Arguments on Trial: Using research/evidence in writing

Purpose: This activity teaches students how to identify areas of their paper that will require additional research and accompanies “The New American Epidemic” (2006–07 OOW).

Description: This activity asks students to play devil’s advocate, finding holes in the first draft of an argumentative essay, and then seeing how many of those holes have been “filled” in the essay’s final draft. The purpose is to teach students to see the flaws in their own arguments and avoid the trap of supporting opinions with opinions.

Suggested Time: 50 minutes


  1.  Instructor will divide the class into groups of three, and each will read the first draft of “The New American Epidemic.”
  2.  As students are reading the draft, they will act as defense attorneys for student drinking by picking out weaknesses in the original argument. Are there any claims the author makes without using supporting evidence? Does the argument employ vague generalizations? What counter-arguments could be made? Are these arguments addressed?
  3.  After reading the paper, charge students to develop a “case” against it.
  4.  The next step will be to test this case against the paper’s final draft. In other words, students should compare the “holes” they noticed in the first draft to see how/if they have been addressed in the final draft Would you still be able to defend student drinking? What additions in the drafting process made this argument stronger? Are there any areas where additional research would strengthen this case?
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Curious Researcher Teaching Groups

Purpose: These student-led group presentations will help students become familiar with information in their research writing text--The Curious Researcher. Five groups of students will each be in charge of presenting one chapter from The Curious Researcher.

Description: Students will be divided into five groups—one for each chapter of The Curious Researcher. Groups will be scheduled to present on appropriate days while students are working on their assigned researched essays. For example, when the class first begins working on their researched essays, Group I will present on Chapter I: The First Week.

This site includes directional advice for groups along with a “Teaching Group Evaluation Form” that can help you evaluate each group and a "Teaching Group Member & Self-Evaluation Form” for students to complete and give to you.

Suggested Time: Each group presentation will take 15-30 minutes spread out over the five weeks or so your class works on their researched essays.

Procedure: Divide students into five groups, one for each of the five chapters of The Curious Researcher. Schedule dates on which the various groups will present. Give each student a copy of the information that follows—“TEACHING SECTIONS OF THE CURIOUS RESEARCHER.” This information serves as directional advice for each group. Go over it in class with students.


Direction for Groups: Get in contact with your members ASAP so that you can decide how to divide your chapter. Through Blackboard, you can send emails and exchange files to your entire class, or a particular person. Your group needs to get together and plan your presentation prior to your assigned presentation date.

Think like a teacher: What material will be most relevant to the class at this point? Which pages should they pay close attention to? How can you present the material so that students will grasp it? Which exercises will work best at this stage in the writing process?

You can use our projector with the Internet, handouts, Power Point slides, and/or demonstrations. The consol also plays DVDs and CDs. Handouts that mark-out your overview of the chapter work well, though your classmates can also make notes. If you want students to bring materials to class for your presentation (handbooks, photos, ads, magazines, paper drafts, etc), you may send them emails through Blackboard, or make an announcement beforehand. I am also willing to help you as needed, so if there is something I can do let me know.

Think as a student: Which exercises worked best for you at this stage? Which were forgettable? If you lead an exercise in class, test it before you present so that you know how long it will take, and how many you'll have time for. Confer between members on which ones seemed most effective. Make sure any assignments you give the class for homework will help them advance their papers, but you are authorized to do so.

Note: Some chapters have a lot going on, so you'll need to really focus on covering the most pertinent material and exercises with the class. Also keep in mind the readings and journals we’re working on at the stage of drafting you present for. How might you choose/phrase your exercises or chapter material discussed to fit in with our process? Will your classmates have drafts in hand to work with? Should they bring in sources or pre-draft material?

Following is an evaluation form for your use as you evaluate the various groups and give them feedback on their presentations.

Teaching Group Evaluation Form

Course and Section:

Presentation Date:

Group Members:

Chapter Presented:

Evidence of Preparation (scale of 1 – 5):


Presentation of Main Points (scale of 1 – 5):


Use of Extra Media, if applicable (1 – 5):


Choice of Exercises (1 – 5):


Involvement of Group Members (1 – 5):


Last, here’s a form you can ask each group member to complete that will provide you with information about each student’s contribution to the group.

Teaching Group Member & Self-Evaluation Form

Course and Section:

Presentation Date:

Group Members:

Chapter Presented:

Rate Preparation of Each Group Member (scale of 1 – 5):

Notes to add:

Rate Your Preparation (scale of 1 – 5):

Notes to add:

Who Made the Most Effort? Why?

Who Made the Least? Why?

Considering your group’s honest interest in conveying the most crucial information to the class at the appropriate stage of drafting (preparation, methods, participation), what mark (1 – 5) do feel your group realistically deserves?

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Deconstructing Source Integration: Using Research/Evidence

Purpose: This activity will show students how to successfully integrate outside sources with one’s own ideas in order to produce a new piece of writing; it accompanies “Liam O’Flaherty’s ‘The Sniper’ and the Irish Civil War” (2008-09 OOW)

Description: In this activity, students find, read, and summarize one of the sources used in “Liam O’Flaherty’s ‘The Sniper’ and the Irish Civil War.” They then analyze the author’s use of that assigned source, which helps them see the “hows” and “whys” of successful source use. In the process, this should help with quote integration and MLA citation, and will give students practice looking for sources, especially when finding books in the library.

Suggested Time: Two class sessions. This is a homework-based activity that will require a few days of students’ time outside of class.


 1) Day One: Read and discuss “Liam O’Flaherty’s ‘The Sniper’ and the Irish Civil War.” Place students into small groups.
 2) Homework: Assign each group one of the sources from essay. As homework, each group should then find, read, and summarize the source they are assigned. They should also reexamine “Liam O’Flaherty’s ‘The Sniper’ and the Irish Civil War” and analyze the author’s use of their assigned source—paying attention to

  1. how much of the source was directly quoted,
  2. how the author used the source to back up his own view,
  3. how well the sources strengthen the argument, and
  4. how heavily the author relies on the source.

This might be best accomplished by highlighting or marking the physical page to see where the sources appeared within the essay and making notes in the margins. Each member of the group should have their own photocopy of the source; posting it on Blackboard and asking students to print it off might be the best way to facilitate. It may also help to note the different ways the author transitions from his own words to source material.

3) Day Two: Each group should then present their findings to the class.

Additional Information: Ideally this exercise would have better success using a research paper with more sources. There aren’t many sources used, so the groups will be large in nature. If the instructor wishes to have groups smaller than five, some groups can be assigned to look for additional sources the author could’ve used. As an alternative, Amanda Davison’s “Obesity And Famine: How Vegetarianism Can Help” (2009-10 OOW) can be used in conjunction with the original essay. At the end, you might want to have students write a reflective journal detailing their experience with incorporating evidence from sources as well as any issues they faced while working with their group.

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Hypertextuality and Online Research: Evaluating and Using Online Sources

Purpose: This activity helps students to develop their skills in identifying and incorporating online sources, using the student essay “The Suburban Generation” from Our Own Words 2006–2007. It is designed to heighten or instigate awareness of hypertextuality, especially its potential in linking information or incorporating additional information from sources right into the text . Furthermore, hypertextuality presents interesting research possibilities, in that students learn how to develop connections between a primary and secondary text, while also learning how to discern between specific online resources.

This activity accompanies Chapters 2 and 3 of The Curious Researcher. (Online research involved, works best in a computer classroom)

Time Suggested: 50 min class period


 (Students will have read “The Suburban Generation” before class)

  1.  Begin with a discussion or freewrite about hypertext to get them thinking about how different aspects of texts are interrelated.
  2.  Have students define hypertext. How does hypertext enter their lives daily?How is hypertext used in the world today? For communication, organization, entertainment, etc. Perhaps show examples of hypertext in use via blogs or other online resources.
  3.  Divide the students into groups. Then have the students discuss “The Suburban Generation” and think of the words they would hyperlink.
  4.  Students will research and find a corresponding webpage to link with the words they would hyperlink. For example, the students could search for a page explaining “Raiki healing.”
  5.  Have a group discussion and make the students justify their choices for hyperlink (both the word and webpage). This would be a good place to guide the students into a discussion about good versus bad research (reliable and academic websites).
  6.  Perhaps walk the students through the research of a certain topic. Demonstrate how they might navigate through different sources, from online sources, to books, to articles, to personal interview, back to the web or books, etc.

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Sharpening Structure: The Research Essay

Purpose: Key Words: Structure, Organization, Thesis Statement, Outline. Accompanying Essay: “Liam O’Flaherty’s ‘The Sniper’ and the Irish Civil War”

Description: The purpose of this exercise is to examine structure as it works in conjunction with an essay’s controlling idea (thesis statement). Most students forget (or are told to forget) the five-paragraph essay form. But as a result, students are not sure what to think about structure. If they receive any instruction about structure in ENC 1101, it is most likely in the context of personal writing, more creative writing. This exercise provides a way to examine the practical, almost natural, way in which structure can be teased out of one sentence, a statement of an essay’s controlling idea. This activity makes outlining less arbitrary and more fruitful for students writing research essays.

Suggested Time: A 50 minute class period.


  • Have students read the introduction to the essay and locate the essay’s thesis statement.
  • Have students identify the key terms in the thesis statement.
  • As a class, construct a barebones outline from the provided thesis statement.
  • Have students then break up into groups and read the entire essay. During this process, have them make an outline for the essay.
  • Come back together as a class and each group’s outlines. Look to see how these outlines compare to the barebones outline you constructed as a class just from the thesis statement.
  • With these two sets of outlines in hand, critique the thesis statement: was it accurate? Was it clear? Should the thesis statement be revised at all, and if so, how?
  • Have students free write on how they can apply this activity to their own research paper.
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Citation Remediation


Purpose of Exercise: How many times have you tried teaching your students MLA guidelines, and in how many ways? Maybe it was a Jeopardy game. Maybe it was a lengthy Powerpoint or a PDF of guidelines. This exercise will allow your students to engage with citations relevant to their own projects by breaking the process down into steps which they are responsible for providing a set of multimodal instructions for completing.

Description: Students will be composing a how-to guide for creating a citation relevant to a project they are currently working on which features what text is being cited, what format to use, where to find the necessary information for creating it, and what the finished product looks like, and why.

Suggested Time: Class period

Procedure: Your students should be participating in this exercise in the context of a project for your course, one which requires secondary sources and/or a primary text of some kind. Have your students consult their McGraw-Hill Handbooks and/or the Purdue Owl in search of how to cite the type of text being cited. From here, students will combine images and text to show how to make an in-text citation and works cited entry for their chosen text, with an explanation of where they got the information (URL on the OWL or pages in the McGraw-Hill Handbook). Prezi and Powerpoint offer good venues for compiling and organizing the steps in citation creation, as they have slides/a path built into them which will help students think about creating citations as a process. The final product should serve as a step-by-step how-to guide for making an in-text citation and a works cited entry for a particular type of text which the rest of the class can use as a model for making their own citations as related to their own projects.

Additional Information: This activity works best in a computer writing classroom, but can be altered to accommodate a lack of computer technology. Depending on the project or range of sources being used, you can break your students into groups responsible for particular texts (web source, movie, song, album, TV show, videogame, etc.) which are prevalent for the project at hand, and can present their finished work at the end of class to their peers, depending on time and resources at your disposal.

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