How to talk about it in class
Why is it important?
Viewpoints can be found on the Web and in library databases. Because there are so many viewpoints out there, it can be overwhelming. If students approach their search for viewpoints with a plan, they will be more efficient and effective at finding the viewpoints they need. In addition, many students have a hard time distinguishing between informational and viewpoint articles. For instance, you may find that students read a newspaper article which presents different sides of the issue and report that it is a viewpoint on the topic. There are ways to use library databases to extract only opinions and editorials.
Where do you go to find viewpoints?
Is it hard to find viewpoints?
Have you ever looked for viewpoints in a newspaper? Where in a newspaper would you find viewpoints? (Chances are they won’t know this so you may want to talk about the structure of a newspaper and what opinion/editorials/columns are).
How to teach them how to find viewpoints on the Web
Limit by Domain
Google allows you to limit a web search based on the domain of the website, found in the URL. Understanding these domains and thinking about who might have an opinion on your topic can help you limit a search.
- Often organizations (.org) have an agenda tied to a controversy.
- Educational institutions (.edu) may provide a professor's viewpoint.
- News sources and blogs may be a .com
You can limit a search on the Advanced Search page in Google (available after you do your search, at the bottom of the page) or in the search box using site:
Search using Advanced Search:
Search using "site:"
Many blogs written by experts and activists include viewpoints on different controversies. Try searching for blogs using Technorati (http://technorati.com) or Google's Blog Search (http://www.google.com/blogsearch)
Search News Sources on the Web
News organizations’ Opinion/Editorial pages are great places to find viewpoints on a controversy. Try going directly to a known news source to find an editorial related to your controversy. Syndicated columnists often maintain their own blogs and websites as well.
How to Teach them to find viewpoints in Library databases
What are databases and why would you use one?
- Databases are collections of information. Many library databases are collections of articles from newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. The Libraries subscribe to these databases on behalf of all students, which means we pay to have access to these collections.
- Google cannot index the information in most library databases, which means the information in the databases usually can't be found in a web search unless the publications included in the database have made their content available for free on the web. Databases give you access to large amounts of published information that are not available for free elsewhere.
- You need to go through the Libraries website and directly into the database to access UT's subscription to that unique collection of information. You can access most of the databases from home, but you'll be prompted for your EID.
How do you choose a database to search?
- A list of the databases that the Libraries provide access to can be found at: www.lib.utexas.edu > Research Tools > Find Articles Using Databases
- Most databases can be categorized as either Subject-specific or Multidisciplinary
- Subject-specific databases collect the literature of a particular academic field. For example, ERIC includes journals articles, research reports and other information from the field of education. To view a list of subject databases, click Databases by Subject and choose a discipline that might provide information about your controversy. Click "About" next to a database name to learn more about what it contains.
- Multidisciplinary databases are collections of articles from newspaper, magazines, and journals that represent a variety of subject areas. Multidisciplinary databases are great places to start your research to learn more about which fields are writing about it. These databases work especially well when you're researching a controversy because individuals from many different subject areas can have a viewpoint on a controversial issue.
What are good databases for viewpoints?
You can find viewpoints in almost any database, but it’s helpful to start with those databases that index newspaper and magazine articles. You can find shorter viewpoints by limiting to opinions and editorials sections of newspapers, and longer viewpoint articles in popular magazines with different biases (more liberal or more conservative, for example).
How do you search a database for viewpoints?
- Revisit brainstorming keywords to make sure your students remember why and how to brainstorm keywords and connect them with AND or OR.
- Show your students an example of looking for viewpoint articles in newspapers using LexisNexis, explaining how to limit to the opinions and editorials section.
- Show your students an example of looking for viewpoint articles in magazines using Academic Search Complete, explaining how to limit to opinions and editorials.
- Each database usually provides a way of emailing results to yourself. Use this strategy to gather the best results of your research in your inbox for future reference.
Assignments, Activities and Resources
- See the Finding Articles section of the Resources page for recommended databases and tips on how to teach them.
- You may also want to suggest that your students find Radio and Television News Transcripts (see the section on the Resources page) and Speeches.
- The For RHE Students page on the Libraries web site is designed for your students, rather than for you as a teaching tool. Share this page with them.
- Choose a database and do a search for a sample topic. Have students guide you through the process of choosing an article that is likely to be a viewpoint. Ask students to change the search to find a different viewpoint and go through the new search with them to see how it changed the results. Discuss your strategies and what worked and didn’t work. (This is intended to help them see how choosing different keywords for a search will bring back different viewpoints).
- Have students find articles on their own, either in class or at home, and bring them in. You can also have them complete the Finding Viewpoint Articles assignment.
- Break students into groups and have each group choose a different database to search for articles on a topic. A student from each group can then present to the class about how to use that database to find a viewpoint.