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Big Idea 2: Understand and Analyze

7 min readβ€’december 28, 2022

Steven Kucklick

Steven Kucklick


AP SeminarΒ πŸ’¬

13Β resources
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Overview of Big Idea 2

Big Idea 2 is something that you will be spending a lot of time with, so you want to be well-informed on the parts that make it up. I'll go through each of the essential questions❓ here, but the main ideas of BI 2 all center around sources and how you use them. A big part of what you will be doing in AP Seminar is collecting sources and analyzing them.
Before we go any further…

Essential Questions for Big Idea 2:

  1. What strategies will help me comprehend a text?
  2. What is the argument's main idea and what reasoning does the author use to develop it?
  3. Why might the author view the issue this way?
  4. What biases may the author have that influence his or her perspective?
  5. Does this argument acknowledge other perspectives?
  6. How do I know if a source is trustworthy?
  7. What are the implications of these arguments?
  8. How does this conclusion impact me and my community or my research?
Let's work through these EQ's and try to make sense of them 🀯

Essential Question 1

What strategies will help me comprehend a text?
Learning how to comprehend a text is step one in becoming a successful researcher. There are lots of methods that you can use to better comprehend what an author is trying to say, so don't feel like you have to stick with one method if it isn't working! πŸ™…β€β™‚οΈ That said, I am going to highlight the method that I think works best.
As you read, you should be asking yourself questions about the text. If you can answer these questions, then you have a good understanding of what you read:
  1. Who is the author?
  2. When was this written?
  3. What is the author's main idea/argument?
  4. What evidence does the author use to support their argument?
  5. What are the author's biases?
  6. Does the author successfully argue their thesis?
  7. What questions do I still have about the text?
Generally, these questions are going to help you gain a good understanding of what the author is arguing in their text. This will change if you are reading a piece of fiction, but you can still apply some of the above questions.

Essential Question 2

What is the argument's main idea and what reasoning does the author use to develop it?
This essential question highlights an important idea in Seminar: the author's line of reasoning (LoR). Figuring out the author's LoR can seem like tricky business, but it gets easier once you know what to look for.
Essentially, you are trying to explain how the author arrived at their argument. So for example: if the author is arguing that you should not go skiing ⛷️ in the summer, you will need to identify how they got to that conclusion. This is usually done by analyzing the author's claims.
So using that same skiing argument, the author would need to provide claims backed up by evidence.
  • A claim might be that snow doesn't fall in the summer.
  • Another claim could be that most skiing areas aren't open in the summer.
When looking at the author's LoR it's your job to think about if the author is successful in developing claims that support an argument. Do you feel convinced that you shouldn't go skiing in the summer? The big take away here is that when you are thinking about LoR, think about claims! πŸ’ͺ
If you feel convinced by the author's argument and you don't feel like you have to ask "but why?" or "so what?", then the author had a successful Line of Reasoning.
Research Tip: It might be helpful to jot down a list of claims, or highlight all the claims one color, as you're reading the article in question.

Essential Questions 3 and 4

Why might the author view the issue this way?
What biases may the author have that influence his or her perspective?
EQ's 3 and 4 can be lumped together here because they are essentially both referring to the author's point of view and bias.
It is important to understand that anything you read will have some bias. Even things like newspapers are going to lean one way or another. Identifying the bias and PoV of an author will help you better understand the author's argument and line of reasoning.
Often times, this can be obvious.
  • For example, if you read an essay that talks about the importance taking a US history πŸ‘¨β€πŸ« course in high school and it's written by a high school history teacher, you should know that the author is going to be biased towards history classes being important.
However, sometimes the bias may not be as obvious and you will have to do some research on who the author is and how the topic relates to them.
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Image Courtesy of Giphy

The reason why we do this is because being a good researcher means recognizing bias within your evidence. It is important to be critical of all the evidence you use, even if it supports your argument. We'll talk more about evidence selection later on.

Essential Question 5

Does this argument acknowledge other perspectives?
A successful argument should always recognize other perspectives. You do this to show the short comings and pitfalls of your argument and research, but you also want to address and even refute the other perspectives. Essentially, you want to address why your argument makes the most sense and is the most 'correct.'
Besides doing this yourself, you should also be looking for this in the research that you read. Does the author recognize other perspectives? Does the author talk about arguments against their own? If they don't, they haven't successfully argued.

Essential Question 6

How do I know if a source is trustworthy?
Ahhhh the age old question: how do we know if a source is trustworthy? This is actually a very important skill to learn, and not just for this class. As a citizen of the digital world, you will come across articles and websites that present themselves as fact even if they are not. But, there are steps you can take to better prepare yourself to evaluate both written and digital sources. While there are many different templates that you can follow (the RAVEN template below is a good example), they all have you ask the same basic questions:
  1. Who is the author and are they an expert?
  2. What is the author's vested interest?
  3. What is the bias?
  4. When was it written?
    RAVEN stands for Reputation, Ability to Observe, Vested Interest, Expertise, and Neutrality. These are the questions to answer about the author to figure out if they are trustworthy or not
If you can answer all of these questions and you're satisfied with the answers, it is probably a decent source to use. You'll effectively do the same thing with online sources as you would do with written sources. But also remember, you need to analyze the author's argument to see if it's actually a good and successful argument.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-qzOTMGA8UhSY.gif?alt=media&token=dbb45bd4-d3da-43fa-8a28-9449981356df

Image Courtesy of Giphy

Essential Questions 7 and 8

What are the implications of these arguments?
How does this conclusion impact me and my community or my research?
The last two EQ's can be tough to answer, but are more focused on getting your research and research question centered. As you read through various sources you should be asking yourself two things: how does this source impact my research and how does this source and the information within it impact my world?
Think hard about whether or not this evidence will support, deny, or change your argument in any way. Does this totally refute your argument? Should you modify your argument to address this evidence? These are all questions you should ask yourself.
You should also consider how this source impacts your community 🏒, both in small and large ways. Connecting your argument to real world issues is important. This will give you a bigger stake in your argument, and make you a more convincing author.

How Big Idea 2 Relates to the Exam

So, now the big question: how will you be utilizing BI 2? The reality is that you will be using BI 2 a lot. Below, I will break it down by Performance Tasks and the End of Course Exam.

Performance Task 1

  • The Individual Research Report has you analyze your specific research and talk about how it relates to your research question and how credible it is. You will also be giving a specific overview of it. Here you will need to incorporate pretty much all of your EQ's from BI 2. This is definitely the part of the class where you will be using BI 2 the most.
  • You will also need to incorporate some of BI 2 in your presentation, especially when you talk about the multiple perspectives and the pitfalls of your argument.

Performance Task 2

  • You'll be using BI 2 predominately when you conduct your research. While you won't be creating an IRR, you will still be analyzing the evidence that you will be using in your actual written argument.
  • Same as PT 1, you will incorporate ideas from BI 2 in your presentation.

End of Course Exam

  • Part 1 of the EoC is all focused around BI 2. Here you will have to analyze an author's argument, line of reasoning, and evidence. These are all skills that we talked about with BI 2.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🀨Big Idea 1: Question and Explore
🧐Big Idea 2: Understand and Analyze
πŸ‘₯Big Idea 3: Evaluate Multiple Perspectives
πŸ’‘Big Idea 4: Synthesize Ideas
πŸ—£Big Idea 5: Team, Transform, and Transmit
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