How can we make sure that students are informed about what’s going on around the world? That they are armed with the tools to be able to distinguish between opinion and fact; between evidence-based statements and empty rhetoric; between sensationalism and solid journalism? Just like most other things in life, the best way to do all that is through practice.
In honor of National News Engagement Day, here are 50 ideas to help teachers bring current events into the classroom, grouped below by category:
Some ideas work best as regular routines, others as one-shot activities. Many might be easier to use together with the new K-12 New York Times school subscription, but all of them could be implemented using the free links to Times articles on The Learning Network — or with any other trusted news source.
In our comments section, we hope you’ll share how you teach current events.
Reading and Writing
1. Read the Paper and Find What Interests You: If we could recommend just one thing teenagers should do with the news, it’s this. Just read and discover what you care about. Every summer we try to promote this with our Summer Reading Contest, and we hope teachers are continuing this student-centered approach now that school has started.
You might invite your students to pick one article each week and write about why they chose it, perhaps using student winners from our summer contest as models. Our Reading Log (PDF) might also help.
Then, set aside time for students to share their picks with a partner, or even with a wider audience through social media.
2. Share Your Opinion: Each school day we publish a new Student Opinion question about an article in The Times. Students can participate in our moderated discussions online, or you can borrow from hundreds of published questions for class discussions or personal writing from 2016, 2015, 2014 and beyond.
3. Read About News-Making Teenagers: Every month we publish a collection of all the recent Times articles and multimedia that feature teenagers. Students can use this list to identify someone they admire, learn how other teenagers are taking action or make connections to issues in their own school and community.
4. Find ‘News You Can Use': Use The Times, or any other news source, to find things like movie or video game reviews, recipes, sports scores, health information, and how-to’s on subjects from social media to personal finance that can help improve your life.
5. Ask and Answer Questions: Each day we choose an important or interesting Times story and pose the basic news questions — Who, What, Where, When, Why and How — in our News Q’s feature. Students can first answer the “right there” questions that test reading comprehension, then move on to the deeper critical thinking questions, then write their own “News Q’s” about articles they select.
6. Write an Editorial: Have your students pick an issue that matters to them, whether climate change, gender roles or police brutality, and then write an evidence-based persuasive essay like the editorials The New York Times publishes every day. They can practice all year, but save their best work to submit in our Student Editorial Contest in February. Each year we select 10 winners along with dozens of runners-up and honorable mentions from nearly 5,000 student editorials.
7. Compare News Sources: Different papers, magazines and websites treat the news differently. You might have students compare lead stories or, via the Newseum’s daily gallery, front pages. Or, you might just pick one article about a divisive topic (politics, war, social issues) and see how different news sources have handled the subject.
8. Be a Journalist Yourself: Perhaps the most powerful way to engage with current events is to document them yourself, as a student journalist. Write articles or opinion pieces for your school or community paper about how a national or global issue is playing out in your community. Contribute comments online or letters to the editor reacting to news stories you’ve read. Use social media to document what you witness when news happens near you. Take video of local events and interview participants. Or, suggest ways that you and others your age can take action on an issue you care about. The National News Engagement Day Pinterest board has ideas like this and many more.
Speaking and Listening
9. Hold a Debate: Want your students to be able to develop arguments and support a point of view on current issues? We offer numerous resources to help, including: ideas for different classroom debate formats; ways to use The Times’ Room for Debate feature in the classroom; and a graphic organizer for gathering evidence on both sides of an argument (PDF).
10. Interview Fellow Students: Ask students to generate a question related to an issue they’re reading about, and then conduct a one-question interview (PDF) with their classmates. The room will be buzzing with students asking and answering questions. For more detailed instructions on this activity, consult our teacher instructions.
11. Brainstorm Solutions to the World’s Problems: Why not put students in the role of policymakers? They can look closely at an issue covered in The Times and brainstorm possible solutions together, using our Problem-Solution handout (PDF) to take notes. Then they can work together to draft a policy proposal, perhaps one that suggests a local solution to the problem, and present it to the class or to the school board or city council.
12. Create a News-Inspired Theatrical Performance: Whether a simple monologue or a full Reader’s Theater event, our series, Drama Strategies to Use With Any Day’s Times, can help you use simple theater exercises to spur discussion and thinking about current events.
13. Hold a Mock Campaign and Election: Looking to teach an upcoming election? Let students take the role of campaign strategists and candidates. Our Election Unit can be adapted for any election to get students researching candidates, studying issues, trying out campaign strategies and holding their own mock election. Or, choose another approach from our 10 ways to teach about Election Day or our list of resources for the 2016 presidential election.
14. Organize a Teach-In, Gallery Walk or Social Action on a Topic: Our country and world face complex issues — war, drug abuse, climate change, poverty — to name a few. Students working in groups can follow a topic in The Times, and then organize a classroom or whole school “teach-in” to inform their peers about topics in the news and decide how to take action. Alternatively, they can create a classroom gallery of photographs, maps, infographics, articles, editorial cartoons, essays, videos and whatever else they can find to immerse others in the topic. Ask yourself and your classmates, what can people our age do to effect change around this issue?
Games and Quizzes
15. See How You Do Compared to Others on Our Weekly News Quiz: Have students test how well they’ve been keeping up with the week’s news with our 10-question current events quiz. The answers provide an explanation along with links to relevant Times articles so students can learn more. Then, in December, students can take our annual year-end news quiz, like this one from 2015.
16. Play Fantasy Geopolitics: Have students draft teams of countries, similar to how they might draft players in a fantasy sports league, and then accumulate points based on how often those countries appear in The New York Times. Classrooms can track point scores and trade countries using the resources on the Fantasy Geopolitics site, a game created by Eric Nelson, a social studies teacher in Minnesota.
17. Battle Others in Bingo: Encourage students to get to know the newspaper — digital or print — by playing one of our many versions of bingo: Page One Bingo, Science, Health and Technology Bingo, World History Bingo or Geography Bingo (PDF).
18. Do a Scavenger Hunt: Send your students searching for answers to our New York Times Scavenger Hunt (PDF) as a way to become more familiar with how a newspaper covers the day’s news.
19. Mix and Match Headlines, Stories and Photos: Cut up articles, headlines and photos into three separate piles and mix them up, then challenge students in groups to see who can correctly match them in the shortest amount of time. When they’re done, they can fill out our related handout (PDF). Our teacher instructions provide more details.
20. Hunt for the Three Branches of Government in the Paper: What articles can you find in a week’s worth of papers about the different branches of the United States government? Record what you find with our Branching Out handout (PDF).
Photographs, Illustrations, Videos and Infographics
21. Analyze Photographs to Build Visual Literacy Skills: On Mondays we ask students to look closely at an image using the three-question facilitation method created by our partners at Visual Thinking Strategies: What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What more can you find? Students can participate in the activity by commenting in our weekly “What’s Going On In This Picture?” moderated conversation.
Alternatively, you might prefer to select your own news photos. Slideshows, such as the regular “Pictures of the Day” feature, are always a great place to find compelling images related to current events.
22. Interpret Editorial Cartoons and “Op-Art”: Patrick Chappatte publishes editorial cartoons on topics ranging from ISIS to the Ukraine. You can use the Visual Thinking Strategies facilitation method to ask open-ended questions, letting students make meaning out of the cartoons. Or, have students analyze some of the “Op-Art” on the Opinion pages of The Times. How do these images make an argument? Students can also try their hand at drawing their own editorial cartoons, and then enter them into our annual editorial cartoon contest.
23. Decipher an Infographic: Take an infographic or chart in The Times and have students explain what it shows using sentences. Our handout “A Graph Is Worth a Thousand Words, or At Least 50″ (PDF) can serve as a guide.
24. Create an Infographic: Or, do the opposite, and have students take the data provided in a Times article to create their own graph or chart (PDF). The Reader Ideas “From Article to Infographic: Translating Information About ‘Sneakerheads’” and “Telling Stories With Data” suggest ways to approach this task.
25. Illustrate the News: Students can draw an illustration that captures some aspect of an article. Using our handout “The One-Pager” (PDF), students accompany their illustration with a quote from the article as well as a question for the journalist or someone mentioned in the article.
26. Write a Postcard: Or, maybe having students create a mock postcard to or from a subject in a Times article would work better for your class.
27. Say What’s Unsaid: Another option is assigning students to add speech and thought bubbles (PDF) to a Times photograph to communicate something they learned by reading an article.
28. Create Storyboards: Students can break a story into various scenes that they illustrate (PDF), like a storyboard, and then write a caption or choose a quote from the article that captures the essence of each frame. Our teacher instructions can help with this activity, as can a recent lesson plan on using storyboards to inspire close reading.
Creative Writing and Design
29. Write a Rap or Song: Each December, we ask students to compose a rap about important and memorable events from the past year. Get inspired by the winners from our 2015 contest, and start polishing your rhymes for this year.
30. Make a Timeline: Students can design their own timelines, using photographs, captions and selected quotes, to understand and keep track of complex current events topics. Times models can help since the paper regularly publishes timelines on all kinds of topics, whether Mariano Rivera’s career, the evolution of Facebook or the Ferguson protests
31. Create a Twitter Feed: Or, students can create a fake Twitter feed documenting a news story, paying attention to time stamps and author tone, such as we suggested in this lesson about the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
32. Explore a Particular Community: Find reporting on a community of which you’re a member — whether an ethnic, religious, professional, school or artistic group, or any other — and analyze how it has been reported on. Then use these ideas for finding ways you can help express what, in your experience, makes this group unique. What do you think people need to know about this community and how can you communicate that?
33. Write a Found Poem: Every year we invite students to take any Times article or articles published since 1851 and mix and combine the words and phrases in them into a new piece. Take a look at the work of our winners for inspiration, but the exercise can be done with anything from a science essay to an obituary to an archival article reporting on a famous event from history.
34. Make a News Broadcast: Students can turn an article they read in The Times into an evening news broadcast, with an anchor, on-the-ground reporter and interview subjects.
35. Create an Audio Podcast: Listen to some Times models, then get students to create a podcast (PDF) of a news story instead.
36. Connect the Past to Today: Help students tie what they’re studying in history class to what’s going on in the world today. We regularly do this in both our Text to Text feature as well as our social-studies-focused lesson plans. You might also consider following @nytarchives on Twitter and our own “Throwback Thursday” posts to see echoes of the past in today’s headlines — or, visit Times Machine on your own to view by date or through search terms 129 years of Times journalism as it originally appeared.
37. Pair the News With Literature and Poetry: Encourage students to look for connections between literary themes and current events. Our Poetry Pairings and Text to Text lesson plans can provide inspiration, as can our Classic Literature posts.
38. Think Like a Historian: What events make the history books? How and from whose point of view are they told? Have students research a current events topic, and then write a paper arguing whether this topic will make “history” and how it will be remembered.
39. Connect The Times to Your Own Life: Have students make connections between the articles they read in The New York Times and their own life, other texts and the world around them using our Connecting The New York Times to Your World (PDF) handout.
40. Consider Censorship Through Any Day’s Front Page: What if we didn’t have freedom of the press? Ask students to take the front page of any New York Times and put an X over the stories that might be censored if our government controlled the press. You might use our Censoring the Press (PDF) handout to help.
41. Take Informed Action: When students become more informed about the world, they can get inspired to become civically active and engaged in their communities. Have students brainstorm issues that matter to them, either at the local, national or global level, and then design a plan of action for how they can begin to make the change they hope to see in the world.
Students at High Technology High School in Lincroft, N.J. made this video about their year reading The Times in class.
42. Determine Reliability of Sources: How do we distinguish good journalism from propaganda or just shoddy reporting? Students can use simple mnemonics, like those developed at the Center for News Literacy, to evaluate the reliability of an article and the sources it relies on. For example, apply the acronym “IMVAIN” (PDF) to an article to surface whether sources (and the information they provide) are Independent, Multiple, Verifiable, Authoritative, Informed and Named. This and many other strategies can be found in our lesson on “fake news vs. real news.
43. Distinguish Fact From Opinion: Even within The Times, students can get confused when navigating between news and opinion. What’s the difference? Use our Skills Practice lesson on distinguishing between the two to help students learn the basics, then go on to our lesson “News and ‘News Analysis’,” to help students learn how to navigate between news reporting and Opinion pieces within news outlets.
44. Start With What Students Already Know: Students are often aware of current events on their own, even before topics come up in school. When delving into a subject, start by asking students what they’ve heard or seen, and what questions they already have. Use our K/W/L Chart (PDF) or a concept map to chart what students say and think. And this post, about reading strategies for informational text, has much more.
45. Identify Cause and Effect: Much of journalism involves tracking the ripple effects of big news events or societal trends. Our handout (PDF) can help students get started, as can this Facing History “iceberg” strategy that helps learners think about what’s “under the surface.” Another resource? This Skills Practice lesson.
46. Compare and Contrast:Venn diagrams and T-charts (PDF) are often useful for comparing two topics or issues in the news, and our Text-to-Text handout can help students compare two or more texts, such as an article and a historical document.
47. Read Closely: By using a double-entry journal (PDF), students can become better readers of informational text by noting comments, questions and observations alongside lines or details they select from a text.
48. Support Opinions With Facts: Whether students are writing their own persuasive arguments, or reading those written by other people, they need to understand how authors support opinions with facts. Students can practice by reading Times Opinion pieces and identifying how authors construct arguments using opinions supported by facts (PDF). Then they can develop their own evidence-based counterpoints.
49. Summarize an Article: Having students pull out the basic information of a news story — the five W’s and an H (PDF) can help them better understand a current events topic. Here is a lesson plan with a summary quiz and many ideas for practice.
50. Learn From Our Mistakes: There are several places in the newspaper where you can see corrections and analysis of where The Times has made a misstep. For a weekly critique of grammar, usage and style in The Times, see the After Deadline series. For a list of each day’s corrections, go to the bottom of the Today’s Paper section and click “corrections.” And for a full discussion of issues readers and the public raise around Times coverage, visit the Public Editor column. What can you learn from the mistakes The Times makes, and from how they are addressed publicly?
Let us know in the comment section below how you teach current events in your class, or which ideas from the above list inspired you.
Teaching ideas based on New York Times content.
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.
- 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)
- 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)
- Briefly, what do the key findings turn out to be? (1-5 sentences)
- External Validity
- Give the following information about the sampling procedures in outline form, saying "not given," if it is not:
- 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.
- 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?;
- The sampling units (e.g. people, organizations, sentences). These may or may not be the same as the units of analysis;
- Sampling frame, or operationalization of the actual population studied; by what rule or list were units of analysis located?
- Method of selecting the units of analysis from the sampling frame. Was the sampling of these units probability or nonprobability?;
- What kind of sample (e.g., convenience, stratified random, etc.) does this seem to be?
- 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.
- 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.
- Evaluate the sampling procedures.
- 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?
- Were the units of analysis selected in a way that allows generalization to the desired population? Why or why not?
- Are you aware of anything in the research procedures that added any implicit restrictions to the sample (e.g. interviewing only during the day)?
- 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?
- Strictly speaking, to what population can the results of this research be generalized?
- To what population would you feel reasonably confident the results probably apply? Why?
- At what point would you be very hesitant to apply these results?
- Construct Validity of Measures of Variables
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.)
- 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.
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.
- 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.)
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.
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.)
- 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.
- They are all variations on the same general idea. In this case, pick the two variations that seem most central in the discussion.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Are there any other possible problems or extraneous variables that the author discusses, giving reasons why they should not be problems? Summarize the discussion.
- Are there other possible problems or extraneous variables that the author thinks have not been adequately eliminated? Summarize the discussion.
- 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.
- Overall, how much internal validity do you attach to the findings? Why? (Be sure to say whether your answer varies from finding to finding.)
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.
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.
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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
- 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:
- Never answer just "yes" or "no"; always explain your answer.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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:
- you take some position
- you defend your position by talking about your article in ways that raise issues that we discussed in class.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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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