Metonyms and Lenses – Focusing Your Research

Metonyms and Lenses – Focusing Your Research

Overview: This topic helps students narrow and focus their research topics by having them consider them in reference to the idea of the metonym.

Author: Donna Hunter (adapted from an assignment by former PWR lecturer Scott Herndon)

Activity name: Metonyms and Lenses: Focusing your Research

Class: PWR 1/PWR 2

Activity brief description: Students have read the attached assignment and, as homework, have chosen a metonym/concrete example that represents the research problem they want to explore and selected two different lenses/perspectives through which to examine it. For PWR 1, students  bring the homework to class and discuss it in groups of three. In PWR 2, students post the homework before class and present their findings orally to two other students. The students ask questions about the metonym, its clarity and relevance to the researcher’s problem/inquiry and may suggest different perspectives to explore.

Schedule: In PWR 1 this works best when you are beginning the TiC. For PWR 2, I do this the second class of week two. (My students’ RBA drafts are due the Wednesday of week 6).

Activity length: 30 minutes of class time, and I sometimes have students work in groups later in the quarter, say post proposal, to suggest different lenses that may provide new insights.

Activity goals:  This assignment and activity have numerous goals.

  • First, to encourage students to narrow, focus and concretize their research topics.
  • Second, examining a specific metonym can make it easier for students to contribute a new insight to the research conversation.
  • Third, encouraging students to research a topic from both traditional and non-traditional field can also enable them to say something “new.”
  • Fourth, it can help students move beyond collecting a lot of sources that essentially view their research problem in a similar manner.
  • Fifth, discussing their concrete example, how it illuminates the questions they are interested in examining and the lenses they have chosen can add clarity or reveal problematic thinking.
  • Sixth, this activity gives students an opportunity to speak in front of their peers in a low stakes setting.

Activity details:  See handout.

Additional notes:  This activity was originally published as an Activity of the Week in spring 2014.