Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Summarize and Synthesize

This week the students are working on what is called a critical review assignment. They are to choose two articles from the five they annotated and summarize and synthesize them in their paper. The length of the paper is 3-5 pages.

As an introduction to this assignment, I ask students to find a critical review in their fields and bring them to class to share and discuss in their research groups. I also ask them to focus specifically on the writing template of the critical reviews they found.

Because students have a difficult time with this assignment, I have them do a mini one* first in their research groups. We meet in the computer lab on this day so students can have access to computers to type up their work and either send an e-copy or print out a hard copy. This quarter we only met one day in the lab to work on this assignment. We really needed to meet two days for students to have enough time to finish.

Students are given two short articles on the same topic, an assignment description and a writing template. They then read and discuss the articles in their research groups and collaboratively write a mini critical review per group. They hand these in at the end of class time. I look them over and then choose one to use as a good example to go over in the next class. It seems that this helps the students to conceptualize what a critical review is.

*thanks goes to my colleague, MD, who shared this idea with me

11 comments:

cherepaha said...

The difficulty with this assignment is that people who have to do critical reviews are usually experts in their field and know the issues that need to be discussed. We ask students on the other hand to become experts in areas they are not expert in. That is why in 106 we tie the critical review to the summary and have them raise the issues throughout the summary assignment and then address those issues in the critical review. The idea is to make them "expert" before they have to write. It is still a very difficult assignment because it invovles some complicated language strategies but hopefully it helps them understand a little bit what they are doing.

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