Welcome to Big Idea 3: Evaluate Multiple Perspectives! In this Big Idea, we'll discuss how to work with different perspectives. These are skills you started working on when you took AP Seminar.
Research Tip: You can find the study guide for AP Seminar's Big Idea 3 here, if you'd like to refresh.
Big Idea 3 is a rather short Big Idea, with only two Topic Guides under it, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy one.
To recap: perspective is not only the viewpoint that someone has on a particular argument but also the particular lens, or way, that someone has chosen to look at an idea. Two people might have the same or similar viewpoints on an argument, but choose to look at it from two different lenses.
In AP Research, every research paper you read will have a different perspective on the same topic. You’ll need to be able to synthesize these multiple perspectives in order to write your research paper. It’ll be necessary for your literature review section, but also to help make sense of your research results.
Research Tip: In order to succeed in Big Idea 3, you’ll need a good grasp of Big Idea 2’s skills. It might be helpful to review that big idea.
So, let’s get started. First, let's look at Big Idea 3's Essential Questions!
How might others see a problem or issue differently?
What patterns or trends can be identified among the arguments about this issue?
What are the implications and/or consequences of accepting or rejecting a particular argument? How can I connect the multiple arguments?
What other issues, questions, or topics do they relate to?
How can I explain contradictions within or between arguments?
From whose perspective is this information being presented, and how does that affect my evaluation?
Almost all of these questions are the same as the ones we’ll find in AP Seminar. However, the skills you’ll need to address these questions are a little more complex.
Whereas in Big Idea 2 we looked at each Essential Question, let's take a closer look at each skill for Big Idea 3.
Learning Objective: Identifying, comparing, and interpreting multiple perspectives on or arguments about an issue.
This is really three skills bundled into one: Identifying multiple perspectives, comparing multiple perspectives, and interpreting multiple perspectives.
Identifying multiple perspectives: by default, you can assume that every new article will have a different perspective from everyone else’s in some way. Why publish what’s already been written, after all? However, identifying what type of perspective you’re looking at can be challenging. You can start by identifying some broad categories.
Is this a positive or negative perspective on the topic in question? Unless you’re looking at satire, this should be pretty clear.
Broadly speaking, what lens would you say this work uses? Is it a scientific lens or a lens in the humanities?
Comparing multiple perspectives: What makes one perspective different from another? This skill is important because understanding the differences and similarities between two perspectives is a crucial first step before you can evaluate them.
Interpreting multiple perspectives: This skill is one step further from identifying and comparing. Interpretation can be interpreted (heh) in many different ways, but in this section we'll focus on looking at how perspectives interact with each other and the wider world.
In terms of interactions between each other, perspectives may be:
Oppositional: They may be mutually exclusive or inherently disagree.
Concurring: One perspective may agree with the other. If the author is aware of other perspectives, they may even directly say that "they agree with so-and-so's work."
Complementary: One perspective may work with another perspective without directly agreeing with it.
Competing: Sometimes, two perspectives "compete" for attention or validity. Examples of this can be two differing perspectives about the correct way to eat pizza or the correct way to interpret the Battle of Waterloo.
Why do you have these specific different perspectives? Does this say something about the topic in general?
It’s easier to work with some lenses in a certain topic than others. (Ex: the Science of Tudor England, while interesting, is a bit harder to study than the Social History of Tudor England because there are more works and sources for the latter.)
Looking at a topic through a new or uncommon lens (ex: history through the lens of women’s experience or fashion) can offer great potential for research work (aka things you could write your paper on!)
Learning Objective: Evaluating alternate, opposing, or competing perspectives or arguments, by considering their implications and limitations.
Again, multiple skills bundled! This Learning Objective tackles how to handle perspectives that don’t work with each other or come into conflict.
Evaluating competing perspectives: When two perspectives compete, what should you as a researcher do? Here are some questions to consider:
Are both perspectives valid?
If so, which one do you find the strongest?
Does this perspective work for you? If you can't find any perspectives that work with your proposed research idea, you may want to reconsider the research idea in question.
Can you use both perspectives, or do you have to go with one and forgo the other? You may be able to find a way to incorporate them both?
Considering the implications and limitations of perspectives: We discussed implications and limitations in Big Idea 2. Like arguments, perspectives also have implications and limitations.
Implications: What does it mean to look at an issue through this lens? For example, taking a social lens to the study of the computer gives you very different results to taking a technological lens to view it.
Limitations: What can one perspective see and what can’t it see?
We'll cover these ideas in more detail in the guides to come.
Research Tip: All of us come into a topic with our own preconceived notions. It can be tempting to prefer the perspectives that support those preconceptions. However, it's important as fair and impartial researchers to do our best to keep an open mind, and to let the works we're analyzing speak for themselves.