In the Historical Conversations Project, you will be identifying a current, significant political/social/cultural problem related to human/animal relationships and exploring current and historical causes and conversations about that problem. The HCP, asks you to do four things: (1) present and analyze a significant political/social/cultural problem; (2) frame this problem with motives or warrants, which are current examples, incidents, or arguments that convince your audience that the problem you’re addressing and the questions you’re asking are alive and relevant right now; (3) summarize and critically evaluate various conversations and debates made by credible scholars and organizations about your topic; and (4) decipher the historical contexts of the problem at hand by locating at least 2 pieces of evidence, at least one from the past and one from the present, that tie the problem as we see it today to its past.
In this assignment, you will be laying the foundation necessary for this multimodal composition. Before you can begin to think about critical evaluation, you must work, as all professional researchers do, to acquire a broad understanding of the topic as a contemporary problem.
While researching, you’ll want to develop a basic vocabulary for defining the problem by finding and articulating the “key terms” and “key players” of your animal advocacy topic: What is the vocabulary used by the experts to describe the issue? Who or what occasioned the controversy and what are its effects? We’ve been doing this since day one in our course (think about the language used by the different approaches to animal advocacy: rights, welfare, utilitarianism, animal studies, etc.)
As you make your way through this assignment, consider doing the following while reading: Look for problems as you read. Make note of any people, organizations, events, or studies that might be useful for further research. Make a Document that allows you to cut and paste key passages and to make notes on the source as you read. You should do this sort of organized note-taking for every source so that you don’t have to waste time trying to find information you read and remember, but later forgot where to find it. You should also consider using assistant software like Zotero (free version online) to help you store, manage and take notes on your sources.
Step 1: Taking Stock
Read the two CQ Researcher articles in the “Sources” folder of the Canvas Class Files (and ). What issues raised in these articles are you interested in learning more about and why? Which sources included in the bibliography should you find and read in order to learn more? What in the conversation has changed or remained the same over time?
Write a short, reflective paragraph in response.
Step 2: What’s in the News?
Look for three current news articles related to the specific problem you are interested in researching. Here is a list of some reliable investigative reporting outlets: ProPublica, The Center for Public Integrity (CPI), The Center For Investigative Reporting (CIR), Frontline, Mother Jones, The Intercept, Real Clear Investigations, The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, National Geographic, the list goes on. Write a bibliographic citation and an evaluation for each. When evaluating the source, consider the genre, the author and publisher’s credibility, the timeliness of the publication, and what kind of evidence it might contribute to your argument. For more information about evaluating sources, see AGWR. For more information about bibliographic citations for electronic sources, consult the Online Writing Lab at Purdue: Purdue Owl.
Step 3: Survey the scholarly discourse
UUsing library databases like Academic Search Complete (See AGWR and also our WR39C library research guide: https://guides.lib.uci.edu/w39c/advocacy), find four scholarly sources on the problem you want to research. For each source include a paragraph length annotation that does that following: provides an account of the article’s context; its main argument; the primary evidence its author uses to substantiate their main claim; the purpose of the article; its primary audience. After your formal annotation, provide a brief explanation of how the source gave you a more specific understanding of the problem concerning any of the following: new terms, key players, effects, causes, solutions, key pieces of legislation, policy, events. (Note: Be sure the source is scholarly. Academic Search Complete delivers both popular and scholarly sources.) I also suggest looking at the Resources page on our Canvas site. On what points do the sources seem to agree? Where do the sources disagree? Write 1-2 paragraphs in response.
Step 4: Statement of Problem
Write a paragraph in which you identify the problem you plan to research this quarter. Include evidence from your research to establish that the problem and the questions it raises are alive and relevant today.
Step 5: Questions for Further Research
What questions about the current problem and its historical causes do you need answer through more research? Make a list of at least three specific fact-based questions. Good fact-based questions try to understand the facts before making judgments whereas poor fact-based questions are opinionated, riddled with assumptions and generalizations.