Letting Sources Speak
- DUE Monday 10/1: Research Progress Report
- DUE Monday 10/8: TIC Intros, hard copy in class (1-3 paragraphs, emphasis on conversational thesis and strategic intro moves)
- DUE Friday, 10/12 by Noon (in Oaks dropbox): TIC Rough Draft
- DUE Monday, 10/26 by 8pm (in Oaks dropbox): TIC Final Draft
What is the TIC?
The TIC assignment asks you to use a range of sources to orchestrate a critical research conversation. In academic language, this kind of project is sometimes called a “literature review” in which scholars situate their own work among a host of voices: some that compete with their ideas, some that complement them, and some that do a little of both.
Crucially, the voices that compose such conversations reflect different levels of context that effectively set the stage for your specific research question. Some sources supply historical and cultural background, while others might be related more intricately to a crucial debate within the topic; some sources provide a methodological framework, while others offer key evidence and information from related academic disciplines or even other cultures.
In less academic terms, you might think of the TIC assignment as resembling a talk show or conference panel where you have invited numerous guests to discuss a specific issue. You, in this case, are the moderator–think Oprah–orchestrating the conversation and showing how the contributions of your guests dynamically relate. It is your job to control the conversation, making sure there is an argumentative arc, an argumentative story. You must also make explicit the implicit relationships and connections between your panelists. As you work through the sources–each of which you will deal with in 1-2 paragraphs–you should gradually begin to make connections between them. Keeping the conversation connected will distinguish this essay from being a mere series of summaries connected by transitions. In the RA the concept of the “argumentative story” was very important; here, we will speak more of the “conversational story”–the critical story you tell with and through your sources.
Your position as a moderator here is crucial: you are not yet an “expert”–we’ll save that for the final paper–but you are more knowledgeable than your audience. It is your job to make this conversation lively and understandable for your readers by explaining difficult concepts.
What is the purpose?
This assignment allows you to accomplish a number of goals that will be fundamental to your success as we approach the final Research-Based Argument (RBA). Most importantly, you will:
- Describe the debate or conversation surrounding your particular research question by deploying the critical summary and analytical skills practiced in the two previous assignments as you construct a fully realized research conversation.
- Establish the ethos or credibility of each participant in your conversation. Your audience should never have to ask: why is this source here?
- Build a research base for your final RBA: the work from now on is as cumulative as you want it to be.
- Introduce a research question to you readers, underscoring its significance.
- Articulate the overlapping contexts that your research question engages.
- Define the relationship between your sources in complex ways (moving beyond compare-and-contrast, or agree-and-disagree)
- Begin to voice your own emerging point of view as it speaks alongside, and beyond, your sources
And the details?
We will discuss successful structures and strategies for this essay in the weeks ahead, and separate assignment sheets will present crucial building block such as the Research Progress Report and the Annotated Bibliography. For now, you just need to know that your paper should be right around five pages long, and that it should deal closely with four or five sources. While everyone will have a credible mix of primary and secondary sources, books and academic articles, government documents and feature-length news stories, the key is variety. I encourage you to locate sources that represent productively different voices surrounding your topic.
Note: informational sources–such as encyclopedias and wikipedia–are a good place to start as you inform yourself about a given topic, but they should be used only to direct you towards more complete and thorough sources surrounding your topic.