A few years ago one of my classes requested a sample for the Annotation assignment, and this is what I came up with to show you how you can move from picture to research questions to finding sources to writing a paragraph.
I started with this image of a kindle (Amazon’s device for downloading and reading electronic books):
Some of the questions students came up with included the following:
- how much does it cost?
- how does it work?
- how will it affect the environment?
- how many books does it hold?
- how big is it?
- how many have been sold?
- can it help with high textbook prices?
- will book “piracy” start to become a problem like music piracy?
- will books become obsolete?
- how is the reading experience on screen different from on paper?
- how does it compare to the new ipad?
- will it help with too-heavy backpacks for young kids?
(plus many more).
Notice that some of these questions have simple one-word or one-sentence answers, while others seem to ask for more complex answers. For some of the simple questions, you may be able to group several questions together to make a more general question. Your aim is to come up with ten or twelve good, meaty questions (that would generate paragraph-answers). This list is only a start. The annotation assignment calls for between five and seven paragraphs, and you may have difficulty finding good info on one or more of your questions. Also, during your research, you may discover additional, interesting info or approaches that you had not thought of at the beginning. Feel free to let your list of questions evolve throughout the research process!
Here’s the question I settled on for my sample paragraph:
How does the Kindle affect the environment (in particular, is it more environmentally friendly than books)?
For my Kindle question, here are the three sources I found that I may want to use in my environmental impact paragraph:
- Martin LaMonica’s “Study Paints Kindle E-Reader a Darker Shade of Green”
- Alex Salkever’s “Are Kindles Really So Green?”
- Joe Hutsko’s “Are E-Readers Greener Than Books?”
For this example, I used the quick-and-dirty method of copying and pasting. Here is the file I made, with copied and pasted info from the three sources above (note that I’ve included authors’ last names so that I can tell what info comes from what source).
Now that I’ve collected up the research info that I need for my paragraph, I need to think about what it all adds up to (the main idea of my paragraph), what details I’ll use to flesh out the paragraph, and how I can best order or organize those details. In other words, I’m thinking about the unity, development, and coherence of my paragraph.
First, I try to come up with a topic sentence that sums up the main point of my paragraph, in this case something like
Many factors must be considered in trying to evaluate whether the Kindle represents an environmental advance over the book.
Now, I’m not thrilled with this sentence, but it’s a place to start; once I see what I end up saying in the paragraph I can go back and work on it more. I don’t want to spend any more time tinkering at this point, so I move on…
Next, I go through the notes I’ve copied from my sources and list the main points I’ll want to use in my paragraph. By bullet-pointing them I can more easily see what I’ve got in and come up with an order that makes sense. So I have something like this:
Here’s the paragraph I came up with… (Be sure to read annotations in the margins as well.)
You may notice that I did some adjusting of my bullet-point “outline” while this was in progress, deciding that the connections between ideas worked more smoothly if I put CO2 questionable issues right after CO2 stats rather than saving all questionable issues for later in paragraph.