Summarizing different perspectives on a controversial topic

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on July 12th, 2016
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Short Description: 

Using ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher or similar database, groups of students work together to find and read four informative magazine articles representing a variety of opinions on a topic. For each magazine article they write an MLA citation. In an oral presentation of less than three minutes per group, they summarize the controversy without giving their own opinions and explain why they chose the four articles. Students are told to be prepared to answer questions about their topic and why they selected each of the four articles. Students are given basic instruction on writing an MLA citation and using a database.

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Learning Outcomes: 

Develop successful search strategies appropriate for specific tools. Locate, evaluate, synthesize, organize and present credible information that fulfills the identified information need.

Individual or Group:

Course Context (e.g. how it was implemented or integrated): 

Can be adapted for higher level ESL classes.

Assessment or Criteria for Success
(e.g. rubric, guidelines, exemplary sample paper, etc.): 
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Potential Pitfalls and Teaching Tips: 

Students tend to summarize the articles rather than the controversy. Also, students tend to want to give their own opinions. It is important to stress that they are to summarize the controversy and different perspectives. I sometimes have them think of it as a work assignment. The boss is a very busy person and wants you to research the topic and provide an executive summary. It is a challenging assignment, but I have found that the students rise to the challenge.

Suggested Citation: 
Gerstle, Steve. "Summarizing different perspectives on a controversial topic." CORA (Community of Online Research Assignments), 2016.


Gets students working together

Great assignment -- has students engaged in the process rather than just listening and being shown. Students rise to the occasion and definitely become involved in their controversial topic. Good to note the pitfalls, however, that Steve mentions, reminding students to summarize the entire issue rather than just the articles.