overlap and diverge
- Figure out how the evidence you’ve uncovered connects to your inquiry question
- Synthesize your sources, which may now seem chaotic, into a manageable, controlled organization
- A brief introduction that includes your inquiry question in its final (or near final form).
- Inclusion of 10-12 sources, including at least three peer-reviewed articles. You probably have more you could use, but limit the field for this assignment.
- Conceptual categories: Provide a name for the different “buckets” that you can sort your sources into. In some cases, a source could be in multiple categories. Explain your focus for each category as well as how and why you chose what goes into it. I recommend 3-5 categories
- Contributing sources: Within each category, simply list the author name and title for the relevant sources.
- Contributing evidence: From each source, pull out quotations, facts, data, arguments that provide evidence. Make sure you indicate what is direct quotation and include page numbers.
- Summary overview: Explain what in general you take away from each category. Address items 2-4 from the list of goals as appropriate as well as other points you want to capture.
- A conclusion that includes a preliminary claim. Use a format like “Based on my research, I have come to believe that the answer to my question x is y.” (You will fill in the variables, of course, but this will become your provisional claim (which means you might change it as you continue to think about it) as you move from the research phase into the writing phase.)
- Bibliography. You will post a bibliography of your 10-12 sources as a separate assignment on Blackboard (see below). This document should follow the guidelines of the system you chose (APA, MLA, Chicago) and include a brief note justifying your choice of citation system at the bottom.
Option #1: Synthesis Matrix
The Synthesis Matrix is a relatively formal way to represent your research visually, but it pays off in the end. See this link for more details. A template will be provided.
Option #2: Concept Map
Here’s a short video about turning research into a concept map. You’d have to go a bit beyond what they show to cover the requirements above, but you can easily include them in this basic structure. There are many different programs you could use, or you could adapt the format to presentation software like Prezi.
Option #3: “Crazy Wall”
Also known as a “conspiracy wall,” you’ve probably seen these in movies and television.
Images from Homeland and A Beautiful Mind. See many more examples at https://crazywalls.tumblr.com/
They’re often associated with an investigator trying to figure out how things fit together–which is exactly what you’re doing. If you have the space, putting together a physical representation of your research could be very helpful, but with some creativity you could adapt this idea to some other format. You could supplement the visual with a written or audio explanation.
Option #4: Surprise Me
If you think of another way to visually represent your research which fulfills the goals and requirements of the assignment, go for it.
Grading Criteria: If the requirements are met and goals fulfilled, it gets at least a B. If the requirements are met and goals fulfilled in a creative and/or insightful fashion, it gets an A. Because subsequent work depends on you meeting the goals of the assignment, you’ll have to keep trying until you get at least a B.
The Bibliography will be graded separately, based on the completeness, correctness of format, and justification of sources.
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