Short Research and Writing Assignment

The aim of this assignment is both to teach you a little about research (and writing), and also to help you prepare for your final video project.

Here you will find at least two sources that relate to the week for which you are making a video. You will write a page (400-500 words) of summary and analysis of each source, which you will both email to me and post to your blog.

Though this assignment is graded individually, this is also part of a collaborative task (the video project). So you will need to begin by discussing with other members of your group what kinds of sources you need, and divide up responsibilities so that you do not overlap too much, and that you ensure that collectively you find all the information you need. Think as a group about the different facets of the topic you have chosen and how to divide it up historically, geographically, conceptually, or whatever makes sense given the topic. Also consider what kinds of secondary sources you will be looking for, and whether you may also want primary sources.

For the research aspect of this assignment, I want to continue to think carefully about the kinds of sources you are looking for. By no means should you be satisfied with (say) the first two results from a Google search! I expect you to spend at least as much time researching (looking for the sources) as writing about them, and possibly much more time.

For the most part, what you will probably be looking for will be high-quality secondary sources, such as chapters from books published by reputable academic presses, or articles from peer-reviewed academic journals. Think of the kinds of databases you will need to search to find this material. And again, when you are searching, do not simply pick the first two journal articles (say) that you find: read (or at least, skim), evaluate, and think about them first.

Depending on your topic, you may also want other kinds of secondary sources (perhaps particularly if the topic you are researching is very recent). These may include, for instance, newspaper articles or even videos (news videos?). Again, you need to think carefully about what sources are useful, in coordination with other members of your group. You will need to read and evaluate possible sources before you make a final decision. Are they objective? (Do they have to be for your purposes?) What are their signs of partisanship or special interest? What do they add?

You may also want as a group to include some primary sources, for instance of the sort that we have been reading during the semester: letters, speeches, literary texts, and so on. These too need to be read and evaluated. What do they add to our knowledge of the theme you are discussing? Whose voices do they represent?

Your overall grade for this assignment will take into account the effort that you have undertaken in research. But then you need to write up this research.

In the first (and primary) instance, this means writing up an account of your source. What does it say? What are its main themes or topics? What is its argument? Equally importantly, how does it say it? What position or perspective does it adopt? To what extent can we trust it (or not) and why? Be concise, but also be thorough.

Second, however, I also want you to tell us how you will be using this source within your video assignment. How will you deal with the source? What information or perspective will it add to your video? How will you deal with any blindspots or biases that it may contain? This then is as much about you, and your attitude to such documents and accounts of Latin America, and hopefully will help ensure that you are thoughtful and self-reflective as you research, write, and produce content about the region.