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Summarize Argument - Carver

Capture the source's argument


Summarizing sources helps you understand the source, organizing this information in a bibliography and yield a document useful for references in future writing.

How do you summarize central elements of each reading, and synthesize key principles that can be applied to future theory, research, and practice? 



Dr. Sharon Carver :: This annotated bibliography entry was taken without modification from the one I created while preparing to write my chapter for the Handbook of the Learning Sciences.  You can compare it with the section I wrote about this article when you read that chapter.  Because I had the annotated bibliography, I did not need to return to the article when writing.  Also, note that because the sample was not prepared specifically as a model for this assignment, it does not include an explicit “key principles” section.  Therefore, it is only a model of the first four steps listed above.

Example Summary

Clark, D. and Linn, M.C. (2003).  Designing for knowledge integration: The Impact of instructional time.  The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(4), 451-493. 

Goal is to study knowledge integration “the process of adding new ideas and sorting through connections to develop a cohesive account of scientific phenomena.” (p. 451)

Computer as learning partner (CLP) curriculum re: thermodynamics for 8th graders

Conclusion that “deep understanding of science requires sustained study of carefully designed materials.” (p. 451) – and concluding this required sustained study at multiple levels using carefully designed assessments 

“Knowledge integration involves a dynamic process of linking, connecting, distinguishing, organizing, and structuring ideas about scientific phenomena.  These ideas include facts, patterns, templates, views, theories, models, and visualizations.”  (p. 452)

“the importance of alignment between instructional goals, curricular activities, and assessments” (p. 453)

pragmatic design principles (p. 454)

iterative design studies

3000 students taught by the same teacher over 20 semesters

four increasingly streamlined versions of the CLP curriculum – pre-post-test improvements on multiple-choice assessments and inquiry extensions requiring examples, reasons, and evidence

answers on inquiry questions reflected the decreasing depth of learning associated with the more streamlined curriculum versions; whereas the answers on the multiple-choice items remained at relatively high levels (80-90%).

50 students randomly selected from 300 and followed longitudinally via interview (five 30-minute interviews during 8th grade) probes for contradictions, connections, differentiations, and reasoning patterns

1 representative student to follow through high school via interview to get more process and determine why it takes so long to truly learn the core science concept (most notably because the response to noting conflicts in concepts was to discount instructed concepts in favor of existing concepts and idiosyncratic explanations – need to revisit ideas in multiple contexts, explore pivotal cases, and receive scaffolding to develop mature concepts 

straightforward scoring on 4 point scale from non-normative, to transitional, to normative, to nuanced and normative

normative understanding sufficient for many multiple-choice questions but inquiry required nuanced, which took longer to develop

Note: concise way of representing the range of ideas expressed during interviews at each of the levels

identifying and addressing possible confounds

  • same teacher yielded consistency over the years and if anything got more experienced
  • most streamlined versions benefited from most refinements
  • amount of graduate student involvement did not vary systematically with version or student performance



To create your summary:

• List the reference for each course and project reading using APA format.  (Note that many can be copied straight from the syllabus on the course blackboard.)

• For each reading, provide enough summary notes so that you remember the central elements.

• Include your critique (positive or negative) regarding the work.

• Include any quotes you think you might want to use later.

• Then, identify key principles for scientific research in education, including a) theory that could be the basis for understanding learners, formulating goals, designing instruction & assessments, etc., b) research designs, techniques, caveats, etc., and c) practical tips for implementation and evaluation.


Use whatever format suits your style, though aim for something as streamlined as possible so that it will be easy for you to utilize the document later.