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Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology


Political Science and Sociology


College of Humanities and Fine Arts


This in-class activity gives students practice summarizing, synthesizing, and evaluating information from numerous sources – skills needed when writing a literature review. As a lowstakes, collaborative, in-class writing task, this activity may also help alleviate some of the fears that students may have about writing. Writing manuals like Writing in Sociology (Edwards 2015) and Writing in Sociology: A Brief Guide (Smith-Lovin and Moskovitz 2017), refer to scholarly literatures as “conversations” occurring within a “party” or “room full of people.” Applying this metaphor, this exercise asks students to imagine themselves at a party, overhearing attendees’ remarks. Students get a list of quotes reflecting party-goers’ diverse views about the party theme. In groups, they then must recount the “conversation” in writing for an imagined friend who was not there; the focus of their write-up must align with their friend’s particular interests, as specified by the instructor. Students synthesize the disparate comments into a cohesive, thematically-organized summary, “citing” their sources along the way. They must discuss both consensus and competing perspectives among the sources (i.e. the party attendees), and they also identify gaps in the conversation that their friend could have filled, had they been at the party. After completing their write-up, students read their work aloud and the class can identify strengths and weaknesses and/or similarities and differences in how the groups accomplished this task.



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